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Mr Kasturirangan, you are wrong, NEP is not liberal, it promotes exclusion

Hello Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan,

Hope you are doing good and safe during the pandemic. This letter is from a student, who has studied from nursery and is currently pursuing Phd after completing an MPhil, and someone who understands the flaws and changes that the system needs. However, seeing a news story in Press Trust of India, which was published across various news portals on August 1, where you spoke of NEP being a game changer, made me write my concerns to you.

The PTI story quotes you saying, “NEP 2020 envisions imparting 21st century and employability skills with no compromise on quality”. These tall claims fall flat when one searches the NEP 2020 final document (uploaded by the MHRD) for its position on public funding, social justice and reservation. “Public Funding” is mentioned twice, “Social Justice” thrice (if we include Ministry of Social Justice also as a phrase) and surprisingly reservation finds “zero” mentions. How can a 21st century liberal or multi-disciplinary education policy function or even exist by excluding Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs, PWDs and other marginalised groups?

On the other hand, your claim that the Four Year Multiple Entry/Exit Degree has “a lot of opportunities for picking up many types of skills, which can be even used as employment opportunities”. This sounds like a very liberal and 21st century idea, but actually means the contrary. The role of education isn’t just to provide skills and Universities cannot just be skill training centres. They should be places of higher learning, which includes the skills required for earning employment. As a result of this focus on skill, our Universities and institutions of higher education will reduce the bargaining power of students who will not be allowed to dive deep into a subject of their choice. Instead, they will be sent away with some “skill set” which the private sector needs to ensure its profits. This philosophy of education is not in the national interest but only in the interest of companies and corporates.

As the government has clearly stated in the NEP, both public and private universities will be treated at par. This means that the private sector will also be eligible for public funding. Consequently, we will see a reduction in funds for public universities, as tax money will get diverted to private players. For example, the National Research Foundation (NRF), which is the chief coordinating body for research in the country, states that it will fund successful projects from the industry “through close linkages with governmental agencies as well as with industry and private/philanthropic organizations”.

The biggest problem with this multiple entry/exit degree is that it will promote graded inequality and exclusion and provide entry to foreign universities in India. This is essentially a project to make India a hub for educational debt, huge dropout rates and exclusion of the poor. Student debt is one of the biggest problems in America and there are demands to make tuition fee free for students. In India, we are moving in the opposite direction, i.e. turning our higher education into a profit-making vending machine operated by corporations.

And then there is the question of parity and equal opportunity. Why would any company or business hire students who just have a certificate or a diploma over a person who has a four-year degree? The moment dropouts are legalised in form of the NEP’s multiple entry and exit formula, it will be tremendously difficult for those students who leave education to come back and study, considering the massive unemployment that the Indian economy is seeing presently. Isn’t this graded inequality?

On the question of introduction of mother tongue as medium of education until Class 5, you pointed out the science behind this move. No one denies the importance of one’s mother tongue. However, will the government ensure that even private schools will shift to mother tongue as medium of education? If not, we would have two classes of students: one who can afford the private schools will be English educated and those who part of the government school system will be schooled in their mother tongue. The latter will miss out on opportunities, leading to further marginalisation and exclusion. The fact remains that however much despised it might be, English is the language of world commerce.

No one denies English is a colonial language. Let us however not forget that Dalits, Adivasis and others have used knowledge of the language to their advantage to prosper. English has been a tool used by the marginalised to fight the caste system and its vice-like grip over knowledge making. The dual system fostered by the NEP will only force dropouts, which as we know has been one of the contributing factors for suicides among students (especially those from marginalised backgrounds in higher education institutions like IITs and other premier institutions).

The NEP’s decision to remove M.Phil. has also came as shock to the research community. You are defending its removal, claiming that it doesn’t play any role in research. This is shocking and sad. M.Phil. is a training ground for a Ph.D. and it has its own value and contribution towards research. Removal of M.Phil. also means further seat cuts and denial of opportunities for students from marginalised backgrounds to use the degree as a stepping stone for research. Students after all often bank on this degree for employment and then proceed to a Ph.D. when they have more financial security.

Finally, the idea of “progress” that the NEP argues for is driven by the exclusionary online education. The world Online and Digital (with words education, class, course and others) have been mentioned 50 and 38 times respectively in the NEP document. The government intends to increase gross enrolment to 50%, when less than 40% of India has access to internet. How can excluding significant proportion of population from access to learning and education be called progress?

I just want to end this note with love. I want to say, education is needed for students like me, not just to gain employment and to move up in the social ladder and away from oppressions and marginalisation that we have faced and our parents have faced. Please understand, a policy driven by exclusion and a funding structure favouring fee hikes will only entrench existing social inequalities in accessing higher education. This NEP 2020 has to go, in order for true education to be achieved.

(The writer is national president, All India Students’ Association, and a former JNUSU president)

Also Read: The wordy ‘New Education Policy’ is full of catchy phrases, but can it work?

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Disclaimer: This News Has Not Been Created Or Edited By All About Belagavi.Publisher: NationalHerald

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