A few educationists, institution heads, and parents of school/college-going kids in Gujarat were interviewed recently in order to gain more perspective on the new National Education policy that the Union cabinet of India put forth on 29th July’20 after the 34-year-old National policy on education which was framed in 1986. Especially after the pandemic crisis, the education system was on the verge of collapsing, thus came a policy that envisions gigantic changes to restructure the education system.
The policy places a welcome emphasis on a holistic, learner-centered, flexible system that seeks to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society. It rightfully balances the rootedness and pride in India as well as acceptance of the best ideas and practices in the world of learning from across the globe. The new policy aims for universalization of education from pre-school to secondary level with 100 percent Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030 and aims to raise GER in higher education to 50 percent by 2025.
The new NEP (National Education Policy) sets up a 5+3+3+4 plan in the system of school education, where instead of 10+2 age groups are now classified as 3-8 years (foundational), 8-11 years (preparatory), 11-14 years (middle), and 14-18 years (secondary) respectively. Along with this bifurcation, the broader goals of this policy are to recognize the unique abilities of students by engaging them into both academic and non-academic fields, to equip students with foundational literacy before getting to the 3rd grade, to blur the lines between academic streams like arts and sciences, to have more focus on vocational studies with internship opportunities, to help with conceptual learning, to build the ability of critical thinking and logical decision making, to encourage learning of ethical and spiritual values and finally to induce technology in the new learning format so that advancements of the 21st century are met.
“The National Education Policy is rather imposed than recommended,” said Dheeraj Singh (Principal, Global mission international School, Ahmedabad). The question of it being ‘imposed’ comes from the fact the government came up with these short-term goals which are rather long-term ambitions without looking into the pre-existing problems with such policies. Mr. Singh further added that the recommendation to use mother tongue to teach various subjects up to preparatory level is only viable when the teachers are empowered enough to convey correctly in any language they use. The quality and competence of teachers will largely affect the direction in which this policy will be implemented.
Ms. Seema Panicker (Headmistress, Ambe Vidhyalaya-Vadodara) on the other hand, said “if implemented correctly, the National Education Policy can do wonders and it will give India a way forward. Certain features of the NEP (National Education Policy) not only favor that particular aspect but also give a holistic vision around that construct. The government hasn’t left any stone unturned in developing this policy. The 6% of the GDP as a contribution to this educational policy in India is the first and foremost step to assure that even financial boosts will be given where needed.” She also emphasized that the inclusion of vocational courses will carve a path for students, at the same time it will also glorify the dignity of jobs that otherwise may be looked down on by society. “Some may consider the use of mother tongue, a constraint but for me, it’s a way to inculcate multilingualism”, Ms. Panicker claimed as she believes that developing the skill of knowing various languages will be beneficial for students in the future, especially in a diverse nation like India.
Another perspective that is essential to consider is that of the parents of school/college-going kids. “The prospects of National Education Policy to me seem to be apprehensive,” said Viniti Jain (Teacher, DPS Bopal- Ahmedabad). Although as a teacher she sees National Education Policy 2020 as a way forward in the education system, her concerns and anxiety regarding the policy as a parent are high. For students in their secondary, the implementation of the policy will simply be chaos because it is likely that the policy is implied by next year, according to which the lines between streams like arts and sciences will be blurred and multidisciplinary courses will be introduced. Uncertainty and confusion about career choices are likely to rise due to this. Another matter of concern has to do with the use of the mother tongue till the preparatory level. Ms. Jain quoted “What if we have transferrable jobs and the child moves to a different state every year?”, grasping content in mother tongue won’t be as feasible and might hamper the conceptual understanding of the student. Moreover, the policy recommends experiential learning which again depends on the infrastructure of institutions and not all of them would be the same.
Thus, National Education Policy 2020 is definitely a paradigm shift to strengthen learning at all levels which has the prospects of a productive outcome. It’s not merely the emphasis on the system, but also a preparation for life. However, even though the recommendations made by the National Education Policy 2020 are quite vibrant, their implementations at the grassroots level seem to be challenging. A lot of sincere efforts are required to equip various functionaries, infrastructure, training sessions, and upgrading the value of education. Hence, it is still debatable and yet not foolproof to ensure a better learning outcome.
About the Author
(B.A Hons Liberal Arts, NMIMS Mumbai)