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Oxfam: New edu policy 'laudable', set aside partisan politics, vested interests, apathy

By Our Representative
Even as welcoming the Government of India’s (GoI’s) National Education Policy (NEP), released on July 29, for reiterating GoI’s five decades old commitment to spend 6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on education and presenting a “more humanistic” vision of education with special emphasis on mother tongue, a high-profile NGO, Oxfam India, has objected to what it has called “subtle shift towards market-based approach towards education.”
Stating that there is a desire to move away from education as a government responsibility through concrete provisions such as Right to Education Act (RTE) 2009, a landmark legislation which guaranteed free and compulsory education for children between the age group 6-14, under Article 21A of the Indian Constitution, in a statement, Oxfam said, NEP “fails to mention governments’ specific commitments towards ramping up school infrastructure and resource allocation in line with RTE norms.”
Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said, “We strongly welcome the focus back on questions of equity and quality in the NEP, particularly the recognition that without 6% GDP spend the education goals will remain hollow. However, the laudable objectives mentioned in the policy – increased GDP spend and focus on the mother tongue – must be implemented well and government needs to ensure they get translated into real action and not get shredded by partisan politics, vested interests, and bureaucratic apathy.”
Wanting the government to hold “honest and sincere dialogue with all stakeholders” and work out a concrete action plan to convert the policy into a reality, Oxfam, however, recalled that the NEP’s commitment to spend 6% of GDP on education is not new. It was first made by the Kothari Commission over 50 years ago and yet currently stands at 3.1% of the GDP, it added.
As a result of underspending, said Oxfam, only 13% of elementary schools comply with the national infrastructural norms laid under the RTE Act. If the policy is to be implemented, significant additional central investments are particularly needed for India’s educationally lagging and poor states with a high share of marginalized communities, it insisted.
If the policy is to be implemented, significant additional central investments are needed for India’s educationally lagging and poor states
It added, “This has been estimated by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) to be in the tune of 10% Gross State Domestic Product for Bihar, 3.2% in Jharkhand and 3% in Odisha, 1.9% in Chhattisgarh and 1.8% percent in UP.”
“The encouragement to philanthropic schools and public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the NEP has given green signal for opening of more private schools and increasing privatization. The provision risks further commercialising school education in India without strong evidence linking private schools with better education outcomes or a more equitable school system”, Oxfam said.
“India cannot hope to have an educational system that is second to none by 2040 without ensuring equitable funding for all of India’s public schools and ending regional disparities. Depending on private providers of school education will not help in addressing these disparities. India needs to commit to ensuring each government school is resourced to the level of the Kendriya Vidyalaya norms,” Anjela Taneja, Inequality Campaign lead at Oxfam India said.
Citing the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018, Oxfam said, 35% of rural private school students in grade 5 cannot read a basic grade 2 level paragraph. ASER 2019 data also show that private schools continue to be more inaccessible to girls than boys with 47.9% of boys attending private schools against 39% girls.
Considering the exclusion, profiteering and discrimination by private schools that continues even during the pandemic, a legally enforceable comprehensive regulatory and enforcement framework for private school is missing in NEP, it added.

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