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'New education policy for students'

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The government proposes to formulate a new education policy to reportedly take on the challenges posed by lack of quality, research and innovation in...

New Delhi: The government proposes to formulate a new education policy to reportedly take on the challenges posed by lack of quality, research and innovation in Indian institutions of learning.

Experts, who term the current policy as "outdated" and "not equipped" to face modern-day challenges, feel the new policy should lay down a clear roadmap for the nation if it is to develop into a knowledge society.

They opine that for India to develop as a knowledge society, its education policy should be inclusive, addressing issues from pre-school till the highest levels and also lay stress on basic skills at an early level.
Ambarish Rai, national convenor of NGO Right to Education Forum, said the last education policy was formulated more than 20 years ago and it was time for a new "comprehensive policy".
"The challenges facing the country have changed since the last policy. Inequalities in education have increased, and presently, six million children remain out of schools. Thousands of children can be seen out of schools," Rai told IANS.
"We need a comprehensive education policy -- addressing issues from the pre-school till the highest level," he added.
The National Education Policy, 1986 (modified in 1992) laid stress on the need for a radical reconstruction of the education system, to improve its quality at all stages, and gave much greater attention to science and technology, the cultivation of moral values and a closer relation between education and the life of the people.
Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani recently raised the matter at a conference highlighting the ministry's initiatives. "India now needs a new education policy in which a discussion on academic merit - which course should be taught in which way - will also be included."
"We are trying that this deliberation on the national education policy begins across the country from January 2015, and the views of all stakeholders - on which course should be structured in which way - will also be taken," she said.
Sourav Banerjee, literacy director at Room To Read (India), agreed that the current education policy was "outdated" and "not equipped" to adequately address present-day challenges.
"The current policy talks of almost everything without any clear focus, priority and roadmap. There are no quantifiable outcomes against which progress can be tracked or measured," he said.
"It also does not specify the responsibility and accountability of the various stakeholders in the process of delivering education of the desired quality," Banerjee, who is also a member of the HRD ministry's advisory group on early grade literacy, told IANS.
As a result, though the public education system was in shambles, there was no way to fix accountability.
Rukmini Banerji, director, ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) Centre, the autonomous research and assessment unit of NGO Pratham, said clear learning goals need to be announced that are easy to understand - by parents, teachers and the country as a whole.
"Children need to have basic skills to be in place by the end of two-three years of schooling so that they can progress well through the education system," Banerji told IANS.
She said reading and basic arithmetic are fundamental building blocks without which a child cannot move ahead in a school or even in life.
"Children, who need more help, need to be given that help - this is what should be at the foundation of any education policy," she added.
The policy was recently dragged into several controversies with Delhi University's four-year undergraduate programme and the scrapping of German as the third language in Kendriya Vidyalayas, to name a few, affecting students.
BITS Pilani director G. Raghurama pointed out that the policies are made to support a greater vision and any change in them would impact some sections of stakeholders.
"It is the responsibility of the implementers to ensure that no one suffers and also that a minimal population is negatively impacted by such changes. Whenever changes are planned, it is better to allay their fears as a first step," Raghurama told IANS.
"Education is one field where changes are not to be done on a short term basis. The changes are to be well thought out and the implementation has to ensure that the students in the pipeline are not adversely affected and the quick changes are not driven by a particular ideology or belief," he added.
He said that while one may hold different views on the two cases, the changes would have received larger acceptance if the stakeholders were brought into a larger discussion before implementation.
So, while Rai stressed on compulsory and free education for all children from pre-school to secondary level, Sourav Banerjee said the new policy should focus on quality at all levels, re-look at the no detention policy at the primary level and the continuous and comprehensive evaluation system with modernising vocational education and link it to industry, among other things.
Experts agreed with the government's decision to include views of stakeholders and said that teachers' associations, student body organisations and even parents should be consulted during the formulation phase.
"A better approach would be to have a draft policy formulated by a group of experts and then seek comments or feedback from students, teachers and parents," Banerjee suggested.
"The feedback received can then be incorporated into the final document to the extent possible. On its part, the drafting committee may also choose to consult with various stakeholders and get their viewpoints while drafting the policy," Banerjee said.
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