By Sudarshan Kasbe and Bhavna Lakhan
India with 1.3 billion people, the second most populous country in the world is also on the second place in the list of countries that face the greatest skill shortage. The roots of this situation lies in the education system which was so complex and adamant on traditional modes of teaching and assessment. It never created much space for critical thinking and became a hub for rote learning. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 announced by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development now renamed as Ministry of education is the step to transform the education system of India by providing the skills which are aligning with the requirements of the 21st century with the aim of eradicating the problem of pedagogy, lack of inclusive environment, dropouts, poor performance in literacy and numeracy and lack of higher education preparedness to meet the aspiration of youth by its programs. A new education policy was needed sooner or later and National educational policy 2020 has tried to fill that gap. It has created many provisions and changes in the overall education arena and aims to achieve the promised 6 % expenditure on Indian education. The changes in recent years implies towards the same where with 4.6 % of GDP spending on education there was lacuna of funds for many ignored but crucial requirements in indian schooling.
The changes introduced in education policy 2020, after almost 34 years are coherent enough to make Indian youth and school going students ready for the 21st century. The revamping of education patterns in terms of breakdown of classes, changes in curriculum, changes in structure in higher education are some of the key points being discussed from NEP2020. The changes in academic structure in schooling 5+3+3+4 formula changing from earlier 10+2 are some rudimentary changes. As Dr. Sukhdeo Thorat mentioned in an interview given to Awaz india on 4 January 2020, he states that to bring such huge changes you need to give sufficient reasoning and evidence which are missing as compared to earlier education policy and commission system. Last commission like Kothari commission, Radhakrishnan commission, Mudalair commission, Indian education commissions are examples of the commissions which are held in depth discussion and wider discussions with different stakeholders. Here, we are unsure of mass level consultation even though it was prepared on Kasturi Ranjan's report opened up for suggestion from the audience. The access to suggestions was limited by many factors such as internet access issues, unawareness and language barrier.
The goal of universalizing the school education at all levels from pre to secondary school could be achieved by the NEP 2020 if the implementation happens with the intent mentioned in the policy document. To get the implementation done with intent advocated in the policy document, there should be emphasis on improving the most crucial section of education, such as infrastructure, support, tracking of students and their learning level. The association of well trained counselor and social worker with the school and most importantly the innovative education centre will help to bring approximately the 2 crore dropouts back in the schools as estimated by policy document. The policy also focuses on higher education, where 3.5 crore new seats are added in higher education with the aim to increase the GER in higher and vocational education from 26.3 to 50% by 2035. It will be possible only if the move is supplemented by life skill training provided to teachers and students. Learning from previous experience at the state level, the state can structure the vocational course more context based and suitable to students as per their diverse background. With the NEP 2020 passed which will be implemented in school, let's discuss a few provisions made in Indian school system.
Changed School Pattern (5+3+3+4):
New structure will help to formalize Anganwadi (Preschool) education and bring more responsibility on pre-school teachers. The formalization of preschool offered from the government will help to counter private commercialized nursery schooling. Students will be familiarized with content from a very young age. Along with this the NCERT, the National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education will develop. It will work towards strengthening the pre-school by providing training to teachers and Anganwadi workers on ECCE curriculum and pedagogy which is neglected in the case of Anganwadi workers. The segregation as foundation stage, preparatory stage, middle stage, Secondary stage can be instrumental in deciding the interest in pursuing education. Every stage has a different component added to it. Like the foundation stage has complete activity based learning, as preparatory stage has play, discovery and activity base, the middle stage has its base on experiential learning in core subjects, and for secondary education the focus is on multidisciplinary studies, greater critical thinking, and flexibility and student choice of subjects. The idea of having school complexes is also a great initiative which is suggested in earlier educational directives by the state but now making it policy will ensure the large scale implementation of the same. It will help with proper sharing of resources and making collaborative planning for school development. Currently many states have school complexes, such as Goa, Meghalaya, Delhi etc. where they conduct various activities in collaboration with neighboring schools.
Reform on Assessment :
The more emphasis on formative assessment as compared to the summative assessment will develop the higher order skill such as critical, analytical, creative and conceptual clarity among the students which is denied in the summative assessment for years. Also the idea of providing skill training from the 6th standard will help to reduce the gap in skill education in youth. It also recommends NIOS to expand to include vocational courses for 3rd, 5th and 8th standards also. The comprehensive integration of ICT and its wider use from the beginning will help students to become more techno savy.
Introducing artificial assessment in schools will lead to reducing disparities and biasness of teachers towards particular sections of students. Merging curricular, extracurricular and co curricular will hopefully lead to holistic development of students. We like to believe that these changes will lead to reduce dropouts from schools and efforts put in place to achieve 100% gross enrolment in school education by 2030bwill be an achievement for Indian education system.
Inclusive Approach :
Having a medium of instruction in mother tongue in a diverse country like India where mobility is high, the option of regional language for teaching and learning at least up to grade five and no language imposed on the child will create more comfort among the children, But on the other hand at secondary level there is an opportunity for the student to learn the other foreign languages for that they have to pay a lot of money to the private institutions after the secondary school. Along with this the most significant part of the policy is, the focus on the state and national development of curriculum material for students with hearing impairment and standardization of sign language across the country. Considering the recent pandemic, the online form of teaching and learning is focused by the policy to ensure the preparedness for the online learning alternative, where in case, the face to face learning will not work. The provision for creation of an Inclusion Fund and Energy-filled basket will help the socially and educationally disadvantaged students to pursue education where the money and food do not become the hindrance for students to continue their education. It will also reduce the dropouts.
Even though this move is welcomed by the majority of the academic section, it is not all hunky-dory so far. Few provisions might put the huge population in an adverse condition. For example if there is no change in mindset and perception towards school education and towards exams it will be additional burden as now more exams will be held at 3rd, 5th and 8th standards. Earlier under no detention policy till 8th standard every student was eligible for promotion in next class. But now students have to face additional burden with the existing pressure of 10th and 12th board examinations. Also reduction in curriculum if not done with consultation from diverse sections of society might lead to missing out on vital information of Indian society as well as academic importance. The recent move of removing demonization and secularism from the syllabus of CBSE adds to anxiety in educators across the country. Without proper training to teachers, the move on amalgamation of curricular, co curricular and extracurricular activities can create chaos.
The inclusive provision proposed by the policy is commendable such as funds for economically and socially disadvantaged groups, learning material for hearing impairment students but it raises the few questions like who will be responsible for allocation and utilisation of these funds? Who will regulate the interventions expected from the administration in case of injustice or atrocity happened with students from marginalized communities? What are the alternative plans if students drop out increases owing to vocational training provided from early years and students engaging in self employment for their livelihood? What about the more vulnerable groups such as LGBTQ who are the victim of harassment by their peers or even by teachers? What about the training and workshop for both the students and schools leaders to handle the sensitive issues related to LGBTQ? If the policy is not talking about such issues then who is going to talk about it?
Sudarshan Kasbe is the Director of Parmi Foundation,
Which advocates for Quality Education, Quality Health and Quality Standard of Life for Marginalized.
Bhavna Lakhan Completed her MA in Education from Azim Premji University, Banglore.