Skip to main content

54% youth not job ready, yet NEP fails to recognise widening inequities in education


By Simi Mehta, Anshula Mehta

In an endeavour to harness India’s massive potential in the 21st century, the Government of India launched the “National Education Policy 2020”. The policy has been hailed as progressive and revolutionary; it has sparked discourse on the future of education. 
Given its potential to initiate massive transformations and create substantial change, it becomes pertinent to analyze and question its comprehensiveness, inclusiveness, flaws, ability to impart value education and skills and whether it can make a peaceful, tolerant and just society.
In this context, the Center for ICT for Development (CICTD), Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi, organized a #WebPolicy talk on National Education Policy: Looking Through the Lens of Repurposing Education Towards Thriving for Every Child by Vishal Talreja, Co-Founder, Dream A Dream.
It has been three decades since the last policy was passed and implemented, and the situational realities have transformed since then. Technological developments have prompted a paradigm shift in the lives, workspaces and almost every sector globally. Thus, even education has to evolve and adapt to contemporary realities.
There are increasing challenges that need to be addressed as more and more first-generation school-goers come into the fold of the education system. Exacerbating problems of lack of reach, quality and professionalism demand interventions as evidence of poor learning outcomes, low-quality teaching, gaps between urban and poor, and the chasm between theory and practice become recorded.
Talreja demonstrated through the use of statistics the need for a new education policy. The data reflects that 54% of the youth are not job-ready, 81% of the workforce is in the informal sector, and there is only 25% enrollment in higher education. Furthermore, 3.22 crore of students are out of school, and one out of three do not finish their schooling.

Vision and key principles of the NEP

A testament to the National Education Policy’s (NEP’s) righteous vision and principles is Talreja’s assertion that they encapsulate almost everything needed for an inclusive education system. The vision has three components:
  1. An inclusive system that leaves no one behind through the provision of equitable and vibrant knowledge for everyone.
  2. Creation of responsible and aware citizens through inculcating respect towards fundamental rights, duties and constitutional values
  3. Moving beyond academic outcomes to prepare citizens for society and the world through instilling skills, values, and dispositions that support responsible commitment to human rights, sustainable development and global well-being
The NEP also consists of certain foundational principles. These include:
  • Respect for diversity and local context
  • Equity inclusion
  • Community participation
  • Use of technology
  • Emphasis on conceptual understanding
  • Unique capabilities
  • Critical thinking and creativity
  • Continuous review

Key Highlights of the NEP 2020

Talreja lists out all highlights of the policy before elaborating upon crucial aspects that merit consideration. These include
  • The Universalization of Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE)
  • National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy
  • 5+3+3+4 Curricular and Pedagogical Structure
  • Curriculum to integrate skills of Mathematical Thinking and Scientific temper
  • Education of Gifted Children
  • Regional Language as Medium of Instruction
  • No Rigid Separation between Arts and Sciences, Curricular and Extracurricular activities, and Vocational and Academic streams
  • Reduction in Curriculum to Core Concepts
  • Vocational integration
There are specific changes brought upon by the NEP 2020 that are significant and merit particular focus. First is the transformation of the Curricular and Pedagogical structure. Talreja explains how the traditional academic system of ten years of school and two years of pre-university education has been overhauled to be replaced by the three-plus two plus three plus three plus four structure.
This structure focuses on early childhood education and brings it within the ambit of the Right to Education (RTE). Furthermore, the education system is broken down into stages or achievement of milestones. This allows for an assessment of whether the child is prepared to go into the next stage.
A change in pedagogical approach has also been outlined with play and activity-based learning for the foundational stage and more interactive classroom learning for the preparatory stage. For the middle stages, experimental learning in the sciences, mathematics, arts, social sciences, and humanities and for the secondary stage greater critical thinking, flexibility and student choice of subjects are recommended.
Another aspect is the emphasis on minimal curriculum and maximum outcomes. Reducing the curriculum to focus on core concepts such as life skills, social-emotional learning competencies, critical thinking, and inquiry-based learning has been emphasized. The policy provides for the utilization of experiential learning models to shift the transaction and experience of curriculum from didactic to interactive.
Talreja elucidates how the innovative pedagogies presented in the NEP 2020 will transform the teacher learning process, i.e. how children learn. He further explains how teachers, through the use of such approaches and creating a conducive environment, will transform their role as primary sources of knowledge to the role of facilitators of learning.
The policy also deserves merit for its focus on inclusion and socio-economically disadvantaged groups. By acknowledging and recognizing diverse identities, the policy accounts for even disabled students and brings all kinds of students under the education system’s gambit, thus enhancing inclusiveness. Talreja argues that separate strategies have to be formulated for focused attention and reducing category wise gaps in school education.
Through his experience and work with students and teachers, Talreja elaborates upon how teachers appreciate policy due to its child-centric nature and the scope for flexibility; however, they remain apprehensive about access to teacher training. On the other hand, students appreciate the policy for features such as regional language learning, multiple exits and entry points, and choosing between different streams.

Loopholes in the policy

While the policy has acknowledged current realities, Talreja argues that the NEP has not recognized the pace at which the world is changing and the complexities of these changes. There are widening inequities and inequalities in access to livelihood, health services, and housing that impact students’ ability to come out of poverty using education.
The current education system is irrelevant to the need of the present and the future of work, and the workspaces are rapidly changing. Even the role of individuals in society is changing; traditional education has worked on developing workforces for more extractive work. Today, an individual’s role is to be an active and global citizen who can respond to high levels of complexities, volatility, and uncertainty. He states that the future we prepare our students for is our present.
Thus, there is a need to transform the role of education from academic outcomes to shape how individuals live in society for thriving individuals, planet and humanity. The contemporary realities of climate change, increased polarisation, changing nature of jobs, automation, misinformation and technological advancements need to be addressed. 
Those mentioned above are certain considerations that need to be taken into account while designing new education systems curriculum and pedagogy. Talreja, in his address, describes enabling students and individuals to thrive as the true purpose of education.

The failure to thrive: Education inequity

A significant concern with regards to the education system is the prevalence of education inequality. Children who grow up in adverse conditions such as the lack of food and nutrition, abuse, neglect, and lack of emotional, their ability to achieve developmental milestones is affected. Thus, when they enter school, they do not possess the required cognitive faculties to access learning. 
This also manifests itself in the inability to demonstrate age-appropriate behaviour. The education system does not recognize this; the failure to thrive has an impact on poor cognitive skills, missed sensitive periods of development, poor relationship skills, insufficient maturity and emotional skills. 
Thus it has been argued by Talreja argues that education systems need to be designed to create environments of trust, care, love, and empathy so that students can have safe, authentic environments to overcome adversity.
What does thriving look like?
Talreja defines thriving as the inner state of confidence and surety in oneself that allows for a reevaluation and re-definition of the circumstances that have in the past and still do from the context of life. This allows for the emergence of a new identity and subsequently enables the possibility of crafting a new relationship with the world. He further describes it based on three characteristic features.
These include resilience, i.e. inner grit and strength to overcome adversity to make responsible decisions wherein individuals feel that they live the best version possible. Thriving has not been clearly defined or elaborated upon in the NEP, but the policy has its elements. The aim should be to make aspects of thriving clear and intentional.
Thriving does not happen in isolation. To ensure that the education system is inclusive and equitable, we need to engage with intersectional profiles and analyze how that impacts their ability to thrive. Even educators designing the system carry their own biases and prejudices; if they bring it into the education system, the children will not thrive. There are inequalities in the education system; to combat them, the system needs to understand, acknowledge and break out of intersectional lenses.

Way forward

Dr Rukmini Banerji, Chief Executive Officer, Pratham Education Foundation, argues that to bring the NEP to life, there is a need to be informed from many perspectives. The diversity of opinion is expected to allow for context suitable translation of policy. She states a higher likelihood of survival exists if mechanisms for engagement and precipitating discussions and debate are provided.
She further argues that the prevailing global crisis and the potential to broaden scope have occurred at the right time since they allow us to take stock of the education system. She suggests doing away with the annual work planning process and instead implementing a rolling plan to allow for flexibility. She concludes by stating that the policy will be redundant without focus and emphasis on foundational learning.
Meeta Sengupta, Founder, Centre for Education Strategy, New Delhi, says that there is a need to understand why and what before jumping to the question of how. She addresses the anxiety associated with change and elucidates that the system’s working elements should not resist change and instead embrace it as an inevitable reality.
She also places the onus on educators to make idealistic changes visual, visible, and evidence-based to foster trust within the teaching community. She also states that the dire situational realities have presented a unique opportunity to rebuild the education system by retaining effectual elements and discarding elements that hindered potential.
To conclude, we need to envision the NEP’s potential and its ability to transform society and India as a country in the next 30 years. Investments in education in the early years will define and shape the society we will live in. In the last couple of thousands of years, the education system has supported certain sections of society who have gone on to become decision-makers; it’s the result of their choices that the modern world’s problems have manifested.
Talreja sums up his address in the following maxim: “If we can truly transform education and emphasize thriving for every child, the kind of society to emerge in 20-30 years will truly be thriving”.
---
Acknowledgment: Kashish Babbar is a research intern at IMPRI

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen