National Education Policy 2020 is anti-poor, anti-people: AMSU

'The tall claim of NEP to achieve ‘critical thinking’ in higher education is farcical and self-contradictory in the wake of increasing repression of free speech and India’s declining democratic credentials'.

The new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is anti-poor, anti-people and beyond the ethical values of the education system, the All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) said on Tuesday.

The AMSU stated in a release that the NEP 2020 has to be understood in the context of the struggles of millions of school and college-going students to access quality education.

The BJP government needs to clarify why NEP-2020 has coercively introduced a new class of people called ‘Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups’ instead of categorically defining the fate of schedule tribes, schedule castes, other backward classes in the years to come, the union stated.

The NEP 2020 gives too much emphasis on merit-based centralized common admission systems, it stated, adding such a system will lead to the deprivation of students who hail from the periphery and disadvantaged communities as they are already out of mainstream competitive education processes, AMSU stated.

NEP 2020, though talks about fee capping and discouraging commercialisation, yet it leaves ample ground for foreign universities to have its market in India, it added. It openly endorses privatization of education by praising a bizarre concept of ‘public-spirited private philanthropists’ and ‘not-for-profit’ educators, the release stated.

With the estimate of 1,000 universities across the country, according to studies, NEP’s claim to double India’s Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education by 2035 will require India to open one new university every week for the next 15 years, it added.

 Similarly, NEP 2020 aiming to bring back 2 crore children who are out of school in another span of 15 years would require setting up 50 schools every week. In addition to such a tall claim, the objective to achieve 6 percent GDP spending on education has been an unfulfilled target since 1948, it added.

The release also added that NEP’s objective to achieve sweeping changes by bringing in preparatory stages of learning to the schooling system and introduction of 5+3+3+4 would require a complete overhauling not only in terms of vision but also in terms of basic educational infrastructural preparation.

According to the University Grants Commission (UGC), in India only 12 percent goes for post-graduation studies while a very low one percent students are sustained in research activities. The drop out amongst scheduled caste, tribes and girl students are much higher, it stated.

The NEP as approved by the saffron government without a democratic debate in the Parliament and a selective consultation with its feather organization is reflective of an undue advantage being taken during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The release further stated that a move in the name of India’s call to become a ‘global knowledge economy’ shall have to primarily answer as to how NEP 2020 shall correspond to the existing constitutional frameworks such as the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

 Studies have already revealed that the majority of the existing ‘public-spirited private philanthropists’ schools do not fulfil the mandates of 2009 education Act. NEP’s claim to control commercialization with a fee capping system, on the one hand, and to praise privatization, on the other hand, is self-contradictory and anti-poor, AMSU stated.

The ambitious texts of NEP would require a serious rethinking of the existing contexts of institutional corruptions, nepotism, colossal lack of classroom infrastructures, gender parity, high drop-out, inaccessibility and more importantly suppression of civil liberties and academic freedom, it added.

The tall claim of NEP to achieve ‘critical thinking’ in higher education is farcical and self-contradictory in the wake of increasing repression of free speech and India’s declining democratic credentials, the release stated. The recent decree issued by the government of Manipur to disband college teachers from speaking and writing in mass media is a glaring example of the growing attack on democratic foundations of higher education, it added.

NEP’s structural design to replace UGC by a Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) with four vertical institutions is to give way to political interference by separating academic governance and funding, it further stated.

As HECI is likely to have no financial power while such prerogative gets transferred to the proposed political mercy of the Ministry of Education. NEP-2020 is not only an ambitious project but also a highly centralizing model that leaves several problems to be questioned at the level of its own textual designs and what is actually confronted by common people at the ground, it stated.

In view of all the grave concerns and challenges produced by National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, it is high time for all to rise to face the challenges confronting all, the release added.

First Published:Aug. 26, 2020, 9:08 a.m.