September 12, 2020

A long awaited education policy “overhaul”

I always wondered why is it that a land which has produced some of the best scholars the world has ever known and has had the best learning institutes in the past then what went so terribly wrong with the education system that we have stopped nurturing the same  talent inside our classrooms and none of our institutions match up to the best in the world and I am sure that this has has been a great concern for the policy makers and that’s the reason that after 34 years a New education policy (NEP) has been introduced. This thought or concern of what went wrong and many a times mentioning what were the ailments in the education system has been mentioned very often in the NEP itself. For me personally it is something I have been waiting for and have been very happy to see the way it has unfolded as it probably caters to all sections making it a very inclusive document and touched on the many shortcomings of the present system to bring about some very radical changes. I will mention some of the favorite parts of the NEP that have really struck a chord.

The restructuring of the complete school education years into 5(foundational), +3(Preparatory), +3(Middle), +4 (secondary) brings the foundational years into the fold. This has probably been the most revolutionary change as the emphasis on it, which has been a hitherto neglected, unregulated and unrecognized area, is going to change the way Foundation years and childcare are going to be approached. Besides research shows and the NEP mentions that 85% of the human brain develops till age 6 and when that stage gets recognized it leads to designing a good curricula and to train teachers to impart very good education at that important stage. The very fact that there are stages now will see to it that each stage gets its due importance in terms of children’s needs and the designing of the curricula and teacher training will be more focused.

The other great change which is at the center of all and probably without which it is going to be difficult to implement any change which has been envisioned is Teacher training. The fact that a four year integrated teacher training is going to be the least educational requirement to teach is in itself giving importance to this career as students stepping out of class 12 will have to make this important choice of becoming a teacher just the way they choose to become engineers or doctors and therefore will come into the profession by choice and not by chance and will hopefully be more committed to the profession and be more passionate about what they are doing. The fact that they have to teach in school during their training and be active teachers in the various schools while they get trained is going to prepare them for the classes and its nuances. The admissions into B.Ed. colleges will be through a common entrance test….all this gives seriousness to the profession which is at the heart of all professions. Teachers and school leaders will have to compulsorily undergo 50 hours of Continuous Professional Development every year only guarantees that all of them will have to upgrade and update themselves which happens a lot in many other professions and is extremely important for a field that deals with human beings and this a complex area where there is constant research and new findings come up very often and it is imperative for the teachers to be upgraded.

The one thing that is going to increase the respect that the teachers get is the Career Management and Progression where in a single stage there is going to be increase in salary so a teacher at a foundational stage is not aspiring to be a PGT to get a better salary which means that the teacher is equally valued at each stage and therefore a huge respect will come for teachers across stages and not only at the secondary stage. This will increase teacher stability and expertise at every stage. With the present system the teachers would never be satisfied with teaching junior classes as they never got the requisite salary and therefore the respect. Now they will have great self-esteem and will be proud of whatever stage they are committed to.

Teaching in the mother tongue till class 5 at least and going bilingual is another beautiful concept as it has been seen that in all educationally advanced nations the education at the initial stages is imparted in the mother tongue with which a child concentrates on concepts rather than struggling with knowledge. When a child is made comfortable in school the child falls in love with learning and language can be a huge barrier or facilitator in this process. Besides when we teach in the mother tongue the complete family and parents in particular become a part of the teaching process of the child which is great as they are the biggest stakeholders in the education of their children. In the same breath the emphasis on the local language and local context learning is very important in a hugely diverse and very rich culturally and traditional country like ours.

The assessments have been planned to be changed to make it formative and based on competencies and core concepts rather than on rote learning. The board exam too will be made easier but will examine core capacities. This is going to change the way teaching is done in the classes. Assessments in Classes 3, 5 and 8 will check for the learning outcomes and will see to it that the complete trajectory of teaching learning is more learning based and not teaching based and when there is public disclosure of these results the parents have a choice to move from one school to the other depending on the school providing better teaching-learning. The only fear I have of this system is that the pressure on the little ones does not increase as we Indians tend to take all exams very seriously thereby pressurizing our students and increasing the sense of competition.

The NEP is very inclusive and speaks about including Students from Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups into the folds of education and has also taken into cognizance special training to teach gifted children and those who have special needs. They were the marginalized sections and I am happy that there is going to be attention of bringing them into the folds of education.

The NEP gives students choices of choosing from a huge bank of subjects which was also earlier there but this time since they have extended it to the higher education too so previously despite the fact that it was there in the senior secondary level the children really did not choose and remained confined to specific streams as they would take it at school to find no place in colleges due to the varied subject choices chosen now the acceptability at the higher education level will makes it possible for the children to pursue it and get admission into various colleges giving the concept acceptance at the school level too.

The fact that children can take the Board exams twice gives them flexibility though I hope that the higher educational institutes accept the improved marks otherwise we remain where we are. The choice of subjects at two levels is a great addition for children so to give choices to children to choose from is something that is at the heart of a democratic country and I am happy that great thought has been given to it.

Despite me being a great fan of this NEP I am hoping that this time again, like many other documents in India, it does not become another paper tiger. India has always been a land of great documents with poor implementation. I am hoping that the promised 6% of the GDP is diverted to education which is at the heart of all reforms but as on date it has never been more than 3% which makes a person doubtful of the implementation of this great policy. Let us Hope and pray that the political will expressed to implement the policy remains and we see a new sun rising in the educational horizon of India. I am a thorough optimist and am hoping to see the changes being implemented in its true spirit!

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