Written by Sneha Sen
Third Year, BBA LLB. Bharati Vidyapeeth New Law College, Pune
Source: HuffPost India
Disclaimer: Please note that the views expressed below represent the opinions of the article's author. The following does not necessarily represent the views of Law & Order.
The New National Education Policy 2020 was approved and passed by the Union Cabinet of India on 29th July 2020 during COVID lockdown with no parliamentary discussion- apparently appears to be revolutionary on the surface. The key proposals and educational changes introduced by this New Policy however reinforces inequality, casteism, classism and throws a bigger challenge to the poverty ridden lower caste students, much like the age-old caste system.
The New Education Policy has discarded English as the medium of instruction and made regional/local languages as the primary medium of education till class 5. To put it into simpler words, this would mean that a kid growing up in Kolkata would have to study everything in Bengali.
Everyone must know how to fluently read and write in his own mother tongue but it is an indisputable truth that English is a language which is spoken globally and the language plays an important role in the social ladder for upward mobility. To the weak lower sections of the society English often plays the role of social leveller to some extent. For this very reason, the Dalit leader and the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mayawati had made English compulsory in primary education during her fourth tenure as a chief minister of the state. In the era of globalisation, all big reputed companies and job recruiters search for candidates who have good proficiency in English.
In the policy, the exclusion of English till class 5 will do more damage than any good. The change in the medium of instruction will have a negative impact particularly on the marginalised lower-caste sections of the society. The only opportunity the poverty stricken kids get to learn and master a language is at their school. If that one opportunity is also snatched away from them, then there is no way for them to break the barriers of inequality and poverty. The upper and upper-middle class children will not get affected by this as they can easily afford the costly private English tutors and can go for individual coaching classes.
Another major problem is with regard to kids whose parents have transferable jobs as they will get highly affected by this change. For example, if a kid who was growing up in Punjab and learning lessons in his mother tongue i.e., Punjabi moves to Telangana because of his parents’ transferable job, will face a huge language barrier as he would not know the new medium of instructions given to him at school in Telugu.
In NEP 2020, the Government has introduced vocational and polytechnic education for the students. These courses include teaching the students skills such as plumbing, painting, carpentry and other manual work. No doubt that these skills will help a student to be self-reliant but it is an undeniable fact that jobs like plumbing, carpentry etc are exorbitantly underpaid, shambolic and the employees doing such jobs are often exploited by their employers and are forced to work in inhumane conditions.
If correct and effective measures are not taken to improve these working conditions, then internships at such workplaces will convince the students that their future job and life will be stained with poverty and struggle. It is pretty obvious that the upper class well to do families would not want their children doing such labour work simply because these manual jobs are never seen in a respectable light in society. So ultimately, children from the lower class and poorer backgrounds will be forced to take up such professions to fill their empty stomach. These people will forever remain confined within the vicious circle of poverty.
Schools providing good advanced education is the only ray of hope for the poor blue collar economy people to at least bag a white collar job to break the shackles of poverty.
In the New National Education Policy, coding will be taught to students from grade 6 along with the adoption of experiential learning. The motive behind this change is to uplift India’s future to make the country fit for leadership roles in various upcoming fields and professions which involves mathematical thinking, artificial thinking, data science, machine-learning etc. Regardless of the motive behind this policy, this projects a lack of caste and class sensitivity as to learn coding well, every kid will require a computer or laptop which costs over 20,000 rupees at least. This policy will definitely benefit the rich elite class who can afford these electronic gadgets easily. But children who do not have enough money to even buy books, cannot even imagine a laptop in their hands. Without access to a computer, proficiency in coding is next to impossible for the underprivileged lower caste children.
Also, how are the poor kids going to afford practising coding in class 6 when they were never taught English till grade 5? There will also be a greater focus on e-learning with the help of new and modern technology. Again this is discriminatory towards the underprivileged class as their impecunious parents who struggle for two meals a day, cannot bear the expense of smartphones and internet connection.
Under the New Policy, foreign universities will be allowed to set up their campuses in India which basically signifies that education is going to be privatised. Not only will poor Dalit children not be able to afford these institutions, but they will also not be represented because there will be no reservation, which is a constitutional right. Colleges will have more autonomy which will lead to reservations not being implemented in those private institutions.
Also, MPhil (Masters of Philosophy) has been abolished and discontinued to align degree education with the models introduced by many western countries. This is a huge disadvantage to the students who are currently pursuing MPhil and those who were planning to study it. Also, the future of those needy students who have acquired the degree is at stake because there will be no job opportunity for them.
Once implemented, the National Education Policy will lead to an increase in class inequality and casteism in a country that already suffers from economic inequality. In this new policy, the poor’s hopes of getting a white collar job will get crushed. The poor will get poorer while the rich will get richer. Besides killing the hopes and dreams of the children belonging to lower strata, the policy will also eliminate all competition for the elite to remain at the top and exploit the poor lower class.
 HRD Ministry Renamed 'Education Ministry', Cabinet Okays New National Education Policy. The Wire. Posted on 29th July 2020. https://thewire.in/education/hrd-ministry-renamed-education-nep-ramesh-pokhriyal-nishank  Dalits see English as social leveller. The Times of India. Posted on 16th Jan 2010. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Dalits-see-English-as-social-leveller/articleshow/5449983.cms