The National Educational Policy 2020 have pushed institutions to change entire curricula and structure of education offered, and teachers now have to ‘unlearn’ their current approach and learn new ones. The change from linear and rote-learning methods to more inter-disciplinary and hands-on approaches of teaching means a change in attitude to the education system as a whole, from the course design and delivery to student assessments. It is in this context that the ‘multiple intelligence’ theory introduced by Howard Gardner in 1983 has come to greater relevance. The theory talks about humans having the potential for multiple intelligences and the need to use various approaches to any subject for effective teaching.

NATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY 2020

The National Education Policy 2020, the third national educational policy to be released in India, was approved by the Union Cabinet on 29th July 2020. While its hasty implementation and bypassing of parliamentary discussion has been highly criticised, the policy has the potential to bring large-scale transformational reforms in the Indian school and higher education sectors. Prime Minister Narendra Modi believes the NEP 2020 will be significant in creating an ‘Atma Nirbhar’ (self-reliant) India and open up the Indian education sector to greater global exposure. Implementation of NEP will not be a quick change of course; successful execution of this policy calls for major changes to the existing administrative structure and re-arranging of budgetary resources.

NEP 2020 is built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability. The key thrust behind this curricular and pedagogical restructuring across all stages is to move away from the traditional rote-learning method and towards ‘learn for real understanding’ and ‘learning how to learn’. It claims to give equal importance to all the stages of schooling by moulding each with age appropriate curriculum, learning goals, and pedagogy and overall encouraging a child-centred lesson-planning.

The key changes in NEP regarding the schooling structure are:

  • The current 10 + 2 structure of school curricula will be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively.
  • All subjects will be offered at two levels of proficiency (introductory and advanced) and will be treated equally (science will not be pitted against social sciences and also not be assigned as per the percentage scored in the previous grade).
  • NEP 2020 also allows for students to select subjects of their liking across the streams. This flexibility in selection of subjects, according to the NEP document, will lead to critical thinking among students and greater focus on experiential learning.
  • In the new schooling structure, all students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 followed by Board exams for Grades 10 and 12.
  • There will be a shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment. According to the NEP, the assessment will be more focused on testing higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity.
  • 3 years of Anganwadi/pre-schooling system for children in the age group of 3-6 years will now be included in the school curriculum.
  • NCERT will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8. Teachers and Anganwadi workers will get trained in the ECCE pedagogy and curriculum.
  • To standardise the quality of teaching in schools, a common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers and expert organizations. The promotion for teachers in schools will be based on their performance on administrative and academic assignments.

The schools would have to take teachers through a process of unlearning the traditional pedagogy to re-learn how to teach through the recommended experiential learning approaches that encourage observation, experimentation and critical thinking by learners and also draws upon their prior knowledge to make connections and learn. Teachers should be encouraged to research their own practices for reflection, review and self-assessment and be encouraged to present papers and publish their action-research on effective pedagogy.

WHAT IS MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCE THEORY?

The theory of multiple intelligences was first proposed by Howard Gardner in his 1983 book “Frames of Mind”, where he proposes that people are not born with all of the intelligence they will ever have. He writes that we may all have these intelligences, but our profile of these intelligence may differ individually based on genetics or experience.

These are the eight types he identifies:

Verbal-linguistic intelligence refers to an individual's ability to analyze information and produce work that involves oral and written language, such as speeches, books, and emails.

Logical-mathematical intelligence describes the ability to develop equations and proofs, make calculations, and solve abstract problems.

Visual-spatial intelligence allows people to comprehend maps and other types of graphical information.

Musical intelligence enables individuals to produce and make meaning of different types of sound.

Naturalistic intelligence refers to the ability to identify and distinguish among different types of plants, animals, and weather formations found in the natural world.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence entails using one's own body to create products or solve problems.

Interpersonal intelligence reflects an ability to recognize and understand other people's moods, desires, motivations, and intentions.

Intrapersonal intelligence refers to people's ability to recognize and assess those same characteristics within themselves.

This theory challenges the traditional notion that there is just one single type of intelligence, sometimes known as “g” for general intelligence, that only focuses on cognitive abilities.

WHAT IS THE THEORY’S RELEVANCE TO NEP 2020?

The core ideas of changes made through the NEP 2020 resonates with Gardner’s ‘multiple intelligences’ theory and its application in education. According to Gardner, learning is fluid and complex although most schools only use linguistic and logical-mathematical modalities. Research by Hattie (2011) has also proven that students’ learning improves when they are provided with multiple ways of learning. NEP 2020 was built on the principle that education must develop not only cognitive capacities – the foundational capacities of literacy and numeracy and the higher order cognitive capacities such as critical thinking and problem solving – but also social, ethical and emotional capacities and dispositions. As Gardner states, "When one has a thorough understanding of a topic, one can typically think of it in several ways."

Individuation and pluralisation are considered important educational implications derived from the theory of multiple intelligences, both of them being basic ideas that the NEP also discusses indirectly. Individuation challenges the ‘one-size-fits-all’ styles of education and emphasises how each person differs from another and that there is no logic in teaching and assessing all students the same way. Technology has now made it possible for more people to access a variety of teachings and assessments depending on their needs. Pluralization is the idea that topics and skills should be taught in more than one way to activate an individual's multiple intelligences. Presenting a variety of activities and approaches to learning increases the accessibility of learning experiences to all students and encourages them to think about the subjects from various perspectives, deepening their knowledge and confidence of that topic.

According to research conducted by the NCERT and several NGOs, the current emphasis on memorization and rote-learning got children high percentage and grades up to class V, resulted in poor learning outcomes. NEP 2020 recommends ‘learning by doing’ methods i.e. through exploration of the environment and manipulation of objects and materials. Such experiential learning approaches have been developed from psychological theories such as that of Edgar Dale’s cone of experience and Gardner's research into the field of learning regarding bodily kinasthetic intelligence. The latter’s research showed that using activities that require physical movement and exertion lead to students exhibiting a high level of physical intelligence reporting to benefit from 'learning through movement' in the classroom environment.

The sweeping changes that the NEP 2020 is making in our educational sectors can be successful only with proper preparation and training given to the institutions and teachers. For most of the teaching faculty, the change from this 34-year old policy on education to the ‘futuristic’ new one will be difficult. NEP 2020 encourages teachers to take a larger active role in studying and researching effective pedagogical methods, to ensure students are provided with holistic learning experiences that cater to their individual needs. The understanding of academic concepts such as ‘multiple intelligences’ theory will allow teachers to innovate on their own and be able to deliver better education to students. Teachers are, after all, on the frontline of realising the vision of NEP – a high quality education system that will carry India to equity and sustainability.