THE new National Education Policy (NEP), approved by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, focuses on overhauling the school curriculum, with “reformed” Board exams, a reduction in the syllabus to retain “core essentials” and a thrust on “experiential learning and critical thinking”.
“While the Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued, the existing system of Board and entrance examinations shall be reformed to eliminate the need for undertaking coaching classes. To reverse these harmful effects of the current assessment system, Board exams will be redesigned to encourage holistic development; students will be able to choose many of the subjects in which they take Board exams, depending on their individualised interests,” the policy states.
Speaking at the Cabinet briefing announcing the new policy, School Education Secretary Anita Karwal said, “Board exams will be low stake. The focus will be on testing concepts and knowledge application.”
The document adds “…all students will be allowed to take Board Exams on up to two occasions during any given school year, one main examination and one for improvement, if desired.”
The Cabinet also approved changing the name of the Union Human Resource Development Ministry to ‘Education Ministry’ to bring the “focus back on education and learning”.
On the medium of instruction in schools, the education policy states, “Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the homelanguage/ mothertongue/ local language/ regional language. Thereafter, the home/local language shall continue to be taught as a language wherever possible. This will be followed by both public and private schools.”
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A senior ministry official clarified to The Indian Express that mother tongue as medium of instruction was not compulsory for states. “Education is a concurrent subject. Which is why the policy clearly states that kids will be taught in their mother tongue or regional language ‘wherever possible’,” the officer said.
An education policy serves as a comprehensive framework to guide the development of education in the country. The policy provides a broad direction and while state governments are expected to follow it, it’s not mandatory to do so.
The document calls for an emphasis on mathematics and computational thinking, besides “knowledge on ancient India and its contributions to modern India”. The policy advocates the introduction of “contemporary subjects such as artificial intelligence, design thinking, holistic health and organic living”.
The school curriculum overhaul will come in the shape of a new National Curricular Framework for School Education (or NCFSE 2020-21), which will be undertaken by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
Textbook revisions will be undertaken based on the NCFSE. The NCERT has already undertaken two extensive revisions of school textbooks since 2014.
In a shift from the 1986 education policy, which pushed for a uniform 10+2 structure of school education, the new policy pitches for reconfiguration of curriculum and pedagogy in a “5+3+3+4” design, with three years of pre-school, followed by Classes 1 and 2 in the foundational stage of 3-8 years.
Following a protest by political parties, the reference to Hindi and English in the draft NEP regarding the three-language formula has been dropped from the final policy document. “The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and of the students, so long as at least two of the three languages are native to India,” the policy states.
The final policy document has also dropped the proposal to set up a National Education Commission as suggested by the K Kasturirangan Committee which submitted its report last year.
Sepeaking at the briefing, HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal said the NEP was the result of an extensive consultative process. “I think there would not have been a bigger consultation and discussion process in the world… people were consulted from every corner of the country, from parents, to teachers, to students, experts, politicians, academics, public representatives and 1.25 lakh gram samitis.”
Minister of State Sanjay Shamra Dhotre said, “Critical thinking, experiential and application-based learning, flexibility in learning, focus on life skills, multidisciplinarity, and continuous review are some of the salient features of this policy.”
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