September 15, 2020

Some Random thoughts on NEP 2020

“West Bengal committee formed to study New Education Policy, NEP 2020 rejects it. The committee says that the policy lacks clarity and cannot be applied across the country.”
“Karnataka would become the first state in the country to implement the policy.”

The above headlines summarises the two ends of the reactions to the National Educational Policy 2020 – and has nothing to do with education but rather one’s political leanings!

Of course, as educationists, we are far more interested in what are the “real” changes that we are hoping to see, as and when the policy is implemented.

The foundational pillars of this Policy are access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability. It believes that the purpose of education is to develop good human beings – capable of rational thought and action, possessing compassion and empathy, courage and resilience, scientific temper and creative imagination, with sound ethical moorings and values. It aims at producing engaged, productive, and contributing citizens for building an equitable, inclusive, and plural society as envisaged by our Constitution.” NEP 2020

If these are the principles on which the policy is based, we are definitely on the right track, at least in my humble opinion. People may argue about language impositions, public-private partnerships in schools, one size does not fit all, etc, but I believe that if we’re clear about the basic guiding principles we’re already on a winning wicket. Surely we cannot continue to languish in a system that is, at the very least, anachronistic.

Hence, I would like to share just a few of the thoughts that I have about the NEP, acutely aware that they are nowhere near comprehensive and even less so, scholarly!

My first thumbs up is for the inclusion of the Early Years into the system. Acknowledging that 85% of a child’s brain development happens by age 6, it’s a no-brainer that the Foundational and Preparatory Curricula in terms of literacy and numeracy will set a solid base for the years ahead.

As teachers we have always believed that the move away from rote learning would be a step forward and the NEP makes no bones about the fact that learning will be effective in an environment that encourages play and discovery in activity-based and interactive classrooms.

In the Middle Stage experiential learning is called for – a huge divergence from the heavy content driven curricula that we have generally blindly followed till now. Critical thinking and scientific temper is intended to replace bookish knowledge and instead make sense of the world we live in.

There is a clear emphasis on the all-round development of a child – health and wellness, sport, art – in fact there is no clear separation between curricular / co-curricular / extra-curricular / academic / vocational. This is a great step forward in today’s world of “specialisation”.

This in no way is a compromise or a “dumbing down” in terms of quality – Mathematical thinking, computational thinking (read “coding”), problem solving ensures that we are preparing our children to be future ready.

Another huge step forward is to de-throne the madness of examinations for the sake of marks and use assessments as an opportunity to learn. This one step alone would revolutionise education in India. The NEP beautifully expresses it as “Transforming the Culture of Assessment”.

Of course, the policy covers much, much more than the few gems that I personally look forward to seeing being implemented sooner rather than later.

All of the above is only possible if this happens at the grass-root level – namely with the teachers. The policy goes into great detail emphasising that Teacher Education is the key. This is probably the single biggest challenge in ensuring these dreams become a reality.

There is a plan, a road map of sorts. It first looks at ensuring Equity – in spite of our 70+ years of independence, an uncomfortably large number of our fellow citizens are left out from receiving quality education. Inclusivity, vocational education, online and digital resources, adult education and life-long learning are all looked at . . . these are all wonderful goals to aim for.

When will all this happen?

As caring and committed educators, let us not wait for the government to get the wheels moving. Let us, instead, focus on moving forward.

“We have miles to go and promises to keep . . . “

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