While the New Education Policy 2020 is undoubtedly a significant milestone in revamping India’s educational system, there is much outside of its ambit that needs to be addressed. It must be remembered that education is not the business of government alone – traditionally, it has benefited from the efforts put in by individuals, as well as private, charitable and religious institutions. The principal goal of government should be to ensure that every child living in India has access to quality primary and secondary education. So, while efforts have been made to raise the quality and update the content of education, the objective has also been to ensure – by providing incentives like the mid-day meal and other benefits – that every child attends school. Success has yet to be achieved in this regard. This becomes all the more evident from the latest information that has become available on child labour in the country.
Many children that are part of the work force learn skills even as they earn the small amounts that go into supporting their families. If they are to give up this up for the ‘academic’ learning that exists in most schools, they may just end up unemployable when they attain adulthood. The NEP does seek to provide necessary skills and enhance employability but it cannot be a centralised push from above. It is at the grassroots that the principles have to be understood and implemented. Can the barely adequate education and training of government teachers serve the purpose?
This is where the role of private initiatives comes in. The formulation of content and preparing specific training progammes will have to be done by highly skilled and motivated volunteers, who should impart area-specific training to the teachers as well as the students, if required. Already many organisations are involved in various ways in the effort, such as SPECS, Aasra, etc., in Doon.
Syllabi should also be prepared for children who cannot go to school, so that they become literate in the first place, then receive certificates for the work skills they have learned by imparting theoretical knowledge. They can be taught in half-hour periods at the workplace. This can be structured in a manner that by the time they grow up, they have something like diplomas, and the learning to go further down the path. Pilot projects should be launched to see how this could be done. Could a motorcycle mechanic, for instance, go on to become a mechanical engineer in the future? How about some organisation gives it a try?