New Delhi: Changes in the Education system were due for a very long time. Any debate or discussion along the lines of ‘what is wrong?’ or‘needs for improvement’ in the country is potentially incomplete with the mention of the Education system. It had become such a velleity that it gained a permanent space in the manifestos of political parties before every election; a rhetoric to be repeated at every election and then forgotten like most other mentions. So, when the ruling government finally brought forward its NationalEducation Policy, it is no wonder that it became a trending topic with, like almost everything else lately, faced either staunch support or extreme criticism.
There are many changes which have been introduced in this National Education Policy. Comprising of four parts and 65pages, this policy looks towards the future with the hope of incorporating the much-required changes in the education system. The four parts in which the policy is divided are namely:
- Part I- School Education
- Part II- Higher Education
- Part III- Other Key Areas of Focus
- Part IV- Making it Happen
The guiding principles of this policy as highlighted in its introduction are as follows:
- Recognizing, identifying, and fostering the unique capabilities of each student.
- Achieving Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by grade 3.
- Introducing flexibility in the system and tearing down the system of hard division of students into Arts, Sciences, Commerce and such streams.
- Multidisciplinary and holistic education.
- Emphasis on conceptual understanding rather than rote learning for exams.
- Encouraging creativity, critical thinking and innovation.
- Improving ethics and human & Constitutional values.
- Promotion of multilingualism.
- Focus on essential life skills such as communication, cooperation, teamwork, and resilience.
- Focus on regular formative assessment for learning and discouraging the ‘coaching culture’.
- Extensive use of technology in teaching and learning, removing language barriers, increasing access for Divyang students, and educational planning and management.
- Respect for diversity and local context to increase in all curriculum, pedagogy and policy.
- Full equity and inclusion as the cornerstone of all educational decisions.
- Synergy in curriculum across all levels of education from early childhood care and education to school education to higher education.
- Teachers and faculty as the heart of the learning process.
- A ‘light but tight’ regulatory framework which ensures integrity, transparency and resource efficiency while encouraging innovation and out-of-the-box thinking.
- Outstanding research as a corequisite for outstanding education and development;
- Continuous review of progress based on sustained research and regular assessment by educational experts
These guiding principles as given in the introduction section, give us an insight into the desired changes and the intention of the drafters of the National Education Policy. The key changes which the policy introduces are easily understood when seen in the light of these guiding principles. The key changes brought about by this policy are as follows:
1. System of 10+2 to be replaced by 5+3+3+4. The previous system of 10+2 is now replaced with the new structure of 5+3+3+4. In this, the early 5 years are further divided into 3 years ‘Anganwadi’ schooling and two years for classes one and two. It is important to note that pre-school (Anganwadi) was something which was ignored until now and was usually an option reserved for those who received private schooling. Exams for assessment of students would be held at classes 3,5, 8, 10 and 12 for overall evaluation instead of just at 10 and 12.
2. Introduction of Vocational and Experiential learning. According to the data presented in the Policy, the Gross Enrolment Ratio for Grades 6-8 was 90.9%, while for Grades 9-10 and11-12 it was only 79.3% and 56.5%, respectively. This shows a pattern of students dropping out at higher grades. To reduce this phenomenon and to ensure holistic education, this step was introduced. There was some controversy in social media platforms over this decision. The introduction of vocational training and providing internships was misinterpreted and shown as a new way to introduce child labour! Hashtags like #RejectNEP2020 were seen trending.
3. Medium for education to be the local language or‘mother tongue’ till class 5 (at least) wherever possible. This step has again stirred up the debate of whether English should be the medium of instruction or not. The debate on the medium of education has seen various intellectuals argue their points both for and against English being the medium of education. The Education Policy states that wherever possible, it should be at least until class 5 but preferably until class 8, the medium of education should be the local language.
4. Setting up of one Umbrella Institution, the Higher Education Commission of India. This effort has been made to further centralize the education structure. This change would pose its opportunities and challenges. Proper implementation of this step would be a big determiner in whether this step is effective or not.
5. At the Secondary School and College level, there would be no fixed demarcation of subjects and a rigid structure. To introduce flexibility in the system, and do away with the rigid structure, various opportunities and options are given to students to choose their subjects according to their preference.
6. Efforts to be made to introduce foreign institutions to set up their campuses and overall internationalization of theEducation system.
The National Education Policy, 2020 brings about many changes which were required in the Education system. It is a huge step towards the future on paper, as it remains to be seen as to how it is implemented. It is not unusual for brilliant policies and plans to fail miserably in their implementation stage leading to overall confusion and mismanagement. The idea and intention behind the changes made are noble and if it is implemented properly, we could be on a better track towards development.