Three decades since the last education policy, the draft National Education Policy attempts to tackle a digital world by integrating technology into education, with a continuing caution towards the dilemma of modernity.
“When the National Policy on Education 1986/1992 was formulated, it was difficult to predict the disruptive effect that the internet was about to have, particularly in boosting the development rates,” the draft policy states.
When a government committee updated the 1986 education policy in 1992, the authors expressed a cautious optimism to recent introduction of computers into schools. “Modern communication technologies have the potential to bypass several stages and sequences in the process of development encountered in earlier decades. Both the constraints of time and distance at once become manageable.” However, “the preoccupation with modern technologies cannot be allowed to sever our new generations from the roots in India’s history and culture,” the 1992 document states.
The new draft policy states, “Since then we have been almost fatally slow in the adoption of technology.”
“Young learners today belong to a generation that is born and raised in technology-rich environments. They will use technologies that haven’t been invented so far and enter jobs that don’t exist at present,” it adds.
However, the dilemma about modernity continues in the recent document. While calling for the dismantling of the “power structure of language” on one hand, it states on another, “Of course, English has become an international common language in certain realms such as science and technology research … For this reason, it is also important for children … to be able to communicate science fluently both in their home/local language and in English.”
Two years ago, the number of non-English Indian language speakers on the Internet surpassed English users in the country and nine out of every 10 new Internet users in India over the next five years are likely to be vernacular speakers, KPMG and Google found.
While the 1992 policy addressed the issue of lack of electricity by resorting to batteries or solar packs, the 2018 draft calls for “focused electrification of all educational institutions at the earliest” as a foundation to the committee’s other recommendations. “The bulk of schools and colleges in remote and rural areas do not have access to the basics (electricity, hardware and reliable connectivity) and, government must ensure that this situation is remedied at the earliest…,” the 2018 draft states.
The other technology prescriptions in education revolve around teacher training through online education and about digital tools, educational access to disadvantaged children such as those with special needs, a digital content repository of online curriculum in local languages, and online management of educational records.
While most technology-related points were about technology in education, the policy vaguely addresses education about technology. “Computational thinking” will be integrated into school curriculum starting from age 6, the draft proposes.