July 29, 2021 8:49:59 pm
Written by Sudha Acharya
The year 2020 marked a major positive breakthrough in the form of the National Education Policy 2020 — re-imagining the educational landscape through equity, inclusion and excellence in education. Though the year started with unprecedented times, NEP 2020 was the much-needed silver lining. As we complete a year to this progressive roadmap, let’s look at the instructional sensitivity and mounting steps which are accelerating our progress towards the realisation of this omnibus policy. Based on the pillars of “Accessibility, Equity, Quality, Affordability, Accountability”, NEP aims at transforming India into a vibrant knowledge hub.
With almost 85 per cent of brain development of children occurring before the age of 6, the policy emphasises early childhood care and education with universal provisioning and equipping young children to participate and flourish in the educational ecosystem. Schools are gradually moving towards a flexible, multifaceted, multilevel, play-based, activity-based and inquiry and domain-based learning. With this overarching goal, it has already made headway towards universal access to high-quality ECCE in a phased manner.
Gradually breaking the shackles of the past in adopting a curricular framework and classroom pedagogy that is based on the 5+3+3+4 system, starting at age 3, there is an emphasis on the primacy of the formative years from ages 3 to 8 in shaping the child’s future.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” The focus on instruction in the mother tongue is largely to celebrate the idea of being Indian, globalising Indian thoughts, eulogising the rich cultural heritage of our country and bringing it to our classrooms. The policy necessitates the continuation of the three-language formula and its implementation to promote multilingualism — a USP of the educated Indian.
In 2021, we have already shifted assessment gears to a diagnostic approach — from content-based assessment to competency-based, making Board exams “easier” in the sense that they test primarily core competencies rather than content memorisation. With the ongoing emphasis on transforming assessment for optimising learning and the holistic development of all students in tandem with the environment, the focus is on regular, formative and competency-based learning and development; focus on “assessment for learning”, testing of higher-order skills (analysis, critical thinking and conceptual clarity, etc), multimodal assessment through multiple-choice questions to reach the top bracket of Bloom’s Taxonomy, learning through reasoning, storytelling, podcasts, puppetry, etc. Report cards are becoming 360-degree holistic progress cards that will give comprehensive feedback on skills and capabilities, substituting the age-old system of marks.
Holistic development and a wide choice of subjects and courses are proposed as the new distinguishing feature of secondary school education. Today, the school planners and annual calendars are reflecting no hard separation amongst “curricular”, “extra-curricular” and “co-curricular” activities among arts, humanities, and science or between vocational or academic streams.
With the idea that learning should be child-centric, holistic, integrated, enjoyable and engaging, schools are slowly breaking the straitjackets of arts, commerce and science streams in high school, and aiming to introduce vocational courses with internships. The policy envisages a 100 per cent Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030.
It is said that the jobs of the future are yet to be invented, but with the focus on 21st-century skills — scientific temper and evidence-based thinking, creativity and innovativeness, sense of aesthetics and art, oral and written communication, health and nutrition, physical education, wellness, fitness and sports, collaboration and teamwork, problem solving and logical reasoning, coding and computational thinking, environmental awareness, water and resources conservation, etc. — we are slowly beginning to resonate with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Therefore, one of the targets is that curricular and pedagogical initiatives including the introduction of contemporary subjects such as artificial intelligence, design thinking, holistic health, organic living, etc, are integrated.
To ensure the quality of teacher education across all stages, the policy envisions teacher career progression via meritocracy and 360-degree assessments.
Aiming for equitable and inclusive education, the policy reaffirms every citizen’s right to dream, thrive and contribute to the nation, bridging the social category gaps in access, participation and learning outcomes. To specially address their educational needs, the NEP has clubbed gender identities, socio-cultural identities, geographical identities, disabilities, and socio-economic conditions to create a new social group called SEDGs.
More significantly, schools are to be hubs for endorsing resource efficiency and robust governance in the form of school complexes/clusters which aim to improve support for children where we care and share, collaborate and co-create the best pedagogical practices.
NEP 2020 aims to provide infrastructure support, innovative education centres to bring back dropouts into the mainstream, besides tracking students and their learning levels, facilitating multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes and association of counsellors or well-trained social workers with schools. Having a single regulator for higher education institutions, multiple entry and exit options in degree courses, the low-stakes board exams, and common entrance exams for universities — these are some of the key takeaways from the new policy.
Each of these reforms reflects the fact that India is evolving as an economy, and is preparing to be recognised as a force to be reckoned with.
The writer is principal, ITL Public School, Dwarka, Delhi