National Education Policy 2020, some concerns

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By: Sadaket Ali 

After a long wait of 34 years, on July 29, 2020, the country’s first education policy of the century was approved. According to policy makers, it will take our education system to new heights. While many expectations are attached to this policy by students, parents, teachers and those who love education, a few things have caused public anxiety and uneasiness.

The first is the restriction on education, which is based on the international ideology of making education free, accessible and universal. Secondly, the doors of education have been opened for the profiteering exploitative commercial powers. Thirdly, the educational rights of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other backward classes, especially the minorities, are not mentioned anywhere.

It is claimed that this policy is completely “new”. While in reality it is nominally different from its predecessor policies. There are fears that this policy will further escalate the controversy. CD Deshmukh, chairman of the UGC in 1954, clarified the ruling party’s attitude towards the education map in a statement: “We want to limit the education in order to restrict the number of educated unemployed.”

The biggest deadly attack on the country’s education system was through the National Education Policy 1986, which paved the way for privatization of education (domestic) and educational trade. The formation of an education committee by the Vajpayee government comprising only two industrialists like Kumara Mangalam and Mukesh Ambani was a clear indication that our country lacks education and educationists or we do not consider them worthy of attention. If this is not the case, then why in a country called “Rich Ancient Knowledge Country”, businessmen were appointed as members of the Education Committee.

Claims to pave the way for education, trade and industrialization were further strengthened when India joined the countries signing the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS). The purpose of this agreement was to open the doors of all service sectors in the country, including education for international trade. The recent New National Education Policy (NEP-2020) has also been formulated in accordance with this agreement. We need to reiterate Sir Asutosh Mukherjee’s statement at the Calcutta University Convocation on March 24, 1930: “Universities should be completely free from external control in subjects, teaching and research methods.” We must be equally vigilant to keep education free from the nets, the political traps of government, the sacred chains of religious institutions. ”

The way in which the rulers distort history through educational policies is proving to be very dangerous and harmful for the country. Well-known historian Eric Hobbes Ban said in 1992 at Budapest Central University, “The profession of history is not as dangerous as physics. But now I understand that history can be dangerous. History can turn into a bomb factory at any time. These are the things we are witnessing today. Patriotism, bigotry and sectarianism are on the rise.”

Today, the survival and preservation of democratic, scientific and secular education and human civilization is an important need of the hour. It is important for all democratically minded educators to remain united and steadfast.

Educational policies of independent India and Muslims

efforts for the educational development of minorities were initiated only after the independence of India. These policies strongly recommend measures to “bring the educationally backward minorities (including Muslims) to an equal share in national development activities like other sections of society.” Many long-term and short-term programs were launched in the form of positive measures. The Prime Minister’s Fifteen-Point Program (1983), Area Intensive Program for Educationally Backward Minorities, Modernization of Madrasa, Maulana Azad Education Foundation Scheme (1989), free supply of books, provision of stationery and merit scholarships as well as measures like Pre Examination Coaching Scheme for the weaker sections had been hall marks of education policy.

However, the governments, that be, never acted in good faith and sincerity in implementing these policies, programs and schemes (especially for the betterment of the minority) since the independence of India. Programs, policies and schemes kept coming, but with the policies, the marginalization of Muslims increased. According to the National Minorities Commission, religious minorities (Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains) make up 18% of the country’s total population. Despite being the largest minority, Muslims have the lowest literacy rate of all religious minorities.

The poor educational situation of minorities is not only due to poor policies formulated by the government, but also ignorance of minorities, their limited understanding of policies or lack of awareness of benefits.

The government sought to move towards the development and welfare of minorities after several reports surfaced in 1990 about the widening gap between the lower and upper classes as a result of the Mandal Commission movement. But the issue has been hotly debated since 2001. For the first time since independence, a religion based census was conducted in 2001, which revealed the educational backwardness of Muslims. The 2001 census also raised questions about sincerity for policy-making bodies and the ministries and also about implementation of the policies. After these facts came to light, some steps were taken in favor of the education of the Muslim minority, albeit half-heartedly.

The formation of the Sachar Committee in 2006 is a link in the same chain. The Sachar Committee report is an official acknowledgment of the criminal negligence of the governments responsible for the backwardness of Indian Muslims and of systematically cutting them off from the national mainstream. This committee has recognized Muslims as the most backward class in India. Despite the passage of 14 years on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee, no efforts have been made to implement them. These include the renewal of the Prime Minister’s 15-point program in 1983 and the establishment of a high-level committee under the supervision of the Prime Minister to review and improve the social, economic and educational conditions of Muslims.

According to the Sachar Committee, 40% of Muslim children drop out of school after the completion of the seventh grade. It may come as a surprise that about 80% of students do not pursue higher education after the completion of Class XII. Then the question arises as to where these students go and what they do. The fact is that these children have different social reasons such as family support, unavailability of schools and higher education institutions, parents staying out of the house in search of employment, taking care of their siblings or getting married at a young age. They drop out of school. The education rate of Muslim girls is also alarmingly low.

In this backdrop, one would expect the Government of India to look at the issue of education of minorities seriously and take all necessary steps to ensure that every citizen irrespective of his faith, caste or economic status gets equal opportunity to pursue education. Educated citizens alone can ensure proper and healthy growth of a nation. So, if the nation has to grow, citizens have to be equipped with better education.

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