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Set the seal on 'equity and inclusive education'

Equity and inclusion are at the centre of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020

National Education Policy

Sentinel Digital Desk

Ravindra Kumar Mishra

(The writer was former Chief Consultant, MHRD, GOI. He can be reached at rkmishrajee@gmail.com)

Equity and inclusion are at the centre of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which conveys structural changes in education system and aims at right to quality education and learning of every child. It means giving equal chance to all children to attend school, learn and develop skills they need to thrive. The policy intends to offer real learning opportunities to all children by excluding none on the basis of disability, vulnerability, ability, gender, caste, religion, race, ethnicity, language or social and economic upbringing. Inclusive education shall allow benefit to all children to learn and grow side by side irrespective of their backgrounds by eliminating impediments. An inclusive system envisages to value the contribution of all children that allow diverse groups to grow. It is about looking at the ways our schools, classrooms, curriculum, textbooks are designed in a fashion that offers opportunities to all children to participate and learn.

Notwithstanding improvements in many vital areas, the education system grapples withnumerous challenges of inequity and exclusion. Access to quality school education appears to be a hallucination for vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 reveals that the Right to Education Act, 2009 recommends pre-school education for 4-6 years age group but underaged and overaged children are in pre-schools and primary schools. The proportion of children not enrolled in schools is 2.8% whereas 4.1% girls in 11-14 age group are out of school. Average student attendance in schools is 72%.

UDISE 2018-19 (provisional) discloses the transition rate from primary to upper primary and upper primary to secondary is 90 and 89 percent respectively and drop out rate at elementary and secondary level is 2.72 and 9.74 per cent. The data uncovers that 37% schools are ramp less.

In Assam, 56% schools have ramps, 32% have electricity and 13% have disabled friendly toilets, which is a concern for access of children with special needs (CWSN). There is limited information on availability of tactile paths in schools.

The policy purposes to recruit special teachers in all school premises to make sure that teaching learning is inclusive and cognizant of the needs of children. It is pertinent to mention that teacher education institutions and state academic authorities need to revisit their pre-service and in-service training programmes, curriculum and elucidate alternative homeschooling mechanisms that are accessible to individuals to confirm that children do not feel excluded in this extremely competitive environment. They need to address inclusivity and conversations that are prerequisite of the present schooling system.

The policy recognizes that girls and transgender individuals across all groups and socio-economic categories areaffected people. It accounts for 'Gender Inclusion Fund' to offer educational space that will help the inclusion of these children and scale up effective community-based interventions indiscriminately.

The fundamental purpose of the policy is to reaching the unreached across the country by propelling resources and aligning multiple schemes to transform the unapproached locations.

The policy clubs the socio-economic groups, may be for administrative efficiency and better allocation of resource, it should acknowledge the unique sets of challenges faced by primitive tribes and other marginalized groups.

A survey conducted by NCERT divulges that COVID–19 aggravates learning and deprives majority of children from attending online classes in absence of requisite equipment and infrastructure. This may add to dropouts owing to learning deficit and stigma of letdown. Alternative and innovative education may lead to multiple pathways of effective learning and wide spread participation of children extensively and comprehensively. The state academic authority should focus, take a stock of the situation and devise strategies for the children who are not attending classes, conducted online or telecasted, with limpid plan that excludes none.

The ray of hope has come through the 'NEP 2020' as the cornerstone of all educational decisions that confers learning with equity and sustainable human development. An attempt has been made to develop awareness of functions and responsibilities and inclusion of community involvement with an aim to minimize exclusion and maximize inclusion. It is going to embellish blend of integration and inclusion with equity.

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