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Rebuilding School Education Pedagogy Through India’s National Education Policy 2020

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Pooja Paswan
August 29, 2020

“Education is the key to unlocking the world, a passport to freedom.” ~Oprah Winfrey

India has the largest number of school-aged children. Moreover, 4% of the population is less than 18 years of age, and nearly half are girls. Further, the largest number of children are under lockdown as most schools remain closed. Classes continue through various technologies via interactive voice response, community radio, TV, WhatsApp and different internet platforms. State governments are using a wide range of apps for public schools. Despite the government’s efforts to launch apps to reach out to children in rural areas, education is interrupted, specifically for girls.

The average Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of school students at the elementary level in 2015-16 was 96.9%. At the secondary level it was 80%, and at the senior secondary level it was 56.2%, according to government data.

In 2018-19, the overall GER of students at the elementary level stood at 91.64%. The secondary level was at 79.55% and the senior secondary level was at 58.56%. A comparison of the annual enrolment data indicates that a significant proportion of children start dropping out of schools after Class 8 for various reasons and all the measures taken to bring them back have failed so far.

To arrest the trend and ensure 100% GER up to the secondary level by 2030, the New Education Policy 2020, unveiled by the Union government recently, provides for a multi-pronged strategy.

Education sustainability

The global education development agenda reflected in the Goal 4 (SDG4) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by India in 2015, seeks to, “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” by 2030. Such a lofty goal will require the entire education system to be reconfigured to support and foster learning, so that all of the critical targets and goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can be achieved.

Currently, children in the age group of 3-6 are not covered in the 10+2 structure as Class 1 begins at age 6. India’s flagship program to provide free universal primary and secondary education for all (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan) covers the age groups 6-14 years. In the new 5+3+3+4 structure, a strong base of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) from age 3 is also included, which is aimed at promoting better overall learning, development and well-being.

Over 85% of a child’s cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of 6, indicating the critical importance of appropriate care and stimulation of the brain in the early years in order to ensure healthy brain development and growth. Presently, quality (Early Childhood Care and Education) ECCE is not available to scores of young children, particularly children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. A strong investment in (Early Childhood Care and Education) ECCE has the potential to give all young children such access, enabling them to participate and flourish in the educational system throughout their lives. The universal provisioning of quality early childhood development, care and education will be achieved as soon as possible, and no later than 2030, to ensure that all students entering Grade 1 are school ready.

Keep them in school

One of the primary goals of the schooling system must be to ensure that children are enrolled in and are attending school. Through initiatives such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (now the Samagra Shiksha) and the Right to Education Act, India has made remarkable strides in recent years in attaining near-universal enrolment in elementary education. However, the data for later grades indicates some serious issues in retaining children in the schooling system. The GER for Grades 6-8 was 90.9%, while for Grades 9-10 and 11-12 it was only 79.3% and 56.5%, respectively. This indicates that a significant proportion of enrolled students drop out after Grade 5 and especially after Grade 8.

As per the 75th round household survey by NSSO in 2017-18, the number of children not attending school in the age group of 6 to 17 years is 3.22 crore. The top priority of the National Education Policy 2020 will be to bring these children back into the educational fold as early as possible, and to prevent further students from dropping out, with a goal to achieve 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio in preschool to secondary level by 2030.

Catch them young

An investment in a holistic school education policy will strengthen forward linkage between education and employment. A young democracy like India needs equitable, affordable and inclusive education for every child in the country. We must remember that schools are buildings which have four walls with our tomorrow inside.

Author: Pooja Paswan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, India. She has Ph. D in Public Administration and specializes in Public Policy. She was recipient of the ASPA 2019 Founders Fellow. She has worked extensively in the area of development administration and policy. She can be reached at https://jmi.academia.edu/PoojaPaswan and [email protected]. Twitter @poojapaswan

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