“If we teach students today as we taught yesterday, we rob them of tomorrow.” –John DeweyLogin to read more
In India today, we Jesuits are chiefly engaged in the apostolate of Education. The New Education Policy 2020 (NEP) has been released in a summary form of about 68 pages. For the last four years, the various drafts of the NEP were looming over us like the ‘Sword of Damocles’. The present government, under the pretext of Covid 19, was shrewd in passing it without any debate in either house of Parliament, just as the CAA, NRC, Article 370, the Triple Talaq, Labour and the Farm Laws, FCRA and the NEP were passed. The writing is on the wall. The majority rule. The minority remain voiceless.
NEP 2020 has many flaws. It has technical, legal, structural and pedagogical misgivings too. Rather than scrutinizing the NEP 2020 in detail, I would rather take this as an opportunity and a challenge to dwell on positive measures it can give rise to, in our institutions. I consider NEP 2020 a blessing in disguise.
Technology / Networking is a Blessing
“Every disruption in human history has led to new ways of thinking. And let me predict now, that the pandemic will enhance the quality of education by combining the best of online with offline.” Vineet Jain – Chancellor (Bennett University.)
I am sure that most of our institutions are technologically equipped. The NEP 2020 speaks of the use of technology to enhance our teaching methodology. This is also mentioned in the NEP. (Technology Use and Integration: NEP, 2020, Pg. 57, No.23ff) Our youth and the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP) can also assist us in this endeavor.
a. Youth Power – Computer Savvy: One of the four UAPs of the Society of Jesus speaks of accompaniment of the youth. Our educational institutions are a wonderful opportunity for us in this endeavor. Along with the actual teaching learning process, we could involve youth in the use of technology and computers. Thus the youth could share our Jesuit legacy and become valuable lay collaborators. This could open up new possibilities.
b. IPP Methodology is Implicit in the NEP: The Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm is Experience – Reflection and Action – based pedagogy. The NEP emphasizes the values found in the IPP. In the introduction of the NEP, it states, “Education must build character, enable learners to be ethical, rational, compassionate, and caring, while at the same time prepare them for gainful, fulfilling employment.” – (NEP: pg.4) The Characteristics of Jesuit Education (CJE) and (IPP), stress respect and compassionate care of each student uniquely as a gift of God. Thus we prepare our students not for examinations alone, but for life. We also have an opportunity to emphasise the values of the Gospel, simultaneously with the teaching-learning process. (Experiential learning, NEP 2020: pg.13, 4.6) “Experience” is one of the chief elements of IPP.
c. Tap Khan Academy & Other Google Accessories: We have lots of teaching material available on the internet. Google spearheads them. Besides, there are many voluntary organisations, which upload teaching material for the teachers and students. This is easily accessible, increases our access to information, and enables us to go beyond the prescribed texts and reference books.
Cultural, religious and language bias is experienced in the newly prescribed text books. What is our response to this? The deleted syllabi include insufficient and incorrect content on federalism, citizenship, nationalism, secularism and democratic rights. Here are some suggestions:
a. School Calendars / College Prospectus: The school/college calendar and prospectus is vital for our clientele, parents, teachers, students and all our stake holders. It is here we need to articulate our Jesuit legacy forcefully: our mission, vision and the need for our presence in the education apostolate. Besides, we can also print the Preamble of the Constitutions of India, as it also includes Gospel values. This will easily enable stake holders to familiarize themselves with Christian values.
b. Value Education and Orientations for our youth: I feel we could publish books and introduce the values of the Constitution and the Gospel class-wise. We can even have a separate manual for our youth. It can be offered on a monthly basis, or in the form of seminars and workshops. These books can offer open-ended suggestions to the teacher. These orientations can be offered in our curriculum. It is our minority right. We need the courage and ardent desire to implement all this.
Teachers’ Training Programs
“Teachers and faculty as the heart of the learning process.” (NEP 2020: pg. 6 – ‘Key Principles’)
We can empower teachers and lay collaborators with knowledge of their rights. NEP speaks of improving the quality of teachers. I feel we should prioritize B.Ed colleges to form quality teachers and resource persons. During the proposed four years of training, we can equip the teachers with Constitutional values. We have an opportunity to design good syllabi according to the requirements of the 21st century. Given our experience as educators, we could also influence the National Research Foundation (NRF) and Human Resource Development Centre (HRDC). This will create goodwill with the government.
Medium of instruction (mother tongue) / English proficiency our goal
I feel this is a golden opportunity for us to emphasize the mother tongue of instructions in the early years of the students’ formation. We are aware that the child has the ability to assimilate many languages with ease in this stage. At the same time, we can also lay equal stress on the English language. This is possible. The rural poor students can benefit immensely. In the State of Maharashtra many schools have bi-lingual medium of instructions, so also in some other States of India.
Sharing School complexes
In chapter 7 of NEP 2020, in 7.6 it states, “This Policy strongly endorses the idea of the school complex/cluster, wherever possible. The aim of the school complex/cluster will be greater resource efficiency and more effective functioning, coordination, leadership, governance, and management of schools in the cluster.”
Most of our Jesuit and Christian institutions are strategically built, and have a basic infrastructure. We can and must be generous. Many government schools do not have these basic amenities. It is in this context, that I feel the above suggestion to share our resources and school complexes are encouraging. It can enhance collaboration with our neighbouring institutions. Ultimately our assets are meant for educational purposes. We should be open towards this venture. We need to take this risk. We could engage in ‘spiritual conversations’ in our school communities and with our lay collaborators. It will allow the ‘Spirit’ of God to permeate our hearts as we attempt this ‘possible dream’.
In conclusion, I would say that NEP 2020 is the guideline offered to us by the Government of India. It appears to be defective and threatening, and yet with our commitment and goodwill, the above-mentioned suggestions are possible to work on. This can be our ‘Agni Pariksha’. Let us pray that through the intercession of St. Ignatius, we shall ‘journey’ towards the ‘impossible dream and the unreachable star.’Login to read more
The author is a staff member accompanying the Jesuit Juniors at Vinayalaya, Andheri, Mumbai.