The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020: Understanding Education Reforms Through the Lens of Gender and Sexuality

 

By Varusha Khare

The NEP 2020 is one of the few legislations in India that aims at equity and inclusivity between genders. These reforms truly set the New Education Policy apart from its former versions and other education policies in the country.

Education is the most crucial tool for the economic and social advancement of any country. At the same time, it is a complex, highly interconnected system with numerous stakeholders, networks, and challenges. Especially in a country like India, where caste, class, and gender stratifications have formed the basis of our societal framework. Coupling these pre-existing obstacles with the modern forces of climate change, digitalization, and worldwide conflicts, developing policies around equitable access to schooling systems becomes a complex process.

To build sustainable policies that tackle age-old prejudices and deal with the challenges of the 21st century, the Ministry of Human Development designs the National Education Policy. The three education policies – produced in 1968, 1986, and 2020 – aim to establish an impartial educational and economic system in the country. This article focuses on the most recent National Education Policy, also often referred to as the New Education Policy (NEP), introduced in 2020. This policy, which comes more than 30 years after its predecessor, addresses gaps around holistic education and women’s education. This article examines these reforms through the lens of gender and sexuality and provides suggestions on how these reforms can be utilized to offer a more comprehensive understanding of modern society to children from a young age.

A New Dawn: Gender and Inclusivity in NEP 2020

The NEP 2020 is one of the few legislations in India that aims at equity and inclusivity between genders. These reforms truly set the New Education Policy apart from its former versions and other education policies in the country.

  • Paras 4.23 and 4.28 of the policy emphasize “gender sensitivity, equity, liberty, and justice” irrespective of the “backgrounds of individuals.”
  • Para 5.9 advocates access to schools and upskilling  opportunities for all genders.
  • It focuses on “reimagining” vocational training so that STEM-heavy skills like coding, computational thinking, as well as skills like metalwork, carpentry, and electric work, are    taught to all genders. This will help surpass gender stereotypes that inhibit women from taking up STEM-based and similar ‘manly’ occupations.
  • It underscores the right to safe and inclusive learning spaces for children and teachers of all genders and children with special abilities. In-service training for teachers and school administrative members will include sensitivity training for maintaining a healthy and safe school environment for all attendees.
  • Para 6.8 of the policy recognizes finance as the biggest hindrance in the education of girls and transgender children. The policy suggests setting up a “Gender Inclusion Fund” to bridge the gap for these marginalized sections. The funds will aid the State Governments in providing facilities that have historically prevented these groups from attending school, such as sanitized toilets and bicycles.
  • Similar “Inclusion Fund” schemes will work towards providing sensitization to enforce an understanding of underrepresented groups among young, school-going students. This will inculcate a sense of inclusivity and acceptance of diverse genders and practices among children from a young age.

Enhancing Inclusivity: Recommendations for Strengthening NEP 2020

The NEP 2020 can be a vital tool in busting myths and opening doors to inclusivity for different genders and sexualities. Allowing equivalent access to vocational training in fields that have traditionally been associated with men will allow women to break gender stereotypes. Moreover, gender and sexuality training can help inculcate a sense of empathy among kids.

Here are some suggestions that can further help the authorities and the Education Ministry in expanding their goal of gender-inclusive and sensitization goals:

  • Para 2.7 highlights the importance of conducting workshops with trained volunteers to sensitize kids and teachers regarding various social issues. Trained gender activists from different social communities should be allowed to interact with children so that they can understand the basics of gender and sexuality, like the difference between sex assigned at birth and one’s gender.
  • Ensuring that children understand these differences will prevent feelings of “gender dysphoria” amongst children later in life. Local gender activists should impart this knowledge to the children, considering the local culture and traditions.
  • Schools have immense scope in introducing a thorough guide on sex education. Holistic education focuses on soft skills like communication and empathy, providing a complete understanding of one’s body, preferences, and choices.
  • Educating children on topics like menstruation and consent is crucial. Awareness and normality surrounding these topics can potentially reduce the high dropout rates among female students and create a safe environment for  children and teachers alike.

Charting the Future: Embracing Comprehensive and Inclusive Education

The New Education Policy truly reflects modern society. The reforms and policy suggestions it aims to implement tackle not only the economic problems but also various social issues. It identifies children as tools for change and focuses on implementing policies that will help in their holistic academic, emotional, and mental development. The government should collaborate with stakeholders like NGOs, education reformers, and gender activists for a widespread and smooth implementation of this policy.

Varusha Khare is a Policy Advocacy and Research Intern at Sarkari School.in and is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Economics and Finance from Ashoka University

References

  • Chachlani, Tamanna Chandan. “New Education Policy & Gender: It’s Time to Have the ‘Talk’ – TheDailyGuardian.” TheDailyGuardian, 17 Oct. 2020, https://thedailyguardian.com/new-education-policy-gender-its-time-to-have-the-talk/.

About the author: Team SarkariSchool

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