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Thoughts on the New Education Policy

The challenge of 21st Century education is to recognize the interdependence and oneness of all who live on the planet and strike the right balance between ‘love for the world’ and ‘love for one’s own country’.

A K MERCHANT | New Delhi |

The New Education Policy 2020 of the Government of India identifies education and institutional capacity building as two programmes that could support the implementation of sustainable development of the country and also make it self-reliant (atma nirbhar).

The profound changes needed for implementation of the goals set forth are challenging but attainable. The Government is committed to providing the necessary resources, expertise and building of infrastructure.

It is fully seized of the kind of society a majority of Indians live in and the kind of individuals, institutions and communities that must emerge to help learners, both children and adults, to step out of their cultural realities to develop holistic vision and approaches to the problems at hand and make amends for an atma nirbhar Bharat capable of meeting the challenges of a 21st century global society.

My focus is on two issues – education for global citizenship and the role of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction. The New Education Policy tackles these goals by making schools participants in the social transformation processes of the entire country.

The revised curriculum and its multi-disciplinary approach aim to impart not only relevant knowledge and skills but also develop the vast potential inherent in every citizen – women, men, youth and children.

This is aptly reflected on page 6, of the New Education Policy document under ‘Vision of this Policy’. Thus, right up front, it talks about children “reflecting truly global citizens”. On page 15, under the heading of “Curricular Integration”, again it talks about Global Citizenship Education (GCED).

In the last paragraph of Chapter 6, it talks about promoting respect for diversity and again talks about including global citizenship in the school curriculum: “The school curriculum will include, early on, material on human values such as respect for all persons, empathy, tolerance, human rights, gender equality, non-violence, global citizenship, inclusion, and equity. It would also include more detailed knowledge of various cultures, religions, languages, gender identities, etc. to sensitize and develop respect for diversity. Any biases and stereotypes in school curriculum will be removed, and more material will be included that is relevant and relatable to all communities.“

The New Education Policy emphasises global citizenship in the context of Value-based education – not only in school education but also in Higher Education. Paragraph 11.8 on page 37 states: “Value-based education will include the development of humanistic, ethical, Constitutional, and universal human values of truth (satya), righteous conduct (dharma), peace (shanti), love (prema), nonviolence (ahimsa), scientific temper, citizenship values, and also life-skills; lessons in service (seva) and participation in community programmes will be considered an integral part of a holistic education.

As the world is becoming increasingly interconnected, Global Citizenship Education (GCED), a response to contemporary global challenges, will be provided to empower learners in their mothertongue to become aware of and understand global issues and to become active promoters of more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure, and sustainable societies…”

The beauty of the National Education Policy is that it encourages sincere efforts to incorporate all these vital aspects of Indian educational philosophy while also including essential aspects of modern education commensurate with changing times.

Yet another important element is “peer tutoring” in paragraph 2.7, because it fosters mutual support and assistance. Therefore, making learning-teaching a participatory activity has great relevance and has proved to be very effective in providing moral empowerment to children, teenagers and youth.

Another subject of significance is paragraph 3.7 pertaining to the contribution of alumni. Ex-students can play a vital role in learning gaps and assisting the less fortunate children and their families. It would inculcate the spirit of sharing and service to the community.

The amalgamation of vocational training with everyday education in the school covers the concept of work, arts and craft, and the appreciation of beauty.

India’s rich ancient and modern cultural heritage is naturally embedded in the curricula whereby education would not only be cognitive development but would build character and create holistic and wellrounded individuals equipped with the key 21st Century skills.

The policy advocates “full equity and inclusion as the cornerstone of all educational decisions to ensure that all students are able to thrive in the education system”.

The vision of ‘equity and inclusion’, especially in the Indian scenario, cannot be fostered without realizing ‘gender equality’.

It is a matter of grave concern that India has only 924 females per 1000 males as per the last Census of India data and much of this proportional gap is due to serious causes like female foeticide, violence against women, malnutrition in girls causing their immature death, related socio-economic problems, misuse of social media, unacceptable attitudes and modes of conduct in a society that is still predominantly patriarchal.

The challenge of 21st Century education is to recognize the interdependence and oneness of all who live on the planet and strike the right balance between ‘love for the world’ and ‘love for one’s own country’. Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah / Sarve Santu Niraamayaah | Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu / Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet (May all be happy, May all be free from illness. May all see what is auspicious, May no one suffer.) My suggestion for extending the idea of true patriotism as defined in the Constitution of India would be to introduce in a healthy atmosphere the concept of ‘loyalty to the Government’ so that the overall hierarchy of school administration is re-constructed to minimize political interventions of any kind.

Another extracurricular activity could be exposure to various national-international events like ICSQCC, Macfair, Olympiad, and Model United Nations Forums (MUNs) to name a few. Introducing a global student exchange program is recommended just as the initiatives in recent years for “Ek Bharat and Shreshth Bharat” have given ample exposure to appreciate the diversity of cultures and languages in the country.

The author is an independent researcher and social worker. He is also an elected trustee of the Baha’i Lotus Temple, New Delhi. He can be contacted at [email protected] (dot) com.