Top 10 most debated topics of Draft NEP 2019 in Media

How Indian media debated the Draft NEP 2019? In this debate spanning over two months, the draft policy received some fierce criticism but also praise from unexpected quarters who are known for opposing each and every policy of the government for their different ideological affiliations. To sum up about two months long intellectual discourse, here we present the top 10 fiercely debated topics and issues that prominently featured in media.

Siddheshwar ShuklaSiddheshwar Shukla | Updated: 23-07-2019 21:01 IST | Created: 23-07-2019 20:12 IST
Top 10 most debated topics of Draft NEP 2019 in Media
Draft National Education Policy 2019 Cover Page Image Credit: MHRD

Here is a quick read on the top 10 most debated topics of Draft NEP in media. The Draft NEP 2019, submitted by Dr K. Kasturirangan to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) on 31st May 2019, is one of the most publically debated public policies of India since independence. Contrary to the previous education policies that were debated in a closed circuit of academicians, legislators and policy makers, thanks to the age of hi-end information technology, the draft NEP could claim maximum participation from all the stakeholders. Though the legislators are yet to start their formal debates on the policy inside the Parliament, the debates and discussions on various platforms – media, conferences and seminars; have provided a unique status to the policy which has received over 60,000 suggestions so far. The reports of all those debates in and outside the campuses have been published in media besides media also acted a platform for debates on the Draft NEP.

1. LANGUAGE

The language emerged as the first most fiercely debated topic of the Draft NEP. As the draft was made public the political leaders from Southern states of India were up in the arms against the policy. The protests soon came in the limelight of media and the Union Ministry for HRD had to issue a clarification, immediately. However, the Draft NEP reiterates 3 language formula of previous education policy but it seems the write up against English on high emotional pitch created some doubt. The policy, in fact, bats for all the Indian languages including regional, state and tribal languages as well. Though some media houses claimed the clarification of the centre as a victory for the political hooligans.

Interfering in the debate Yogendra Yadav through an article in the Print on June 5 argues that the policy was not Hindi-Chauvinist but a step forward in policy thinking on language and education. Amid this language controversy, Muralee Thummarukudy in an article in the Indian Express raised a very fundamental question – do we have enough skilled language teachers to implement the provision of multiple languages in schools.

Several traditional Muslim educationists, however, defended the policy on the medium of instruction (language) as it stressed that the preferred medium of education should be the students' mother tongue. Though politicians in Tamil Nadu continued to oppose the policy, the educationists and teachers in the state firmly stood with the DNEP recommendations. Madurai fiercely debated the policy on various platforms and presented hard criticism as well but supported the language policy.

2. LIBERAL EDUCATION vs LIBERALISM

The Draft NEP has an emphasis on Liberal Education. In fact, the central idea of the Draft NEP is Liberal Education or Liberal Arts. Besides, chapter 11 is fully dedicated to the idea of Liberal Education. Interestingly, the academicians and intellectuals debating on Liberal Education are confused or deliberately trying to confuse the masses between the technical concept of 'Liberal Education' and the meaning of the word 'liberal' as it is generally perceived in the society. The debates were started, and are still continue, in this background of confused understanding of the Liberal Education and Liberal Values or Liberalism.

In this background, a major refutation to the idea of Liberal Education came from opinion in the Telegraph on 1st July.

By then Devdiscourse had decided to educate the debaters on conceptual understanding of the topic. We approached top universities offering courses on Liberal Arts/ Education in India and decided to present the expert's interviews. In this series, three interviews – Dr. Uma Narain, founder Dean of JDSoLA, NMIMS University Mumbai, Dr. Sanjay Modi, Executive Dean, Lovely Professional University and Dr. Shivakumar Jolad of FLAME University, Mumbai; were published by Devdiscourse to present the concept of Liberal Education as it is understood in the academic world.

3. SECULARISM

The issue of absence of 'secularism' was raised by Yogendra Yadav in his article but simply as mention. "There is little here that can be called 'saffronisation'. Yes, the references to constitutional values avoid 'secularism' (instead 'diversity' is preferred) and there are ritual references to Nalanda and Takshshila. But that is all. If anything, I was disappointed by the lack of a serious engagement with the issue of Indianisation of education," said Yogendra Yadav. Later on, some traditional Muslims academicians and far-left thinkers also raised this issue.

Prof. Chandan Gowda of Ajim Premji University went too far in his quest for the word 'secularism' in an article in the Mint on June 26. It's interesting to note that though known to Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and all the members of the Constitution Assembly the word secularism was not in the original Constitution of India but added in 1976 through 42nd Amendment. Prof. Kapil Kumar of IGNOU presented an excellent critique of Gowda's criticism in an article in Devdiscourse on July 6. The debate on whether the policy is secular or non-secular is still continuing on various media platforms.

4. COMMERCIALIZATION OF EDUCATION

Concerns on the commercialization of education were aggressively raised by Students Federation of India (SFI) which burnt the copies of the policy in a protest on June 26. V. P. Sanu, national president of SFI alleged that the commercialization of education has been introduced through refined words like 'Knowledge Economy'.

Yogendra Yadav also observed that the policy has treated education as 'marketable good'. Walson Thampu, who had been one of the most controversial principals of Delhi's St. Stephan's College, in an article in Deccan Chronicle on June 28, pointed out that the policy promotes commercialization of education. In his criticism of the policy, he categorically mentioned that the policy has been brought keeping in mind the $US 5 trillion dollar economy. Devdiscourse has also highlighted the fact that certain provisions of the policy are highly favourable to the commercialisation of education from playschools to the university level.

5. GOVERNMENT FUNDING

Times of India on June 26 prominently reported the proposal of the Draft NEP to hike government expenditure on education up to 20% in the next 10 years. Philip G. Altbach in an article in The Hindu argues that India expends less on education than most of the BRICS countries and strongly pitched for more funds. Business World has also highlighted the proposal of DNEP to increase funding. Devdiscourse prominently raised the issue of funding and related provisions in special news. NDTV also highlighted the provisions for increased allocation of funds.

6. CONSERVATIVE vs PROGRESSIVE

In an article in the Print on June 26, one of the tallest leftist ideologues of India Yogendra Yadav minced no words in declaring - the first good news is that the Draft NEP is not the dreaded blueprint of a conservative conspiracy. The policy also received thumping support from all the universities in Jammu and Kashmir but some traditional Maulanas from Hyderabad and other parts of the country have raised serious objections.

A group of private school operators in Kashmir under the banner of NISA called it full of flaws. Prof. Sukanta Chaudhary of Jadavpur University, Kolkata also supported the policy arguing 'the policy has something of everything'. Rohit Dhankar of Ajim Premji University in an article called the policy 'a case of confused thinking'. Sarangadharan strongly supported the Draft NEP and argued that it was required for New India. Prof. M. K. Sridhar, a member in the Draft NEP also contended that the policy is an attempt to bring both India and Bharat into Indian System of Education. Devdiscourse in its various discussions finds the policy holistic and progressive particularly for recommendations on Liberal Education.

7. SCHOOL STRUCTURE: INCLUDING PRE-PRIMARY INTO FORMAL EDUCATION

The recommendation on the 5+3+3+4 structure of school education and inclusion of pre-primary school education in formal education finds supports in most of the debates. However, the genuine concerns of providing infrastructure and influence of private school operators were also raised. In its analysis, Devdiscourse reported that the recommended school structure will boost play school business in rural India and increase the overall privatization of schools in the country. In an article in the Frontline, Sachchidanand Sinha has also highlighted the educational shops of the future.

Phalasa Nagpal strongly supported the provisions of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and also upheld the provisions of nutrition. The recommendations of ECCE also find support in Business Standard which cautioned on challenges of implementation. Vineta Kaul of Ambedkar University Delhi and Anurag Behar of Ajim Premji Foundation has also supported various recommendations of ECCE and School Education. In fact, the provision of eliminating board examinations, merging vocational courses with mainstream courses, simplifying the examination finds supports in several discussions. Devdiscourse, however, had cautioned against copy-paste of the United Kingdom's private examination board model and implementing it in India.

8. AUTONOMY FOR INSTITUTIONS

The recommendations of Draft NEP related to the autonomy of the educational institutions particularly the autonomy of Higher Educational Institutes (HEIs) also featured in most of the debates. The provisions of autonomy at the university level received appreciations but the concerns were raised on National Education Commission or Rashtriya Shiksha Ayog (RSA). Madhu Prasad in a detailed article in Frontline supported several provisions of the Draft but raised serious concerns on RSA in the federal system.

Khursid A. Tariq from J& K strongly supported the abolition of affiliated colleges and providing them autonomy. However, the provision of SMCs in private schools was welcomed by many, the private schools' associations strongly opposed the idea alleging it would compromise their autonomy. In an article in Economic Times, the former member of NEP Rajendra Pratap Gupta strongly supported the autonomy and called it revolutionary step.

9. FACILITIES FOR TEACHERS

The Draft NEP 2019 could be termed as the best policy for teachers from school education to HEIs. Devdiscourse highlighted various provisions of Draft NEP related to training, recruitment, and professional development of teachers. The NDTV on July 13, highlighted the recommendation of the Draft NEP on compulsory classroom demonstration for recruitment of teachers and other provisions related to teachers. The recommendations of the policy for the immediate closure of the institutes selling B.Ed. degrees and provision for four-year B.Ed. was also a matter of debate on several media platforms.

10. RENAMING MINISTRY

The proposal for the renaming of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) as the Ministry of Education received support from various platforms. It was widely discussed and welcomed by the academicians and educationists. Several academicians and educationists including Madhu Prasad have also supported this proposal.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)


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