Goal of National Education Policy is all-round development of the individual: Dr K Kasturirangan

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Kochi: The new National Education Policy, 2020, is being actively discussed and debated across the country. The first educational policy of the 21st century was formulated by a committee led by Keralite Dr K Kasturirangan.

Dr Kasturirangan is a former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), former member of the Planning Commission, and former member of the Rajya Sabha. Born in Kochi, Kasturirangan also completed his primary schooling from the Kerala town.

Dr Kasturirangan talks to Malayala Manorama on the key national policy and its various aspects.

Excerpts from the interview

• The entire country is discussing about the National Education Policy. What is the outcome of the policy?

The major highlight of the policy is that it has been able to focus on areas that need to be addressed. The primary education is based on the interests of the student and the parents. However, higher education would be based on the student's interest and skills. The primary phase imparts the basic knowledge on literacy and numeracy while ensuring the child’s welfare. In that same phase, vocational skills and research interests are also encouraged. The objective is to empower the student to attain higher education and all-round development of the individual. Not just individual goals, this phase also helps to instil a commitment to contribute for the economy and society.

• The pre-school level is also being made a part of the formal education. What needs to be done in matters such as training of teachers in this sector and recruitment?

The National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) will decide on this during the implementation phase. The NCTE will work on improving the professional standards among teachers. This is clearly mentioned in the policy.

• Currently, any child can seek admission to Class 1. But the new policy mandates pre-school studies. So will children, who do not complete pre-school studies, face any hurdles in admission to Class 1?

The national policy aims to give more flexibility for the parents' right to choose. If the parent prefers to train the children at home and then sent them to class I, that should also be made viable. However, this is for the state governments to decide during the implementation of the policy.

• How do you solve practical problems that are likely to crop up when the pre-school and anganwadi become part of the formal education. Currently, the anganwadis come under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Anganwadi teachers will be given training and made early childhood teachers. Will they be effectively coming under the Education Ministry?

The national policy is not trying to enforce anything in this matter. The respective governments can take a call. Anganwadis can continue as before. However, anganwadi teachers should have undergone training as mandated by the policy.

• Is there a need for a major revamp to bring in the 5+3+3+4 school structure? In Kerala, LP schools have only till Class 4; UP schools till Class 8. There are also schools with just 5-8 and 8-10 classes. Wouldn't the redeployment of teachers be difficult?

The National Education Policy aims to restructure the curriculum. The basic infrastructure facilities are not related to this. The policy is only specifying the educational goals that the students should achieve at each phase. For example, an eight-year-old child (grade 3) should have achieved the basic literacy on alphabets and the numerical digits. If not then, it should be ensured that this is achieved by at least grade 5. Issues such as teacher redeployment are to be decided by the state governments.

Can you explain the proposal of an integrated BEd. What more value-addition can be achieved through this in the teachers' training?

The policy explains in detail about the integrated BEd. The objective is to instil in teachers the ability to inculcate a more flexible and independent educational method and impart it to students. They should have knowledge and interest in subjects other than their area of study. Most of the BEd colleges function with the sole objective of churning out more teachers. Most of these institutions do not have a suitable atmosphere to nurture the best teachers.

• What changes will be brought about in the higher education sector with the introduction of the four-year multi-disciplinary degree courses? Criticisms have been raised that there will not be a deep understanding of one subject when multiple subjects have to be learnt.

The four-year degree course is to help the students to explore options other than what is given in the syllabus, and identify their interest and excel in them. As more time is needed for such explorations and trials, one more year has been added.

• Is there a need to revise our outlook on research? Should PhDs be made mandatory for college lecturers? Shouldn't PhDs be limited to only those who want to have a career in research studies?

In India, comparatively fewer teachers have PhDs. The new policy aims to cultivate an interest in research among teachers. A culture of research must develop. Funds are allotted for teachers via the National Research Foundation for this purpose. The new policy envisages for the teachers to seriously take up research.

Raise your questions

If you have any query about the National Education Policy, you can send it across to Manorama. Those in public interests would be brought to the attention of the authorities, and the details would be included in the subsequent reports. 

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