About a month back, the new National Education Policy (NEP 2020) was unveiled by the Government of India. There were some significant changes announced in the policy, and just as any other major policy announcement that comes after a long period of time, even the NEP 2020 has been a hot topic for debates, comments and articles over the media and social media channels. Now after a month, we bring you some of our fresh perspectives on the Policy in this crisp blog.
This National Education Policy comes after a gap of over 30 years. The previous policy was released in 1986, about 34 years back, and with some amendments and enhancements, an updated policy was brought into effect in 1992. Also to be noted is the fact that the committee commissioned for the policy had eminent members, including representation from the scientific community such as the former head of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Dr. K. Kasturirangan.
Among the most important changes brought out in the new policy, is the change from the traditional 10 + 2 education system, to a renewed 5+3+3+4 education system. This is perhaps a very progressive step announced in the NEP 2020, as it rightly recognises the importance of investing in Early Child Care and Education (ECCE), which is a vital educational reform, as a child’s most developmental age from a learning perspective begins at age 3. The policy aims to reconfigure school education, and make it responsive and relevant to the needs and interests of learners at different stages of their development corresponding to the age ranges of 3-8 years, 8-11 years, 11-14 years and 14-18 years.
1. The Foundational Stage of 5 years
For ages 3-8 years, this stage will cover 3 years of preschool/ anganwadis and 2 years in Grades 1 and 2, and would consist of play/activity-based learning, with focus on good behaviour, personal and public hygiene/cleanliness, teamwork and cooperation learning exercises.
2. The Preparatory Stage of 3 years
Students in the age group of 8-11 years studying in grades 3 to 5 will transition gradually from play-based learning to more formal but interactive classroom learning, with the introduction of some new subjects. Emphasis will be on subjects like reading, writing, speaking, physical education, arts, languages, Science, and Mathematics.
3. The Middle Stage of 3 years
Students in the age group 11-14years in grades 6 to 8 will be learning abstract concepts in subjects like Science, Mathematics, Arts, Social Sciences, and humanities.
4. The Secondary Stage of 4 years
For students in age-group 14-18 years, this stage covers grades 9,10 ,11 and 12 comprising of multidisciplinary study, with greater depth, greater critical thinking, greater attention to life aspirations, and greater flexibility and student choice.
Education experts have opined that the 5+3+3+4 scheme of education envisages that the school drop outs will have a chance to rejoin the school at any time, which is a good initiative.
The next logical step would be to amend the Right to Education (RTE) Act to formally include ECCE, and extend free and compulsory schooling right from age 3 up to the age of 18. Now, there have been some debates in the media on how the current RTE implementation itself remains a challenge, and the ongoing issues faced at the ground level by the Economically Weaker Section parents, while sending their children to private schools under the RTE. By increasing the scale and scope of compulsory education, the issues on the ground might increase as well as the number of people facing these issues would increase, and whether the Government is ready to address and resolve these issues is one of the questions asked. While there are some facts supporting this thought process, one also to look at the bigger picture.
NEP 2020 sets ambitious targets, to create an additional 3.5 crore seats in colleges by increasing the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) to 50% from the current 26%. This has also targeted to increase the education budget to 6% of the GDP from the present 3-4%. The NEP lays down that by 2040, all higher education institutions (HEIs) shall aim to become multidisciplinary. It also says that by 2030 there will be at least one large multidisciplinary institution in or near every district. It also moots Special Education Zones (SEZ) in backward districts.
The top 100 foreign colleges will be allowed to set-up campuses in India, and such (foreign) universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions of India. This can trigger a good amount of economic activity around such campuses.
Another important point of debate over the NEP2020 has been the medium of instruction.
On the medium of instruction in schools, the education policy states that wherever possible, 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. Thereafter, the home/local language shall continue to be taught as a language wherever possible. This will be followed by both public and private schools. However, following protests by political parties, the reference to Hindi and English in the draft NEP regarding the three-language formula was dropped from the final policy document. The policy states that the three languages learned by children will be the choices of states, regions, and of the students, so long as at least two of the three languages are native to India.
It is important to note that a formal recognition of the mother-tongue or regional language as a medium of instruction not only has cultural and social significance, given the rich linguistic heritage of India, but also has a good economic impact. Nowadays, both mainstream media and social media are having various features and channels to communicate in local language- be it news, blogs, microblogs, posts, sponsored programmes, serials, songs, movies over OTT, etc. Not only has the reach of communication increased, but also the economic activity around developing the content, both technically and creatively. The programming and moderation of communication has created demand for professionals with the right skills. With education being imparted in local language, teachers may find it easier to communicate and children especially in the Foundational stage may have greater absorption, internalization and inculcation of the concepts, which can boost their confidence and motivation, thereby leading to more effective learning and application of knowledge. However we need to wait and see how the language/ medium of instruction policy finally gets implemented by the states.
Regardless of how good a policy is, a lot depends on its actual implementation. While being happy about the new initiatives envisaged in the NEP2020, as responsible citizens and professionals, while we need to remain optimistic, we must also keenly watch the progress and participate actively in the successful implementation of the National Education Policy, to build a bright future to the future citizens of our Nation.
Thank you for reading this blog. If you found this informative and useful, please feel free to like and share it with your friends and colleagues. You can also see the video on NEP 2020 where we have described the aspects of this new education policy on the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5Bfxu3qq80
References for this blog: Articles published in leading National newspapers and programmes on television channels, in addition to the official policy document of NEP 2020.