“Optimal output is best executed with collective participation”

says Ratnesh Kumar Jha, while talking about the strengths and expectations from the Draft National Education Policy 2019. Excerpts.

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The Draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 provides for reforms at all levels of education from school to higher education. It seeks to increase the focus on early childhood care, reform the current exam system, strengthen teacher training, and restructure the education regulatory framework. It also seeks to set up a National Education Commission, increase public investment in education, enhance the use of technology and accentuate focus on vocational and adult education, among others.

“It is a very comprehensive and progressive document. There’s a lot that is commendable and constructive in it, which include focus on early childhood, foundational numeracy and literacy, delivery of education, capacity building and focus on teacher training,” says Ratnesh Kumar Jha, MD, South Asia, Cambridge University Press.

Another important thing he mentions is the focus on building languages. “Being multi-lingual is a great strength,” he adds.

Realizing the goals of the NEP

“As a publishing or content company, we help the government to build on diversity. I think the government should focus on giving choice to the teachers and it should be mentioned clearly. The choice should be in the form of delivery, content and the use of a combination of digital and print,” he shares.

“There is some mention of that choice in Section 2 regarding the way education textbook adoption should happen, but as we go along, we would hope to see private publishers getting a clearer framework that looks at both the current education system and the changes we want to bring to the K-12 education segment,” he adds.

“The most important thing is that India is at a juncture where we are looking at the knowledge economy to grow. At the same time, there is a struggle with allocation of budgets. If that goes up, investment in education by private players will go high. Private players have a big role to play and there has to be a model of equity, quality and sustainability. Also, there must be a continuous focus on teachers,” he adds.

“The policy is very comprehensive and touches upon many of those things which were not there earlier. Now we need to get the subjectivity out. There is a need to make it more precise and clearer on how to tackle assessment that is still based on rote-learning. Since there has to be a balance between learning and improving skills, assessment ought to change. I would like to see the practicable form of that,” shares Ratnesh.

Talking of the school ecosystem, Ratnesh says, “There have to be more opportunities to have more people on board who have a worldwide experience. The government is focusing on increasing competence and for that we need to bring the good practices from the world. We need a narrative with a balance between knowledge, skills, competency and values. This will ensure that we enable children deal with contemporary issues like environment etc.”

Publishers:Roles and responsibilities

“In Sections 4.7 and 4.8, the document refers to NCERT and SCERT many times. Private players like us work to support the framework designed by the core agency,and we would like the decision to choose resources to lie with the people imparting education, as teachers play a vital role in the success of the teaching and learning process. This choice is not articulated very well in the document. This will bring diversity in society.Collective participation is important to achieve larger goals like equity, quality and private-public participation sustainably,” he adds.

On K-12 segment

“In K-12 segment, there is an augmentation with the impressive inclusion of Early Childhood Care & Education. The government has done a good job of structuring and forming a theory around the fact that early impressions can have a long-lasting impact on children’s minds. They are structuring the pre-school and the anganwadis. This expansion is very good,” he says.

“Besides, there is a new structure where the whole focus is on foundational numeracy and literacy. It should be clearly stated in the curriculum building. While there is focus on building the capacity around that, how to address this in K-12 has to be articulated. Teacher training is essential to avoid the need for a remediation system. So, first, there has to be a focus on the balance between knowledge and skill in assessment. Second, there should be an emphasis on building a good plan around teachers which should focus on quality rather than numbers, and third, ensuring diversity and ability to crowdsource in execution would fast-forward our journey,” he says.

Timelines to implement the NEP

The Ministry of Human Resource Development has received more than 70,000 ideas for improvement and it still continues. “I think it would take more than a year to incorporate the suggestions, bring out a final draft and then implement it,” tells Ratnesh.

Success of the NEP

“The success of National Education Policy lies in how democratic it is. Now is a time to turbocharge for a great policy and a great execution. It is important to create a framework and have a productive public–private participation within the framework of equity, quality and sustainability. It’s time to get the whole education ecosystem involved. There would be around 100,000 people working in the education publishing industry and they can be a part of this initiative,” shares Ratnesh.

On a concluding note

“We have seen multiple iterations of the policy. Now it is more than accepted, appreciated and,in fact, viewed as progressive. The government should look into investing little more than what we are doing right now, so that we get a strategy policy leading to flawless execution. Secondly, education is a collective responsibility and every stakeholder should get a chance to participate in this journey. Publishers or content creators are a legacy, culture and strength of our country. The Government of India or Ministry of Education should engage with them and fast-forward their journey. As it is, optimal output is best executed with collective participation. Also, we need to leverage the digital strength to democratise the education,” concludes Ratnesh optimistically.

– Varsha Verma

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