Stepping up its attack against the Centre's new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, Congress has said that it will create a digital divide in the country.
Addressing a press conference, former HRD Minister Pallam Raju and Chief spokesperson of Congress Randeep Surjewala on Sunday, 2 August, said that the NEP 2020 misses the fundamental goal of human development and expansion of knowledge.
The party said that the NEP 2020 which aimed to pave the way for transformational reforms in “school and higher education” is high on catchwords, gloss, appearance and verbosity but lacks coherent implementational roadmap and strategy, clearly defined milestones and the critical finances necessary to execute this grand vision.
"NEP will lead to increased segregation of the poor and disadvantaged by creating a 'digital divide'. More than 70 per cent children of marginalised sections may be completely excluded as seen during access to online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. This will also make the rural versus urban divide even stronger on account of absent or diminished internet connectivity/access to computers in the rural areas," Randeep Surjewala said, adding that there is no discussion of SC/ST/OBC and deprived class.
Congress on Timing of NEP 2020
The Congress questioned the timing of the NEP 2020 in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic when all educational institutions are closed.
The party said that almost the entire academia has complained of no consultation, no discussion and no deliberations, except with BJP-RSS affiliates.
On a policy that impacts and affects our present and future generations, even Parliamentary oversight has been circumvented, the party said.
The party questioned the NEP’s recommendation of spending six percent of GDP on education, and said that spending on education as a percentage of the budget has fallen from 4.14 percent in 2014-15 to 3.2 percent in 2020-21 under the BJP government.
Even this budgeted amount will see a cut of 40 percent owing to the COVID-19 pandemic in the current year taking the education spending to (close to) 2 percent of the total budget.
There is, thus, a huge mismatch between promise and delivery with no clarity on whether NEP 2020 proposes financing of six percent of GDP to come from public funds or private investment, the party said.
Congress Questions NEP’s Dependence on Anganwadis
The party also questioned the NEP's dependence upon Anganwadis for delivering quality "Early Childhood Care and Education" (ECCE).
"Anganwadi workers are already overburdened with numerous public health and nutrition duties and are not even recognised as "regular employees". Incidentally Anganwadi workers and helpers receive a mere monthly honorarium of Rs 4,500 and Rs 2,250 respectively. To train them to meet the ECCE standards through six months diploma course would itself be a herculean task. Moreover, conditions in Anganwadi centres remain abysmally poor," said the former HRD Minister.
Figures from December 2019 show that 3,62,940 Anganwadi centres don’t have toilets and 1,59,568 don’t even have drinking water. Can they be expected to meet and deliver the ambitious ECCE quality targets set by the NEP?
The statement from the party said the NEP 2020 promotes privatisation of public education which will inevitably lead to fund cuts, fee hikes and expensive education in the absence of grants from the government.
"Privatisation of education along with multiple exit points would lead to more dropouts, the opposite of the stated claim of the government. Shrinking of public institutions and over-reliance on unregulated privatisation will lead to putting higher education out of the reach of the middle class and the disadvantaged," the statement added.