– Ashish Mishra, Teacher in Humanities Department, The Scindia School, Gwalior
The first step is always the hardest, the National Education Policy 2020 is no different.
At the outset, it surely seems like an over-ambitious policy, but as we delve deep into it, we see a path which is well thought of, with clear timelines and resource utilization. The policy indeed has been run and rerun in the minds of the policy makers. Yet, the fear of the unknown seems to engulf the whole fraternity.
While the NEP 68 and 86 included some of what has been revisited in NEP 2020, the obvious thought that comes to our minds is, if the NEP 20 will also meet the same fate. The key hence is not implementation, but the EFFECTIVE implementation of NEP 2020.
Let us try and breakdown the vision into smaller, tangible bits.
⦁ There is a clear emphasis on recognizing, identifying, and fostering the unique capabilities of each student, by sensitizing teachers as well as parents to promote each student’s holistic development in both academic and non-academic spheres.
Simple as it may sound this is bound to be a battle against the current position/ rank-oriented education system, which I may so say is already a Frankenstein eating its own creator driven majorly and sad so, by the coaching culture. Indeed, developing of social, ethical and emotional capabilities makes the requirement even more demanding.
The implementation is routed via National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8 to be developed by NCERT. Additionally, a ratio of 30:1, pupil-teacher ratio is desired to have optimum output.
This will require us to redesign the entire system to include the foundational, preparatory, middle stage, and secondary stage. This first step will allow better understanding for all involved. To meet the pupil- teacher ratio more teachers will be needed to be put on the payroll and additional training will need to be done. Additional resources will have to be developed including resource sharing to maximize on the availability to all. Most certainly, a huge bank of volunteers will be required for this, primarily for rural areas.
⦁ NEP 20 seeks to reduce the course content in each subject to its core essentials, to make space for critical thinking.
This needs a complete overhaul of the choices and division of subjects and streams at various levels allowing for inclusion of vocational skills and added importance to cocurricular and giving it equal importance. Use of local language / mother tongue has been emphasised to encourage better understanding of root concepts including a bilingual approach if required.
⦁ NEP aims to shift the assessment to one that formative, and is more competency-based and tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity.
This for one, requires a complete mindset shift, for we over the years have used scores and ranks as the one simple criteria for testing both the student and the teacher. Heads of schools will need to work along with the entire team to gain expertise in the 360-degree progress report. This report will serve to determine the uniqueness of each learner in the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. The next difficult task along the same path will be measure the performance of a school based on student competencies and not through the outcome of board exams.
As an added measure, public and private schools will be assessed and accredited on the same criteria, benchmarks, and processes, emphasizing online and offline public disclosure and transparency, so as to ensure that public-spirited private schools are encouraged and not stifled in any way.
⦁ As per NEP, teachers will aim to encourage students with singular interests and/or talents in the classroom by giving them supplementary enrichment material and guidance and encouragement.
For this purpose, schools will have the onus to create topic-centered and project-based clubs and circles. Olympiads and other competitions to be held at various levels with maximum participation.
National residential summer programmes have to be created for secondary school students in various subjects, with a rigorous merit-based but equitable admission process to attract the very best students and teachers from across the country including from socio-economically disadvantaged groups.
⦁ NEP 20 aims to strengthen the Teacher Eligibility Tests (TETs) with better test material, both in terms of content and pedagogy and will cover teachers across all stages of school education.
While this will mean a major change in the recruitment policies for school, existing teachers without adequate training will need to be identified and offered development courses. A separate fund needs to be allotted for the continuous learning of the teachers. Career growth prospect / option will have to be developed for teachers.
National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by 2022, by the National Council for Teacher Education. The standards would cover expectations of the role of the teacher at different levels of expertise/stage, and the competencies required for that stage.
School will need to have trained special educators. Such teachers would require not only subject-teaching knowledge and understanding of subject-related aims of education, but also the relevant skills for understanding of special requirements of children.
⦁ NEP aims to ensure that all schools follow certain minimal professional and quality standards, states/UTs will set up an independent, state-wide, body called the State School Standards Authority (SSSA).
Transparent public self-disclosure of all the basic regulatory information, as laid down by the SSSA, will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability. The management will need to ensure that school is ready with all relevant documentation at all stages. Additional training will be required for this purpose and role of SCERT for collaboration and coordination will be paramount. This is also likely to open up the entire education system to improvement though exchange of information and feedback but will require tremendous willingness to accept the flaws and work towards removing them.
The expectations and requirements from schools will be made more responsive to realities on the ground, further these mandates will be adjusted and loosened, leaving suitable flexibility for each school to make its own decisions based on local needs and constraints, while ensuring safety, security, and a pleasant and productive learning space.
Clearly this step aims to ensure that all students, particularly students from underprivileged and disadvantaged sections, shall have universal, free and compulsory access to high-quality and equitable schooling from early childhood care and education through higher secondary education. Special attention shall be required for the safety and rights- particularly girl children – and the various difficult issues faced by adolescents.
Just to sum it all, we need to have faith in the system, our people and most importantly in ourselves and put our best foot forward. A progressive NEP will be rendered futile for the want of absolute commitment and open mindedness from all of us.
Who better to quote than Martin Luther King, Jr “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” ~ We can see the staircase even if not the whole staircase and for sure it is leading upwards!!
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