New education policy to shrink India’s school system: GN Devy

The National Education Policy 2020 agregates where it should segregate and vice versa, veteran linguist and activist says

By Rajat Ghai
Published: Monday 28 September 2020

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has been in the crosshairs of educationists across India ever since the Narendra Modi Cabinet cleared it July 29, 2020. It has drawn criticism from several quarters and support from those considered close to the current regime.

Down To Earth spoke to Ganesh Devy, veteran linguist and founder of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, about the framework that was supposed to delineate the course that education would take in India.

A lot has been said in favour of and against the three-language formula the Centre has proposed. Does it pass muster? Not at all, Devy said. The Formula was a result of the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution as well as the linguistic reorganisation of Indian states in the 1950s and 1960s.

“At that time, this Formula was good. But 60 years later, we have a lot of inter-state migration. As a result of migration, most cities with populations above two million have become multi-lingual. In a typical classroom, there are children speaking not just the language of one state but of many states,” Devy said. 

In half the classrooms, students have studied in one language. But for the other 50 per cent, such linguistic cohesiveness is a thing of the past.

“I think therefore it would be very effective and realistic that rather than thinking of a single language as the medium of instruction, innovative methods be used to impart education in various languages,” he added. 

On indigenous and tribal languages, Devy said the Union government was not interested in keeping all surviving languages in India alive. The cluster system that is being promoted under the new policy will lead to a large-scale shrinkage of the school system in India, Devy said.

“It is going to shrink in the remote geographical areas of India, mostly those where tribals live. On one side, the schools will be bundled up into a single cluster and affect tribal villages. On the other side, the Census will not recognise the languages of the tribal people. It is clear from all this that the government is not interested in educating children who deserve it the most,” he said.

Devy said the biggest flaw of the policy was that it was aggregating where it should segreagte and vice versa. “It is looking at the primary school as the recruiting ground for the Rashtriya Swayamseak shakhas. It is asking children to celebrate certain heroes at the cost of others. It does not mention Buddhist, Jain, Sufi, Lingayat, tribal or atheist Hindu heroes and thinkers,” he said.

He said the NEP Policy 2020 was guru-centric and wanted to foreground the Sanatan tradition not only by bringing Sanskrit but also the Sankrit knowledge system back.

Devy said the lack of emphasis on environmental subjects as well as women’s rights in the policy was not surprising. “This government is in its economics very close to some very rich industrialists instead of the people of the country. Hence, ecology is the last consideration for this government. This policy does not say that it will promote gender equality as its article of faith. Gender, ecology and constitutional morality have been weak areas of this policy,” he said.

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