The Congress on Sunday said the new National Education Policy (NEP) misses “the fundamental goal of human development and expansion of knowledge” and questioned the government’s move to push it through during the coronavirus [COVID-19] pandemic without adequate consultation.
The party alleged that the policy circumvented parliamentary oversight and there has been no discussion with academics except the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Addressing a joint virtual press conference, former Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister M. Pallam Raju, chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and former Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Gowda said the NEP is high on “catchwords and verbosity” but lacks critical finances and a coherent roadmap for implementation.
They also said the NEP will further the digital divide between the poor and the rich and promotes privatisation of public education that “will lead to education going out of reach of the middle class and the disadvantaged in the society”.
The Congress also asked how the government will deliver on its promise of spending 6% of the GDP on education when it has already fallen from 4.14% of GDP in 2014 to 3.2% right now.
“The National Education Policy 2020, which aimed to pave the way for transformational reforms in school and higher education, is high on catchwords, gloss, appearance and verbosity yet lacks a coherent implementational roadmap and strategy, clearly defined milestones and the critical finances necessary to execute this grand vision,” the Congress leaders said in a joint statement.
“All in all, the NEP 2020 misses the fundamental goal of human development and expansion of knowledge,” they added.
Last Wednesday, the Centre announced sweeping reforms under the new NEP that included teaching in mother tongue or regional language up to Class 5, lowering the stakes of board exams, allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India, a single regulator for higher education institutions except for law and medical colleges and common entrance tests for varsities.
“The timing of the NEP 2020 in the middle of the Corona Pandemic when all educational institutions are closed is, in and of itself, questionable. More so when almost the entire academia has complained of no consultation, no discussion and no deliberations except with BJP-RSS affiliates,” Mr Pallam Raju said.
He, however, complimented Dr. K Kasturirangan and other team members who worked on giving the outlines for the future education policy.
Mr Gowda, a former IIM faculty member, said,“Any policy coming out of the Modi government must be assessed against its track record over the last 6 years. For example, the Delhi University (DU). One of the first actions of this government was to abolish the 4-year programme in DU and now we’re turning back to it.”
Mr Surjewala said the new policy will remain a document on paper as the required finances are not there. The government needs to fill 12 lakh vacancies of school teachers; only 10% of government schools in the country have access to computers and just 4% have network connectivity.
“There is no mention of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes in the entire policy document. There is no discussion about these underprivileged sections who comprise of over 50% of the country’s population,” Mr. Surjewala said.