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Lips tight on NEP, political parties 'accept' privatization, communalisation of education

By Prem Singh*

During the assembly elections of the five States, which lasted for about a month, much of the debate was lost to accusations and counter-accusations between parties and leaders. Even in newspapers, magazines, online and social media and TV channels, no serious discussions were heard on major issues. The New Education Policy (NEP) was no exception.
Well-known educationist Prof Anil Sadgopal confirmed this while talking to me. He regretted, to the best of his knowledge, no national or regional political party participating in the elections raised issues related with NEP even in their manifestos.
Twenty two farmer organizations affiliated with the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) participated in the Punjab Assembly elections by forming a political party, the Samyukta Samaj Morcha (SSM). But the issue of NEP was not included in its manifesto or other documents/speeches.
No doubt, the SKM leadership played an active role in the elections with an appeal to defeat BJP. However, NEP was not an issue even in their statements or press briefings.
There was some debate between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on the Punjab model of education versus Delhi model of education before the assembly elections. But these were superficial, remaining confined to the level of 'my school/ classroom is smarter than your sschool classroom'!
Sanket Upadhyay held a program on NDTV India among the youth of Uttar Pradesh on the question of employment and education during the fourth phase of elections. He organizes good and pleasant debates while doing ground reporting. He doesn’t get agitated during debates, nor do people on any side who argue with him get agitated.
There were youth participants from BJP, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress in the programme. All the participants were wearing colours of their respective parties. A Samajwadi participant was wearing the red cap of the Samajwadi Chhatra Sabha. He was giving a tough fight to the BJP participants by speaking loudly and without his turn.
Here, too, no one raised the issue of NEP. In the programme, the Congress youth were represented by young ladies. One of them mentioned just half a sentence against NEP while trying to put forward her point of view in the debate. But neither the moderator nor any other participant allowed the issue of NEP to be a point of discussion.
Even student or youth organizations at national and regional levels did not raise the demand to protest against or review NEP. Similar was the situation with teachers' organizations across the country.
The budget for the year 2022-23 was presented in Parliament during the election campaign. Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized that specific provisions have been made in the budget in order to effectively implement NEP. He, while quoting NEP, also clarified that online/ digital education would be a guarantee for quality education for all in the country.
Government, along with university officials, campaigned non-stop using online platforms in favour of NEP
No party or leader busy in election campaign made NEP a subject of his or her statement or speech taking a cue from the Prime Minister's speech in Parliament.
During the Corona pandemic, all the universities of the country were closed for two years. Meanwhile, the government, along with the university officials, campaigned non-stop using online platforms in favour of NEP. One of the reasons behind the closure of universities, especially the University of Delhi, appeared to be the belief that, as soon as the universities opened, protests would start against NEP.
There are about hundred colleges/ institutions associated with the Delhi University situated in a single city. Apart from the Delhi University, there are five more universities here. Delhi is also the capital city. Therefore, demonstrations taking place here are echoed across the country. All the universities in Delhi were opened during the assembly elections. But there was no demonstration against NEP.
NEP will have a decisive impact on the education system of India. One wonders whether by not talking about NEP, we have accepted privatization/ marketisation/ communalisation of education as well as its trivialisation. By doing so, have we absolved ourselves forever of the responsibility of inheriting the legacy of educationists of modern India?
The disappearance of the issue of NEP from the debate of five assembly elections, which are considered to be the semi-final to the Lok Sabha 2024 elections, can be considered an indication of that.
---
*Associated with socialist movement, former teacher at the Delhi University, fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla

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