Assam’s pioneering education reforms - Hindustan Times
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Assam’s pioneering education reforms

Jun 13, 2024 03:36 PM IST

This article is authored by Mita Nath Bora, convener, policy research, BJP Assam Pradesh and member, Assam State Youth Commission.

The world of education demands constant reforms, upgradation, and freshness to engage and inspire young minds. Today’s children are already exposed to a plethora of information via technology at a very early age and hence are more explorative. Also, with the mass penetration of social media, their lives are exposed to unaccounted, unfiltered information that may not all be authentic but has an influence on their minds.

Education ((PIC FOR REPRESENTATION))
Education ((PIC FOR REPRESENTATION))

Education needs to be holistic and in tune with the requirements of the generation and the changing environment. It is essential to enable young children to not only widen their intellectual spectrum, but also shape their character and identify their role and purpose in life. Each child is unique. As Swami Vivekananda said, “We want that education, by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, intellect is expanded and by which one can stand on one's on feet.”

We all know that education is the single best investment a country can make to build an equitable society. The education policies of the past changed not only the medium of instructions but also the quality of what was being taught, how it was being taught, and had less relevance to us. Consequently, we moved away from our roots, our identity, our uniqueness.

In 2020, we got a new National Education Policy which aimed to address many of the concerns of citizens and to create a new system that is aligned with the aspirational goals of 21st century education, while remaining consistent with India’s traditions and value systems. Quality education being of utmost importance, the NEP 2020 emphasises the importance of ensuring that children are provided quality education right from the foundational stage, through the development of Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) skills, to enhance their learning outcomes. The launch of the NIPUN Bharat Mission in 2021, with the goal of ensuring 100% FLN proficiency amongst all grade 3 children by 2026-27 is nothing short of a paradigm shift in the way education is being channelised.

Delivering quality education necessitates ensuring quality in everything that the government provides--good schools, good learning materials, good teachers, good training as well as a good process of governance, from infrastructure to output. As a critical step towards ensuring minimum standards of quality in education, the establishment of an independent regulatory body called the State-Standards Setting Authority (SSSA) in every state was envisaged. The objective of SSSA is to ensure compliance with essential quality standards through an effective self-regulation/accreditation system for all stages of education, for all types of schools. By holding all types of schools to uniform standards SSSA reduces the asymmetry in the current regulatory system and aims to bring fairness. While the mission operates across all states/Union Territories, several states have independently championed the cause of FLN through the launch of dedicated state-FLN missions and programmes.

Assam is one of the states which has been pioneering the reforms as envisioned in NEP 2020; and this endeavour in educational reform is contextualised within a historical narrative marked by challenges in literacy rates, inadequate infrastructure, and regional disparities. Not only has Assam been consistently allocating NEP’s recommended budget outlay of 6% of Gross Domestic Product on education it has been actively working on imparting the requisite FLN skills to all children in mission mode, through the launch of a dedicated National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN) Axom Mission, since 2021. The commitment of the state towards imparting the highest quality of education in the schools is also evident in its efforts to measure the impact of implementing NIPUN, setting defined targets, and ensuring accountability in improving learning outcomes.

Interestingly, a state with great linguistic diversity, Assam is the only one in India to initiate primary education in six different languages, six different mother tongues of ethno-linguistic groups comprising the Bodos, Koch Rajbanshis, Deori Kacharis, the Adivasi tea labour community, and even Nepali settlers. This can well be replicated elsewhere.

By leveraging the momentum generated by NEP 2020 along with the demonstration of will amongst the top political leaders, including the chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, and education minister Ranoj Pegu, Assam can pave the way for a brighter future for its children and may become one of the leading states when it comes to school education reforms.

This article is authored by Mita Nath Bora, convener, policy research, BJP Assam Pradesh and member, Assam State Youth Commission.

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