The National Education Policy, 2020, adopted by the Union Cabinet recently, weakens the federal character of India by promoting centralised control of school education from primary to high school. Until the Emergency, education remained a State subject. It was made a concurrent subject through the 42nd Constitution Amendment in 1976.
A good educational institution is one where every student feels welcomed and cared for, where a safe and stimulating learning environment exists, where a wide range of learning experiences are offered, and where good physical infrastructure with appropriate resources are available, says NEP 2020.
The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development has been named Ministry of Education and the Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, Union Ministry of Education, has written a letter dated 22 August to School Education Secretaries of all States and Union Territories to obtain suggestions from teachers for the policy implementation process.
The letter states that the department has decided to call for suggestions from school teachers and principals all over the country on how to take the implementation process of NEP 2020 forward and requests States and the UTs to disseminate it widely among all teachers. The NEP 2020 has not been placed in Parliament. Implementation of the policy would require parliamentary legislation and the concurrence of States. In a country of infinite diversities, no system of education will suit all States and UTs. Implementation of NEP 2020 in its present form will deprive the constitutional right and duty of State and UT governments to frame their own policies or enact laws concerning education in accordance with the needs and aspirations of the people of the state.
Disregarding elected Chief Ministers of States, the Union Education Secretary has written to School Education secretaries in States with regard to implementation of NEP 2020, a serious breach of the federal structure in vogue in India. China moved away from a national education policy in the late 1980s and encouraged multiple policies in provinces and regions to connect with real-life interests and experiences of students in a modern society.
NEP 2020 states the Right to Education Act will be reviewed to ensure that all students shall have free and compulsory access to high quality and equitable schooling from early childhood through grade XII. In order to realise the objective of NEP 2020, India will need an additional 5.7 million teachers over the next five years, according to calculations made by the National Council for Social Development.
This is only one factor essential for universalising quality school education. Has the government taken into account the cost of implementing the new education policy?
The NEP was not part of the BJP’s 2019 election manifesto and therefore lacks the people’s mandate. Under the circumstances, the best thing to do is to opt for a democratic and decentralised policy in line with constitutional norms.