Education Policy refers to the rules and principles that govern the operations of educational systems. As per the constitution, education is in the concurrent list which means that Central and State governments both can make policies regarding the same and implement. In the process of formulating education policies, many crucial factors are taken into consideration. These include pedagogical methodologies, curriculum content, resource mobilization and the possible impact of the policy on different groups of the society .
In India, educational institutions have existed since the emergence of the civilization. Their historical analysis can be divided into two time periods, pre and post independent India.
Aryans were the first to make an attempt in formulating education policy in India. The ancient Indian thinkers regarded education as an instrument which puts an ignorant person on the path of intellectual, progressive, moral and virtuous course of life. In this period, a pride of place was accorded to education that primarily drew its inspiration from religion. After the Vedic period, there developed large kingdoms of powerful kings. They took keen interest in promoting higher education by giving rich donations and lands to learned scholars. The major universities in ancient India were Nalanda and Taxila. Nalanda University became the most important Buddhist learning center and foreigners in large numbers studied here. (Efforts are being made to revive Nalanda, but no results seen yet!)
During the Mughal period, the rulers tried to spread Islamic education in India. Any Muslim could acquire education at a Madrasa and the higher education was imparted in Arabic by the Maulvis. The Muslim educational institutions were distinguished as Maktaba- a primary school attached to a mosque or run in a private house and Madrasa – a school for higher learning generally attached to Monastries. The Maktabas and Madrasas were first confined to Muslims, but later Hindus and Muslims began to study together. This led to the formation of new language ‘Urdu’. In ancient period, the major objective was to spread religion.
The pioneering work in education under the British rule was done by the missionaries. Their desire was to spread Christianity in India. Initially the missionaries schools were limited to Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Christian teachings only. There was difference of opinion between Classicists and Anglicists. The Classicists wanted to promote education through Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic, whereas the Anglicists wanted the education in English. Lord Macaulay was pro Anglicist. He rejected the claim of Arabic and Sanskrit as against English. The British government was deciding the education system in India. Many schools and colleges were established which produced thousands of educated Indians well versed in modern subjects. Though the main aim was to produce clerks for their administrative machinery, the fact remains that the British government played a progressive role in spreading modern education in India.
Post-Independence Period: The constitution was implemented in 1950 and its makers recognized that the stability and the progress of our democratic country will depend on well educated electorate. In independent India, the education policies have been influenced by the Education Commissions that were set up from time to time.
National Education Policy (1968)
It was formulated, during the Indira Gandhi regime, in accordance with the Kothari Commission which observed that “the destiny of India is now being shaped in her classrooms. In a world based on Science and Technology, it is education that determines the level of prosperity, welfare and security of people. On the quality and the number of persons coming out of our schools and colleges will depend our success and the great enterprise of national reconstruction whose principal objective is to raise the standard of living of our people “.
This policy sought total reformation and aimed at extending education to all the sections of the society. It also suggested the provision of compulsory education to children in the age group of 6 to 14 years. It also recommended that English be the medium of instruction, Hindi as the second language and Sanskrit and regional languages be promoted (English, Hindi and a regional language). This policy recommended to the government of India that 6% on national income be spent on education. This policy was widely criticized for its promotion of three language formula, but it was hailed as the first systematic effort to give shape to the Indian education.
National Education Policy (1986)
It was formulated during Rajeev Gandhi regime. Its major objective was to provide education to all the sections of the society with a particular focus on schedule caste, schedule tribe, other backward castes and women. It stressed on fellowship for the poor, adult education, recruiting teachers from oppressed groups and developing new schools and colleges. The policy focused more on primary education. It also recommended that education be given to rural people in consonance with the Ghandian Philosophy. It set the stage for the emergence of Information and Technology in education.
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)
The education for all is a Central government programme established in 2000. It aimed at universalizing elementary education in a time bound manner.
Right to Education Act (2009)
Also known as the right of children to free and compulsory education Act. It emphasizes on free and compulsory education for the children in the age group of 6 to 14 years . And thus India became one of the 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child. This act specifies that all the private schools have to reserve 25% seats to children of socially disadvantaged groups from entry level.
National Education Policy (2020)
The implementation of previous policies on education has focused largely on the issues of access and equity. The unfinished agenda of the previous policies is addressed in this policy. A major development since the last policy of 1986 is the implementation of Right to Education Act 2009. India will have the highest population of the young people in the world in the next few years and our ability to provide high quality educational opportunities to them will determine the future of our country. The world is undergoing rapid change in the field of knowledge with various scientific and technological advances, such as the rise of big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Many unskilled jobs may be taken over by machines, while the need for skilled work force particularly involving Data Science, Computer Science, Mathematics, Science, Social Science and Humanities will be in great demand. The challenges ahead are increasing population, increasing pollution, climate change and depleting natural resources. There will be a major shift in how to meet the food, water, energy and sanitation requirements. This will result in the need for new skilled workers, particularly in Biology, Chemistry, Social Science, Climate Science and Agriculture. The growing emergence of pandemics and epidemics will also call for research in infectious disease management and development of vaccines.
This policy stresses on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and envisages that 10+2 structure in school system will be modified with a new pedagogical and curricular restructuring with 5+3+3+4 system. This is total 15 years of schooling, initial 5 years for making foundation up to 2nd std and up to 8 years of age. Next 3 years for Classes 3, 4 and 5 in the age group of 8 to 11 years. Next 3 years for Classes 6, 7 and 8 in the age group of 11 to 14 years. And the last 4 years for Classes 9 to 12 in the age group of 14 to 18 years.
The children in the age group of 3 to 6 were not covered in the previous structures. In the new 5+3+3+4 structure, a strong base of ECCE from age 3 is also included, which is aimed at promoting better overall learning, development and wellbeing
The other areas addressed in this policy are, curtailing dropout rates and holistic, integrated, enjoyable and engaging learning. Special focus has been given on quality of teachers and their regular training. It also stresses on adult education, vocational education, promotion of Indian languages, Art and Culture, Technology, online digital education and integration. And to achieve it all, we require efficient resourcing and effective governance.
In this changing scenario, our education system has to meet the challenges which should enable the students to make this world a better place to live in. We are rightly shifting from rote learning to logical thinking. The role of education is not merely knowing facts but also the ability to solve the problems. From pre school to higher classes, this is a balanced policy and if implemented with proper resources, it will prove to be a boon for the country!
By Manoj Dubey
(The writter is Principal (Retd), Delhi Public Schools)