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Looking at NEP 2020 from a student’s point of view

The benefits of the new National Education Policy will be seen on the ground only when all the stakeholders work together to realise what is envisioned there.

Mamidala Karthik Ram

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Union ministers Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ (centre) and Prakash Javadekar (second from right) with officials at the launch of the new National Education Policy. (ANI)

The new National Education Policy may be a jolt for a few but it is also a long-awaited positive development for many. In an emerging country like India, where impediments to social and economic growth are being attempted to overcome, the education policy should also evolve with the times –and after 34 years, we finally have an educational policy for a “progressive” India. While many experts have already commented on the NEP, I have not seen a student’s perspective so far. I feel that as a stakeholder, my views on the NEP as a student are also important to be heard. I wish to highlight certain aspects of the NEP that I would have been benefited by as a student, had it already been in place then.

First, let me focus on examinations in the prevailing education system which have traumatised the student community year after year. For many students in school, their entire schooling boils down to their performance in the dreaded “high-stakes” board exams. Everything they might have studied in those 12-odd years is eventually judged and evaluated by that single set of board exams. One doesn’t need to be smart to point out that this system is arbitrary and iniquitous. Instead of being evaluated continuously, students are forced to put all their eggs in one basket, which is quite counterintuitive to what we’re taught as students. In the new system, board exams will test primarily core capacities or competencies. Now, students will also get two attempts, at what they are told is the most important exam in their schooling lives, and the better of the two attempts will be chosen. Students are in essence competing with themselves now. It shouldn’t matter how much their peers might score. What should matter is if they can improve on themselves. It is extremely pleasurable to see yourself become better than what you were with the results right in front of you.

What else has drawn my attention to the NEP is its emphasis on using one’s mother tongue or local language in the early stages of a student’s schooling. Two changes I would have rejoiced as a school student are studying in my mother tongue in my initial years and having the option of multidisciplinary learning.

As someone who was born and brought up in Delhi and has Telugu as my mother tongue, I have a nagging guilt because I cannot read and write in the latter. It almost makes me wonder at times whether I value my mother tongue adequately. Studying in our mother tongue in our initial years will make us understand the importance of our language more and will help in better comprehension of concepts. It will also allow teachers to delve into important concepts expeditiously than spending the first 2-4 years teaching the students a new language, which is invariably English.

Multidisciplinary learning, as proposed in NEP, is something that still gets me excited as a 4th year engineering student. The dissolving of boundaries between science and the arts will be really good. Students from science opting for Hindustani vocal, for example, or students from fine arts taking up maths or physics simply because they enjoy those subjects and wish to learn more is a welcome move. This will also remove the hierarchy in schools which brands students with science subjects as smarter than those with the arts or humanities. Telling students at such an impressionable age that they are not smart enough, simply because our education system didn’t value their skill sets, is an extremely appalling practice that we have had all these years.

 Most children born and brought up in cities have little to no vocational skills. Having vocational training right from the beginning is extremely important. I am glad that NEP puts a great focus on vocational training. This will also shed light on a very important social issue in our country where getting a degree (primarily, engineering) is the only way to be successful. The inclusion of vocational training from the very beginning will make society respect people with vocational skills. It will also open up many viable career options for thousands of people.

It doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone when I say that the number of students with anxiety disorders, stress-related issues, and even clinical depression, is extremely high, and only seems to be increasing. Taking a year off to recover and recoup would benefit them. A student can finally take a break mid-degree and not lose their credits. All their credits will be stored in a “credit bank” and they can come back and pick up from where they left. This can potentially help many students with mental health problems.

Having said all of this, at the end of the day, the National Education Policy is what it says it is — just a policy. It still needs to be implemented properly. Just because a new building that needs to be built has a nice foundation, it doesn’t mean that the various architects, engineers and builders working on it will do a good job on the actual building. The benefits of the new NEP will be seen on the ground only when all the stakeholders work together to realise what is envisioned in the policy. Implementing such a largescale change in a country like India is not possible without its fair share of resistance. But hopefully, in due course of time, all of us will start observing the benefits of the NEP.

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‘If you want a change, choose me’ : Tharoor on Congress president poll

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Shashi Tharoor claims party's support

In the upcoming presidential election of the grand old party, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor reiterated on Saturday that his contest against senior party member Mallikarjun Kharge “is not a battle.” Following days of turmoil surrounding the intra-party troubles in Rajasthan, Tharoor and Kharge finally submitted their nominations for the crucial elections, which are set for October 17, on Friday.

“This is not a war. We can belong to different schools of thoughts. Let the members decide,” Tharoor told news agency ANI in an interview on Saturday. “All I am telling the members is  that if you’re satisfied with the functioning of the party, please vote for Kharge Sahab. But if you want a change, choose me.. If you want the party to function differently.”

His remarks came as news spread that the Gandhis were endorsing the 80-year-old Kharge for the top party position. On Saturday, Kharge announced his resignation as the opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha, a day after more than 30 leaders surprised many by end-of-nomination support for his candidacy. In contrast, Tharoor was not accompanied by as many senior leaders.

“But there is no ideological problem here. Whatever the message has so far of the Congress will continue to remain,” Shashi Tharoor said on Saturday, dismissing any differences.

Even though the Gandhis made it clear that they would no longer be running for president post, their management has continued to draw criticism. Regarding the family’s importance for the party in light of the BJP’s dynastic politics allegations.

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As ‘Bharat Jodo’ enters Karnataka, rattled BJP gives front-page ad that distorts history: Jairam Ramesh

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As Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra entered the BJP-ruled state, according to Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Saturday, the BJP placed a front page advertisement in a Kannada newspaper. Ramesh said in a tweet, “The advertisement mischievously distorts history as usual. Savarkar propounded two-nation theory & Jinnah ensured it got done. Syama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of Jan Sangh championed partition of Bengal.” BJP is rattled by the yatra’s success, the Congress leader continued.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi entered the election-bound state of Karnataka on Friday. There, the yatra will travel 511 kilometres across seven districts in 21 days.

Rahul Gandhi remarked in a statement at the beginning of the march’s Kerala leg that the Bharat Jodo Yatra is the voice of the nation and that no one can stop it.

“Entire control is lying with the (Central) government. If we speak in Parliament, they shut our microphones,” Rahul Gandhi said.

A new Rahul Gandhi and a new Congress party have emerged from the Bharat Jodo Yatra which forced the BJP and the RSS on the backfoot, Jairam Ramesh said on Friday. “People asked who is ‘thodoing’ (breaking) Bharat for Congress to do Bharat Jodo, our answer is Mr Modi’s ideology, policies, personality is thodoing Bharat. Because economic inequality is increasing, social polarisation is increasing and political over-centralisation is increasing, the Congress is doing this yatra,” Jairam Ramesh said.

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IIFA weekend and awards is back by popular demand

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IIFA weekend and awards is back by popular demand

The International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Weekend & Awards, which brings together the very best of the Indian film industry, is back by popular demand in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, in February 2023 to win our hearts all over again! IIFA 2023 will be held in collaboration with the Department of Culture and Tourism-Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) and Miral, Abu Dhabi’s leading creator of immersive destinations and experiences.
The comeback of the 22nd edition of IIFA this year at Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, hosted by superstar Salman Khan, Riteish Deshmukh, and Maniesh Paul, featured electrifying performances by the finest talent from the Indian film fraternity, leaving us in awe with three memorable, star-studded days with packed venues filled by fans from all around the globe. The three-day awards weekend was attended by more than 350 media from 17 countries across the globe, and more than 20,000 people thronged the arena.
Back by popular demand from stakeholders, fans, and media from around the globe, the 23rd edition of IIFA will again be hosted at the world-class Etihad Arena, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi—the Middle East’s largest state-of-the-art indoor entertainment venue in February 2023. The upcoming edition will be filled with even more magic and entertainment as we are set to witness Salman Khan, Varun Dhawan, Karan Johar, Kriti Sanon, and many more in attendance.
For many decades, India and Abu Dhabi have had strong cultural and commercial ties. IIFA Weekend & Awards will be a celebration of togetherness and positivity, returning to Yas Island in Abu Dhabi and enhancing, strengthening, and building even stronger bonds. IIFA 2023 will be a grand celebration of the best talent in Indian cinema, bringing together global dignitaries, international media, fans, and film enthusiasts worldwide. To present a greater opportunity for long-term impact in tourism, business & trade, and the film production business for the destination. 
Noreen Khan, Vice President of IIFA, said, “IIFA this year was an amazing experience thanks to the wonderful partners Miral and DCT. Coming after two years, we really worked hard to deliver the very best of live entertainment again. The best part was that the entire weekend delivered a positive experience to everyone who witnessed or experienced the event in any way. We have been inundated with unprecedented appreciation and comments from everyone who truly had a wonderful time this year in Abu Dhabi, and so we are pleased and excited to bring it all back again, but with much more magic to come next year”.
With excitement increasing all over the world, people can now buy tickets to the biggest awards ceremony spanning over three days at https://www.etihadarena.ae/en/ from the 30 September 2022. The price range begins from 100 AED going up to 1500 AED.
Home to magical adventures, awe-inspiring entertainment, three globally renowned theme parks, outstanding motorsports, an award-winning golf venue, and world-class hospitality services, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island is a destination like nowhere else.

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Over 30 machines pressed into service to beautify Dal Lake

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Over 30 machines pressed into service to beautify Dal Lake

The Dal Lake, a popular tourist attraction in Jammu and Kashmir, is all set to get a facelift and breathe again as authorities appear determined this time to remove the weeds engulfing a large part of the lake.
For the first time in several years, the Jammu and Kashmir Lake Conservation and Management Authority (LCMA) has pressed into service over two dozen machines to remove the weeds.
“There are two types of weeds. One is being controlled due to the presence of some species, and the other is being removed completely,” said LCMA Vice-Chairman Bashir Ahmad Bhat.
Bhat said the one being removed completely had covered an area of 6.5 sq km and this process is likely to be completed by November this year.
To control the sewerage, the houseboats are being connected for the first time to the sewer line. “Around 920 houseboats will be connected to sewerage lines,” he said, adding that such a process will help keep the water body clean.

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The Indian art of giving away

There are ways and means to give and support, to care and to help. We must trust and believe, open our hearts and minds and do only as much as we wish to, or even nothing at all.

Priya Hajela

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The Indian art of giving away

Indians are not well known for their philanthropy, except when it comes to religion. But there are exceptions, and large ones. The Azim Premji Foundation is the best known, supporting causes ranging from Gender Justice to Constitutional Values and Democracy. Tata Trusts have been in the limelight in recent times, more for the upheaval at the top than for the work they do as one of the oldest philanthropic organisations in India, providing support and funding for sports, education, livelihood and so much more. A lesser known but equally prolific charitable organisation is the Reliance Foundation, known for its sports development programmes, arts, culture, and heritage programs, and so much more.
These big organisations are not alone. Almost every family-run organisation has a foundation that supports a myriad of social initiatives. All MNCs, public companies, and smaller companies also participate actively, as part of a mandatory CSR spend requirement by the Government of India.
Mandatory or not, almost all of these organisations support social welfare, finding ways to both fund NGOs and get their employee base involved in development sector initiatives as volunteers.
When it comes to individual giving, however, the story is quite different. In a recent study conducted by the Center for Social Impact and Philanthropy at Ashoka University, 87% of households surveyed donated during the peak of the pandemic – 2020 and 2021. However, 70% of giving was directed towards religious organizations. A further 12% went to beggars, 9% to extended family and friends, and a paltry 5% to NGOs and other charitable organizations. As a comparison, in the US, 27% of charitable contributions in 2021 went to religious organizations, the remaining to a variety of social services.
So why don’t individuals give? Preeti Kher Dulat, a fifty-something ex-banker, began working with an organisation called Deeds for Needs, raising funds as needed right when Covid began. She says, “I have sent out an appeal and always get more than I asked for.” She also says that she only reaches out to people she knows. Preeti’s experience is that there is scepticism among people about where the contribution is going. “Where religion is involved, people think the money will be used properly, even though they have no idea what’s happening to that money,” she says.
It is only in recent times that people in India are experiencing a feeling of abundance, of having more than they can use. The older generations are still hoarding, saving for a rainy day, saving for retirement, and other commonly quoted claims. They are not wrong in feeling the way they do. Their instincts have been honed over a long time, when salaries were miniscule, taxes on businesspeople were sometimes as high as 90%, and goods and services as basic as a phone line were only possible with a bribe and long waiting periods. The fact that there is a massive disparity in income across the country is something that neither strikes nor bothers many people.
Yet, Preeti can collect thousands and even lakhs of rupees from people who are distant from their causes but not from their faith in Preeti.
Parul Vaidya is the CEO of the Pune Chapter of Social Venture Partners (SVP), a foundational program for current and aspiring philanthropists. SVP connects donors, non-profits, and social enterprises for greater impact, together. Parul says, ‘People who have the capacity to give should.’ She says that she has never been apologetic about asking people to join SVP and contribute. It is our moral responsibility to do something before more people go the wrong way. “How long can we think that the pain and despair are not going to come to our house?” “How long can we think about the petty theft and other crimes that people with no regular livelihood sometimes resort to?”
Parul is of the mind that a ‘giving nature’ is increasing in our society, that increasingly, people want to give, to help but don’t know how to. But she also admits that one of the main reasons individuals don’t give to NGOs is because there is a deep-rooted scepticism about such organizations, primarily because most of the reporting about NGOs is about things gone wrong. No one talks about NGOs that are doing excellent work, improving lives, even saving lives. Much of that has to do with the fact that NGOs don’t market enough, most don’t have the skills to do so. Moreover, positive and uplifting stories rarely make it through the thick fog of accusatory wrongdoing.
So, what do people who want to make a difference but don’t have a Preeti or a Parul in their lives do? There are other ways to contribute. Those ruled more by the head than the heart can invest in companies operating in the social sector instead of funding NGOs. There is good work being done by start-ups in the fields of education, healthcare, and mental health. Unfortunately,some causes, such as those related to support for the disabled, cannot be run as social enterprises, they run exclusively on donations and grants.
In recent times, governments around the world have turned to Social Stock Exchanges – a way to raise capital for the development sector. They have also begun piloting Social Impact Bonds, a private-public partnership to provide outcome-based funding for public welfare projects. These innovative concepts are in their early stages, and it remains to be seen whether they will provide the development sector the support it needs while making it easier for people to make a difference.
There are ways and means to give and support, to care and to help. We must trust and believe, open our hearts and minds and do only as much as we wish to, or even nothing at all.

Priya Hajela is the author of Ladies’ Tailor, published by Harper Collins India.

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Raj Kundra writes to CBI claiming innocence in porn case

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Raj Kundra, Shilpa Shetty’s husband, approached the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to claim his innocence in the pornography case in which he was arrested last year. Raj expanded on his letter to the central agency on Twitter and wrote, “A handful of corrupt individuals spoil the name of the whole organisation. It’s just a matter of time now! #CBI #Enquiry #mediatrial #truth #corruption.”

On one year of his bail in the same case, Raj Kundra had tweeted earlier, “One Year Today released from #ArthurRoad Its a matter of time Justice will be served! The truth will be out soon! Thank you, well-wishers and a bigger thank you to the trollers you make me stronger (folded hands emoji).” His posts were also accompanied by hashtags such as inquiry, word, media trial, and trollers.

According to reports, Raj Kundra claims that he was set up in the case by “senior officers of the Mumbai Crime Branch.” He has requested that the case be investigated. Raj allegedly claimed in his letter, “I have lived in silence for one year; ripped apart by a media trial and spent 63 days in Arthur Road Jail. I seek justice from the courts, which I know I will get, and I humbly request an investigation against these officers.”

Raj had previously filed an application with a Mumbai magistrate’s court to be released from the case. According to sources, police found no evidence that Raj gained any monetary or another type of gain from the alleged offence, and the prosecution has not attributed to him any intent to commit an offence, according to the application. Raj Kundra was arrested in the case in July 2021 and later released on bail after more than two months.

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