31 July 2020: The Hindu Editorial Analysis
1) A long road: On National Education Policy 2020-
- The National Education Policy 2020 announced by the Ministry of Human Resource Development sets for itself the goal of transforming the system to meet the needs of 21st Century India.
- In a federal system, any educational reform can be implemented only with support from the States, and the Centre has the giant task of building a consensus on the many ambitious plans.
- The policy aims to eliminate(end) problems of pedagogy(teaching), structural inequities, access asymmetries and rampant(excessive) commercialisation.
- The NEP 2020 is the first policy after the one issued in 1986, and it has to contend with multiple crises in the system.
- It is no secret that primary schools record shockingly poor literacy and numeracy outcomes, dropout levels in middle and secondary schools are significant.
- And the higher education system has generally failed to meet the aspirations for multi-disciplinary programmes.
- In structural terms, the NEP’s measures-
A) to introduce early childhood education from age 3,
B) offer school board examinations twice a year to help improve performance,
C) move away from rote learning,
D) raise mathematical skills for everyone,
E) shift to a four-year undergraduate college degree system, and;
F) create a Higher Education Commission of India represent major changes.
- Progress on these crucially depends on the will to spend the promised 6% of GDP as public expenditure on education.
- The policy also says that wherever possible, the medium of instruction in schools until at least Class 5, but preferably until Class 8 and beyond, will be the home language or mother tongue or regional language.
- This is a long-held view, and has its merits, although in a large and diverse country where mobility is high, the student should have the option to study in the language that enables a transfer nationally.
- English has performed that role due to historical factors.
- There are some good elements to the NEP 2020 that will generate little friction, and need only adequate resourcing.
- Provision of an energy-filled breakfast, in addition to the nutritious mid-day meal, to help children achieve better learning outcomes, is one.
- Creation of ‘inclusion funds’ to help socially and educationally disadvantaged children pursue education is another.
- Where the policy fails to show rigour, however, is on universalisation of access, both in schools and higher education; the Right to Education needs specific measures to succeed.
- Moreover, fee regulations exist in some States even now, but the regulatory process is unable to rein(control) in profiteering in the form of unaccounted donations.
- The idea of a National Higher Education Regulatory Council as an apex control organisation is bound to be resented(opposed) by States.
- Similarly, a national body for aptitude tests would have to convince the States of its merits.
- Among the many imperatives, the deadline to achieve universal literacy and numeracy by 2025 should be a top priority as a goal that will crucially determine progress at higher levels.
The Centre will have to convince States that the National Education Policy benefits all.
2) Banking on serology: On seroprevalence studies-
GS 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
What is a serological survey?
A serological survey is an antibody test conducted on a sample of the population to assess how many people have been affected. As it is difficult to determine the infection rates of a population based on RT-PCR and Rapid antigen tests, serological surveys are the best bet for the government to ready a response.
What is an ELISA antibody test?
The ELISA testing kit was developed by National Institute of Virology, Pune along with Zydus Cadila. The kit tests for IgG and IgM antibodies in the population. It’s reliability is tested using two indicators: specificity and sensitivity. The test, according to literature, has a 97.7% specificity and 92.1% sensitivity.
- Recent serology survey was undertaken in Mumbai. Scientists use this survey findings to understand the spread of COVID-19.
- Survey found that nearly three in five, or 57% of those tested in slums had been exposed to the virus and had developed antibodies against it as compared to only 16% of those tested in residential societies.
- Results from Delhi’s seroprevalence study, earlier this month, found that nearly a quarter of the 21,000-odd samples tested had been exposed to the virus and some of the densest districts had over 20% prevalence.
- Of the nearly 7,000 tested in Mumbai, nearly 61% were slum-dwellers.
- The higher prevalence of the virus there showed that those living in the densest urban agglomerations were most likely to have been infected by it.
- A large proportion of those in whom antibodies were detected — the numbers aren’t known — were asymptomatic.
- This pointed to the fact that the fatality rate in Mumbai may be “as low as 0.05-0.10%, instead of the existing 5.5%,” as per an estimate accompanying the results of the survey.
USED ACROSS STATES:
- Such serological surveys are increasingly being used by States.
- Ahmedabad’s civic body conducted one to conclude that only 17% of the city had been likely exposed to the virus and Tamil Nadu too is in the midst of conducting such a survey.
- A dominant theme driving State bodies that commission such surveys is to check for levels of ‘herd immunity’, or if 60%-70% of the population have encountered the infection.
- The argument is that this degree of exposure will, akin to a vaccine, also protect the rest of those uninfected.
- There is an absence of knowledge about how long antibodies last and the extent to which they protect from fresh infections.
- Herd immunity isn’t a precise(exact) science and not something that ought to be pursued by a state as a matter of policy.
- It is four months since India got its first 100 cases.
- The Indian Council of Medical Research’s survey in May had shown that the number of those infected by the virus were many multiples of those that were being reflected in official confirmed-case statistics.
- The unrelenting advance of the virus shows that while it is much less of a killer, in aggregate, than expected, it spares few from infection.
- Therefore, in the absence of a reliable vaccine, the vast majority of people everywhere — irrespective of peaks and ebbs in daily caseloads — continue to be vulnerable.
- Serology surveys can at best be crude pointers to chronicle the progress of the pandemic and not a psychological palliative(painkiller).
The virus isn’t as lethal(dangerous) as originally feared, but is more infectious than previously believed.
3) An education policy that is sweeping in its vision-
GS 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education
- In approving the National Education Policy 2020 on July 29, the Union Cabinet has taken an important step forward in India’s transition from deprivation to development.
- It marks the fourth major policy initiative in education since Independence.
- The last one was undertaken a good 34 years ago and modified in 1992.
- Given our current demographic profile, the stage of development we are in, and the aspirations of our youth, the new policy has not come a day too soon.
SWEEPING IN VISION:
- Based on two committee reports and extensive nationwide consultations,
- NEP 2020 is sweeping in its vision and seeks to address the entire gamut(span) of education from preschool to doctoral studies, and from professional degrees to vocational training.
- It acknowledges the 21st century need for mobility, flexibility, alternate pathways to learning, and self-actualisation.
- India has faced unprecedented challenges in providing quality education to children and the youth.
- Lack of resources and capacity, dozens of mother tongues, a link language that despite being the global language of choice is alien(foreign) to most, and a persistent mismatch between the knowledge and skills imparted and the jobs available have been some of the challenges that have bedeviled(troubled) our efforts since Independence.
- The 2020 policy attempts to break free from the shackles(restraints) of the past.
- In adopting a 5+3+3+4 model for school education starting at age 3, it recognises the primacy of the formative years from ages 3 to 8 in shaping the child’s future.
- It also recognises the importance of learning in the child’s mother tongue till at least Class 5.
- Here, we are up against the strong desire of parents today, born of pragmatism, to give a head start to their children by exposing them to English from day one.
- Maybe we should recognise that between ages 3 and 8, picking up languages is child’s play, and blend(mix) the mother tongue and English in the first five years of school.
- Multilingual felicity(joy) could become the USP of the educated Indian.
- Another key aspect of school education in the new policy is the breaking of the straitjackets of arts, commerce and science streams in high school, and the laudable goal of introducing vocational courses with internship.
- How exactly this will be realised is to be worked out, given the penchant of overzealous parents to “stream” their children into professions at the earliest.
- The ‘blue-collarisation(manual work)’ of vocations in our society is also a hurdle to be overcome, but this need not deter us from recognising the merits of the proposed policy.
- Needless to say, the policy envisages 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030.
- NEP 2020 proposes a multi-disciplinary higher education framework with portable credits, and multiple exits with certificates, diplomas and degrees.
- An ambitious GER of 50% is envisaged by 2035.
- At the apex will be Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities, where research will be supported by a new National Research Foundation.
- The role of our colleges in attaining the ambitious GER target is recognised by empowering them as autonomous degree-granting institutions
- The huge potential of online pedagogy(teaching) and learning methodologies for attaining the GER target is recognised and sought to be tapped extensively.
THE QUESTION OF REGULATION:
- Regulatory mechanism is the bane(distress) of governance in India, with poor outcomes to boot.
- NEP 2020 makes a bold prescription to free our schools, colleges and universities from periodic “inspections” and place them on the path of self-assessment and voluntary declaration.
- Transparency, maintaining quality standards and a favourable public perception will become a 24X7 pursuit for the institutions, leading to all-round improvement in their standard.
- A single, lean body with four verticals for standards-setting, funding, accreditation and regulation is proposed to provide “light but tight” oversight.
- In a country still beset(troubled) by huge inequality and challenges faced by the disadvantaged and disabled, the NEP lays particular emphasis on providing adequate support to ensure that no child is deprived of education,
- The long-neglected ancient Indian languages and Indic knowledge systems are also identified for immediate attention. All this requires enormous resources.
- An ambitious target of public spending at 6% of GDP has been set.
- This is certainly a tall order, given the current tax-to-GDP ratio and competing claims on the national exchequer of healthcare, national security and other key sectors.
- However, resources are never the main roadblock to success in education.
- If public and political will can be mustered, resources will find their way from both public and private sources.
NEP 2020 provides the ingredients and the right recipe. What we make of it depends entirely on us.