Two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that 14,500 schools across India will be upgraded to showcase components of the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a new centrally sponsored scheme under which the initiative will be implemented.
The PM SHRI scheme
According to the Ministry of Education, the scheme will be called PM SHRI Schools (PM Schools for Rising India). Under the scheme, 14,500 schools across India’s states and Union Territories will be redeveloped to reflect the key features of the NEP, 2020.
The idea was first discussed with the Education Ministers of states and UTs during a conference organised by the Ministry of Education in June at Gandhinagar in Gujarat. Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the Centre has held many rounds of discussions with the states on the implementation of the scheme. The idea of PM SHRI, he said, was to create a set of schools that would be able to act as “NEP labs”.
Key features of NEP
The NEP for schools envisages a curricular structure and teaching style categorised in four stages: foundational, preparatory, middle, and secondary.
According to the NEP, the foundational years (pre-school and grades I and II) should involve play-based learning. At the preparatory level (grades III-V), light textbooks are to be introduced along with some formal classroom teaching.
Subject teachers are to be introduced at the middle level (grades VI-VIII). The secondary stage (grades IX-XII) will be multidisciplinary, with no hard separation between arts and sciences or other disciplines.
It also proposed that board exams be held twice a year, including one for helping students to improve their scores, and that two types of papers on mathematics should be offered — a standard paper, and a different one to test higher levels of competency.
Centrally sponsored scheme
A centrally sponsored scheme is one in which the cost of implementation is mostly split in a 60:40 ratio between the Union government and the states/UTs. The mid-day meal scheme (now PM Poshan) or the PM Awas Yojana are examples of centrally sponsored schemes.
In the case of the Northeastern states, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, and UTs without legislatures, the Centre’s contribution can go up to 90 per cent. PM SHRI will be implemented at a cost of Rs 27,360 crore over the next five years, in which the Centre’s share will be Rs 18,128 crore.
PM SHRI, KVs, JNVs
Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs) come entirely under the Centre’s Ministry of Education. They are fully funded by the Union government under central sector schemes. While KVs largely cater to children of central government employees posted in states and UTs, JNVs were set up to nurture talented students in rural parts of the country.
PM SHRI schools will be an upgrade of existing schools run by the Centre, states, UTs, and local bodies. This essentially means that a PM SHRI school can be an upgraded KV, JNV, or even a school that is run by a state government or a municipal corporation.
Where and how
The PM SHRI scheme will be application-based, which means states will have to identify schools for upgradation under the scheme. Subsequently, schools will be required to self-apply online. The portal will be opened four times a year, once every quarter, for the first two years of the scheme.
According to the selection methodology decided by the central government, states and UTs interested in getting included under the scheme will have to first agree to implement the NEP in its entirety. Also, only those schools that meet a certain benchmark will qualify — the qualification criteria will include around 60 parameters from the availability of electricity to toilets.
In the third stage, teams of state government officials, KVs, and JNVs will verify the claims made by the applicant school through a physical inspection. “Maximum two schools (one Elementary & one Secondary/ Senior Secondary) would be selected per block/ ULB…” (urban local body) as per the plan. The final call will be taken by an expert committee.
What’s the difference
How PM SHRI schools will be different from existing government-run schools remains to be seen — however, as per the plan, the upgraded schools are expected to be superior in terms of infrastructure. They will be equipped with labs, smart classrooms, libraries, sports equipment, art room, etc., and shall also be developed as green schools with water conservation, waste recycling, energy-efficient infrastructure and integration of organic lifestyle in curriculum. These schools will also “offer mentorship” to other schools in their vicinity.
In terms of the quality of education, there will be special modules on improving foundational literacy and numeracy. Each school will be linked/ connected to higher education institutions for mentoring, and there will be provisions for internships with local artisans.
“Pedagogy adopted in these schools will be more experiential, holistic, integrated, play/ toy-based (particularly, in the foundational years) inquiry-driven, discovery-oriented, learner-centred, discussion-based, flexible and enjoyable,” the central government said in a statement. “Focus will be on learning outcomes of every child in every grade. Assessment at all levels will be based on conceptual understanding and application of knowledge to real life situations, and will be competency-based.”