The National Education Policy 2020- An overview-II

Dr N Ranjana Devi
Before delving into the Sections of the National Education Policy, what invites the readers’ attention is the Introduction, which profoundly elucidates, “providing universal access to quality education” while embedding, “promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Rightly, teachers are recognized and elevated to the highest pedestal of humankind to “be at the center of the fundamental reforms in education system” as “they truly shape our next generation of citizens”, as the new Policy aims to “empower teachers and help them to do their job as effectively as possible”. In fulfilling the goals, the Policy clearly states, “recruit the very best and brightest to enter the teaching profession at all levels”.
The new Policy makes a special mention of Jyan, the pursuit of knowledge, Pragya, wisdom and Satya, truth as foundation of ancient Indian civilization with the highest human goal. Education is not just the acquisition of knowledge; it is preparation for life in this world.
Great scholars- Charaka, Susruta, Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Bhaskaracharya, Brahmagupta, Chanakya, Chakrapani Datta, Madhava, Panini, Patanjali, Nagarjuna, Gautama, Pingala, Sankaradev, Maitreyi, Kargi, Thiruvallunar and many others having contributed in diverse fields of mathematics, astronomy, medical science and surgery, civil engineering, architecture among others, the Policy recalls Takshashila, Nalanda, Vikramshila and Vallabhi as world-class institutions of ancient India.
The clauses ‘Principles of this Policy’ and ‘Vision of this Policy’ succinctly encapsulate every aspect and to a reader’s delight, the perception of the document can be visualised while drawing a comparison with the previous existing policies. Empowering our young minds for Critical thinking received a special attention in the new National Education Policy.
For all the parents, every child is a potential leader, they are pillars of the nation. Hence, it is important that appropriate care and stimulation of the brain in the early years is assured for a healthy growth and development of the brain. Early childhood care and education is the foundation of learning, which is to be made available to crores of young children particularly children from socio economically disadvantaged backrounds. The NEP 2020 emphasises on key issues in school education as follows:
1.Early Childhood care and education (ECCE). The Foundation of Learning.
-    ECCE aims to attain optimal outcome in the domains of physical and nature development cognitive development, socio-emotional- ethical development, cultural/artistic development and the development of communication and early language literacy and numeracy.  During the 5+3+3+4 school education, the students will have 12 years schooling with 3 years of Anganwadi/ pre-schooling.
-    The NCERT will develop a National curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to age of 8. The framework, which will serve as a guide for parents and educational institutions involves art, stories, poetry, games and songs.
-    Current Anganwadi workers/teachers will be trained through a systematic effort in accordance with the curricular/pedagogical framework of NCERT. The planning and implementation of early childhood care education curriculum will be carried out jointly by the Ministries of HRD, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs.
2. Foundational Literacy and Numeracy: An urgent and Necessary Prerequisite.
-    Every student will attend foundational literacy and numeracy by grade 3. The NEP aims to achieve universal foundational and numeracy in primary school by 2025. Accordingly, a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy will be set up by the MHRD on priority and subsequently all state/UT governments have to prepare an implementation plan identifying stage-wise targets and goods to be achieved by 2025.
-    Teacher vacancies will be filled in a time bound manner-specially in disadvantaged areas with special attention to employ local teacher or those with familiarity with local language. On the curricular side there will be increased focus on reading, writing, speaking, counting, arithmetic and mathematical thinking in the preparatory and middle school curriculum. Teacher education will be redesigned accordingly.
-    The NEP aims to develop enjoyable and inspirational books for students with high quality translation in local and Indian Languages.
-    The nutrition and health (including mental health) of childhood will be addressed through healthy meals and involvement of well trained social workers, counsellors and committee involvement into the schooling system. Regular health check up with 100% immunization in schools and issuing health cards are emphasized.
3. Curtailing Dropout Rate and Insuring Universal Access to Education at all levels.
-    The NEP gives top priority to bring dropout children back into the educational fold and aims to achieve 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio in preschool to secondary level by 2030 and also to ensure universal access and afford opportunity to all children to obtain quality holistic education including vocational education- from pre-school to grade-12. The policy aims to bring children to school and also to prevent further children from dropping out.
-    Open and Distance Learning (ODL) Programmes offered by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and State Open Schools will be expanded and strengthened for meeting the learning needs of young students who are not able to attend physical school.
4.  Curriculum and Pedagogy Reforms Making Learning Holistic, Integrated, Enjoyable and Engaging.
-    NCERT will identify required skill sets and include mechanisms for their transactions in the National Curriculum Framework
-    Experiential learning will be adopted including hands-on learning, arts – integrated and sports-integrated education, story-telling based pedagogy as standard pedagogy within each subject.
-    Flexibility and choice of subjects to study is given to the students particularly in Secondary School including subjects in physical educations the arts and crafts and vocational skills. There will be no hard separation among curricular, “extra-curricular” or “co-curricular” among “arts”, ‘humanities’ and ‘science’ or between ‘vocational or academic’ streams.
-    The medium of instruction until at least grade 5, but preferably till grade 8 and beyond will be the home language/mother tongue/local language/regional language so as to enable young children learn and grasp nontrivial concepts more quickly in their home language/mother tongue.
-    All students in all school, public or private will have the option of learning at least two years of a classical language of India and its associated literature, through experimental and innovative approaches in grade 6-12 and beyond.
-    English and foreign languages such as Korean, Japanese, Thai, French, German, Spanish, Portugese and Russian will be offered at the Secondary level to know the culture of the world.
-    Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardised across the country and National and State curriculum materials will also be developed for use by students with hearing impairment.
-    National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be formulated by the NCERT.
-    All textbooks shall aim to contain essential core material deemed important on a national level but at the same time contain any desired nuances and supplementary material as per local contexts and needs.
-    The NEP focuses on reducing the weight of school bags and textbooks.
-    Assessment reforms for student development is focused as NEP 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 grade 3,5 and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority. Board examinations for grade 10 and 12 will be continued but the existing system of Board and entrance examinations shall be reformed to eliminate the need for undertaking coaching classes. 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.
-    Support for gifted students with special talents are also emphasized in the NEP. The NCERT and NCTE will develop guidelines for the purpose.
5. Teacher:
-    Teachers Eligibility Tests (TETs) will be strengthened to inculcate better test material NEP emphasizes on a technology based comprehensive teacher- requirement forecast by each state to assess expected subjectwise teacher vacancies in the next two decades.
-    Teachers will be given continuous opportunities for self improvement to learn latest innovations and advances in their profession.
-    A robust merit based structure of tenure promotion and salary structure will be developed to motivate teachers with outstanding performance.
-    A common guiding set of National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by 2022.
-    Teacher education will gradually be moved by 2030 into multi-disciplinary Colleges and Universities.
-    By 2030, the minimum degree qualification of teaching will be a 4 year integrated B.Ed degree.
-    By 2021, a new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework of Teachers Education NCFTE 2021 will be formulated by NCTE in consultative with NCERT, based on the Principles of NEP 2020.
6. Equitable and Inclusive Education: Learning for All.
-    The 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 to the Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) which are broadly categorized based on gender identities (female and transgender individuals) geographical identities, disabilities (including learning disabilities) and socio-economic conditions (such as migrant communities, low income households, children in vulnerable situations, victims of or children of victims of trafficking, orphans including child beggars in urban areas and the urban poor).
-    All scholarships and other opportunities and schemes available to students from SEDGs will be coordinated and announced by a single agency and website to ensure that all students are aware of and may apply in a simplified manner on such a single window system as per eligibility.
7. Efficient Resourcing Effective Governance through School Complexes:
-    The NEP 2020 proposes for the establishment of a grouping structure called the School Complex consisting of one secondary school together with all other schools offering lower grades in its neighbourhood including Anganwadis in a radius of five to ten kilometers. The aim of the School Complex/Cluster will be greater resource efficiency and more effective functioning, coordination, leadership, governance and management of schools in the cluster.
-    Every state will be encouraged to strengthen existing or establish “Bal Bhavans” where children of all ages can visit once a week on weekends or more often, as a special daytime boarding school. Such Bal Bhavans are to be incorporated as a part of School Complex/Cluster if possible.
8. Standard setting and Accreditation for School Education:
-    The NEP 2020 envisages to institute an effective quality self regulation or accreditation system for all stages of education including pre-school education- private, public and philanthropic to ensure compliance with essential quality standards.
-    States/UTs will set up an independent, state-wide body called the State School Standards Authority (SSSA)
- The SSSA has to establish a minimal set of standards based on basic parameters (viz; safety, security, basic infrastructure, number of teachers across subjects, grades, financial probity and sound process of governance) which shall be followed by all schools.
-    The SCERT will develop a school quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) through wide consultations with all stakeholders.
The writer is former Director Programme,  NCCT, New Delhi and former Director, ICM Imphal