There are several good things in the New Education Policy (NEP).
Trust of education is integral education and national integration intending to actualize the potentials of our students and is highly flexible to accommodate it all. Its strengths are laudable. But there are ambiguities and loose ends that are confusing and disturbing.
1. The medium of instruction. From Class 6 will destroy our present competence in English taking away the advantage from the poor, where English is a link language to all Indians in India and across the globe.
Besides, in areas like,Goa where script politics kills, medium at the primary education will dis-integrate the children, as dialect being one of upper caste fails to be the mother-tongue of all students and leaves them confused. The mother tongue Konkani of Goans is written in five scripts and two of them are politicized and communalized in Goa. There is a consistent effort to follow a contentious principle that stands for one language, one script by the upper caste that strives to nagrize Konkani and dekonkanize (kill) other scripts specially, the roman script of the Christian community. Hence, the national education plan that is largely silent on the plight of the tribes and reservations for the lower castes can become a death blow to the other scripts of Konkani in Goa and elsewhere such conditions may prevail.
Moreover, we now have children of the working class, migrants in our classroom who have different mother tongues.
Besides, vernacular language being underdeveloped, it will constrict the thinking of the students. Our linguistic competence is directly proportional to our thinking as all thought requires words. Thoughts are word pictures and there is no extra-linguistic thought. Vernacular languages have to grow but we cannot grow them on the backs of innocent children. This is why primary and secondary education in the mother tongue does have its ills.
2. It may destroy the purity of Sanskrit. Being an ancient language, it will have to add new words from highly developed languages and terminologies. This is why those who wish to save Sanskrit may end up creolizing it. But this is not a huge issue. It can only raise issues about other classical languages being left behind.
3. The new policy requires a huge budget. The present budget provides less than 1% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is difficult to imagine where the money will come. With the economy in doldrums, it is hard to think of education first when health and survival are in danger.
4. The one principle—one nation, one people—is hiding its centralizing teeth. Over-centralization is bad for creativity. One national body deciding for the entire nation will bring mediocrity as it will be blind to several other possibilities that spring forth from local regional bodies in operation right now. Besides, the policy being passed on the back of the parliament without discussion and debate is undemocratic for a vision that ostensibly poses for democratizing Education.
5. Silence on education for sale is deafening. With vernacularization of the medium of instruction, will it open doors for rich elites to educate their children in private English medium high school? Will this not increase the gaps between the rich and the poor?
6. The laudable new parameters to evaluate the students will need training and skilling of the teachers. It appears that the policy is silent on this vital issue.
7. Opening the educational playfield for foreign universities is a mixed bag. It may destroy our universities but also challenge the prevailing academic lethargy in our academic scene.
8. Silence on equity in education is also disturbing. Quality infrastructure is missing for now. Sometimes basic human needs like toilet facilities are hard to find.
9. Schools remain within the consumer model of education where teachers are mere transmitters and students are silent consumers. This way, classrooms cannot become a learning space and schools fail to be learning communities.
10. Changes in the mode of examination as well as the flexibility of degrees, diplomas are good but they do not visualize how developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, and Big Data Analytics will reduce our employability and we will only add to the growing numbers of educated unemployed. Besides, examination at the age of three appears to be tyrannical.
This is why it’s laudable goal to build a knowledge society and just India looks like a distant dream. India has to build diglossia competence. We all need competence in at least two languages. One language has to become a link language and Indian English is the best candidate we have to continue to communicate with all Indians. Given the diversity of languages, we have no choice. Indian English is not equitable as British or American English. This binary animated by the purity/ pollution structure of our thought requires it to be set aside for fuller national integration.
Goa, July 31, 2020
(Father Victor Ferrao is a professor at the Patriarchal Seminary of Rachol, Goa.)