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  • Monday, September, 2020| Today's Market | Current Time: 09:57:48
  • Education is a great leveller and is the best tool for achieving economic and social mobility, inclusion and equality.” –National Education Policy 2020

    The National Education Policy 2020, with its foundation built on “access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability” has in its intent the right focus and direction. 

    Touted as a historic move after 34 years, the policy’s objective is to modernize and elevate Indian Education System to global standards and indeed the policy serves as a great starting point to envisage an education system that helps ensure “social mobility, inclusion and equality”. From including structural reform aspects that have been long awaited such as universalisation of Early Childhood Care, to smart classrooms to standardization of Indian sign language to flexible curricular structures enabling  creative combinations of disciplines for study with multiple entry and exit points to transforming circular and pedagogical structure from the existing 10 years + 2 years to a more inclusive foundational to secondary stage transition to holistic learning, the policy has all this and much more. 

    Even as the policy document states upfront that it aims to provide “all students (irrespective of where they come from) especially the marginalized and disadvantaged and under represented groups, a quality education”, the path ahead in terms of actual on ground implementation remains bereft of any mention of how the policy aims to achieve this. However, it is perhaps for the first time, social- emotional skills find mention in this policy and this comes as a great entry point on ways to address adverse childhood experience plaguing over 160 million poor children of India. While it is heartening to note that socio-emotional (development and learning) find space in sections under ECCE and teaching development, the hope is that these are not merely mentions but rather an indication of the intention that social-emotional learning is at the focus of this educational reform. 

    India has the dubious distinction of having millions of children experience devastating adversity on a daily basis, and if macro level policies as massive as this one, refrains from focussing on reform as seen through the lens of child adversity, then one could question the entire exercise of structural educational reforms! What kind of support structures would be in built to ensure children stay in school despite adversities in their lives? While, inclusion is a theme of the policy that aims to extend beyond technology, without addressing how this policy aims to build systems to help our young generation not just overcome adversity but thrive to their full potential, is equally important and requires immediate attention. 

    The NEP as a vision document needs to move beyond fundamental assumptions about traditional notions of success and therefore needs to build an educational ecosystem that ensures thriving of children. However this requires for a complete mind-set shift on the purpose of thriving. The life skills approach needs to connect with all the levers of success. We need to make the ecosystem around the child supportive so that they let the child thrive. Thriving means a world where young people are equal in every way, where their ideas and innovations are brought to life, where their experiences can be openly expressed, whether they can question the system. The Policy clearly needs to invest time and attention towards creation and institutionalisation of such pedagogical methods that re-define the way we view classroom interactions to help build agency among young individuals. Only when such agency is built can they actually make informed choices. Presently classroom interactions are sorely limited in their focus on completing pre-set academic lesson calendars and do not provide the necessary safe space for young minds to share their thoughts freely. While the policy envisions building capacities of teachers by helping them deliver “fun, engaging, interactive”, classes, this could be achieved by ensuring teachers are trained on life skills and social emotional learning approaches that can help build a culture of listening and empathy. 

    The closure of educational institutions over the last four months has further put a harsh spotlight on the vast inequities existing in the current education system, especially with the skewed accessibility of the digital infrastructure wherein a few students can continue to learn, while many others cannot! Moreover, the bigger question looming large is the actual implementation of this vision, especially given the disruption that has just taken place in the form of COVID-19. If the NEP is truly invested in its objective to ensure universal access to schools to help bring two crore out-of-school children back into the educational mainstream, it needs to focus on the implementation of the policy and view it through the lens of child adversity. Ultimately, this would require for the newly christened Ministry of Education to take concrete steps to ensure the educational ecosystems are truly child centric and stay focussed on enabling the thriving and complete well-being of every child. 

    Suchetha Bhat is CEO of Dream a Dream, an organization working towards empowering young people from vulnerable backgrounds to overcome adversity and flourish in a fast-changing world using a creative life skills approach.

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