‘The concept of a liberal education is critical to India at this juncture’
Dr K. Kasturirangan, chairman of the panel that drafted the New Education Policy (NEP), answers india today’s questions on its key recommendations:
Q. What were the major flaws your committee identified while formulating the draft NEP?
Many of these are not newly identified challenges, but some new issues have been flagged thanks to advances in our understanding of education since 1986/ 1992. For example, neuroscience now tells us that 85 per cent of a child’s brain development occurs before age six. An education system that fails to address the resulting needs of children is flawed, a consideration to extend the RTE Act to include 3-6 year-olds. The education we offer must be based on our present understanding of the cognitive and socio-emotional developmental stages of children. It is largely absent in the present pre-school system (often a downward extension of primary school) and the ‘10+2’ structure. In the past, we put emphasis on inputs (rather than outcomes), and although these led to dramatic improvements in access to education, an unacceptably high number fail to attain basic educational outcomes— foundational literacy and numeracy. It has severe consequences, including high dropout rates. The assessment system in schools and higher education promotes shallow learning and high-stakes exams, and misses the merits of low-stakes assessment to facilitate deeper learning.
Q. What about the challenges in higher education?
The transition to higher education via entrance exams has led to an entire parallel system of coaching classes that significantly perturbs the school system itself. Undergraduate education in India, except through some premier engineering and medical institutions, largely fails to achieve even the narrow goal of preparing students to enter the workforce. A fragmented system unable to provide infrastructure and quality faculty, and the lack of a holistic knowledge system in the 21st century are to blame for this. Sub-standard research is a major issue at the postgraduate level, which reflects in the poor quality and quantity of PhDs, papers and patents—three good indices of a wellfunctioning education system. Flaws in the regulation/ governance systems too must be addressed to ensure a vibrant higher education ecosystem.