National Education Policy

The draft NEP which is in news currently covers the entire gamut of education. It proposes a major shift in the existing school structure. After much deliberation and an exhaustive consultation process, the National Educational Policy (NEP) of India has finally seen the light of the day, providing India with an education community but largely being accepted as a positive step towards reforming an underperforming education system.

Some significant takeaways of NEP are as follows

On Foundational Literacy: As rightly pointed out by ASER – importance has been laid on the foundational reading & ability to carry out basic arithmetic of class second grade. This is a serious spot that was not given by previous educational policies. The recommendations regarding the medium of instruction and language learning are also closely tied to one of the keys stated goals of NEP 2020. Too many children do not understand the language being used as the medium of instruction in primary schools today and their ability to learn is severely impacted. This handicap stays with them since the teachers are continuously building upon the earlier learning. Soon, within just a few months, these students fall behind and are unable to catch up and attain foundational literacy and numeracy.

Multilingualism and the power of language: The policy has emphasized mother tongue/ local language /regional language as the medium of instruction at least till grade 5 but preferably till grade 8 and beyond. The draft 2019 suggested that English be taught well to all children as one of the three languages because studying English is aspirational in India, and students must not miss out on the advantages of being fluent in English. Here the onus is on the state governments to vary the medium of instruction across government schools within the state, depending on the needs of the local communities that each school serves, and to ensure that English is taught well in schools. So, for instance, a state Uttar Pradesh will have to make provisions for teachers to teach in multiple languages spoken in the states including Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Khadiboli among several others, or even teaching bi-lingually with Hindi, whichs is the present medium of instruction.

Teachers’ education: A new and comprehensive National curriculum framework for teacher’s education NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the MCT in consultation with NCERT. By 2030 the minimum degree qualification for teachers will be 4 years integrated B.Ed.  degree. Stringent action will be taken against sub-standard stand-alone Teachers Educational Institutions (TEIs).

Vocational Education: The Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system was always a pressing need, even at the best of times, for meeting the requirements of skilled manpower for India’s economy and for achieving the aim of inclusive and equitable growth. UNESCO’s recently released State of the Education Report for India 2020: Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is titled ‘Vocational Education First’ for several good reasons. The NEP 2020 heralds the potentially exclusive growth of vocational education in the country since it requires all educational institutions to integrate vocational education into their offerings. This will bring in a very large number of schools, colleges, and universities into the fold of potential TVET providers during the coming decade, making TVET available to millions of students. The report provides an overview of the state of TVET education in the country today and describes the challenges facing educational institutions in fulfilling the mandate of the NEP while also making several suggestions and recommendations for the way forward.

Digital Penetration: The future of work requires going beyond just learning how to use technology, children now need to go a step further and also learn how technologies are created and designed, at a very intuitive level. The NEP has cited the need for computational thinking at the foundational level but does not conceptualize the integration of digital skills into the core curriculum. Computer literacy and programming is something that can be integrated into curricula early on. To make it fun and engaging, it can even be used for storytelling and games. The advantages of an early beginning cannot be underestimated: The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) found that economies like South Korea and Singapore were far better at analyzing digital texts than other developed countries, simply because their students had greater experience in navigating technology and were, therefore, notably better at task-based browsing. These subtle differences eventually add up to a significant competitive edge. The absence of digital skills has the potential to greatly exacerbate increasing inequalities. The NEP recognises the need for inclusivity and makes provisions for policy design to address existing disparities. However, it will need explicit sustained efforts to ensure that India’s digital transformation does not leave some of us behind. Women will need a push from the education system to pursue STEM. Research suggests that they often display greater anxiety with respect to entering the field. Also, since discrimination tends to find its way into the technology we design, education systems shall need to incorporate gender and race sensitization as well as ethics as a part of the syllabi. Equitable access also demands that the policy’s goals of employing the technology be complemented by efforts to increase digital penetration and create foundational digital infrastructure.

The new education policy has a commendable vision, but its potency will depend on whether it is able to effectively integrate with the governments other policy initiatives- Digital India, Skill India, and the New Industrial Policy to name a few – in order to affect a coherent structural transfiguration. For instance, policy linkages can ensure that educational policy speaks to and learns from skill India’s experience in engaging more dynamically with the private sector to shape vocational education curricula in order to make it a success. There is also a need for more evidence-based decision – making, to adapt to rapidly evolving shifts and disruption. NEP has encouragingly provisioned for real time evaluation systems and a consultative monitoring framework. This shall enable the educational system to constantly reform itself, instead of waiting for a new education policy every decade for a shift in curriculum. This in itself will be a remarkable achievement.