Congress slams NEP for lacking ‘strategy’
The Union cabinet on Wednesday approved the new NEP, replacing the 34-year-old National Policy on Education framed in 1986.Updated: Aug 03, 2020 03:00 IST
The Congress on Sunday questioned the new National Education Policy (NEP), saying it was high on “catchwords” and “verbosity” but lacked a coherent road-map and strategy for implementation. The party also said the new policy had circumvented parliamentary oversight, noting that it had been unveiled in the midst of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Congress leaders MM Pallam Raju, Rajeev Gowda and Randeep Singh Surjewala told reporters through video conferencing that the NEP sought to create a digital divide between the poor and the rich as it promotes privatisation of public education. This will put education out of the reach of the middle class and the disadvantaged, they said.
The Union cabinet on Wednesday approved the new NEP, replacing the 34-year-old National Policy on Education framed in 1986. The policy aims to reduce regulatory hurdles, promote autonomy in the higher education sector and the use of local languages as the medium of instruction in schools.
NEP misses the fundamental goal of human development and expansion of knowledge, and there has been no discussion with the academia; only the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been consulted, according to the Congress .
The Congress leaders also questioned the government’s intent in raising spending on education to 6% of gross domestic product (GDP), saying the figure had fallen from 4.14% in 2014 to 3.2% currently and is likely to fall further because of cuts in outlays on account of a resource crunch caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The new education policy, which is aimed to pave the way for transformational reforms in school and higher education, is high on catchwords, gloss, appearance and verbosity yet lacks a coherent implementational roadmap and strategy, clearly defined milestones and the critical finances necessary to execute this grand vision,” they said in a joint statement.
Raju, a former human resource development minister, said over-centralisation of the education sector would pose severe challenges.
“While the intent seems to be there, there are serious shortcomings in the policy,” he said.
Gowda, a former Indian Institute of Management (IIM) faculty member, asked where the money to fund the ambitious plans would come from. “Or is it going to come out of people’s pockets,” he asked.
Surjewala said the new policy will remain on paper in the absence of the required finances and asked how the government proposed to fill 1.2 million vacancies of school teachers.
Citing official records, he said only 10% of government schools in the country have access to computers and only 4% have network connectivity.
“More than 70% children of marginalised sections may be completely excluded as seen during access to online classes in the Covid-19 period. This will also make the rural versus urban divide even stronger on account of absent or diminished internet connectivity and access to computers in rural areas,” he said.
Surjewala also claimed that there was no mention of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes, comprising over 50% of the country’s population, in the entire policy document.
NEP’s objective of “critical thinking, creative independence and spirit of enquiry remains empty rhetoric as the BJP regime has systematically attacked universities, obliterated institutional autonomy and stifled freedom of expression” among teachers and students alike, he alleged.