Wednesday, February 8th, 2023 15:57:41

Bridging The Gap

By Nilabh Krishna
Updated: July 22, 2022 8:56 am

The current schooling models need to be reevaluated in light of the challenges of the global economy as technology improvements, rapid globalisation, and unanticipated developments – such as the Covid-19 pandemic – affect the future of employment.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development recently revealed the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP), a groundbreaking reform with the goal of building a more diverse, united, and productive country (MHRD).The NEP is the result of a protracted process that aims to reach a 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) by 2030. The goal of the policy is to usher in a time when individualised, research-based education puts the kid at its centre.

The NEP 2020’s reforms are focused on developing students’ “21st century skills,” such as critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and digital literacy.With a blurred distinction between arts and STEM courses and a focus on integrated, multidisciplinary learning, the policy has a fair and inclusive viewpoint. It acknowledges the necessity of using technology and digitization to close the education gap.
Every policy of government is scrutinised for its benefits and problems. But here in this article, we will be delving into the benefits associated with the New Education Policy.

Ensuring Universal Access at all levels of school education: NEP 2020 emphasizes on ensuring universal access to school education at all levels- preschool to secondary. Infrastructure support, innovative education centres to bring back dropouts into the mainstream, tracking of students and their learning levels, facilitating multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes, association of counselors or well-trained social workers with schools, open learning for classes3,5 and 8 through NIOS and State Open Schools, secondary education programs equivalent to Grades 10 and 12, vocational courses, adult literacy and life-enrichment programs are some of the proposed ways for achieving this. About 2 crore out of school children will be brought back into main stream under NEP 2020.
Early Childhood Care & Education with new Curricular and Pedagogical Structure: With emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education, the 10+2 structure of school curricula is to be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively. This will bring the hitherto uncovered age group of 3-6 years under school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for development of mental faculties of a child. The new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/ pre schooling.NCERT will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8. ECCE will be delivered through a significantly expanded and strengthened system of institutions including Anganwadis and pre-schools that will have teachers and Anganwadi workers trained in the ECCE pedagogy and curriculum. The planning and implementation of ECCE will be carried out jointly by the Ministries of HRD, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs.

Attaining Foundational Literacy and Numeracy: Recognizing Foundational Literacy and Numeracy as an urgent and necessary prerequisite to learning, NEP 2020 calls for setting up of a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by MHRD. States will prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners by grade 3 by 2025.A National Book Promotion Policy is to be formulated.

Reforms in school curricula and pedagogy: The school curricula and pedagogy will aim for holistic development of learners by equipping them with the key 21st century skills, reduction in curricular content to enhance essential learning and critical thinking and greater focus on experiential learning. Students will have increased flexibility and choice of subjects. There will be no rigid separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams.Vocational education will start in schools from the 6th grade, and will include internships.A new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be developed by the NCERT.

Multilingualism and the power of language: The policy has emphasized mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond. Sanskrit to be offered at all levels of school and higher education as an option for students, including in the three-language formula. Other classical languages and literatures of India also to be available as options. No language will be imposed on any student. Students to participate in a fun project/activity on ‘The Languages of India’, sometime in Grades 6-8, such as, under the ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ initiative. Several foreign languages will also be offered at the secondary level. Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardized across the country, and National and State curriculum materials developed, for use by students with hearing impairment.

Assessment Reforms: NEP 2020 envisages a shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment, which is more competency-based, promotes learning and development, and tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity. All students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority. Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued but redesigned with holistic development as the aim. A new National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development), will be set up as a standard-setting body.

Equitable 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. Special emphasis will be given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups(SEDGs) which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities and disabilities. This includes setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups. Children with disabilities will be enabled to fully participate in the regular schooling process from the foundational stage to higher education, with support of educators with cross disability training, resource centres, accommodations, assistive devices, appropriate technology-based tools and other support mechanisms tailored to suit their needs. 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. Free school infrastructure can be used as Samajik Chetna Kendras

Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path
Teachers will be recruited through robust, transparent processes. Promotions will be merit-based, with a mechanism for multi-source periodic performance appraisals and available progression paths to become educational administrators or teacher educators. A common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers and expert organizations from across levels and regions.

School Governance
Schools can be organized into complexes or clusters which will be the basic unit of governance and ensure availability of all resources including infrastructure, academic libraries and a strong professional teacher community.

Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education
NEP 2020 envisages clear, separate systems for policy making, regulation, operations and academic matters. States/UTs will set up independent State School Standards Authority (SSSA). Transparent public self-disclosure of all the basic regulatory information, as laid down by the SSSA, will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability. The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) through consultations with all stakeholders.
Higher Education: NEP 2020 aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035. 3.5 Crore new seats will be added to Higher education institutions.The policy envisages broad based, multi-disciplinary, holistic Under Graduate education with flexible curricula, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education and multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification. UG education can be of 3 or 4 years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period. For example, Certificate after 1 year, Advanced Diploma after 2 years, Bachelor’s Degree after 3 years and Bachelor’s with Research after 4 years.An Academic Bank of Credit is to be established for digitally storing academic credits earned from different HEIs so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned.Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, to be set up as models of best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country.The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education.

Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body the for entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education. HECI to have four independent verticals – National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation, General Education Council (GEC ) for standard setting, Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding, and National Accreditation Council( NAC) for accreditation. HECI will function through faceless intervention through technology & will have powers to penalise HEIs not conforming to norms and standards. Public and private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards.

Rationalised Institutional Architecture
Higher education institutions will be transformed into large, well- resourced, vibrant multidisciplinary institutions providing high quality teaching, research, and community engagement. The definition of university will allow a spectrum of institutions that range from Research-intensive Universities to Teaching-intensive Universities and Autonomous degree-granting Colleges. Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism is to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges. Over a period of time, it is envisaged that every college would develop into either an Autonomous degree-granting College, or a constituent college of a university.

Motivated, Energized, and Capable Faculty
NEP makes recommendations for motivating, energizing, and building capacity of faculty thorugh clearly defined, independent, transparent recruitment, freedom to design curricula/pedagogy, incentivising excellence, movement into institutional leadership. Faculty not delivering on basic norms will be held accountable

Teacher Education
A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT. By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree.Stringent action will be taken against substandard stand-alone Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs).

Mentoring Mission
A National Mission for Mentoring will be established, with a large pool of outstanding senior/retired faculty – including those with the ability to teach in Indian languages – who would be willing to provide short and long-term mentoring/professional support to university/college teachers.

Financial support for students
Efforts will be made to incentivize the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs. The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships. Private HEIs will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of free ships and scholarships to their students.

Open and Distance Learning
This will be expanded to play a significant role in increasing GER. Measures such as online courses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, credit-based recognition of MOOCs, etc., will be taken to ensure it is at par with the highest quality in-class programmes.

Online Education and Digital Education
A comprehensive set of recommendations for promoting online education consequent to the recent rise in epidemics and pandemics in order to ensure preparedness with alternative modes of quality education whenever and wherever traditional and in-person modes of education are not possible, has been covered. A dedicated unit for the purpose of orchestrating the building of digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be created in the MHRD to look after the e-education needs of both school and higher education.

Technology in education
An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration. Appropriate integration of technology into all levels of education will be done to improve classroom processes, support teacher professional development, enhance educational access for disadvantaged groups and streamline educational planning, administration and management

Promotion of Indian languages
To ensure the preservation, growth, and vibrancy of all Indian languages, NEP recommends setting an Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI), National Institute (or Institutes) for Pali, Persian and Prakrit, strengthening of Sanskrit and all language departments in HEIs and use mother tongue/local language as a medium of instruction in more HEI programmes. Internationalization of education will be facilitated through both institutional collaborations, and student and faculty mobility and allowing entry of top world ranked Universities to open campuses in our country.

Professional Education
All professional education will be an integral part of the higher education system. Stand-alone technical universities, health science universities, legal and agricultural universities etc will aim to become multi-disciplinary institutions.

Adult Education : Policy aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy.
Financing Education: The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.

More Spending on Education Sector: At present, the education sector in India gets only a 3% share from GDP, but with the implementation of NEP 2020, spending will increase to almost 6% which is going to breathe a new life into the education sector.

Changes in the School Structure: The current structure of 10+2 school education will be replaced with the 5+3+3+4 pattern, to reduce students’ burden of board exams. There will also be a focus on vocational learning right from class 6 to 8, so that the students can learn practical skills such as gardening, carpentry, plumbing, artists, potters, etc., to introspect and understand their interests while developing a better understanding, respect for these skills.

Broader Options to Learn: The children in classes from 9 to 12 will now have multidisciplinary course options available to them, which means that the different streams will be more porous with various subject combinations. Any student will be able to take up subjects of their interest, even if they are outside of their core discipline without strict adherence to the streams of Arts, Science and Commerce; a science student will be able to study history and an art student shall be free to pursue biology.
Focus on Critical Thinking: The board exams system that primarily tested the memorization and rote learning ability of students will be replaced to develop critical thinking, rationalization, and creativity of students with the practical application of their knowledge.

Making Education a Basic Right: At present, the Government ensures that children from the age of 6 to 14 years may get compulsory education for which numerous programs were successfully carried out, including the one such as “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan”. But it left out several children from the education system. Therefore, the updated NEP promises to universalize education to include the children from 3 years of age till 18 to provide them with free education at government-run establishments.
Option to Learn Coding in School: The introduction of computers and coding classes as early as class 6 will be in the curriculum will be a positive step towards upgrading the learning process.
Entrance Tests for Colleges: Instead of countless independent entrance tests for getting admission in colleges, standard entrance tests will be put in place and administered by National Testing Agency (NTA) for uniformity and better clarity, which in the long run, will support students in getting into the disciplines and educational institutes of their choice as expensive, sometimes exploitative entrance tests can be ended.

Upgraded Undergraduate Program
The 3-year undergraduate program will be replaced with a 4-year program that will give the option to have a one-year degree after completing the 1st year, a diploma after completing the 2nd year, and a degree for the completion of 3 years. The fourth-year will be researched-based. The students will also have the option to change their discipline, their accrued credits will be transferable and available till their education pursuit is active.

Regulating the Fees
The implementation of NEP will put a ceiling on the extent fee is charged, so that the private institutions may not charge exuberantly for higher education. This step will make education more accessible and affordable, even to economically disadvantaged students.

More Scope for Global Education
The new NEP will welcome the global educational institutions and foreign universities to set up their campuses in India. The Indians will have a better reach to quality education in their nation, making the dream affordable to more students as it may even reduce the brain drain.

More Inclusive Policy
The new NEP delves into the provision of funds and the creation of special education zones, gender inclusion funds for the underprivileged students to give them access to learning and growth. Even the creation of the bal bhavans in every state will be a welcome step that will support the students residing in remote regions.

Propagation of Culture and Ethos
The Indian culture and ethos will be part of the learning curriculum so that the students will be able to learn about India’s ancient history and its glorious past, a step towards reviving our traditions and promote unity and brotherhood right at the early stage.
Improvement in Teaching Quality: By 2030, B.Ed. will be made a mandatory 4-year course to improve the quality of education for teachers and steps will be taken to make them capable of tackling various issues of the education system, including providing support and mentorship to the students, as well as being trained to teach the students with disabilities.

By Nilabh Krishna

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