The NEP 2020 recognizes that certain groups are grossly underrepresented in the existing education system. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 attempts to address the growing inequality and inequity plaguing country’s education system today. The NEP 2020 also acknowledges the high dropout rate among socio-economic strata and vulnerable minorities and the unmet educational needs of children living in geographically fragile regions. The high dropout rate in marginalized sections of the society is due to plethora of reasons ranging from lack of accessibility for tribal communities to historical exclusion of communities from systems of education .Large sections of society are still struggling to reap the benefits of education and are thus living in continued abject poverty .To specifically fulfill the educational demands of disadvantaged groups , NEP 2020 has clustered together these groups as Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) to highlight the issues faced by these sections of the society and to provide precise interventions to mitigate the educational needs of this deprived lot .The stand out objective of NEP 2020 inter –alia SEDGs is to create inclusivity and smooth access to education for all sections of the society irrespective of socio-cultural background .
Layers of SDGs: There are 5 main broad layers of SDGs
1. Gender Identities: This strata includes transgender individuals and girl child.
2. Socio-Cultural Identities: This strata includes Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Minorities.
3. Geographical Identities : This strata includes people living in extreme fragile geographical locations and Aspirational districts
4. Disabilities : This strata includes Children With Special Needs ( CWSN)
5. Socio-Economic Identities ( Low income Group) : Children of migrant laborers , low income households, orphans , beggars and children victim of trafficking
Here I will elaborate on each marginalized strata of the society in terms of issues faced and recommended interventions in line with NEP 2020
Gender Identities; Transgenders: The gender based discrimination experienced by transgenders is of severe magnitude. As per the statistical figures of Census 2011, there are approximately 4.88 lakh transgender individuals and roughly 4137 in UT of Jammu and Kashmir. Historically school curriculum has remained silent on discrimination based on sexual orientation and specific discrimination that transgender individuals in particular face at work places. Citing the figures of CBSE for the academic session 2021-2022, there were 1889878 candidates in class 10th and 1206893 candidates in class 12th .Among the students who registered for class 10th exam , 788195 were girls , 1101664 were boys and only 19 were transgender. For class 12th, as many as 522819 were girls, 684068 were boys and only 6 were transgender. This numeric disparity is a large enough indicator to reveal that barriers faced by transgender individuals are disproportionately high. The discrimination levied on transgender individuals at multiple levels and stereotyping and stigmatization of the entire community has castigated serious psychological issues in the minds of transgender people .The suicidal attempts are on rise among members of transgender community. This is equally corroborated by the statistical figures of National Crime Bureau of India (NCBI) . As per the NCBI data , the suicidal tendencies among transgenders is very high staggering at 31% and 50% of them attempt suicide atleast once before attaining the age of 20 years.
The main issues encountered by transgenders include
• Struggle for social justice.
• Least enrolment ratio.
• Economically deprived section.
• Old age insecurity
• High dropout rate.
• Societal stigmatization.
• Family desolation.
Interventions to address the educational needs of Transgender individuals
• The NEP 2020 is in sync with the objectives of the Rights of Transgender Individuals (2019) Act enacted by the Parliament to safeguard the rights of transgender people including their fundamental right of free and compulsory Education from years 6-14 years.
• Establishment of Transgender welfare Board for the protection of rights of transgender persons
• Integrated Social Security Rules 2022 included Transgender Pension Scheme.
• Gender Inclusion Fund (GIF) with the financial provisions to provide bicycles to susceptible gender, upgraded sanitation and toilet facilities, funding to address local specific barriers which are an impediment in their education Endeavour .The GIF also has a provision to provide cash stipend as an incentive to lure the community to enhance their enrolment ratio and get grossly involved in meaningful teaching learning transaction.
Gender Identities; Girl child: NEP 2020 believes that girls are discriminated in additional ways. Among SEDGs females account atleast half of these Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups . NEP lays special emphasis on the education of girl child because dropout rate of girls is extremely high and their enrolment ratio recedes at the secondary and higher secondary levels.
The issues faced by girl child visa-vis their education mainly includes
• Child marriage
• Gender based violence
• House hold chores
• Rituals and customs
• Onset of Menstruation
• Honor killings
• Sexual abuse
• Girl child trafficking
• Distance from house to school
Interventions in NEP 2020 to address the educational issues of girl child
• Up gradation of Kasturi Gandhi Balika Vidhyalaya (KGBVs) from classes 6th -12th
• Self defense training for girls from upper primary to senior secondary
• Establishment of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Awasiya Vidhyalaya.
• Acquisition of vocational skills
• Enhanced Commitment to Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Campaign
Socio-cultural Identities: The Scheduled Castes (SCs), The Scheduled Tribes (STs), other backward classes (OBCs) and Minorities constitute major proportion of population but are lagging way behind in terms of vital developmental parameters including the domain of education. These sections of society are driven by abject poverty and are plagued by multi-dimensional issues .As per the Census report of 2011, there are approximately 179.7 million Scheduled castes representing a percentage proportion of 17.5% of the total population, 188.9 million minorities with a percentage portion of 18.4% and other Backward classes (OBCs) constitute 52% of the total population of the country. Our Union territory also has a substantial proportion of tribal population and constitutes 11.9% of the total population. Gujjar tribe is the largest tribe in Jammu and Kashmir followed by the nomadic pastoral tribe known as Bakerwal and together these two groups constitute 69% of the tribal population of Jammu and Kashmir. The dropout rate among STs is disproportionately very high as the ST children face discrimination at multiple levels due to varied geographical, cultural and historical reasons. The ST children often find their school education irrelevant to their lives, both culturally and economically.
Major issues and challenges encountered by Socio-cultural Identities
• Lack of conducive and inclusive atmosphere in the school setting
• Feeling of isolation and exclusion
• Poorer financial background
• Language barrier
• Caste based discrimination
• Parental occupation based discrimination
Higher incidences of suicides among SCs and STs children primarily in premiere institutions .The recent cases of suicide by the students of marginalized community has shook the conscious of the entire nation as these cases were reported in the elitist institutions of the country. A Dalit student took the extreme step by committing suicide in IIT Bombay in the month of February 2023. In another similar incident a tribal student too ended his life by suicide in National Law University Odisha. Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud while attending a function in Hyderabad remarked with heavy heart that it is disturbing to see the incidents of students from marginalized communities taking their life in elitist institutions of the country like IITs and National Law Universities and that there is a definite pattern in marginalized students dying by suicide that needs to vociferously questioned. CJI further said that there is too much focus on creating ‘Institutions of Eminence or excellence’. We need institutions of empathy and compassion. The issue of discrimination is directly linked with lack of empathy in educational institutions.
The teacher has to hone the skills to be fully equipped with all pre-requisites to address the educational needs of diverse class. On part of the teacher, attitudinal shift is fundamental in understanding the concerns of Children belonging to Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs).
Recommendations in NEP 2020 to address the educational needs of Socio-cultural identities
• Direct cash transfer and special scholarships
• Funding for alternative forms of education.
• Inclusive culture of regular schools
• Re-inventing distance learning
• Mother tongue as medium of teaching –learning
• JNVs and KVs in aspirational districts where one year of ECCE will be integral for KVs particularly in marginalized areas
• Bridge course to mitigate the learning gaps of children belonging to marginalized sections of the society
• Equity based school and class room culture , where every student irrespective of the background feels included in the classroom
• Special hostels for boys and girls in dedicated regions to arrest the dropout rate among students of marginalized community
• Dedicated NCC wing specifically for the students belonging to deprived sections of the society
Creation of Special Education Zones: One of the standout recommendations of the NEP 2020 is the proposal to set up special Education Zones in regions with significant population belonging to Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups and in aspirational districts. The ultimate purpose of establishing Special Education Zones is to make education accessible in the remotest and farthest places in India. This novel idea holds promise to transform the lives of downtrodden sections of society if implemented in the right spirit.
Children with Special Needs (CWSN): The NEP 2020 recognizes Children with special needs (CWSN) and firmly believes in incorporating them into mainstream education system. NEP 2020 broadly aligns with objectives of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016.As per Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016, 21 specified disabilities are included in this Act. Children with Special Needs include a large chunk of the school going population who face discrimination at multiple fronts and are thus excluded from the meaning teaching –learning transaction and ultimately results in dropping out from the school settings at an early stage without even completing the elementary education. The barriers faced by CWSN that dampen their chances of getting acquainted with purposeful education mainly include
• Presumption on part of the teacher that CWSN lack academic ability
• Teacher blaming the parents of the specially abled child for the poor academic performance of their ward.
• Firm belief that CWSN cannot cope with the regular curriculum in mainstream classroom
• Non-availability of railing support and signage for visually impaired children
• Architectural impediments such as steps and uneven ground
• Furniture of the classroom not in an orderly pattern which becomes an obstacle for the specially abled children
• Inaccessible library , ICT laboratory
• Lack of disable friendly toilets and ramps.
• Non-flexible curriculum , pedagogy and evaluation procedures
• One dimensional teaching –learning methodology by not taking into account the special needs of CWSN.
• Lack of resources for teachers to cater the learning needs of CWSN.
• Teachers who are not trained or who are unwilling or not enthusiastic in teaching CWSN is a major drawback to successful mainstreaming of CWSN
Remedial action plan in NEP 2020 to address the mainstreaming of CWSN
• Accommodative to accept and respect CWSN
• Language appropriate Teaching –learning material such as text books in large prints , Braille , Sign language etc.
• Hiring of multi-category Special Educators
• Establishment of resource centres
• Access to assistive devices and technology based tools
• Mass scale training programmes for all stake holders on the awareness and knowledge of how to teach children with specific disabilities will be integral part of all teacher education programmes along with gender sensitization and sensitization towards all underrepresented groups in order to reverse their underrepresentation.
• Children with benchmark disabilities can opt for regular or special schools or even have an option of home based education in case of severe or profound disability .Children under home based education must be treated as equal to any other child in the main stream education system.
• National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development). PARAKH is National Assessment Regulator that will formulate assessment guidelines for all state and central boards.
Major recommendation of RPwD Act 2016 adopted in NEP 2020 to address the inequality faced by CWSN
• Equal educational opportunities
• Equal opportunities for sports and recreation
• Accessible infrastructure
• Individualized support
• Accessible modes and means of communication
• Suitable pedagogical measures
• Desired modifications in curriculum and assessment pattern
• Provision for scribe or amanuensis
• Exemption of CWSN from second and third language
• Training and employing teachers, teachers with disability, teachers qualified in sign language and Braille.
• Establishing resource centres
• Provision of Scholarships
• Promoting research to improve learning.
Conclusion: To safeguard the education of children belonging to Socio-Economically disadvantaged groups, every stake holder has to play a vibrant role in his/her capacity and the role of teacher is even more central to ensure the implementation of recommendations of NEP 2020 visa-vis SEDGs.The teacher has to be accommodative and receptive in accepting and respecting children from varied backgrounds and the onus of creating inclusive classroom ,where learning needs of every student are taken care of lies on the shoulders of teacher. The teacher has to hone the skills to be fully equipped with all pre-requisites to address the educational needs of diverse class. On part of the teacher, attitudinal shift is fundamental in understanding the concerns of Children belonging to Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs).Department of Education, J&K has taken number of initiatives to increase the enrolment ratio and reduce the dropout rate of Children belonging to SEDGs and one such initiative is train and sensitizes teachers on the contours of Inclusive Education. Respective DIETs (District Institute Of Education and Trainings) have been given this mandate to train huge bulk of teachers on Inclusive Education and to adhere to that mandate, thousands of teachers have been trained on how to create an inclusive classroom and training schedule of left out untrained teachers is in pipeline so that inclusivity is established in each and every classroom.
( The author a resident of Mattan Anantnag is a teacher by profession. The views, opinions, facts, assumptions, presumptions and conclusions expressed in this article are those of the author and aren’t necessarily in accord with the views of “Kashmir Horizon”.)
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