New Delhi: The new National Education Policy (NEP) announced by the Modi government Wednesday brings in multiple reforms that are expected to overhaul the Indian education system.
Science students in Class 11 and 12 can opt for an arts subject and vice versa, and there’s now a second shot at board exams that can be used to better scores. The MPhil has been done away with, which means a Master’s degree is all you need now to pursue a PhD.
The four-year undergraduate programme is back and Indian higher education institutes will now have to be interdisciplinary by rule. The policy also changes the name of the Human Resource Development Ministry to Education Ministry.
It aims to make the Indian education system more holistic and skill-oriented, and addresses a long-cited complaint that it encourages rote-learning.
Prepared on the basis of a draft submitted by a panel under former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief, K. Kasturirangan, the 200-page policy was approved by the Union Cabinet Wednesday.
The policy has largely drawn a positive response, with experts on the ground praising its vision for a more well-rounded experience among students.
Here are some of the highlights of the policy.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the NEP is that government schools will now offer pre-school education, right from nursery and KG, which has so far only been offered by private institutes.
The new school system will be a 5+3+3+4 formula instead of the current 10+2 followed across schools in India. Children from pre-school to classes 1 and 2 (3-8 years) will be a part of the foundational learning school, classes 3 to 5 (8-11 years) will be a part of preparatory school, classes 6 to 8 (11-14 years) will be in middle school, and 9 to 12 (14-18 years) in secondary school.
The curriculum will be designed according to the specific needs of different categories.
In classes 11 and 12, where students generally opt for either science, commerce or arts, they will have the option to choose subjects such as arts and crafts and vocational alongside the conventional ones. For example, a science student will be able to chose an arts subject.
The policy states there will be no hard separation among ‘curricular’, ‘extracurricular’, or ‘co-curricular’, or between ‘vocational’ and ‘academic’ streams, which suggests that extracurricular activities like sketching, painting etc may have a bearing on one’s report card.
Apart from this, the policy also aims at reducing the emphasis on board exams by making them “easier”. “Board exams will be redesigned to make them easier in the sense that they will test primarily core capacities/competencies rather than months of coaching and memorisation,” the policy states.
Students, the policy adds, will be allowed to take the exam on up to two occasions – one main exam and one for improvement, if desired.
The policy also advises the use of mother tongue/regional language/ local language as the medium of instruction until Class 5. This is something that some schools follow currently as well.
Talking about the three-language formula — a longstanding proposal that seeks to encourage students to learn more than one language or just their mother tongue — the policy says the freedom to choose the languages should be left to the state/student/region. It also says that at least two of the three languages should be Indian.
One of the main developments in higher education is the comeback of the four-year undergraduate program in colleges, which was first introduced in Delhi University by former Vice-Chancellor Dinesh Singh in 2013 but subsequently discontinued.
In its new form, the four-year programme appears more structured. It allows colleges a choice between the current three-year undergraduate programmes and a four-year undergraduate programme. The NEP also offers multiple exit options to students.
Under the multiple-exit programme, students will have the option to leave college whenever they want — if a student completes one year, he or she will get a certificate, two years will get them a diploma, three years will get them a degree, and if a student pursues a four-year programme with research, he or she will be eligible for direct admissions for a PhD.
With this, the government has also done away with the MPhil. The minimum eligibility for a PhD will now either be a four-year programme with research, or Master’s after a three-year programme.
The policy also proposes a credit bank, which will keep a record of students’ academic credits should they choose to return after dropping out.
Another major change at the level of higher education is the focus on making universities multi-disciplinary. This means that an institution will have to teach arts, science, social science, basically everything under one roof. Single-stream institutions will fade out and, by 2040, all institutes will aim to become multidisciplinary, it states.
The NEP also does away with multiple regulators like the University Grants Commission (UGC), the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), and the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE). All these will now be replaced by a single regulator.
What the experts are saying
Experts have largely hailed the policy as “ positive”.
“Most of these points highlighted in the New Education Policy 2020 are very good. Education should be in mother tongue or local language at least till class 5, after which it should be in English,” said Sridhar Rajagopalan, co-founder and chief learning officer of Educational Initiatives, an ed-tech company and a member of various state and central government committees on education.
“This approach has a lot of benefits. Pedagogical research has established beyond much doubt that children learn best if they learn in their mother tongue (or local language) in the primary classes. This does not mean that children should not learn English, it only means that English should not be the medium of instruction in the primary years.”
Anjela Taneja, campaign lead at the non-profit Oxfam India added that the “NEP comes with some positive provisions including the long-overdue focus on early childhood education, an increase in the ambition to universalise secondary education. and focus education in the mother tongue”.
“It (the policy) again reiterates the almost half-a-decade-old commitment to investing 6 per cent of GDP to education. However, it would appear that the policy also brings with it a fundamental change in long-term rules of the game, towards creating education markets, and away from ensuring universalisation of education through democratic public schools,” she added. “One would have to read the full policy document to understand the fine print of what the policy has to offer.”