The New Education Policy 2020 seems to have given a new breath of life given to our education system. Appearing 34 years since the last education policy, it has created a hope and buzz amongst the education fraternity. Though the document looks promising and offers some excellent and promising proposals, it leaves a lot unanswered.
Some of the areas NEP 2020 has emphasized interventions in is early childhood education, continuous professional development of teachers, flexibility in choosing subjects, foundational literacy and numeracy and inclusive and equitable education.
What needs to be seen is how the provisions in the policy will be supported by the envisioned budget-at the center, state and individual institutions. State and center need to work together to achieve the 6% of GDP in public education.
On the one hand it seems to create opportunities for the economically and socially disadvantaged communities, while on the other hands the policy seems to encourage privatisation. The Right To Education has not been extended in NEP 2020 as proposed in the NEP draft 2019. In fact, the right implementation of the Right To Education is yet to be seen where we yet see skewed teacher-student ratios, lack of basic facilities in school like clean drinking water and separate toilet facilities for boys and girls.
NEP 2020 recommends restructuring of school on the 5+3+3+4 model, where children aged 3 to 8 years will be covered under the foundational stage. Though the aim as mentioned in the document is of promoting better overall development, learning and well-being, it seems more as a preparation for transitioning into the Preparatory Stage. The foundational numeracy and literacy should not take away the joy of learning from the early childhood education. Will ECCE-qualified teachers be provided as required by schools or will the government come up with some kind of a bridge-course to fill the learning gaps of the teacher education is yet to be seen? Similar training courses/bridge courses will be required at every stage to prepare teachers for the transitions at each stage due to the restructuring.
Competency-based learning with integration of arts, sports and story-telling based pedagogy will be a refreshing break from the current dismal state of affairs in many schools.
The NEP 2020 also talks about Inclusive and Equitable Education -Learning for All. Hence, I believe if learning is for all it should include all. The Policy mentions gap verticals in access, participation and learning objectives. Bridging the gap is a mammoth challenge considering we have to overcome physical barriers, infrastructural barriers and attitudinal barriers. Inclusive and Equitable also means that we must embrace children from different religions, castes, socio-economic status, and geographical areas and give equal opportunities to all. This will lead to diverse children in classrooms. How will we address these diverse needs in the classroom situation as each child learns in a unique manner? The Universal Design for Learning may be a solution!
Everything said and done, the final implementation lies on the shoulders of individual teachers. Teachers must remember that the brain is a social organ and provide opportunities for children to interact and collaborate. Also keeping neuroplasticity of the brain in mind, lessons should be planned in such a way that new pathways will be created that would lead to better learning and retention.
NEP 2020 is a rainbow in a cloudy sky, hope it brings in the much needed rain in parched lands!
At the end, I would like to quote Socrates “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”