NEP 2020: A paradigm shift in learning

“Knowledge is not power, knowing a concept is only potential value. The execution of knowledge is where the power lies. ~ Tony Robbins

Indian education system is a product of colonial legacy that led to deterioration of basic fundamentals of education by creating space for rote learning which are creating nation of only obedient followers not leaders. Rote learning was the need of 19th century education system when the aim of the school system was to create an army of clerks, factory workers and soldiers who are a bunch of obedient followers who could serve the workforce of the newly industrialized nations needed at that time. This is the reason behind the school uniforms, assembly, strict discipline and rigid routines.

Earlier policies (NEP 1967, NEP 1986) were not able to deal with drawbacks of rote learning or memory based learning that dilutes the essence of education by creating society which is unable to cope with the thinking skills of modern workplaces’ demand. For example, according to the report of the Pratham Annual Status of Education (ASER) 2017, only 40 percent of our 14-18-year-olds can calculate the price of a shirt sold at a 10 percent discount and less than 60 percent can read the time from an analog clock and even students in well-regarded private schools are not much better off. Another report of Economist magazine says that less than 25 per cent of Indian graduate engineers are employable and a study by Mettle shows that less than 5 percent engineers have the analytical skills necessary for software engineering jobs in product start-ups. Data shows that we are incompatible at global stage because 21st century is era of globalisation, liberalisation, multiculturalism and technology-driven sciences where routine jobs will be automated, therefore, we need individuals who can think critically, analyse the real life based problem instead of being replaced by algorithms.

The New Education policy has dreamed to ensure that it touches the life of each and every citizen, consistent with their ability to contribute to many growing developmental imperatives of this country on the one hand, and towards creating a just and equitable society on the other. This policy has proposed the revision and revamping of all aspects of the education structure, its regulation and governance, to create a new system that is aligned with the aspirational goals of 21st century education, while remaining consistent with India’s traditions and value systems. In this article, we will explore the Salient features of this policy to highlight the changes that are crucial for experimental and practical based design of learning instead of rote or memory based learning with respect to early child education, secondary education and steps taken towards making our higher education sector more liberal, innovative and indulged into quality research.

Salient features of NEP 2020

The policy aims to universalize the pre-primary education by 2025 and provide foundational literacy/numeracy for all by 2025. It will cover children from 3 to 18 years rather than the present 6-14 years under the RTE act. There is an extension of 3 years under early childhood care and education (ECCE) and four years under secondary education. Role of ECCE would be to facilitate play and discovery based learning for children of that age group and the proposal includes providing breakfast to young children.

NEP proposes new Curricular and Pedagogical Structure, with 5+3+3+4 design. Under this, Pre-Primary & Grades 1-2 are considered as foundational Stage; Grades 3-5 as Preparatory Stage; Grades 6-8 as Middle Stage and Grades 9-12 as Secondary Stage to minimize rote learning and instead encourage holistic development and 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, scientific temper, communication, collaboration, multilingualism, problem solving-ethics, social responsibility, and digital literacy. Ensuring Foundational Literacy & Numeracy are also other top priority of the new policy after recognizing the learning crisis in language and mathematics during the primary school years and its impact on attendance, retention and later learning. The policy points out that close to five crore children currently in elementary school do not have foundational literacy and numeracy skills. NEP recommends that the curriculum load in each subject should be reduced to its essential core content.  This would make space for holistic, discussion and analysis-based learning.

Policy recommends developing a two-part curriculum for early childhood care and education.  This will consist of (i) guidelines for up to three-year-old children (for parents and teachers), and (ii) educational framework for three to eight-year-old children.  This would be implemented by improving and expanding the Anganwadi system and co-locating Anganwadis with primary schools. It aims at equitable & inclusive education for every child in the country, with a special focus on under-represented groups (URGs) and universal Access & Retention with 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio for all school education by 2030. Survey concludes that respect and understanding grow when students of diverse abilities and backgrounds play, socialize, and learn together. Inclusive systems provide a better-quality education for all children and are instrumental in changing discriminatory attitudes. Studies revealed that discrimination against children from economically and socially marginalized communities such as lower castes, tribal groups, and Muslims, by school authorities play a significant part in children’s irregular attendance and low retention rates in many parts of India.

Children learn languages, most quickly between 2-8 years, and multilingualism has great cognitive benefits for students. Therefore, a three-language formula has been proposed and emphasis on mother tongue-based education and oral language development are critical for holistic development and promote our culture, sense of humanity and creativity through the study of classical languages, mother tongues, and regional languages. Realizing the importance of contribution of teacher, in fostering quality education for the upcoming National Education Policy (NEP), is also emphasizing “Teacher as the Torchbearers of Change”. A new independent State School Regulatory Authority (SSRA) to be created. It aims to consolidate 800 universities & 40,000 colleges into around 15,000 large, multidisciplinary institutions.

The policy proposes three types of Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs): Research Universities, Teaching Universities and Autonomous degree-granting colleges. It aims to provide autonomy to all higher education institutions. Higher education institutions to be governed by Independent Boards with complete academic and administrative autonomy. An autonomous body called the National Research Foundation (NRF) to be set up through an Act of Parliament, where, increase in public investment by the Central and State Governments to 20% of overall public expenditure over a 10-year period is expected.

Way forwards to paradigm shift in Learning

NEP proposes the introduction of a semester system in school education for students of classes 10 to 12, with provisions for holding “flexible and modular board examinations, where students should be able to take a board examination in a given subject in whichever semester they take the corresponding class in school, whenever they feel most ready; and they should be able to take any such subject board examination again if they can study and do better. This step will boost the confidence of student to purse knowledge as means to achieve universal outlook towards life.

In the higher education sector, the draft policy proposes a restructuring of the higher education institutions, placing them under three categories, with the first primarily being focussed on research, second providing high-quality teaching across disciplines with significant contribution to research and the third providing quality teaching focussed on undergraduate education. It also suggests the introduction of four-year undergraduate programmes in higher education institutions and restructuring of the current 3-year BA, Bsc, B Com and B Voc programmes with provisions to provide students with “multiple exit and entry options” that would pave a way for quality and skills based higher education in the country.

In Higher education, M. Phil will be scrapped to remove the burden on academic institutions and scholars to put more focus on quality of research instead of rote learning. It has also recommended for the establishment of a Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (National Education Commission) as a constitutional body through an Act of Parliament, with the Prime Minister being its Chairperson. It shows commitment of present Prime Minister to revamp the rote learning based education to experimental and skills based education for all. If the policy will be implemented with good spirit and intentions, definitely, it will bring change in education sector with aspiring goal of critically developed mind and knowledgeable society.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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