Education has always been a prime concern for the holistic development of any nation. In India, too, there has always been progressive deliberations in this significant field. Attempts to reconstruct and improvise the educational structure can be seen in the form of plans and policies.
Several commissions have been set up for planning the education policies of India. The right to education granted in the constitution highlights its intense importance.
To achieve this very aim various initiatives have been undertaken. It is being achieved in bits and pieces if not in total. For instance: 82 percent of residential areas have a primary school within a radius of one kilometre. Also, 55 lakh teachers spread over 10 lakh schools educate about 2,025 lakh children.
Still, several issues of concern, like “drop-out” at the elementary stage remain uncontrolled. Also, the quality of education is the most critical aspect to ponder over. Certain goals were set by 1968 policy based on the Kothari Commission recommendations. It was successful in achieving most of these goals. The National Policy on Education 1986 acknowledged these achievements. It also proposed a national system of education based on the accepted structure of 10+2+3.
Of late, the present government formed National Education Policy 2020 (NEP). It is the first education policy of the 21st century. It replaces the thirty-four-year-old National Policy on Education (NPE) of 1986.
Let’s look at the salient features of this new Education Policy 2020 and what does it ensure at the school level:
UNIVERSAL ACCESS AT ALL LEVELS OF SCHOOLING (from pre-primary school to grade 12)
The policy aims for a cent per cent enrollment ratio in school education by 2030. To achieve this goal certain steps and initiatives will be undertaken like:
- Providing Infrastructure: It ensures the provision of effective and enough infrastructure. So that it assists in the smooth functioning of the educational process.
- Checking Dropouts: Alternative and innovative education centers will help to check school dropouts. It will help to bring back the dropouts into mainstream education. Universal participation in school is planned by tracking students and their learning levels.
- Counsellors: Well-trained social workers or consellors will work with students and their parents. To ensure that all school-age children are attending and learning in school. These counsellors will work in unison with schools/school complexes and teachers.
EARLY CHILDHOOD CARE EDUCATION
NEP 2020 emphasizes the criticality of the early years. It plans to ensure quality early childhood care and education by 2025. This focuses on all children between 3-6 years.
NCERT will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8.
Ministries of HRD, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs will execute the planning and implementation of early childhood education.
The 10+2 structure in school education gets replaced with 5+3+3+4 covering ages 3-18. This means there will be 3 years of the curriculum framework for Anganwadi/preschool level and 12 years for school in this 5+3+3+4 model.
Currently, children in the age group of 3-6 are not covered in the 10+2 structure as Class 1 begins at age 6. The new 5+3+3+4 structure focuses on a strong base of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) from age 3.
Balavatika: For universal access to ECCE, Anganwadi Centres will be ramped up. Before the age of 5, every child will move to a “Preparatory Class” or “Balavatika” (that is, before Class 1), which has an ECCE-qualified teacher.
An expanded and strengthened system will be put in place of early childhood education institutions to deliver ECCE. This consists of:
a) stand-alone Anganwadis
b) Anganwadis co-located with primary schools
c) pre-primary schools/sections covering at least age 5 to 6 years (along with existing primary schools)
d) stand-alone pre-schools
NEW CURRICULAR AND PEDAGOGICAL STRUCTURE:
We will have a 5+3+3+4 design corresponding to the age ranges of 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years of pedagogical structure.
It will consist of:
- Foundational Stage (3+2 years; both together covering ages 3-8): It will have flexible, multilevel, play/activity-based learning and ECCE pedagogy and curriculum.
- Preparatory Stage (Grades 3-5, covering ages 8-11): It will introduce experiential learning across all the subjects – sciences, mathematics, arts, social sciences, and humanities.
- Middle Stage (Grades 6-8, covering ages 11-14): It will have a subject-oriented pedagogical and curricular style.
- Secondary Stage (Grades 9-12 in two phases, i.e., 9 and 10 in the first and 11 and 12 in the second, covering ages 14-18): It will open an area for greater depth and greater critical thinking. Students will give attention to life aspirations, will have greater flexibility to choose a subject. Options for an exit at grade 10 and re-enter at a later stage in grade 11 will be provided.
The curricula will aim for the holistic development of learners. It will equip them with key skills. It will reduce curricular content to enhance essential learning and critical thinking. It will give a greater focus on experiential learning. The aim of NEP is to give equal emphasis on all subjects – science, social sciences, art, languages, sports, mathematics. It also stresses the integration of vocational and academic streams in school.
NCERT will develop a new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21.
Quality textbook materials will be developed by NCERT and SCERTs
States will prepare their own curricula and prepare textbooks incorporating state flavour and material. The availability of textbooks in all regional languages will be a top priority. Reducing the weight of school bags and textbooks will also be ensured. Suitable changes will be made in the curriculum load.
MULTILINGUALISM AND THE POWER OF LANGUAGE
- Language options: NEP 2020 lays great emphasis on promoting multilingualism. It will help children know and learn about the rich and vast array of languages of their country. The medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, (preferably till Grade 8 and beyond), will be the home language/ mother-tongue /local language/regional language.
- Fun Project Activity: Students will take part in a fun project/activity on ‘The Languages of India’. It will be sometime in Grades 6-8, such as, under the ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ initiative.
- Promoting Sanskrit: Sanskrit will be an alternative at all levels of school and higher education. It will be for student enrichment, including as an option in the three-language formula.
ATTAINING FOUNDATIONAL LITERACY AND NUMERACY
The policy focuses on the development of early language and mathematical skills from Grades 1-3 by 2025. For this, a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy will be set up.
Various strategies for it will be undertaken. Like:
- Play-based school preparation module for all Grade 1 students to develop school readiness
- Increased focus on reading, writing, speaking, counting, arithmetic, and mathematical thinking
- Continuous assessment and adaptive testing
- National repository of high-quality resources on foundational literacy and numeracy
- Filling teacher vacancies
- Peer-tutoring and volunteer activities
- Setting up school libraries in every village, etc.
A National Book Promotion Policy will be formed. Initiatives to ensure the availability, accessibility, quality, and readership of books will be undertaken.
Exposure: Students will be exposed to vocational studies through school and higher education. This exposure will begin at the early ages in middle and secondary school. Quality vocational education will be integrated into higher education.
The vocational education in secondary schools will be in a phased manner. For this, the secondary schools will collaborate with ITIs, polytechnics, local industry, etc.
Each child will learn at least one vocation (like coding) and be exposed to several more.
Internship & Hands-on Experience: A 10-day bagless period will be introduced. This will be sometime during Grades 6-8. This will be done for various types of enrichment activities involving arts, quizzes, sports, and vocational crafts.
- The students will intern with local vocational experts such as carpenters, gardeners, potters, artists, etc. to get a hands-on experience.
- Similar internship opportunities will be offered to learn vocational subjects for students throughout Grades 6-12, including during holiday periods.
- Vocational courses through online mode will also be available in tandem with digital education.
- Formative Assessment: A shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment is planned. This is more competency-based and promotes learning and development. It tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity.
- Say bye to coaching classes: Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 continue to exist. But it will be reformed to cut the need for taking coaching classes. Board exams will be redesigned for holistic development. It will be made ‘easier’ by testing core capacities or competencies.
- Options in Boards: All students will be allowed to take Board Exams on up to two occasions. One during any given school year, the main examination, and one for improvement, if desired.
- New Assessment Centre: An appropriate body will conduct school examinations for Grades 3, 5, and 8. A new National Assessment Centre called PARAKH will be set up. It stands for Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development. It will be a standard-setting body for setting norms, standards, and guidelines for student assessment and evaluation for all recognized school boards of India. It will guide the State Achievement Survey (SAS) and undertake the National Achievement Survey (NAS), check the achievement of learning outcomes, and encourage and help school boards to shift their assessment patterns towards meeting the skill requirements of the 21st century.
FAIR AND INCLUSIVE EDUCATION
- NEP 2020 aims to ensure that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of the circumstances of birth or background.
- A separate Gender Inclusion fund is planned. Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups is to be created.
- Children with disabilities will take part in the regular schooling process from the foundational stage to higher education.
- Recruitment of special educators with cross-disability training. Resource centres will be established wherever needed, especially for children with severe or multiple disabilities.
- Schools and school complexes will be supported for providing all children with disabilities accommodations and support mechanisms tailored to suit their needs and to ensure their full participation in the classroom.
- Assistive devices and appropriate technology-based tools will be made available to help children with disabilities. This will help them to integrate comfortably into classrooms and engage with teachers and their peers.
BAL BHAVANS: Every State/District will be encouraged to establish “Bal Bhavans” as a special daytime boarding school, to participate in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities. The unutilized capacity of school infrastructure will be used to promote social, intellectual, and volunteer activities for the community and to promote social cohesion during non-teaching / schooling hours and may be used as a “Samajik Chetna Kendra”.
The new education policy has a huge array of alternatives not only for the students of higher grades but also for the school students. Based on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability, this policy is aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, suited to 21st century needs and aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student.