In July 2020, the Government of India announced the National Education Policy (NEP), replacing the existing National Policy on Education, to transform India's education system by 2021.
The National Policy on Education, first formulated in 1986 and last modified in 1992, was designed to democratize education, while the new policy envisions to provide India-centric high-quality education along with vocational skill development to both rural and urban Indians.
More clearly, the policy is designed to provide quality education for every child between 3-18 years, irrespective of their socio-economic background.
The first policy increased the number of literates in the country. The system, which encouraged students to score higher marks did not assure a job that matches their academic qualifications. While students were scoring marks, skills continued to remain unused or less used.
To fix this issue, the NEP proposed vocational education, along with traditional education. This will enable learners to use their skills to solve real-time issues. This step is considered a welcome move, as it will help students to realize and use their capacities in the areas of critical thinking, design thinking, and innovation, and cross-domain understanding. The NEP 2020 well addresses this matter and emphasizes the need for multi-disciplinary education.
The new policy brings UGC, AICTE, and NCTE under one regulatory body intending to bring in uniformity in the system. All higher education institutions (HEI) except for legal and medical colleges will come under this regulator.
Here is a summary of some of the major changes the new policy will bring in.
It is proved that 90% of brain development occurs in the first six years of life. Kids start to develop their emotional, language, numerical, and several other skills during this period, creating the base for acquiring knowledge. When it comes to revamping the educational system, focusing on childhood would be more effective when compared to older age groups.
In the NEP 2020, the Right to Education Act 2009 is extended to cover children of ages 3 to 18. Previously, it was from 5 years onwards. The policy aims at providing early education without additional content load. Studies have found that early childhood education programs are most impactful and cost-effective and it should be incorporated to ensure the efficacy of a child’s higher education.
10+2 structure school curricula replaced with 5+3+3+4
The decades-old 10+2 format of formal education will be modified to a 5+3+3+4 structure, to bring in playschools under the ambit of formal education. This is considered as one of the sweeping reforms and is expected to uplift education in India to an international standard.
The 5+3+3+4 structure includes 3 groups 3-8 years, 8-11 years, 11-14 years plus 4 years of secondary education. NEP aims at language development skills for 3-8 years through a play-based and activity-based curriculum. The syllabus for the age group 8-11 years is crafted to develop language and numeracy skills via discovery and activity-based classroom interaction learning. The third group, 11-14 years, covers class 6-8, will be trained to gain critical learning objectives. Every subject will be taught with an emphasis on experimental learning. This way of teaching is expected to improve students’ understanding of subjects.
Flexible undergraduate degree
The current 3- or 4-years undergraduate degree is now supplemented with multiple exit options. A student can leave college with a diploma after completing one year. He will get an advanced diploma certificate if exiting college after the completion of two years. As in the past, he will be awarded an undergraduate degree only when he completes 3- or 4-years of course duration.
Mother tongue as medium of instruction
Many studies have found that learning becomes easier when communicated in the language which is used in daily life. Besides, the policymakers expect higher parental involvement in a child’s learning when the medium of instruction is their mother tongue because English is still a hard medium for many parents. Therefore, the NEP 2020 recommends mother tongue/regional language/local language as the medium of instruction till Class 5. However, it is completely up to the schools to choose in which medium they should conduct classes.
Mix and match subjects
The new policy proposes a Chemistry student to learn History in senior schools and college. Earlier, a Chemistry student was allowed to study other science subjects such as Physics or Mathematics. Now as the barrier gets removed, he can mix and match subjects of his interests.
Focus on vocational education
One of the main complaints of today’s education system is that it fails to get a relevant job. Hence, while revamping the system, the government looks into integrating vocational education into all schools and higher education institutions. Policymakers plan to implement vocational education in a phased manner and expect to complete the project in the next ten years. If the plan goes as per their calculation, at least 50% of learners would get adequate exposure to vocational training by 2025.
Student participation in assessment
So far, we have seen an assessment from the teachers’ side only. NEP2020 asserts self-assessment by students in their report cards. A new National Assessment Centre will be set up as a standard-setting body to make this happen. This project is named PARAKH - Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development.
Upgrading of HEI
Universities will be upgraded from research-intensive Universities to teaching-intensive Universities and Autonomous degree-granting Colleges. An entrance test will be implemented for college admissions from 2022 onwards. A pool of senior and retired faculty will be created to facilitate learning in Indian languages. They will mentor and provide professional support to HIE faculties.
Increase participation in HIE
To encourage higher education, the NEP 2020 plan to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education from 26.3% to 50% by 2035. It envisions to add around 3.5 Crore new seats to HEIs. Furthermore, the Centre along with States will collaborate to increase the public investment in the education sector.
On the whole, the new NEP is considered a welcome move. Given the current political scenario, it is certain that there will be voices against the education system revamp. The success of the policy would lie in how effectively the government implements the new policy.