national-education-policy-2020

Context: The union cabinet recently approved the new National Education Policy, making way for large scale, transformational reforms in both school and higher education sectors.

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  • The policy marks the fourth major policy initiative in education since Independence and is the first education policy of the 21st century and replaces the 34-year-old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986.
  • The policy is based on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability, and Accountability. 
  • It is also aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as giving quality education is SDG number 4.

Background

  • In May 2016, ‘Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy’ under the Chairmanship of Shri T.S.R. Subramanian, Former Cabinet Secretary, submitted its report. 
    • Based on this report, the Ministry prepared ‘Some Inputs for the Draft National Education Policy, 2016’.  
  • In June 2017 a ‘Committee for the Draft National Education Policy’  was constituted under the Chairmanship of Dr. K. Kasturirangan, which submitted the Draft National Education Policy, 2019 
  • This draft was made public and opened for feedback after the Lok Sabha election in May 2019.
  • NEP 2020 has been formulated after the process of consultation that involved nearly over 2 lakh suggestions from 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats, 6600 Blocks, 6000 ULBs, 676 Districts.

KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NEP,2020

  1. School Education
  • Ensuring Universal Access at all levels of school education
    • NEP 2020 emphasizes on ensuring universal access to school education at all levels- preschool to secondary.
    • About 2 crore out of school children will be brought back into mainstream under NEP 2020.
    • For achieving this following are some of the proposed ways.
      • Infrastructure support, 
      • Innovative education centers to bring back dropouts into the mainstream, 
      • Tracking of students and their learning levels, 
      • Facilitating multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes, 
      • An association of counselors or well-trained social workers with schools, 
      • Open learning for class 3,5 and 8 through NIOS and State Open Schools, 
      • Secondary education programs equivalent to Grades 10 and 12, vocational courses, 
      • Adult literacy and life-enrichment programs 
  • Early Childhood Care & Education with  new Curricular and Pedagogical Structure
    • The 10+2 structure of school curricula is to be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure.
    • This will bring the hitherto uncovered age group of 3-6 years under the school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for the development of mental faculties of a child. 
    • The new system will also have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/ pre-schooling.
    • NCERT will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8.
    • The planning and implementation of ECCE will be carried out jointly by the Ministries of HRD, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs.

  Image Source: MoHRD

  • Attaining Foundational Literacy and Numeracy
    • The policy calls for the setting up of a  National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by MHRD. 
    • States will prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners by grade 3 by 2025.
    • A National Book Promotion Policy is to be formulated.
  • Reforms in school curricula and pedagogy

  • The school curricula and pedagogy will aim for the holistic development of learners by 
    • Equipping them with the key 21st-century skills,
    • Reduction in curricular content to enhance essential learning and critical thinking 
    • Greater focus on experiential learning
  • Students will have increased flexibility and choice of subjects
    • There will be no rigid separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extracurricular activities, between vocational and academic streams.
  • Vocational education will also start in schools from the 6th grade, and will include internships.
  • A new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be developed by the NCERT.
  • Assessment Reforms
    • The policy envisages a shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment, which is - 
      • More competency-based, 
      • Promotes learning and development, and 
      • Tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity.
    • All students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority
    • Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued, but redesigned with holistic development as the aim.  
    • A new National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development),  will be set up as a standard-setting body.
  • Equitable and Inclusive Education
    • Special emphasis will be given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups(SEDGs) which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities and disabilities.  
    • The policy also includes setting up of a Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups. 
    • Children with disabilities will be enabled to fully participate in the regular schooling process.
    • Every state/district will be encouraged to establish “Bal Bhavans” as a special daytime boarding school, to participate in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities. 
    • Free school infrastructure can be used as Samajik Chetna Kendras.
    • Indian knowledge systems, including tribal and indigenous knowledge, will also be incorporated into the curriculum in an accurate and scientific manner.
  • Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path
    • Teachers will be recruited through robust and transparent processes.
    • A common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers and expert organizations from across levels and regions.
  • Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education
    • States/UTs will set up an independent State School Standards Authority (SSSA). 
    • Transparent public self-disclosure of all the basic regulatory information, as laid down by the SSSA, will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability. 
    • The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) through consultations with all stakeholders.
  1. Higher Education
  • Increase GER to 50 % by 2035
    • NEP 2020 aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035. 
  • Holistic Multidisciplinary Education
    • The policy envisages holistic undergraduate education with flexible curriculum, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education, and multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification.
    • Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, to be set up as models of the best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country.
    • The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education.
    • An Academic Bank of Credit is to be established for digitally storing academic credits earned from different  HEIs (Higher Education Institutes) so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned
  • Regulation
    • Higher Education Commission of India(HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body for entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education. 
    • HECI will have four independent verticals
      • National Higher education regulatory council (NHERC) for regulation, 
      • General Education Council (GEC) for standard-setting, 
      • Higher education Grants council for funding and 
      • National Accreditation Council for accreditation.
    • Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism is to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges.
  • Rationalized Institutional Architecture
    • The definition of University will allow a spectrum of institutions that range from Research-intensive universities to Teaching intensive Universities and Autonomous degree-granting colleges.
  • Teacher Education
    • A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education,NCFTE, 2021 will be formed by NCERT. Also, by 2030 the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4- year integrated B.Ed degree.
  • Open and distance learning
    • This will be expanded to play a significant role in increasing the gross enrollment ratio. 
    • Measures such as online courses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, etc will be taken.
  • Online and digital education
    • A comprehensive set of recommendations for promoting online education consequent to the pandemic in order to ensure preparedness has been covered.
    • A dedicated unit for the purpose building of digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be created in the MHRD to look after the e-education needs of both school and higher education.
    • Students will begin classes on coding as well as vocational activities from Class 6 onwards.
  • Technology in Education
    • An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for free exchange of ideas on the use of technology.
  • Adult Education
    • The policy aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy.
  • Financing education
    • The central government and state governments will work together to increase the public investment in the education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.

 

Language issue 

  • Provisions in the original draft: Language issues caused the most outrage at that time, because the original draft had called for mandatory teaching of Hindi to all school students.
  • Greater flexibility in the new policy:
    • However, the final policy document makes it clear that no language will be imposed on any State.
    • The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and of also the students themselves, so long as at least two of the three languages are native to India.
  • Classical languages:
    • Sanskrit will be offered as an option at all levels of school and higher education.
    • Other classical languages will also be available, possibly as online modules, while foreign languages will be offered at the secondary level.
  • Mother tongue
    • Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/ mother-tongue/ local language/ regional language.
    • According to the new policy, this will be followed by both public and private schools.

 

Significance of The National Education Policy, 2020 

  • Coverage:  The policy seeks to address the entire gamut of education from preschool to doctoral studies, and from professional degrees to vocational training.
  • Acknowledges the 21st-century need:  It recognizes the need for mobility, flexibility, alternate pathways to learning, and self-actualization.
  • Recognizes the primacy of the formative years: 
    • The 2020 policy attempts to break free from the shackles of the past. 
    • By adopting a 5+3+3+4 model for school education starting at age 3, it recognizes the primacy of the formative years from ages 3 to 8 in shaping the child’s future.
    • For the first time, early childhood education has been brought in the mainframe.
  • Recognizes the importance of learning in the mother tongue: 
    • The policy also recognizes the importance of learning in the child’s mother tongue till at least Class 5.
    • Multilingual felicity could become the USP of the educated Indian.
  • New methodologies for attaining the GER target 
    • The new policy envisages a 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030.
    • NEP 2020 proposes a multi-disciplinary higher education framework with portable credits, and multiple exits with certificates, diplomas, and degrees.
    • The role of our colleges in attaining the ambitious GER target is recognized by empowering them as autonomous degree-granting institutions, and phasing out the affiliated colleges.
    • The policy also envisages to utilize the huge potential of online pedagogy and learning methodologies for attaining the GER target.
    • NEP also lays particular emphasis on providing adequate support to ensure that no child is deprived of education, and every challenged child is provided the special support she needs.
  • A “light but tight” oversight:
    • NEP 2020 makes a bold prescription to free our schools, colleges, and universities from periodic “inspections” and place them on the path of self-assessment and voluntary declaration
    • Transparency, maintaining quality standards, and a favorable public perception will become a 24X7 pursuit for the institutions, leading to all-round improvement in their standard.
    • Higher Education Commission of India(HECI), a single body with four verticals for standards-setting, funding, accreditation, and regulation is proposed to provide “light but tight” oversight.
  • An ambitious target of public spending 
    • All the targets in the field require enormous resources. The policy has also set an ambitious target of public spending at 6% of GDP.
  • Other benefits:
    • Provision of an energy-filled breakfast, in addition to the nutritious mid-day meal, to help children achieve better learning outcomes is a good step.
    • The creation of ‘inclusion funds’ to help socially and educationally disadvantaged children pursue education.

Problems in the new policy

  • The problem with the new policy is that there is no clarity on how it is to be implemented and does not break-free from the pressures of the old education system.
  • It is being said that the NEP is a poorly funded and highly regulated policy that has multiple regulatory bodies that will end up clashing with each other.
    • In the last six years the education budget has actually reduced. Therefore, reaching the target of six percent seems difficult.
  • Needed more tangible and realizable targets
    • There is a goal of a 50 percent gross enrolment ratio in higher education and 100 percent in secondary schools. However, it could be tough since it was currently 25.8% in high education & 68% in Class 9.
    • The NEP should have offered more tangible and realizable targets for research
      • Total investment in research and innovation in India declined from 0.84% of GDP in 2008 to 0.6% in 2018. 
      • There are currently only 15 researchers in India per 100,000 of the population, compared with 111 in China.
  • Burden on the existing school infrastructure:
    • The NEP 2020 had also left many unanswered questions on the upgrade of school infrastructure and shortage of qualified and trained teachers
    • Placing the burden of pre-primary education on the overstretched, under-funded, and under-equipped anganwadis can be disastrous.
  • Centralizing tendencies:
    • It is being said that the policy is an attempt to lead to total privatization, commercialization, and over-centralization
    • This may result in higher fees, attacks on the autonomy of universities, and no permanent jobs in teaching.
  • Not enough provisions for removing digital divide
    • India’s digital divide that has been highlighted and deepened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Disparities between the rich and poor, urban and rural, show up strikingly in access to digital tools.
  • The policy does not talk about how to improve government schools but encourages private ones.
  • The new policy does not mention doing away with rote learning and moving to a continuous assessment model instead.
  • The new policy is also completely silent on sports.

Way ahead

  • Implementation of the new policy
    • Education is a concurrent list subject, also most states have their own school boards.
      • Therefore, the state governments would have to be brought on board for the actual implementation of this decision.
    • The idea of a National Higher Education Regulatory Council as an apex control organisation is bound to be resented by States. 
    • Similarly, a national body for aptitude tests would have to convince the States of its merits.
  • Progress on this crucially depends on the will to spend the promised 6% of GDP as public expenditure on education. 
  • Among the many imperatives, the deadline to achieve universal literacy and numeracy by 2025 should be a top priority that will crucially determine progress at higher levels.

It needs to be realised that the real test of a policy is on the ground not just on paper.The National Education Policy 2020 provides the ingredients and the right recipe; what we make of it depends entirely on us.

Image Source: TH

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