Brief thoughts on each of the above.
I am reminded of an article by an Economist from Princeton University which mentioned that economists are too busy to prove hypotheses using mathematical modelling while neglecting the importance of change in behaviour and social transformation to achieve a desired goal. Building toilets is a step in the right direction. However, an individual who is used to open defecation needs to change the behaviour to use the toilets. Else the toilets will not serve the final mission of cleanliness and hygiene. We believe the implementation of the NEP needs similar social transformation. Few thoughts which could drive this transformation are:
- Replace midday meals by morning breakfast. Research has shown that midday meals are an attraction for parents to send their children to school. Morning hours are most productive to learn and the breakfast is the most important meal for the day.
- The young mother must be enrolled in adult education. She learns. She teaches her child. This could change the outlook towards education.
- Girl child drops off once puberty is attained due to stigma and hassles of managing the menstrual cycle. Free distribution of sanitary pads which are made by sponsoring self-help groups in the local areas could serve more than one purpose.
- There is a mention in the NEP about popularising teaching as a profession to create local teachers. Men and women both must be motivated to take up teaching as a profession. The attractiveness of the social standing of a teacher needs to be restored as it was in the past.
- Villages, talukas, districts must be incentivised to increase GER till the school level. Competition within the state and national level (like smart city concept) with appropriate social recognition of the members in the ecosystem is must for higher inclusiveness at all levels
Education is perceived to be the gateway for an aspirational life and livelihood. This needs to be reinforced at all levels. PPP model is the only way forward. Few thoughts:
- CSR spends is mandatory for corporate houses. Depending on the CSR amount, corporates must be engaged for implementing the NEP at the village, taluka, and district level. The funds must be used for building school related infrastructure including technology, training and development of teachers, child nutrition and maternal health and hygiene. This could be the input for the competition mentioned in the section on social transformation.
- Corporate houses can also be asked to create the facilities needed for imparting vocational training as planned at the school level.
- Recruitment of vocationally trained students after finishing school by the corporate organizations will enhance the importance of vocational training in the mind of the students and the parents.
- Connecting national and multinational organizations engaged in agriculture and related industries with the aspirations of the youth in the village is a must for ensuring higher enrolment in higher education in agricultural universities. The business of agriculture needs to be popularised through well-designed PPP models.
- Recent trend has shown that students graduating from prestigious colleges have opted to work in the social sector. Corporates must create such job roles to attract the best talent to work for the sector without sacrificing on the materialistic benefits with the jobs in other sectors.
- As an alumnus of IIT, I can state with personal experience that core engineering has lost its sheen in India. Corporate India must create exciting job opportunities for what I fondly call ‘blue collar’ engineering to retain the best talent to remain in engineering and not gravitate to MBA education for better career prospects.
Policy and advocacy
The government must formulate easy to implement policies and ensure that the policies are enforced as desired. Moreover, a well thought out campaign which is consistent and continuous is needed to create and correct perception regarding education and the importance of education in the future of India. Few thoughts:
- No child labour policy. Minimum age for labour recruitment must be 18 years with minimum school education (with exposure to vocational training).
- Incentives for parents for ensuring children go to school. Similarly, penalty for not sending children to school must be also introduced
- Strict monitoring and implementation of development of teachers with career progression is a must to attract better students to pick up teaching as a profession. Political influence in the appointment and progression of teaching and allied staff must be eliminated.
- Technology based companies must invest a percentage of their R&D investments for addressing problems and issues which emerge while implementing the NEP
In conclusion, NEP is a step in the right direction. However, as Frost would have said-there is miles to go before we sleep. At least the dream of India being a knowledge-based superpower is a good beginning.