Inputs to the New Education Policy

posted Aug 16, 2019, 8:59 AM by Prashant Bhattacharji   [ updated Aug 16, 2019, 9:00 AM ]
We linked to some of the old articles authored by Prashant.

Here is a summary of suggestions.
This is largely a consolidation of points already made by several observers of the Indian education system.

1. Repeal the Right to Education and replace it by a voucher or direct-benefit-transfer system such as the one being proposed in Andhra Pradesh. the presence of aadhaar, makes it simpler to create systems like these.

2. Extend Article - 30 to all groups to bring parity and fairness in institutional autonomy. 
OR: enforce a strict defintion of a minority institution where at least half the teachers and students are from the minority community. Currently, it is a loophole being flouted brazenly to avoid regulations which are 
heaped solely on honest players who don't have a route to wriggle out.

3. Do not make any tweaks in the language policy. Learning outcomes are very poor inMathematics and Science and the first language itself and making 3 languages compulsory
right from 1 to 12, will take away valuable time and bandwidth and might have a retrograde impact on the subjects and languages which already exist.

4. Boards are in a race to inflate scores and pass-rates. Force them to release a percentile score or a positional grade on the marksheets as the current scores are meaningless. 
There is data related to score-inflation in this article:

5. Having modular board exams is a good idea but keeping it too open ended will create utter chaos. 
Keep a few basic rules: for example, a student can take the class 10 exam for a few subjects, right after class 9. Or: a student may take the class 12 exam for 2-3 papers,
right after class 11, if he or she is prepared and wants to get done with a few subjects. 
It might be worthwhile to take ideas from the conduct of the A-level examinations in the UK where students are allowed to take a few papers (AS level) before the school leaving year.

6. Avoid a centralized curriculum, except for grades 11-12. Even for grades 11-12, only prescribe minimum standards (schools should be allowed to teach over and above the minimum standards)
Different parts of the country; different socio-economic groups: all of them have their own preferences. The average rural child might not be able to handle the syllabus of an IGCSE or ICSE school, for instance.

7. Liberalize the board regime. The monopoly like status of CBSE has been extremely damaging for the sector. 
Allow groups of school to form their own board as long as they have in excess of, say, 20000 students per batch. 
Boards will compete and better systems will emerge. 
As things stand, we have an absurdity where foreign boards like IB/IGCSE are running a curriculum and syllabus which Indians are not permitted to provide in the form of a new Indian IGCSE/IB like board functioning at an Indian price point.

8. As long as institutions have basic infrastructure and security, remove the NOC requirements. No NOC should be required from the state government, for affiliation to central boards - this
leads to demands for bribes and the harrassment often discourages from serious players from entering the space.

9. The NCMEI injects sectarianism in the NOC regime: this body can be scrapped.

10. Mandatory education till class 12 might not make sense in an economy like India. By grade 8 a student has been taught the basics of language, math and science necessary for real world tasks.
For those in rural areas for instance, education beyong class 8 might actually have a retrograde effect, of making them reluctant to stick to agriculture which requires work with the hands rather than just the mind.

11. There should be no form of government aid to theological institutions or educational institutions run by religious trusts, or faith based schools. This is neither acceptable nor desirable in a secular nation.

12. Avoid any sort of coercion as far as the medium of instruction is concerned. Allow parents to choose the medium they find best for their kids. 
While there is evidence to suggest that students learn best in their "mother tongue" this mother tongue varies from place to place and community to community and person-to-person in India. 
English medium schools can be a problem if the quality of the school and the teachers is the problem: this often has little to do with English as the medium. 
Waging a war on English medium education will have disastrous effects not just on our education system but also on our economy in the long run.
The domain knowledge for various subjects right from sciences to social sciences and technology, is held (almost) entirely in English, in our country.

13. There is a lot of meddling in education policy by NGOs which receive foreign funds, corporates vying for PPP funds, as well as foreign
citizens who often represent vested interests of various organizations. By all means take ideas from data-driven research of experts or academicians
or researchers, from all over the world - but as things stand, there are too many inputs from disruptive elements who often have
ideology driven agendas. As things stand, there is little one can do against an NGO activist who walks in with a print out of the RTE,
and brings an institution to a screeching halt. It will be more meaningful, to list primarily to Indian players (directly involced with institutions here)
Indian stakeholders and well-regarded researchers with evidence based, data-driven inputs.

14. NCERT is not required for any task other than framing minimum syllabus requirements and for periodically assessing learning levels in
different parts of the country (NAS surveys). NCERT textbooks are of a very poor quality in comparison to those sold by reputed private players.

15. School league tables should be published annually - indicating the mean or median score of students in various subjects (or in the aggregate score).
Such information empowers parents and helps them select better schools for their children. It also sets up an incentive for schools to compete.

16. Infrastructure requirements for CBSE/ICSE affiliation need a re-think. Efficiently used space, with vertical architecture (5-7 floors) is the only
practical way to run schools in many of our towns and tieis where land prices are simply too high to construct and run an affordable school with
current land requirements (1 acre+). There should also be some provision for schools to be able to share playgrounds or rent them out for
specific time intervals. Currently, many are unable to get affiliation, because of land requirements - while many schools have large playgrounds
which are unused for several hours a day.

17. Teachers evaluating board examination answer sheets should be remunerated suitably given the amount of effort put in by students to write 2-3 hour
exams which are currently marked and graded by disinterested, tired, over-burdened and/or unqualified teachers. There should also be a thorough screening
and training session for teachers who evaluate answer scripts. Currently, boards are paying a pittance (between 5 and 30 Rs) for the assessment of answerscripts
into which candidates have put in years of effort and hard-work.

18. Currently, many of our board papers require 15-20 pages of handwritten answer scripts which are corrected carelessly. The accuracy of assessment could
improve if these examinations are partly computer graded (computer based testing or OMR/OCR sheets) - with a few pages requiring handwritten answers
which can then be marked with greater thoroughness and care. This will also bring down the man-hours of manual assessment required in the process,
thereby making it possible for a smaller but more knowledgeable group of teachers to correct the answer-sheets.

19. When it comes to scholarships which are often offered by central and state governments, discrimination based on caste or religion should be a strict no-no.
Such invidious schemes exacerbate social tensions between different groups, based on their identity. Similarly, segregated schools such as those in Telangana,
catering primarily to specific groups based on religion/caste, should be forbidden by law. Such institutions alienate marginalized groups instead of integrating them
with society. A parallel maybe drawn with the US Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court
in which the Court ruled that American state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise
equal in terms of funds or quality.

There should be a strict check on discriminatory schemes which are often used by politicians for drawing support from various social groups seen as "vote banks":
such provisions lead to an insidious partitioning of society along identity-based lines.

Thank you