National Education Policy 2020 – an appraisal

Dr. R.K. Shivpuri
Founder Director, Centre for Detector & Related Software Technology,
University of Delhi.

National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 recently announced by the Govt.of India has become a subject of intense debate. What is not under discussion is the principle of NEP. The vision of National Education Policy is to transform India by building a fair, impartial and energetic knowledge society by providing high-quality education to all, hence making India a knowledge superpower. The curriculum and pedagogy of our institutions is aimed to develop among the students a deep sense of respect towards the Fundamental Duties and Constitutional values and bonding with one’s country. The policy envisions to instill among the students a deep-rooted pride in being Indian in thought, spirit, intellect, and deeds. Further,the policy aims to develop knowledge, skills, values, and dispositions that support responsible commitment to human rights, sustainable development and living, and global well-being.

Some of the key fundamental principles that will guide the educational system includes identifying the unique capabilities of each student and encouraging teachers and parents to work on holistic development of each child in academic and non-academic spheres, abolition of strong barriers between arts and sciences and demolition of silos between different areas of knowledge, multi-disciplinary norms across sciences, arts, humanities etc to establish the unity of all knowledge, conceptual understanding instead of rote learning, ethics and human values such as empathy, respect for others, scientific temper, pluralism, equality and justice, formative assessment for learning in place of the currently used summative assessment.


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Some other principles include ensuring that all students are able to thrive in the education system, teachers to be the heart of the learning process, their recruitment, continuous professional development to be monitored, innovation and out-of-the-box ideas to be encouraged through autonomy, good governance, and empowerment; for higher education, outstanding research as a requisite for outstanding education, and a continuous assessment of progress of research by experts in the field of education.

The vision of this policy is to convert India into a global knowledge superpower by providing quality education to all.

Let us first discuss the School education in part I since it the foundation of the whole education system.

School  Education: Restructuring School Curriculum

 The curricular framework for school education will be composed of a 5+3+3+4 design, consisting of the Foundational Stage,  Preparatory Stage (Grades 3-5, covering ages 8-11), Middle Stage (Grades 6-8, covering ages 11-14), and Secondary Stage (Grades 9-12 in two phases, i.e., 9 and 10 in the first and 11 and 12 in the second, covering ages 14-18).The foundational stage is in two parts, 3 years of Anganwadi/pre-school + 2 years in primary school in Grades 1-2; both together covering ages 3-8.

The NEP has introduced for the first time three years of pre-schooling, age group of 3-6 years, and hence the new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/ pre-schooling. Since 85% of a child’s brain development takes place before the age of six, Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) has the potential to enable all young children to flourish in the new educational system. ECCE consists of flexible, multi-faceted, multi-level, play-based, activity-based, and inquiry-based learning.It also includes development of social capacities, sensitivity, good behavior, courtesy, ethics, personal and public cleanliness, teamwork, and cooperation.  For access to high quality ECCE in the whole country, Anganwadi Centres will be strengthened with high-quality infrastructure, play equipment, and well-trained Anganwadi workers/teachers.

Foundational Literacy and Numeracy – The ability to read and write, and perform basic operations with numbers, is an essential and a crucial prerequisite for all schooling and the whole learning process. The highest priority of the education system will be to achieve universal foundational literacy and numeracy, i.e., reading, writing, and arithmetic at the foundational level is first achieved in primary school by 2025.

Mother tongue as medium of instruction The NEP document states that children learn and grasp nontrivial concepts more quickly in their home language/mother tongue. Hence the mother tongue as the medium of instruction is suggested even as it sticks to the ‘three language formula’ but also mandates that no language would be imposed on anyone. The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and of course the students themselves, so long as at least two of the three languages are native to India. 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.

From the experience of the developed countries, it has been found that being well educated in one’s language, culture, and traditions is a huge benefit to educational, social, and technological advancement.

Mathematics as the core subject– NEP has stressed that mathematics and mathematical thinking will be crucial for India ’s future and India’s leadership rolein the numerous upcoming areas. The areas that will dominate will be artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, data science, etc.  Hence, mathematics and logical thinking will be given increased emphasis throughout the school years. Right from the foundational stage, a number of innovative methods involving the use of puzzles and games that make mathematics and logical thinking more enjoyable will be followed.

 Internship for Vocational crafts – Students during Grades 6-8 will be provided hands-on experience of vocational crafts, such as carpentry, electric work, metal work, gardening, pottery making, etc., as decided by States and local communities. All students will participate in a 10-day bagless period during Grades 6-8 where they intern with local vocational experts such as carpenters, gardeners, potters, artists, etc. On the same pattern, internship opportunities will be provided to students during Grades 6-12 to learn vocational subjects.  Bagless days will be encouraged throughout the year for various types of enrichment activities.  Students will be exposed to activities outside school through visits to places/monuments of historical, cultural and tourist importance.

Assessment for Student Development –The emphasis of assessment of our schooling system will shift from one that is summative and tests memorization skills to one that is more regular and formative, is more competency-based, promotes learning and development for our students, and tests skills such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity. The chief aim of assessment will be for learning; and the entire system will continuously revise teaching-learning processes to optimize learning and development for all students. This will be the underlying principle for assessment at all levels of education. The singular thrust of curriculum and pedagogy reform will be to move the education system towards real understanding and towards learning how to learn – and away from the culture of memorization as is mostly present today.

Students with Special Talents – Every student has talents and it is the job of the teacher to recognize the student’s interest. Such talents must be nurtured and developed. Gifted children must be encouraged to pursue their interests. Students who show strong interests in any area must be encouraged to pursue that area which may be beyond the school curriculum.

Teachers – Teachers shape the destiny of our children – and hence the destiny of our nation. The quality of teacher education and motivation of teachers is not up to the standard to reach our goal of excellent teachers. In order to attract outstanding students to the teaching profession, a large number of merit-based scholarships shall be instituted across the country for studying quality 4- year integrated B.Ed. programs. In rural areas, merit-based scholarships will be established that also include preferential employment in their local areas upon successful completion of their B.Ed. programs. Teacher Eligibility Tests (TETs) will be strengthened to inculcate better test material, both in terms of content and pedagogy. The TETs will also be extended to cover teachers across all stages (Foundational, Preparatory, Middle and Secondary) of school education. For subject teachers, suitable TET or National Testing Agency (NTA) test scores in the corresponding subjects will also be taken into account for recruitment. To gauge passion and motivation for teaching, a classroom demonstration or interview will become an integral part of teacher hiring at schools and school complexes.  The service environment and culture of schools will be overhauled to increase the ability of teachers to do their jobs effectively.

As is clear from the above, there are excellent recommendations in NEP 2020. If all these are followed, our education system will put India on the world map. The problem lies in implementation not in intent. Some of the problem areas are as under.

  • Whereas the aims have been clearly defined in NEP 2020, but how to arrive at those aims is not made clear. The roadmap towards the goal is missing.
  • Implementation of this policy will not be easy and quick. It is going to take a longtime for the policy to take practical shape.
  • The Govt. schools in most states are in a total mess where 25% teachers don’t attend the school and 25% of teachers don’t teach. Rest of the teachers doesn’t have any motivation to teach or are unable to do their job.
  • In many states, less than 10% teachers pass the Teacher Eligibility Tests.
  • schools particularly in rural areas suffer from lack of proper building, laboratory infrastructure, toilet for girls, playing space etc.

All of the above acts as a serious dampener for the parents to send their children to Govt. schools. According to the Govt’s District Information System for Education (DISE)data, between 2011 and 2018, 2.4 Crore children left state schools and joined private schools. Today, almost half of India’s children (47.5%) are in the private school system, with 12 Crore children.

Out of 74 countries in the international Program for International Student Assessment,(PISA) test of reading, science and arithmetic, our children were ranked 73, and Kyrgyzstan was ranked 74 (lowest rank).

NEP mentions that private school system will be encouraged by Philanthropy by running the schools on a no-profit basis. This unrealistic stance will hit the system hard. The question is why should anyone run a school on a no-profit basis? What is his incentive?

Arun C Mehta (A study of Punjab based on DISE 2005 data) has discussed the elementary education in unrecognised schools across Punjab. A large number of unrecognised schools continue to function in India. This may be true for other parts of the country as well. Facility wise these schools are at par or even better than recognised schools. In fact, unrecognised schools mostly in rural areas are in great demand and these schools are popularly known as English medium schools. There is urgent need to register and recognise all unrecognised schools. In order to obtain true picture of enrolment we must obtain information about the unrecognised sector as well.

Finally, it must be remarked that if all the lacunae as mentioned above are taken care of, then NEP 2020 will have the greatest transformative effect over the whole country as Education is one of the largest social sector development programs.

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