Tuesday, August 11, 2020

India’s New Education Policy (NEP) 2020: What it proposes for Schools

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Vanshita Banuana

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India’s New Education Policy (NEP) 2020: What it proposes for Schools

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Global Views 360

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August 11, 2020

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Students sitting in a classroom | Source: Yogendra Singh via Unsplash

On 30th July 2020, the Indian government’s Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) was renamed the Ministry of Education as it announced the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

The National Education Policy is an in-depth framework outlining the future and development of education in India. It’s recommendations guide what the priorities and goals of educational institutions should be in the coming years. The first NEP was passed in 1968; while it gets revised occasionally, a new NEP has only been passed two times since then, in 1986 and now in 2020.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and the government was hailed by RSS-affiliated educational organisations for the NEP as a step to connect the education with the roots of India. They reportedly had quite an influence during the drafting of NEP, even going as far as to say that “60-70 percent” of their demands have been met.

On the other hand, NEP received criticism from the opposition parties like Congress, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and political figures in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. The criticism was primarily for bypassing Parliamentary discussion, and its ill-fittedness in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever-growing digital divide left in its wake in the education sector.

The NEP’s ambitious claims and propositions are divided into two broad categories: school, and higher education.

NEP at School Level

At school level, perhaps the biggest change is the move away from the 10+2 structure to a 5+3+3+4 one, signifying four stages of school education across ages 3-8 years (Foundational), 8-11 years (Preparatory), 11-14 years (Middle) and 14-18 years (Secondary). This new structure claims to be based greatly on the cognitive development of children and prioritising areas of focus through these ages.

The new structure also talks about the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), which aims to include pre-schools and aanganwadis (government sponsored rural child care centres in India) in an effort to impart play and activity focused learning, and train aanganwadi workers to achieve the same.

However, the treatment of the aanganwadi program is already under question from the governance and child right watchdogs and activists . This program is poorly funded and workers are poorly paid which makes the promise of training the workers for implementing the NEP goals seem quite wishful. This means rural students are likely to continue to be many steps behind urban students from the ECCE i.e ‘Foundational’ stage itself.

National Assessment Centre

NEP proposes the establishment of a National Assessment Centre, PARAKH, to set norms and guidelines for evaluations across all school boards. Report-cards are also to be redesigned and include self, teacher and peer assessment. However, the details of what will entail in these, especially peer assessment, are vague and do not take into cognizance the rampant prejudice and bullying experienced by students at the hands of peers as well as teachers on bases of weight, religion, gender, caste, class, sexuality and more. Such discriminatory practices will hurt the students from marginalised communities in both disguised and explicit ways.

The 3 Language Formula

A more controversial change comes with the 3-Language Policy, which essentially asks that “wherever possible,” the regional language or mother tongue of a student be adopted as the medium of instruction “until at least Class 5, but preferably till Class 8 and beyond.”

All schools will teach three languages, of which at least two must be native to India. The draft NEP, in fact, mandated that one of these languages be Hindi; after protests against this ‘Hindi imposition’ such as by the southern state of Tamil Nadu, this provision was removed and it has supposedly been left to the state, school and student to decide which languages would be taught.

The so-called flexibility of the policy comes at the cost of uniformity. Since the colonial era, English education has served as a means of upward social mobility for castes and tribes that had historically been denied education under Brahmanical hegemony, this progress is threatened by making English ‘optional’ in any form.

There are also unaddressed and obvious scenarios of parents who migrate or get transferred to different states, parents who speak another language at home than the regional language, and children who grow up in multilingual homes, all of which are commonplace across India. How likely is it that every student in a classroom speaks the same mother tongue or is from the same region?

Promotion of Sanskrit

The NEP desires that the rich ancient languages of India be brought back to the forefront and be given more focus as languages that can be taken up by students. In this regard it shines a spotlight on Sanskrit, a classical language rooted in Hinduism which was for centuries only accessible to Brahmins and some other upper castes. The pedestal upon which Sanskrit has been placed is being seen as discriminatory towards the large population of India who either do not have historic ties to Sanskrit or were denied access to it.

While the NEP does mention other languages that have had a strong foothold in India for a long time, such as Persian and Prakrit, it notably omits mention of Urdu and seems especially driven to ‘promote’ Sanskrit.

Vocational Education

The NEP points out that a very small portion of the Indian workforce in the age group 19-24 is exposed to vocational education, and therefore recommends that it be integrated in schools and higher education in a phased manner over the next 10 years.

A focus on vocational education starting from ages as young as 14 is also questionable, since non-formal education, often valued less than degrees, might hinder the education of poor children. This may contribute to deepening the class divide in India since receiving Undergraduate or Postgraduate degrees often guarantees poverty alleviation for such students.

Additionally, vocational education will likely form a vicious cycle with the entrenched caste system in India, reinforcing each other and the inequalities therin.

It has been repeatedly asserted by experts, citizens and politicians alike that the NEP caters more to the corporate interests over the needs of underprivileged students, and has brought much uncertainty around the question of language.

It becomes vague at key points, falling back on the argument that it is only a ‘guiding document,’ which only makes its stances seem weaker, in both theory and practice.

Whether the NEP as a whole manages to turn the tide of education in favour of those who need it the most, and is able to mobilise it as a tool for progress, presently seems more fantastical than plausible.

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January 18, 2021 2:21 PM

The Toxicity in Video Games and Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077, the most awaited video game was released on consoles and PC on 10th of December, 2020. The game went under 10 years of build-up and had kept gamers waiting for over 8 years. Cyberpunk 2077 is inspired by a cult-favourite tabletop roleplaying game. The video game was designed by well-known Polish studio, CD Projekt Red. Cyberpunk was the studio’s first big console game since The Witcher 3: Wild hunt which was an extraordinarily triumphant game that won numerous awards after its launch in 2015.

The popular video game, when released, faced backlash from the gaming community and non-gamers for several reasons. To many observers and gamers, Cyberpunk 2077 even proved to be an absolute failure. Several gamers called out the game developers for the promotion of sexiest ideologies and transphobia. However, the reviews weren’t well received by the fans. Cyberpunk 2077 fans responded with unacceptable abuses, harrasing and hateful messages and even rape and death threats.

Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 released ample previews, trailers, motion pictures and marketing material. Aside from this, the appearence of popular Canadian actor, Keanu Reeves as a character in the game carved the expectations of gamers and promised a sexy and kinky world of futuristic and revolutionary action. CD Projekt Red, one of Europe’s most successful video game company announced Cyberpunk 2077 project in 2012 and released the first trailer in 2013

The game is set in an alternate timeline in the city of California. The streets in the game are owned by tyrannical corporations. Everyone in the game modifies their body with illegal technology. Much of the state in the video game setting is said to be suffering from the impacts of a major nuclear attack which happened years ago. Every player gets to be a cyber-enhanced human who has to fight against physical and psychological threats to their survival. The game character of Keanu Reeves comes in as your sidekick.

In 2018, the developers insisted and had assured the gamers that Cyberpunk 2077 would not include in game purchases. CD Projekt Red did not want to lock any content behind a paywall. The studio was also insistent that the game would come out only when it was completely “ready”. They announced that the release would take place in April 2020 but it was delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other quality problems that the game was facing. When it was finally released in December 2020, gamers expected their experience of the game to be “worth the wait”. However, the video game wasn’t well revived by all. In spite of several months of work that went into making and developing the game, the game was launched with several technical issues. Players on both PC and consoles were having terrible experiences. As a result of multiple glitches and technical problems, the characters’ faces were obscured and the game would reset randomly. Some of the environments or areas of the game map was unappealing. The game even caused consoles to crash repeatedly and sometimes sacrificed players’ progress. One glitch led to characters’ breasts and penises being exposed. The characters’ genitals would poke out of their clothes. CD Projeckt Red offered refunds to players who were disappointed with the product. In fact, they updated a self-review discouraging gamers from playing the game on console until the game was fixed and improved.

Cyberpunk 2077 was roundly criticized by reviewers, game designers, industry insiders and other gamers across the gaming community. The wait and hype for the game had already created a fanbase which turned toxic by harassing reviewers who criticised the game.

There is another reason why the game wasn’t well received. Cyberpunk 2077 transphobia was apparent in the game contradicting the fact that the developers had claimed that the game was ahead of its time. The game has an incredibly detailed character creation menu. The players can control several aspects of their character’s appearance including the shapes and size of the genitals. The game even allows players to decline the option of including genitals to their characters. However, this isn’t the problem and is in fact appreciable. The idea of not determining gender by the character’s genitals in fact made many trans players happy. But this soon turned into disbelief and disappointment. The gamers realised that the game actually assigned the gender to the characters not based on their genitals but rather by the voice. Characters with higher-pitched voices were identified as females and characters with deep-voiced characters were assigned male pronouns. This purports the toxic idea that people’s gender can be determined by certain traits. A non-sexist video game would determine the gender of a player’s character based on an independent choice made by players themselves. This is uninfluenced by other physical traits or qualities.

Several reviewers called out Cyberpunk 2077 for promoting sexist ideologies. Unfortunately, toxic fans harassed the reviewers. “You just KNOW when you're going to get harassed. If the game with all the hype has anything wrong with it, and you're honest about that, or even just want to provide any context outside of ‘it's fun’, you're going to get harassed. It's a given.” These were precisely what Susan Arendt, a podcast host quoted. She even second guessed herself whether sharing her true opinions was worth the hateful, threatening and harassing messages that she received.

Controversial Tweet by Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter Handle

In the early days of arcade, gaming was a family activity. The popular male dominance and stereotype that only boys or men are good at video games were perpetuated in the past three decades. We observe this change due to sexualisation of video games. Today, most video games aren’t family friendly as they include explicit and sexual content. This, in fact, is a marketing tactic used by developers to target the male population. In 2018, a Cyberpunk 2077 fan who was awaiting the game at that point of time tweeted that the user wanted to see more from the “guys” at CDPR. In response to this tweet, CD Projekt Red tweeted, “Did you just assume their gender?!”. On the look of it, the tweet seems innocent but it is a joke at the expense of the trans community. After receiving backlash to the tweet, CDPR took it down and issued an apology staying sorry to “all those offended”. The apology seems like another targeted mockery and CDPR did no right by not taking responsibility for its actions.

Not only is Cyberpunk2077 transphobic and sexist, it is non user friendly as well. The game has several epilepsy triggers without any warnings about it. There are several instances and situations in the game where the effects and the graphics are brighter, louder and flashing. This is a general trigger for seizures. Liana Rupert, a player of Cyberpunk 2077 suffered a major seizure and at several moments felt that she was close to another one. After bringing this to the notice of CD Projekt Red, the company agreed to add trigger warnings wherever necessary.  

The gaming industry has definitely taken a few steps forward in terms of inclusivity of all genders but has also taken a few steps backward. While all genders are welcome, they still face harassment and judgement for simply existing in the community and need a lot more improvement.

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