Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the importance of students studying in mother tongue or local language at least till Class 5 even as he pointed out that the National Education Policy (NEP) placed no bar on learning any language.
He also said students should be stepping towards a new future with a new curriculum designed under NEP when India completes 75 years of Independence in 2022. This curriculum will be forward-looking, future ready and scientific, he added, addressing a conclave on “School Education in 21st Century” under NEP 2020.
“After the NEP came, there has been much discussion on what will be the language of instruction… language is the medium of education, not entire education itself. People caught in too much of bookish knowledge often fail to grasp this distinction. Whatever language the child can learn easily should be the medium of instruction,” Modi said.
Some states, ruled by political rivals of the Centre’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have criticised NEP-2020. Detractors have accused the BJP of working to promote Hindi, a charge it has vehemently rejected.
“I see many people are under the wrong impression on this count. There is no bar on teaching-learning any language, be it English or any global language that helps at the world stage,” Modi added.
Modi also said NEP will give a new direction to the country in the 21st century, sowing the seeds for a new era. “The job is not finished yet. It (NEP) has to be implemented in an equally effective manner, and we have to do it together,” he said, noting that a nationwide consultation process is going on over the policy.
In July, the Union Cabinet passed India’s first NEP in at least 28 years, recommending primary education in local languages, facilitating the possible entry of foreign universities, creating a single higher-education regulator and easier board exams, among several other steps aimed at ushering in sweeping reforms.
Since then, over 1.5 million suggestions have been received on the MyGov portal, Modi said in his speech.
The Prime Minister said the world changed in the last three decades but India’s education policy remained the same. In the current system, marksheet has become “pressure sheet” for students and “prestige sheet” for families, Modi said, adding that the new policy aims to remove this pressure.
“When the country marks its 75th years of Independence, every student should be studying under guidelines formulated by NEP. This is our collective responsibility,” he said, addressing teachers, parents, states and NGOs.
NEP places a lot of thrust on children’s education, Modi said, adding that the young generation is vital to the nation’s development. NEP has been prepared in a way that the syllabus can be reduced and focus should be shifted to fundamentals, Modi added.
He said one of the major reasons behind the drop-out ratio is that students do not have the freedom of choosing their own subjects, but NEP will give them the choice. Now, students will not have to be limited to the watertight boundaries of commerce, science and humanities, and will choose any subject they want to, he said.
“The playful education of pre-schools till now was restricted to urban centres alone. It will now reach the poor as well as the rural areas,” Modi said.
“It is recognised world over thar early childhood, up to the age of 10, is the fastest learning period. Also the cognitive and analytical powers of a child are activated to the maximum if the medium of instruction is the mother tongue, or the dominant languages of the area… The emphasis of NEP on multi-disciplinarian [teaching] is excellent. The emphasis of the policy is to make youth future ready to meet the ever-changing contours of future exigencies,” said Inder Mohan Kapahy, former member of the University Grants Commission.