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Millennium Post

A step in the right direction

The New Education Policy is a welcome move that brings in sweeping changes to revamp the country’s education system

As a student, I had a waning appeal for school and college curriculums. While I enjoyed some subjects, there was just no scope of imaginative course selection. For example, if I wanted to score high marks for my school finishing examination, Commerce seemed a good choice. But to be saddled with Maths, even Business Maths, and Accounts, drained my soul. In college, things improved but slightly. While I opted to pursue my graduation in English, I added on Political Science and Film Studies to my college repertoire. I pined for more exciting subject combinations, but we had none.

Like most, I spent my formative years preparing for long essay-type questions that were vomited on paper from my crammed and tired student brain. I, being a slow writer, always struggled to complete the papers. Every tick of the clock created pushed my anxiety to another heightened level. The year essay-type questions were introduced in the exams, I failed to complete the first paper being a slow writer. I still don't exactly know why but my very livid father dealt his first and last slap to me, hard enough to send me flying on the living room diwan. As a parent, it felt like a major failure to him. I was in Class 3.

The importance of examinations and the need to perform well in them were reinforced in my head thrice over. First, by the very construct of the Indian education system and its grading processes, where only high marks assessed a student's aptitude. Second, by my parents who wanted me to excel in studies. And third, by my schools, colleges, and peers who unbeknownst created a different kind of pressure.

By Class 8, the pressure on me was telling; but my parents or teachers didn't realise anything since I would always remain one of the high scorers in the class. But from a student who would come first, second or third, my class rank dropped to somewhere in the top 10. Still an achievement for most, but for me, I knew this wasn't my best performance. You see, by the time my adolescent self had comprehended the expectations from me from all three quarters, the rebellious streak had set in. I just would not study until the very last minute. My friends spent months in preparation but I would start gathering my books only a couple of weeks before examinations. By the time, I was in college, I knew how archaic my state university was compared to overseas ones. At Calcutta University, you couldn't excel even if you wanted to; the capping of the top marks in English (which was as low as 55-60) had been writ in stone. I was disinterested in the subjects and loathed the Indian education system but accepted it as a means of achieving educational qualifications.

The New Education Policy (NEP) is an important step in overhauling the staid Indian education system. Coming after 34 years, it provides students with the freedom of flexibility, replacing coercive studying to meaningful learning. Reduction of board examinations, allowing students to come back to studies even if they drop out through the multiple entry and exit programme and making India's youth vocation-ready from their early years, is a revolutionary step for the education system in India. A welcome move in finally helping the country keep pace with international standards of education. According to statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 10,159 students died by suicide in 2018, a jump from 9,905 in 2017, and 9,478 in 2016. That's one student dying by suicide every hour in India! While there are many nuances to be discussed in the NEP, the most positive one is the impact it will have on students. Most significantly, it will greatly lower the pressure on students while ensuring access to education for all as a fundamental right.

The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal

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