Understanding the National Education Policy 2020
In our first Finshot today, we try to understand what's in the New Education Policy. And yes, there's a second part.
It’s been 34 years since India has made any major reforms in its education system. But on Wednesday, after 6 years of deliberation, the National Education Policy (NEP) was finally unveiled. The policy seeks to ramp up public investment in education from 4.4% of India’s GDP to 6%, and through a host of changes, transform education for almost 300 million students in the country!
And to this end, the policy lays down comprehensive reforms that will impact every student- right from the tiny tot going to her first playschool to an ambitious masters’ graduate considering a PhD programme. So let’s dig in.
The NEP is breaking down the existing structure of India’s K-12 education. There’s no more 10+2 - 10 years of primary and secondary education followed by 2 years of higher secondary education. Schools in India will now follow the 5+3+3+4 structure.
But wait- 5+3+3+4= 15. Does this mean students are now required to spend 15 years in school?
Well, they already do. You see, most children (in cities) start their education by the age of 3 through playschools. The new structure is simply bringing playschools into the formal education ambit, and dividing the school structure based on the developmental stages of children.
So for the first 5 years, children aged 3 to 8 years will enter the foundational stage. Since maximum brain development happens at these ages, the curriculum will focus on learning languages, playing, and activities. After 5 years of this, these kids will enter grade 3, where the focus will shift to discovery, and interaction-based classroom learning. Linguistic and numeracy skills will be honed at this stage.
One contentious point here was the medium of instruction. There was some confusion that lessons till grade 5 would be taught strictly in the mother tongue or the local language prevalent in the region. But that’s not entirely accurate. According to the policy, “Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the mothertongue... Thereafter, the home/local language shall continue to be taught as a language wherever possible. This will be followed by both public and private schools.” So this phrase ‘wherever possible’ clearly gives some wiggle room to schools. All in all, three languages are to be taught to all students and while states are allowed to decide what to pick, two of these languages have to be native to India.
Anyway, once these students get to grade 6, the pedagogy will evolve to more experiential learning in the sciences, mathematics, arts, social sciences and humanities. This is also when students will be introduced to vocational training- they’ll be taught technical skills that will allow them to take up jobs in specialised trades or crafts like pottery or carpentry. In fact, they’ll also have to do a 10-day internship with local experts!
This will go on till students get to grade 9. Once there, they will be exposed to multidisciplinary studies where they get to pick the subjects they like from the ones available. No more Science vs Commerce. No more compartmentalization of those adept at mathematics and the ones interested in History. Basically, there are no more streams. You can choose to study Physics along with Sanskrit, or Political Science along with Computers, and your school will have to accommodate you. Even vocational courses and extra curricular activities will be given as much leverage as academic studies.
Of course, amid all these changes, something will have to be done about those career defining assessments that make students everywhere tremble- board exams. Unfortunately, the policy does not discontinue board exams. But it does lower their importance and make them easier. What’s more, students will be allowed to take them again if they think there’s scope for improvement!
Which brings us to...
The National Testing Agency (NTA) will be charged with conducting (optional) entrance examinations for admissions into higher educational institutes across the country. This will be a standardised test, similar to the SAT which is used for college admissions in the US.
Once selected into a college, students will enroll in a 3 or 4 year undergraduate degree, with an option of leaving whenever they want. If you complete one year, you’ll get a certificate. Two years gets you a diploma. If you stick it out for three or four years (depending on the course), you’ll get a degree. And if you pursue a four-year programme with research, you’ll be an eligible PhD candidate.
Another really cool bit here is the Academic Bank of Credit (ABC). An ABC will store the academic credits that students earn by taking courses from various recognized higher education institutions. Whenever you complete a course, a number of credits will be added to your bank. You can then transfer these credits if you decide to switch colleges. And even if you’re forced to drop out for some reason, these credits will remain intact. Meaning you can come back years later and pick up from where you left off.
Another thing the policy focuses on is the need to make universities multidisciplinary. Meaning, they’ll be expected to teach everything from arts, science, management, etc. under one roof. By 2040, the government seeks to phase out single-stream institutions in favour of this model.
All in all, the changes underlined in the NEP seem well thought out. As education expert Meeta Sengupta says, “This is an NEP that offers Choice, Chance and Change." But as always, implementation is key and we’ll just have to wait and see how things turn out.
-By Vedika Agarwal