In big policy debates, it often seems like those who are most affected or who are key to implementation are either marginalized or left out altogether. Despite the attention paid by the mainstream media – newspapers, television, online news outlets – to the New Education Policy Draft of 2019, there has been little engagement of teachers and school administrations on the many issues it raises. Dr Kasturirangan, the Chair of the Drafting Committee, while releasing the draft policy in May this year, emphasized that the document has been prepared “by experts” without any political interference and called for responses from the general public and groups engaged in education so that the policy could be further strengthened with inputs from a wider range of stakeholders. (It’s another matter that none of those experts is from the school education sector.) In the months that followed, University teachers and student activists held meetings to discuss the details of the draft, not surprising since many of the key recommendations relate to the regulation and structure of higher education. But there is much in the policy that will have a bearing on school education, from curriculum framing and delivery to teacher education to institutional infrastructure.
The document is lengthy (484 pages of dense text) and the language can be daunting for those unused to the style of government. While we may not all be able to read through and have a sufficient understanding of policy and the attendant politics, it’s important that some of us do so, particularly those who have the experience and the perspective to see through to the problems and possibilities of implementation. What does the document offer to teachers and what are the issues it might raise? How can we understand the reasons and the underlying politics of some of the recommendations? Are there ways to resist, or negotiate with the aspects of this new policy that may not be conducive to the way we would like to perform our jobs?
We at Teacher Plus believe that this moment required us to pause and think through these things. Clearly, there are many questions that should be discussed and examined, but for a start, Anjali Noronha, our guest editor for the special section outlines some of the key aspects of the draft policy that we need to understand and leads into the articles that further elucidate the issues.
While the date for comments on the draft policy may be past, there is still value in discussing the provisions because there is some distance to go before implementation. The hope is that in your own schools, or your teacher communities, such discussions will allow us to negotiate that space between policy and practice and see how we can accommodate our own organizational or individual visions with the requirements that are laid down for us by the powers-that-be. In a democracy, after all, nothing is written in stone…there is always the possibility of change through such negotiations.