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Justifiably 21st cen. India dumps 20th cen. educational model

India’s New Education Policy (NEP) framework established in 1985 and modified in 1992 has seen the much-needed 2020 version, after three decades! Driven by the United Nations’ Goal 4 or 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and rapidly altering needs and worldview of the 21st century, NEP 2020 is aimed at making students job and future ready with a holistic knowledge, multi-skills and multidisciplinary awareness. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, to be renamed as Ministry of Education, deserves praise for accomplishing this mammoth exercise.

NEP 2020 emphasizes on innovation, critical thinking, evidence-based learning, practical skills, hands-on or applied study and vocation skills, along with internships training provisions. 10+2 (similar to International Baccalaureate) system Grade 1 to 10 (aged 6-16) and Grade 11 to 12 (aged 16-18) transitions to 5+3+3+4 system — 5 years of foundational education (Primary to Grade 2) +3 years of preparatory education (Grade 3 to Grade 5) + 3 years of middle education (Grade 6 to Grade 8) + 4 years of secondary education (Grade 9 to 12).

The Annual State of Education report 2018 shows that only 42.5% of the grade 5 students could read Grade 2 level text, and only 26.9% of Grade 3 students could recognise number till 9. Hence, Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) now lays greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy skills, and delivery of education in mother tongue till Grade 5, and choice to pick another national language thereafter, in a bid to encouraging multilingualism amongst the future generation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls it “setting up of the foundation for 21st Century India or New India”. NEP 2020 creates multiple pathways from school to university, away from “stream-based education” and provides multidisciplinary subject options such as physics, geography and history altogether. This will help switch from one subject stream to another or enable reskilling or upskilling as interests of the students alter. Subjects such as music, physical education and vocational training will be brought at par with main academic subjects. As a part of ‘Bag-less’day, 10 days per year are set aside for vocation training or internship.

Grading now includes self-assessment and peer assessment, progress in project-based and inquirybased learning, quizzes, role plays, group work, portfolios and teacher’s assessment. Artificial Intelligence-based software will generate specific feedback to student to help prepare and study in a ‘smart’ and focussed manner. Board exams will test primarily core capacities/competencies rather than months of coaching and memorization and class work will help grades in the corresponding subject in the Board exams.

Special emphasis is being put on the recruitment standard and professional development of teachers and principals through leadership/ management workshops and online development opportunities. Teacher’s transfers will be checked to develop long term teacherstudent bonding and nonteaching tasks will also be minimised to help teachers focus on teaching. Provision have been also enshrined for hiring eminent persons or experts as ‘master instructors” and by 2030 the minimum education requirement for a teacher will be a four-year integrated B.Ed.

Last, to improve India’s less than satisfactory international standing in higher education, NEP 2020 proposes to move educational institutions into large multidisciplinary universities enrolling at least 3,000 or more students. Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education is a long running concern and needs to be raised from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035. Undergraduate degrees will be of three or four-year duration with multiple exit options, yearly vocational and professional certifications or diploma after 2 years of study, but four-year multidisciplinary Bachelor’s programme will be preferred as a holistic and multidisciplinary education. Justifiably, NEP 2020 seeks to build international research collaboration, researcher/ faculty/practitioner exchanges to encourage increased foreign students’ enrolment in Indian institutions.

Indeed, for a country of India’s size and increasing youth bulge the NEP 2020 was the long awaited document to make India’s youth future and job ready.