The whole country is discussing the sixty odd page National Education Policy document (NEP) recently made public by the Government of India. It for the first time that the Policy talks about Early Childhood and Care Education, which is centered around pre primary education, for which provision of breakfast has been introduced for children. Such a provision has been made in addition to the existing mid day meal schemes in Government schools. There are many other provisions in the Policy which has generated debates across the country. It is alleged that it might lead to centralization, commercialization and communalisation of education. The biggest question is how huge resources would be mobilized for several schemes provided in the policy. It is also alleged that States have not been consulted adequately and the Union Government has unilaterally framed it. Whatever may be the contentious issues generated on the New Education Policy it is worthwhile to underline the point that several measures taken by the Government of Odisha in the field of education during the tenure of Chief Minister of Odisha Shri Naveen Patnaik would offer trend setting examples for the country in the context of NEP.
Biju Janata Dal, the first political party to organize webinar on NEP
BIju Janata Dal (BJD) on the instructions of its President Shri Naveen Patnaik organised a webinar on New Education Policy to elicit views and opinion on its diverse aspects and deeply reflect on their implications for the State of Odisha and our country. In doing so BJD became the first political party in the country to take such a trendsetting initiative.
Bag less classes initiated in Govt Schools in Ganjam district on experimental basis
It is instructive to note that there are some issues raised in the National Education Policy document and these have been implemented in some districts of Odisha. For instance the document prescribes 10 bagless days for students every month in primary and high school levels so that pressure on minds of students, because of heavy school bags, would get reduced and on those ten days students would pursue other subjects like music, craft or some thing else. A few moths back I wrote an article on that issue and stated that in 1937 Mahatma Gandhi underlined the point that burden of text books on students should be reduced and the celebrated writer R K Narayanan made a special mention in the Rajya Sabha in late 1980s in this regard. (https://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/15/18448/No-School-Bag-Day-Swami-and-Friends-Dream-Almost-Comes-True) That article focused attention on initiative taken by Ganjam Collector in introducing bagless pursuit of studies on Saturdays in Govt schools. There is a need to underline the point that Government of Odisha has already set an example in this regard and it should be replicated in rest of Non-Violence in Preamble of Constitution
Include in Curriculum the idea of non violence and nonviolent mass education
The second point which needs to be flagged is that the Policy document in several paras emphasizes on enabling students to engage in ethical reasoning for developing faculties for imbibing values of non-violence, compassion, empathy and fellow feeling. We need to contextualise it by invoking the idea of CM Naveen Patnaik who emerged as the first leader of public life in India for advocating inclusion of non-violence in the preamble of the Constitution on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Therefore, taking a cue from it Odisha should devise curriculum on non-violence based on its wider meaning as expounded by Mahatma Gandhi and introduce it at school, college and university levels. In this context it is underlined that Mahatma Gandhi interpreted non-violence in very wider terms and linked it to mean eradication of literacy, empowerment of women, improvement of living standards of people and maintenance of communal harmony. The idea is to teach students at every level about these dimensions of non-violence which is now taught in some of the advanced countries including Germany and USA. It is worthwhile to note that non-violence is now being invoked as a normative value in several literature generated at many global forums to save humanity from global warming and climate change. We need to weave such ideas with measures taken by Odisha Govt to empower women, ensure food and human security, save lives from natural disasters and COVID pandemic and address the problems caused by global warming and climate change. Such initiatives would put the deeper meaning of non-violence in the context of challenges confronted by the State of Odisha, our country and humanity.
Walking and Cycling to School and College
The other point in the National Education Policy that students should be pooled in some clusters to encourage them to use cycles or walk to schools so that they attend schools in large numbers has to be contextualised by invoking ideas of Mahatma Gandhi and the measures taken by Odisha Government. Mahatma Gandhi had said, during Dandi March in 1930, that modern generation should walk and avoid cars to cover short distances. In Europe it is suggested by experts that school busses should not be taken to gates of schools and these should stop three kilometers away from the gates of schools so that students should walk three kilometers to school and walk back the same distance to take the bus for returning home. In the process they would walk six kilometers and such walk would address child obesity and promote good health of students. It is suggested that Odisha should set an example for the country in this regard.
Introduce Mahatma Gandhi’s Bal Pothi, text book for school students, in curriculum
Odisha became the first State to announce and implement lock down to interrupt and check the spread of COVID pandemic in the State. It is worthwhile to note that CM Shri Naveen Patnaik appealed to men, during the lock down period, to share household work with women and not to tax them by increasing household chores. It is instructive to recall that Mahatma Gandhi wrote a book “Bal Pothi” in 1922 for school children and in that book there is a small chapter on house work. In that chapter Gandhi asked boys and men in the family to share household work with women members so that they would be unburdened of housework and get free time to pursue other activities. Gandhi said that if men would share household work with women a good society would be created by ensuring gender equality at home. The entire text of Bal Pothi should be translated to Odia and introduced in schools and colleges of the State for character building and education of students. In doing so Odisha would set an example for the country in taking forward the cause and vision of Mahatma Gandhi. Such a measure for the cause of gender equality at home would hugely compliment the suggested measures to introduce in the curriculum the idea of non-violence one critical component of which is gender equality.
Recognition of Tribal language for imparting education
Odisha has officially recognised several tribal languages. Odisha Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik had said in 2018 that “The State Government has initiated several steps for giving recognition to the tribal languages. Still, there are some tribal languages in the State which highly deserve to be included in the 8th Schedule of Constitution”. It is understood that tribal languages are used in some schools located in tribal areas of the State to communicate with students from tribal community and explain the meaning of several educational concepts and ideas to them. In the New Education Policy it is provided that languages of tribal commutes should be employed to impart education to them. So what has already been done in Odisha finds a place in the National Education Policy. It is worthwhile to note that some years back the British Women’s Manifesto on Climate Change underlined the point that by respecting the tribal culture a step can be taken forward to stem the tide of climate change and global warming. Such ideas embodied in the aforementioned statement of Chief Minister Shri Patnaik need to be incorporated in the syllabus for school, college and university education.
Special Education Zone and Commercialization of Education
Many apprehensions have been expressed that there are several provisions in the National Education Policy which would be factors behind commercialization of education. The National Education Policy document on the one hand talks about retrieving the glory and prestige of Govt schools and at the same time allows Special Education Zones in the pattern of Special Economic Zones, where private schools can open more schools by combining several schools, be they of Govt or private domain. It has been cautioned that along with entry given to foreign universities such attempts to create Special Educational Zones would attract only those interested to establish private schools for profit purposes by charging exorbitant fees. When educational institutions would be run solely on the basis of fees collected from students then commercialization of educational institutions would be more intensified and taken to higher levels. In such a situation we would not have diversity of students in private schools as rich and well off students would go there and in Government schools there would be admission of students from poorer sections of society. Absence of diversity in class rooms would narrow the vision of students. The prevalence of diversity in class rooms underlined by the National Education Policy would be negated by commercialization of education.
Modern ideas of Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das and Utkal Gaurab Madhusudan Das should be taught
It is also suggested that the modern ideas of Utkalmani Gooabandhu Das and Utkalgaurab Madhusudan Das should find prominent place in the syllabus of students and in this regard I offer to submit my articles for consideration for inclusion in the syllabus. Also it is suggested that regional history of different parts of Odisha should find place in educational curricula. In this regard attention is drawn to the instances of people from Bargad region participating in the first war of independence of 1857 and the then Chief Minister of Odisha Shri Biju Patnaik had unveiled a column to pay tribute to those heroes. Such information should form part of the course curriculum.
The link below of the article of 2016 authored by the writer of this article attempts to throw light on the text on inputs on new education policy made public by the Government of India in that year. It may be perused to appreciate the New Education Policy and take necessary measures in the context of Odisha.