By Sudakshina Kundu Mookerjee
National Education policies: Since independence the union government undertook serious measures to improve and overhaul the education system and its infrastructure. Just as new public sector industries and manufacturing units were set up to make India self-sufficient similarly new centres of excellence in technology were also started. All these efforts were ably assisted by the more advanced countries like the USSR, Germany, Britain etc to help India have trained man power to run these enterprises. However, India needed its own policy on national education, a very holistic plan to handle all requirements.
The Kothari Commission was set up to recommend a complete overhaul of the existing system by providing guidelines that would help in evolving a general, uniform pattern. There were 23 issues in the recommendations of the Kothari Commission which were as follows:
- Identification of the defects in the existing education system of the country.
- To determine the aim of educating the future generation of citizens.
- To specify the methods of teaching and imparting education.
- Preparation and recommendation of suitable text books.
- To decide on the curriculum.
- Deciding on the educational structures and their standardisation.
- Looking after the physical welfare of the students.
- Promoting women’s education.
- To plan for guidance and counselling.
- Overcoming the problems of supervision and inspection.
- Suggestion to adopt the ‘Three Language Formula’.
- Need for promoting distance education was advised.
- The selection process for admission was to be determined.
- Stress was given on vocational training and education.
- Moral and religious education were part of the recommendation.
- Stress was given on the autonomy of the Universities.
- Education and training of teachers were suggested.
- Adult Education was to be part of the NEP.
- The aims, objectives and functions of the universities to be decided.
- Guidance to handle the problems of administration.
- – 23. Issues regarding work experience, enrolment for higher education and evaluation.
The recommendations covered almost all the major aspects of a robust education system. When the first National Education Policy of 1962 was implemented two decades after independence, in order to form a uniform pattern of education under the union government, it followed the recommendations of the Kothari Commission. Various councils were set up to monitor the primary, secondary, under-graduate and post graduate curricula. However, in spite on the stress on vocational and hands-on training as suggested by the Commission, the focus was still more on book-oriented learning rather than development of skill sets.
The National Education Policy of 1968 too followed the recommendations of the Kothari Commission. It emphasised on national integration with greater cultural and economic development. Education was made compulsory for children up to the age of 14 years and the ‘three language formula’ was adopted with Hindi, English and vernacular adopted as the three languages to be taught.
Still the general pattern of education remained tilted towards formal, book-oriented learning with limited scope of vocational training in spite of Gandhiji’s focus on dignity of labour and rigorous hands-on training. Moreover, the attempt to fit the teaching-learning programmes within a uniform pattern failed to address the needs of a heterogeneous population, with diverse needs, ecosystems, aspirations and availability of infrastructures.
NPE of 1987 moved towards a more inclusive education system, with special emphasis on removal of disparities and equalise the educational opportunities to the masses. It was focused towards the underprivileged communities like women, scheduled castes and tribes etc by offering more scholarships and incentives for economically backward communities. Stress was put on adult education when Open Universities and Rural universities based on the Gandhian philosophy were set up. Education gradually moved towards a more inclusive programme.
There was a shift towards professional courses during the early nineties with the ultimate goal of increasing employability. Private engineering colleges started coming up to supplement the admission capacity in state run engineering colleges, which could not meet up the sudden increase in demand for such courses of studies. There were multiple admission criteria and admission tests that started overpowering the students eager to gain admission in professional courses. In order to alleviate the mental and physical stress and economic burden of the students seeking admission to professional courses and higher studies, the government introduced common entrance tests like in its NPE of 1992. These three schemes JEE & AIEEE at the national level and state level SLEEE took over from 2001.
Unfortunately, with these Common Entrance Tests for admission for higher studies, the focus shifted from a holistic training to an examination-oriented learning. There is presently more importance attached to examination and results than the overall competence acquired.
The curriculum has become rather unimaginative and not adopted to the diverse needs of our student community, not to say that it is not able to impart training in the basic life skills and moulding their ethics and moral values. The entire education system has become geared towards strengthening the self-centred interests of the younger generation. There is little exposure to both the urban and the rural youth to the circumstances and realities of the other.
A new National Education Policy has been introduced from the year 2020 in order to address the short comings. It plans to reduce the curriculum for essential learning putting more stress on critical thinking. It is designed to be a more holistic, experiential, discussion-based and analysis-based learning with revision of the curriculum and pedagogical structure. This policy introduces a shift from a 10+2 system to a 5+3+3+4 system as an effort to optimise learning based on cognitive development of children. However, it is yet to be fully formulated for proper execution.