Skip to main content

GoI document ignores 'inherent' inequality, discrimination, segregation in education

Counterview Desk 

Commenting on the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for School Education, 2023, the Right To Education (RTE) Forum, claiming to be India’s largest education civil society network working on realising RTE, has said that while the emphasis on teaching children about India’s contribution to the world is welcome, “At the same time, the child should also learn to critically appraise India’s weaknesses so that she will learn from past mistakes and find out a way for the future.”
The RTE Forum’s submission to the Ministry of Education, Government of India (GoI),  based on consultations with civil society leaders, academics, parents, and teachers, says that there should be better leverage on “education as an instrument of social change to create a more equal society”.
It points out, "While the NCF includes a chapter on inclusion, the document fails to live up to its potential by failing to respond to the inherent inequalities, discrimination, and segregation in India’s education system", insisting, NCF should “provide a roadmap for how the transformative potential for education will be tapped into to create a more equal India.”

Text:

Based on our discussions we feel that the pre-draft NCF document has several welcome features including providing more holistic assessments and making examinations less stressful. However, there is scope to strengthen the overall framework, particularly from the lens of equity. The submission, therefore, includes a few overarching suggestions for improvement and detailed recommendations for each dimension that are Annexed (click here).

Overarching suggestions:

Overall, the NCF would be stronger if it could
1. Provide rights-based underpinning to the framework. The NCF would have been stronger if it included the Right to Education Act in general and the specific statutory RTE norms in its framework. At the same time, it could have recognized the underpinning of education as a fundamental right for all children aged 6-14 years of age as part of the Article 21-A of the Constitution or the legacy of early childhood education is inherently part of the right to life under the Unnikrishnan Judgement. The NEP has been pathbreaking in its focus on the educational continuum including early childhood and provides for ‘equitable and quality education until Grade 12 to all children up to the age of 18’ but disappointingly does not talk about the need for upward and downward extension of the RTE in domestic law. This puts into question India’s fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 Education 2030 agenda which includes a commitment to a minimum 12 years of free, publicly-funded, inclusive, equitable, quality primary and secondary education – of which at least nine years are compulsory.
2. Offer greater space for states to evolve their approaches. A curriculum framework is a document that describes the educational environment in which syllabuses (or subject-specific outlines of objectives, outcomes, content and appropriate assessment and teaching methodologies) can be developed. It is meant to offer broad guidelines based on which states can prepare their positions. In contrast, the current 600-page pre-draft NCF spells out minute detail which simultaneously makes it difficult for a reader to fully comprehend given its length and makes it sound prescriptive. The next version of the NCF should be shorter, highlight the critical points and simultaneously be flexible, allowing states to exercise their autonomy in the process of curriculum design and implementation.
3. Better leverage education as an instrument of social change to create a more equal society. While the NCF includes a chapter on inclusion, the document fails to live up to its potential by failing to respond to the inherent inequalities, discrimination, and segregation in India’s education system and provide a roadmap for how the transformative potential for education will be tapped into to create a more equal India. The NCF should set the direction for India to reduce and eventually end structural inequalities in the education system arising from unequal resourcing of the education systems; the quality gap between single-teacher schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas must be closed. A strength of the NEP is the recognition of the value of mother tongue-based multi-lingual education. A more explicit focus on the need to promote tribal languages should be prioritised as would further inputs to promote Indian Sign Language. A commitment to ensuring uniformly high-quality education for all children needs to be mainstreamed across the document including classroom professes, teaching-learning materials, classroom culture and clear curricular objectives build into the curriculum at various stages. Concrete measures to address discrimination experienced by students from marginalized communities (including Dalits, children with disabilities, LGBTQ+, Adivasi and minority students) from peers and teachers alike. While the NCF talks about the criticality of having a flexible education system, we are deeply concerned that this will not be realized given the reality of resource constraints and would instead contribute to the legitimation of a two-track education system with those from poor and marginalized communities being pushed into the vocational track and from there into caste and gender stereotyped occupations.
4. The gender lens.
The NCF does commit to addressing the educational challenges of girls but fails to suggest concrete measures to address behavioural and societal change required to correct gender inequality in educational settings. The text would be stronger if it explicitly mentioned girls’ education in the inclusion section and included concrete actions to tackle pressing issues such as gender-based violence, gender-based discrimination, the gendered digital divide and the underrepresentation of girls and women in STEM fields. It should highlight the need for programs that are designed to cater to the unique needs and experiences of students facing discrimination or marginalization based on their gender identity or expression. At the same time, given the disproportionate impact of climate change on women and girls, it is essential to address the gendered dimensions of environmental concerns and ensure that both girls and boys are actively engaged in learning about and acting for the environment.
5. Value the latest knowledge, irrespective of its source and reiterate 21st Century Skills. At the same time, while the NCF talks about acknowledging the importance of local knowledge/Indianness which is important, we should not forget that in times of globalization, it is necessary to aspire to the highest standards globally, especially considering India’s aspirations to become a global leader. Knowledge has become universal since the Industrial Revolution and especially now in the age of the internet. It is good that children should know about India’s contribution to the world. At the same time, the child should also learn to critically appraise India’s weaknesses so that she will learn from past mistakes and find out a way for the future. Swami Vivekananda shared the story of the frog during the Parliament of World Religions in 1893, highlighting the need to appreciate the world at large. Children should be aware of present-day problems related to inequality, discrimination and the dangers resulting from climate change and be prepared to address them. The NCF could do more to reiterate the need to develop 21st Century Skills like Communication, cooperation, critical thinking, curiosity, and creativity to draw a balance between the traditional and the contemporary. Play-based pedagogy, activity-based learning, and reduced dependence on textbooks (with NEP emphasising No Bag Days) will enable children to depart from the rote learning practices and imbibe inquiry-based pedagogy as envisaged in the NEP and address present-day challenges like climate change.
At the same time, the NCF carries forward some of the risks that are part of the National Education Policy (NEP) inherent in the proposed 5+3+3+4 stages of education, but no concrete processes have been proposed on how the challenges arising from the radical change in the education system would be organized. Thus, it will break the foundational stage across two education systems (early childhood and school education) and raises challenges for implementation given that the adoption of the same will involve a restructuring of the entire education system.
At the same time, the document should place greater emphasis on teachers. To improve the implementation of the NCF, it would be crucial to provide teachers with respect, professional status, and space to experiment and innovate in the classroom. We hope that these dimensions are being covered in the subsequent framework.
---
Click here for Annexure

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

How GMOs would destroy non-GMO crops: Aruna Rodrigues' key submissions in SC

Counterview Desk The introduction of Bt and HT crops will harm the health of 1 billion Indians and their animals, believes Aruna Rodrigues, who has made some 60 submissions to the Supreme Court (SC) during the last 20 years. As lead petitioner who filed Public Interest Litigation in 2005, during a spate of intense hearings, which ended on 18 January 2024, she fought in the Apex Court to prevent the commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Indian agriculture. 

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Will Budget 2024 help empower city govts, make them India's growth engines?

By Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, Arjun Kumar* Cities in India are envisioned as engines of growth. Any meaningful long-term vision for India would be incomplete without planning for the cities and quite rightly, urbanization is considered as one of the country’s top developmental challenges. Realization of full potential of cities depends crucially on their ability to provide ‘enabling’ environment especially in terms of sustained provision of a wide range of urban infrastructure and services.

Interpreting UAPA bail provisions: Is Supreme Court setting the clock back?

By Kavita Srivastava*, Dr V Suresh** The Supreme Court in its ruling on 7th February, 2024 in   `Gurvinder Singh v State of Punjab’ held that its own well-developed jurisprudence that "Bail is the rule and jail the exception" will not apply to those charged under the UAPA.

A 'distorted narrative' of Indian politics: Congress failing to look beyond LS polls

By Prem Singh*  About 15 days ago, I told a senior journalist friend that there are not even two   months left for the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi is roaming around on a delectation (tafreeh). The friend probably found my comment exasperating and replied that he is not on a delectation trip. The conversation between us on this topic ended there.