In a much needed overhaul of India’s education, system, the National Education Policy 2020 aims to encourage higher standards for students in schools and colleges through sweeping reforms, seen as the most ambitious since the introduction of the 10 + 2 + 3 system. Here’s a a look at the key changes that will affect students across age groups.
More time to build foundation
The policy modifies the current 10+2 structure, which covered schooling from Class 1 to 10 (age 6 to 16) and then Class 11 and 12 (age 16 to 18). NEP now breaks it down into foundational, preparatory, middle and secondary school levels — 5 years of foundational education, 3 years of preparatory, 3 years of middle and 4 years of secondary schooling. The new structure includes three years of preschool education for 3-6 year olds with the objective to provide widespread access to early education through anganwadis and expansion of existing schools.
National mission on foundational literacy and numeracy
An estimated 5 crore elementary students are not proficient in reading and writing, and basic addition and subtraction. By 2025, the goal is to achieve universal “foundational literacy and numeracy” by the time a child reaches the Class 3 level. The focus on early childhood education in the NEP is being seen as a good step for school education.
Students will be taught three languages through their schooling years. Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Class 5, but preferably till Class 8 and beyond, will be the home language/mother tongue/local language/regional language. The Centre has, however, said the language policy is a broad guideline and it is up to states to decide exact implementation. State governments are free to choose based on regional languages and students will be given the choice between other Indian and foreign languages starting in Class 6 or 7. According to Ramesh Pokhriyal, culture and education minister, there will be flexibility in the three-language formula and no language will be imposed on any state. The policies will also set in motion the standardisation of Indian Sign Language.
While these reforms in the policy have mostly been been appreciated, R Govinda, former vice chancellor, National University for Educational Planning, has some misgivings. He believes NEP hadn’t bridged the disconnect between the system and the ground reality in India. “Implementing the mother tongue and supporting early childhood education are good to listen to. But we have to see what has worked and what hasn’t. The most important thing we have to attain is learning for all children in school. This policy doesn’t say how they are going to bring about that change… there is some sort of disconnect with the ground reality that bothers me,” he said.
Class 10 and 12 board exams will be made “easier” by testing ‘core competencies’, which means testing less material to reward better core understanding of subjects rather than memorisation. Students will also be allowed to retake board exams once and only the best score of the two attempts will be counted. Board exams will become modular (objective and subjective); they will be redesigned to include multiple-choice questions in addition to descriptive questions. The changes in the board structure will be implemented from the 2021 academic session.
Students will have increased flexibility and will be free to choose subjects across streams with no “hard separations” between arts and sciences, curricular and extra-curricular, and vocational and academic. Schools will be permitted to move to a semester or any other system to enable students to take a wider range of classes. All subjects and their assessments will be offered at two levels of proficiency — a standard level and a higher level.
In addition, schools will have 10 ‘bag-less’ days in a year during which they are exposed to a vocation of their choice (ie informal internship).
Referring to the focus on vocational education in schools, Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal of Delhi’s Sp