The Indian Government released New Education Policy on 29 July 2020, is a historic and ambitions document. with an eye on future, its speaks to all aspects of education during our times. This policy is in many ways radically different from all its predecessors, and look at our educational requirements in a new way.
Education has been seen as a core necessity of individuals, social groups, nations and human society. The modern world views it as a basic human right. Since the formation of the Indian Republic, most landmark committees or commissions on education have unequivocally underscored the idea of education for all. Many crucial concerns of contemporary education find mention in earlier policy documents too.
Yet a, study of previous reports and policies makes it amply clear that the educational journey of our country has been quite uneven, and many genuine aspirations have remained unrealized seven after seven decades of Independence.
It would be unfair to claim that our predecessors did not act upon these concerns with reasonable sincerity, at least at the planning level. Yet, in a vast, populous and diverse country of staggering socio-economic differentials, the execution of policy is always a challenge. This is clearly reflected in the recurrence of core educational concerns in reports or policy documents published since the early 1950s.
The last national education policy was created in 1986. During these 34 years, the world has changed unprecedented ways, Revolutionary alternations in the world’s political economy, fuelled by technological developments, have significantly contributed to the dismantling of the barriers of gender, class, caste, culture geographical distance , and so forth. All this has created a strong sense of aspiration and hope among the people.
Rapid economic developments after 1991, the year when India opened economically, have triggered a high demand for knowledge and specialized skills. During the two-and-a-half decades since economic liberalization, no comprehensive national vision could be conceived to address the gross systemic inadequacies impending the momentum of an asp rational and restless India.
This is the background in which our government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister has given priority to a board-based and futuristic national education policy. The framing of this policy has been a mammoth exercise. Two Feedbacks from the grass-roots was meticulously collected and stakeholders widely consulted. The state governments were always a part of the loop. The policy documents several times before being sent to the cabinet for approval.
The new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, released on 29 July 2020, is a historic and ambitious document. With an eye on the future, it speaks to all aspects of education during our times. The policy is in many ways radically different from all its predecessors and it looks at our educational requirements in a new way.
One of the essential as well as fundamental issues that had been left unaddressed until now is early childhood Care and Education (ECCE). The holistic developments of any individual essentially start with his or her nourishment and nurturing during the early years.
The policy says, over 85% of a child’s cumulative brain developments occurs prior to the age of 6, indicating the critical importance of appropriate care and stimulation of the brain early years’. This idea is based on strong evidence produced by the latest researches in the field of neurosciences and brain development. The early years are the most crucial for the development of the brain.
The later cognitive, intellectual and skill advancements are built on capacities unleashed during the crucial early-childhood years. Unfortunately, cores of children are still deprived of quality early childhood care and education due to various sociology-economic disadvantage their families face.
With the perspective in mind the policy makers have remagined pre primary education and have envisaged integrating this stage of a child’s physical, mental and cognitive developments with the extant formal schooling pattern. Hence, the 10+2 by 5+3+3+4 model of ECCE and schooling. Allow me to explain this important change at some length at some length.
ECCE shall take place from the ages of 3 to 6 in Aganwadis, Balvavatikas and play-schools. This will be followed by Classes 1 and 2 in school. Together, the ECCE years and the first five two years of schooling from the first five years of the new model. These five years constitute the foundational stage of education. This will be followed by Classes 3 to 5 (3 years) 6, to 8 (three years) and 9 to 12 (four years).
The restructuring of the whole span of schooling has been proposed keeping in mind the developmental needs and interest of learners at different stages of their physical mental, emotional and psychological development. This proposed structure is in sync with the age ranges or developments stages of children. As the policy proposes, the overreaching goal would be to ensure universal access to high quality ECCE across the country.
This will not only provide nutrition and care for healthy physical and mental growth but will also focus on developing cognitive, affective, psychomotor abilities and early literacy and numeracy. A National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for early childhood care and educational research and training (NCERT). This will focus on several important aspects of ECCE including high quality ECCE teacher preparedness. The manner in which the policy emphasizes ECCE can be gauged from its plan to bring four crucial central ministries together for smooth integration of early childhood care and education into school education.
These ministries are: Human Resource Development (i.e. Ministry of Education), Women and Child Developments (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs. Once effectively implemented, as envisaged by the farmers of NEP 2020, ECCE will be the biggest game-changer in education.
With respect to school education, the makers of the policy have given special emphasis on learning to be holistic, experiential, integrative, and enjoyable. The policy aims at real understanding and towards learning, something that the National Curriculum Framework of 2005 had tried t cure. Rote memorization and mindless regurgitation in response questions that are neither analytical nor reflective is nothing but the storing of sterile and unconnected pieces of information in the mind. This is cognitively taxing and, more often than not, an exercise in futility. The proposed curricular and pedagogic approach underscores critical thinking and learning based on inquiry, discovery, discussion and analysis.
Furthermore, it does recognize stubborn distinctions between different curricular areas, and among curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular areas. Art-and sports –integrated education will be important stands in this cross-curricular pedagogic approach. Flexibility in course choices will be another curricular advantage for students. The thought behind this curricular overhaul is to create’ holistic and well-rounded individuals equipped with the key 21st century skills’. In a brilliantly written contrarian book, the Fuzzy and the Techie, Scott Hartley argues that technologists (the techies) do not drive innovation alone; it is the humanists and the social scientists (the fuzzies, perhaps coined pejoratively) who play so much of a role in creating successfully business or policy ideas.
Despite a radical curricular and structural redrawing the outcomes of the new policy cannot exceed the professional capacity and vision of the teachers. Teacher’s capacity cannot be enhanced unless their pre-and-in service education, service conditions, and terms of recruitment and deployment do not receive renewed focus and uplift. The policy treats this concern in a detailed and sensitive manner.
To attract outstanding students to the teaching profession, it propose a large number of merit-based scholarship for pursuing quality 4-years integrated B.Ed. programmes, with special focus on rural areas. It is also proposed to strengthen Teacher Eligibility Tests (TET) with respect to the assessment of several parameters: subject-content and pedagogy, classroom teaching in the local proficiency of teaching in the local language. These tests will therefore include teaching demonstration and interview components.
In order ‘to maximize the ability of teachers to do their jobs effectively’ the menace of excessive and arbitrary transfer will become a thing of the past and teachers will not be involved in assignments that have no bearing on their work. Teachers’ professional autonomy will be restored, and a comprehensive ‘merit based structure of tenure promotion, and salary structure will be developed’. The policy also envisages that teacher education will be gradually moved (by 2030) to multidisciplinary colleges and universities. A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education will be prepared by the National Council of Teacher education by 2021, in consolation with the NCERT.
The makers of the policy have been as versatile regarding higher education. A distinctive feature of higher education is that it produces knowledge resource through which all education takes place, resources used by society to chart our its progress over time. The concerns of higher education are quite diverse and complex. In order to keep pace and be ahead of others, we need to focus more rigorously on the complex matrix of higher education.
The committee working on the policy has succinctly identified the role of higher education as promoting human as well as societal well-being and developing India as envisioned in its Constitution-a- democratic just socially conscious, cultured and humane nation, upholding liberty , equality, fraternity, and justice for all. According to the makers of this policy, some of the salient problems encumbering the higher education system in India are rigid separation of disciplines, limited teacher and institutional autonomy, lack of focus and poor institutional governance.
Recognizing these and other problems impeding the effective functioning and progress of higher education intuitions in the country, the policy envisions a complete overhaul’ of the system. It was naturally anticipated that revamping of curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, and educational administration would be recommended by the policy lays out a fairly radical reformation of the higher education structure.
Multi disciplinarily, flexibility and autonomy are central to this reform, through these key ingredients, freshness and vitality are accorded to this stage of education. The decision to do away with the adamantine walls between different discipline and the provision to freedom to exit and center courses, as these will be credit-based ad will truly liberate learners. The policy grants them freedom to choose what to learn, how to learn when to learn.
Now, one can opt to study Sanskrit along with Mathematics or Music with Physics. The earlier segregation of streams, rather regimented did not allow for any formal or institutional interface between the sciences, the social sciences and the humanities.
This did not allow for wholesome developments of individuals. The policy’s proposal of integrate engineering courses, at and the humanities in order to move towards holistic and multidisciplinary education, would surely enthuse every thinking being. This is a holistic approach and should lead to the blossoming of various human capacities-intellectual, aesthetic, social, physical, emotional and moral- in an integrated manner.
The principal thrust of the policy is to curb fragmentation of higher education through restructuring higher education institutions onto large multidisciplinary universities, colleges, and higher education institutions (HEI) clusters or knowledge hubs. Though all such multidisciplinary universities are envisaged to carry out ‘teaching research, and community engagement’. Some would develop as teaching –intensive universities and some as research-intensive ones.
Research is at the foundation of knowledge creation and it plays a key role in sustains and further uplifting any human society. Research, both in fundamental and applied disciplines is essential for progress, especially in toady’ fast developing world.
In order to create a robust ecosystem for high quality research, the policy envisages the creation of a National Research Foundation (NRF). One of the salient thrust of this Foundation would be to enable a culture of research to permeate through our universities. The Foundation’s main objectives will be to identify priority areas or themes for research and coordinate with different academic institutions and funding agencies in order to ‘ensure’ synergy of purpose and avoid duplication of efforts’.
While looking at the nuances of higher education and research, the policy framers have been sensitive to the needs of our vast population and the national economy. Large –scale employment creation as well as the creation higher knowledge is our necessity.
Our ever expanding and ever-evolving economy requires workers and professionals with diverse and specialized skill sets. It is quite disconcerting to relies that despite Mahatma Gandhi’s emphatic underscoring of Vocational education, we have not been able to create any effective synchronization of vocational education and ‘mainstream’ education. We have considered vocational education inferior and ‘meant’ with the latter’.
The policy aspires to dismantle this status hierarchy and aims to integrate vocational education with mainstream education. Starting with vocational exposure in the middle and secondary classes’ quality’ vocational education will be integrate smoothly into higher education’. This will ensure that every individual learns at least one vocation and is able to develop a sense of the dignity of labour and respect for various vocations.
This will also enable us to tap our demographic dividend and address skill-deflects of the economy. The policy envisions that the “development of ‘academic” or other capacities’.
Highlighting the equal importance of vocational education and higher learning, the American public intellectual and statesman, john W Gardner had a seminal point in his book, Excellence Can Be Equal and Excellent Too? : ‘the society which scorns excellence in plumbing as neither humble nor good philosophy; neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water’.
In conclusion, I would like to argue that the New Education Policy, 2020 appears to be truly visionary and it success, however, lies in its effective implementation. The government will not leave any stone unturned in this national rebuilding project