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NEP, schools reopening amid COVID-19: What’s the future of education in Assam?

Rabindranath Tagore had said ‘we adorned the cage but the parrot lay within lay starving’, he basically said that education should cultivate the power of acquiring through independent effort and develop the ability to learn directly from nature and life, rather than restricting to books. For Tagore education was a process beyond mere intellectual development and it should emphasize holistic development. 

Assam: Back to the future

The government of Assam has welcomed the new and revised National Educational Policy(NEP) which is set to usher in new lease of life in the Educational structure of the country  and has formed an 40 member committee to look into the new revised National Educational Policy(NEP). Apart from that the educational scenario in Assam is going for a major structural reforms such as setting up of 119 High school in tea gardens of the state. Apart from that as slowly and steadily opening everything such as places of mass gatherings such as malls and gyms with proper protocols, amidst the corona pandemic, the government has also planned to open schools from September 1st onwards as of now.

However the authorities have kept in mind the vulnerability that the toddler’s may be exposed to, therefore classes till class 4 is to remain closed and further stressing on the need to maintain the safety measure through social distancing, a roaster system would be implemented such as limiting the number of students upto 15 till class 8 and similar provisions for students of class 10 and 12 is also going to be applied till the time corona remains.The authorities have said that more of open spaces should be used up but what we see in schools in ‘Guwahati’ that there isn’t enough open spaces, there is often space crunch unlike most of the schools from rural areas and would the authorities use the same formula of declaring an institute as containment zone if case of corona are found in teachers and students?

Will the teachers to able to cover the syllabus especially for class 11 and 12 students who shall appear for their board exams? Will online education be the new normal, and they had to open the educational institutes anyway as this kind of an impasse(deadlock) related to education cannot go on forever.

Also read: Is constitutional morality eroding after Rajasthan fiasco?

The NEP issue

Moving ahead the NEP has been creating ripples all around with allegations such as saffronisation of the education system, or language imposition, increase in the duration of the graduation degree etc. The prominent points include the promotion of a pedagogical model of learning right from an early age of 3 as we are often hurled with the accusation that our educational system is based on testing our memory skills, it’s about rote learning. Therefore the Early Childhood Care and Education(ECCE) has been devised which will enlighten the toddlers it would comprise of teaching techniques such as puppetry, visual art and the biggest advantage is that it is aimed to benefit the children of humble backgrounds as it consists of features such as collaborating with Anganwadi schools, and by providing such an opportunity it will create a ‘level playing field’ for the socioeconomically disadvantaged. Specially for a state like Assam where the bridge between the Urban-Rural divide even in terms of elementary education is manifest. This very move will strengthen our basic roots and apart from the free mid-day meals which had previously attracted most of the children, now the quality education would also make the children attend school. Salient features of the NEP would also fill up all the vacancies and would try to keep a teacher-student ratio of 30:1, the government of Assam has already shown signs of positivity by declaring that 46,000 thousand teacher’s job would be provincialized however there will be exceptions in certain regions of the state such as Barak Valley(Bengali majority), BTR(Bodo majority) etc. This kind of move would encourage promising youngsters to get into teaching.  However, the biggest game-changer associated with the NEP is going for a practical mode of teaching which shall be mandatory for every student, now if we take the case of Assam or for that matter, any state the children from rural areas can do activities such as gardening, pottery making and children from Urban areas are good in computers, now to bridge the gap and encourage parity the NEP has intended that 10-day internship will be introduced which shall also be bagless and this will encourage the students to learn. And such kind of move will definitely be of use in a pandemic(corona) like situation because rights now people are in a fix while engaging people such as electricians, plumbers etc if not perfect but the basic training skills will make the students independent to fix basic problems at home. That someone from humanities can also take up biology as a subject, the NEP will provide flexibility regarding the same. 

A three-language formula shall be used to promote multilingualism and emphasis will be laid on rich subjects such as Sanskrit which has been adapted by successful western education systems such as(Germany). The authorities have not only catered to the need of scholarly students and included lucrative boosters but have also kept in mind about the specially able or Divyang children, byways of recruiting additional special educators who will stress on specific learning. In India and especially in case of economically backward states such as Assam school dropouts has been a recurring problem, although education is free but due to economic problems and low incentives we see that students often drop out and this is more of common phenomena in rural areas, but the NEP will include a feature of Samagra Shiksha will redefine education and break barriers as a restricting will be made(Open and Distance Learning) which is offered by National Institute for Open Schooling(NIOS) and it intends to make education accessible to all through its flexible nature. To produce quality students it is mandatory that teachers are also adequately encouraged, hence a 4 year integrated B.ED programmers’ and apart from that a plethora of other incentives and emphasis shall be laid upon national-level entrances such as Teacher Eligibility Tests(TETs). The authorities have also planned restructuring of the Higher Educational Institutes(HEI)  by planning to go multidisciplinary and go up a notch higher, by not only offering multiple courses but also allowing such HEI’s to run Open Distance Learning programs to promote learning.  The authorities have taken note of the findings of the J.S Verma Commission(2012) report related to stand-alone Teacher education institutions(TEI’s) and has vowed to do away with redundant TEI’s. The new policy also aims to promote a structured pathway for vocation courses. But the biggest game-changer is the pledge to minimize the harmful effect of commercialization in education by instituting multiple mechanisms with check and balances. So it can safely be said that the NEP has a potential to restructure the educational scenario because we lag in producing world class inventors which can be seen from the very fact that there are hardly a few Noble Prize winner for scientific inventions or the overemphasis on class 10 and 12 marks have resulted in unhealthy competition, mental stress and is the reason behind loosing bright students to progressive countries such as America. Hopefully a state like Assam whose educational status has improved since the last few years also benefits from such changes and specially the artificial intelligence and technology will be beneficial for this state of India who battles flood problems for good two(2) months if not less every year and students suffer miserably.

About the author-Prakreetish Sarma. He is currently practising as an Advocate in Gauhati High Court, completed graduation in law from National Law University and Judicial Academy Assam. Interests are playing football, badminton, interested in cooking, discovering new places and going for trekking and into social work. He is a contributing writer for InsideNE.

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