“What is it that wrongs us? We produce the CEOs that lead multi-million dollar firms globally. We can lead GOOGLE, can’t create one?”, many of us have been ruminating about these questions.  With the declaration of the New Education Policy,2020, it is clear like never before that there were Fundamental Problems with Education System in India which the successive regimes failed to address. We don’t have a central ministry for education, for starters. It falls under MHRD.

The fact that our education system promotes Rat-Race, it does not build a persona of a child, the obsolete testing methodology, pedants following the rule book of clichés as teachers themselves are not trained and efficient, lack of flexibility in the system, medium of language of instruction, the education given is irrelevant to job-market, missing innovation & creation because we are only aping the west, students are happy in getting a 6 digit salary job but lack the ambition to become entrepreneurs themselves, gross failure of our education system to end social disparity, formulae wins over concepts, rote learning wins over critique analysing, marks win over knowledge and theory wins over the practice. In toto, we have been focusing on everything except RESEARCH and TRAINING.

But, this column is not meant to criticise the hitherto establishments. Not to criticise the lack of importance given to educational reforms and certainly, not to sing any songs of paean for the “Modi Sarkar”. As an educator and social activist, I am just to propound my take of the New Education Policy of 2020 declared recently by the current dispensation. To us, the NEP2020 represents the collective conscience and ethos of our Nation. It is an inflexion point. Developed through pervasive consultations, it is a sweeping overhaul of an archaic British colonial system, inept for our needs. It brings about Transformational and revolutionary changes, if not incremental.

NEP

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As per the NEP document, it is the first education policy of the 21st century and aims to address the many growing developmental directives. In the dynamics of the global ecosystem of innovation, education must move towards less content, and more towards learning about how to think, how to be creative and multi-disciplinary, and how to innovate, adapt, and absorb new material in the novel and changing fields. It counsels the revision and revamping of all aspects of the education structure, including its administration and governance, to create a new system that is aligned with the aspirational goals of the 21st century, while remaining consistent with India’s traditional value systems. The NEP lays particular emphasis on the development of the creative potential of each individual, in all its richness and intricacy. It is based on the principle that education must develop not only cognitive skills – both ‘foundational skills’ of literacy and numeracy and ‘higher-order’ cognitive skills such as critical thinking and problem solving – but also social and emotional skills – also referred to as ‘soft skills’ – including cultural awareness and empathy, perseverance, teamwork, leadership, communication, among others.

Some of the major reforms in school education include, Universalisation of Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE), new pedagogical and curricular structure of school education 5+3+3+4 instead of 10+2 of curricular ; Curriculum and pedagogy to be transformed by 2022 to integrate 21st century skills in teaching, learning and assessment, mathematical thinking and scientific temper, textbooks imbibing local content and flavour; medium of instruction up till grade 5, and preferably till grade 8, will be home/local/mother language; no rigid separation between Arts & Sciences, between Curricular and extra-Curricular activities, between Vocational and Academic streams; Vocational integration from class 6 onwards; Attainment of Foundational Literacy And Numeracy by Grade 3; 360 degree holistic progress card of child; Tracking student progress for achieving learning outcomes; Gender Inclusion Fund; Setting-up of national centre for Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic development(PARAKH); board exams to be conducted twice a year- each board exam could have two parts – one part of an objective type with multiple-choice questions and the other of a descriptive part; NTA to offer Common Entrance Exam for Admission to Higher Educational Institutes (HEIs); National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST).

Likewise, with regard to higher education ,some of the revolutionary proposed reforms encompass holistic and multidisciplinary education with flexibility of subjects; Multiple entry / exit points with appropriate certification; Academic bank of credits to be set up to enable digital storage of credits to be transferred; UG program – 3 or 4 year, PG program – 1 or 2 year; Integrated 5 year bachelor’s / master’s; M Phil to be dumped; Model multidisciplinary education and research university (MERU) in or near every district; Single regulator for higher education including teacher education (excluding Legal and Medical); Special Education Zone for disadvantaged regions; Common norms for public and private HEIs : private philanthropic partnership, fee fixation within broad regulatory framework; Setting up of National Research Foundation (NRF); Internationalisation of education; Focus on Indian knowledge system, culture, literature & scientific vocabulary of Indian Languages; Promoting traditional arts / Lok Vidya; HEIs / School or School Complex to have Artist(s)-in-Residence, etc. Public investment in the education sector is said to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest

All this, off course will happen to keep a resonance with technology- Use of Technology in education Planning, Teaching, Learning & Assessment, Administration & Management, Regulation – Self Disclosure & Minimum Human Interface, Increasing Access for Disadvantaged Groups, Divyang Friendly Education Software, e-Content in Regional Languages, Virtual Labs, National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) to promote the use of technology, Digitally Equipping Schools, Teachers, and Students, etc.

What one needs to ponder and applaud at this juncture is the vision envisaged by the Modi Govt, in implying these radical but necessary reforms. “The NEP seems to be based on the pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability”, said the PM. We see that the utmost importance is given towards ensuring universal access to school education. There is an emphasis on better infrastructure, innovative education centres to bring back dropouts into the mainstream, facilitating multiple pathways to learning among others. If one considers the proposal of promoting Indian languages, obviously would include Sanskrit too, one would realise the spirit of “ Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat” along with taking us back to our long-forgotten roots. Behind the multiple entry/exit points, one can sense the purpose of empowering students to continue their graduation, notwithstanding any difficulties or even with a sabbatical gap.

Replacing a 10+2 structure with 5+3+3+4 curricular seems to be in tune with the global practices for the mental development of a child. The curricular and pedagogical structure of school education will be reconfigured to make them responsive and relevant to the developmental needs and interests of learners at different stages of their development, corresponding to the age ranges of 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years, respectively. The Gender Inclusion Fund and Special Education Zones will focus on inclusivity and accessibility of education and so forth. The teacher and the teacher’s condition must and will be at the centre of these changes. A common guiding set of National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by 2022, by the National Council for Teacher Education in consultation with NCERT. Teachers will be given constant opportunities for self-improvement and to learn the latest innovations and advances in their profession. To ensure that every teacher has the flexibility to optimise their own development as teachers, a modular approach to continuous teacher development will be adopted.

Just as a part of my valedictory statement, it is worth to place this on record that the Narendra Modi led BJP government had mentioned about these reforms in their manifesto for 2019 General Elections as well. As aforementioned, this is not a political opinion but let’s give a man his respect where due.

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