The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has released the recommendations for the draft National Education Policy (NEP) and the document titled “Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016” has been made public on the www.mygov.in website for people to review and to share opinions. However, some experts said that the NEP lacks in identifying opportunities for specific technological advancements that can be introduced in the Indian education system. Questions have also been raised by some about the transparency of the consultation process.
Lokesh Mehra, vice-president, Centre for Education Growth and Research, and also the director for education services, Symantec, said, “From an IT background perspective, I find that some important issues have not been addressed. Technology has introduced several useful aids into classroom teaching like BOYD (Bring Your Own Device), mobile learning, Flipped classroom etc., which the report has failed to recognise. While District Information System for Education (DISE) has been given required attention, there is no mention of data privacy.”
Mehra added, “The usage of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has failed to identify the needs of differently-abled students. For example, the website of MHRD and other affiliated institutions like UGC, NET etc., lack accessibility for the visually impaired. Also, ICT capacity building of teachers should be at par with UNESCO’s standards. There is no recognition of the need to manage e-waste in education institutions. Our youth needs skill training that can be recognised across borders so that there is ease in migration. On the subject of Distance Education (DE), the report is surprisingly mute. At present, institutes cannot open DE centres outside their states which hampers the whole cause of DE.”
Mehra suggested that the ministry should try to think out-of-the-box. “A student lifestyle management system can be introduced that can facilitate issuing digital identification cards to students. Another important need that the MHRD must acknowledge is to bring in a policy to ensure cyber security in educational institutions and deter students from misusing the web,” Mehra said.
On the issue of transparency, the State Platform for Common School System, an organisation of senior educational activists, had apparently questioned the validity of the consultations that the ministry undertook at the grassroots level in gram panchayats, district and blocks.
Former Cabinet Secretary and NEP 2016 drafting committee’s head T.S.R. Subramanian said: “The committee cannot be held responsible for ensuring transparency in the process because this is the ministry’s job. The committee only worked with the inputs that the MHRD collected through a consultation process. The process of consulting grassroots level stakeholders had already been started by the MHRD before the committee was formed.”
Hinting at differences in the drafting committee’s recommendations and the ministry’s published inputs, Subramanian added, “Members of the committee had gone to different states and met various educationists to collect inputs. Our job was to understand those inputs and file recommendations and we have delivered that. How the ministry interprets them and uses them to make the final policy is their discretion.”
The mygov.in website has so far received over 200 submissions from the general public giving feedback on the inputs for draft NEP 2016.
Some of the most common suggestions included the demand to revamp the curriculum to increase the visibility of Indian personalities representing various communities, banishing the module that encourages rote learning, making students “politically” and “morally” conscious, de-commercialising school education and requested reforms in the fees structure.