The focus of the National Education Policy 2020 is high-quality education for all right from the initial levels to ensure all round development and to do away with unnecessary burden.
Dr. Arnab Chakrabarty
Much has been discussed about the National Education Policy 2020 since its inception. Scholars and experts have for long debated the need to change the model of education in India so as to upgrade it to suit the requirements of a transforming society. While many argue that students for long have been unnecessarily pressured with mundane courses and tasks, others have pitched in ideas about reducing the workload while simultaneously providing education based on information gathering, analysis and its practical applications.
Many scholars around the world are of the view that students in primary levels are particularly prone to depression, peer-pressure and the urge to perform better than most of their classmates. While some live up to the expectations, others are unable to cope and hence by the time they enter secondary levels they already exhibit a high tendency towards low self-esteem, inability to work under pressure or even face a complete mental breakdown. Studies have shown that most students in their primary levels are burdened by unnecessary homework and courses that do not have any practical use in the future. While others show that the lack of physical activity and over-dependence on extra classes and learning by heart, it actually does not leave them with the space to improvise and innovate. Many western advanced societies have since long rejected the models where learning by heart and dependence on exam is crucial, instead they focus on skill-building and innovation which actually offers these younger but vulnerable minds the chance to learn and apply their knowledge.
The main focus of the National Education Policy 2020 is to offer high-quality education for all right from the initial levels so as to ensure all round development of children and to do away with unnecessary burden. The Panel led by former ISRO Chief K Kasturirangan had previously led a panel that contemplated on the formulation of the ideas pertaining to the draft submitted to the HRD Ministry (Now renamed as Education Ministry). The focus has been to offer universal basic education that focuses on literacy, numeracy and practical application of knowledge by all. Following a new curricular and pedagogical structure, it attempts to break away from the previous notions of water-tight compartmentalisation based on age and subjects. Additionally, flexibility will be allowed between Arts and Science, Humanities and Sports. Also applying scientific theories of learning languages, it is well known that children are more apt in learning languages and hence they will be allowed to learn languages form an early age so as to ensure they grow up with multilingual abilities, this would go in a long way to ensure that no child is left out in a large and vibrant country like India. The policy also maintains the three language approach in all curricula.
Furthermore, students will also be encouraged to learn the classical languages of India in addition to developing a healthy lifestyle through sports and physical activities.
The NEP 2020 proposes a unique 5+3+3+4 formula, which directly corresponds to the age of children and accordingly takes into account their learning ability.
The first 5 years will be the foundation stage, followed by the 3 years of pre-primary school, preparatory stage, middle stage and finally secondary stage. It would hardly take a moment to notice that a lot has been done in order to do away with the obscure 10+2 model which clubbed the entire learning model without focusing on the age and the learning capacities of the students. This is particularly important for the middle stage as during the age of 7 till 13 students start to think beyond their capacities and have a knack for experimentation.
Under the previous model with strict division between Science and Humanities a lot of focus was placed on learning by heart and on examinations leaving no room for critical thinking and development of aptitude, let alone involvement in sports, physical activities or in other extra-curricular activities. Many scholars criticised the previous model as being too hard-pressed on obtaining results rather than focusing on the aptitude of children. The preparatory and the middle stages comprise of the age groups of 7 to 13 years which would directly correspond from classes 3 to 8. This is quite a large gap and one also has to take note of the psychological and cognitive development of the children, not to mention their levels of maturity and ability to deal with the pros and cons of the world.
At a very tender age being thrust with mundane learning which goes up all the way till the age of 12- 13 and then suddenly being compelled to choose between either Humanities, Science or Commerce leaves students without the ability to even focus on their aptitudes. During this entire time, under the previous model stress was levied on performance rather than on capacity building and hence when it comes to the point of choosing between three broad streams, most students do not know what they should opt for, thus making fatal choices pertaining to learning.
Under NEP 2020 the stages have been so divided according to the age groups to eke out the maximum potential in children. While the foundation stage discusses the playschool style education which familiarises them with the idea of going to school, interacting with other kids the preparatory stage exposes them to the vastness of knowledge ranging from science to mathematics and arts. The middle stage will focus on subject oriented learning. From this stage children will be able to focus on their aptitude and their preferences for future courses. The approach is comparable to a pyramid where students are exposed to a variety right from an early age with notable flexibility, and as they progress they will be able to streamline their choices.
Other interesting facets that will decide the outcome of a child’s learning are the integration of vocational courses with regular learning.
It has been observed that a lot of stress is laid on classroom learning with specific focus only on examinations, which becomes the cornerstone for evaluating the performance. The integration of vocational learning, ensures that by 2025 at least 50 per cent of the students have some skill which may be useful in the near future.
Although critics are quick to point out flaws, little do they realise that such models are already in use in highly developed nations such as Germany, Italy, Sweden and in Finland. Such a model ensures that students develop a sense of belongingness, dignity of labour and also learn some skill which may also open up further career options or hobbies for them. Under the previous model, skill-development was not seen keenly.
Criticisms are a part of any democracy, but to call National Education Policy 2020 as completely flawed does not show any sense of sane judgement. For years, India has been under the aegis of a colonial education system that focused solely on the creation of scholars with a mechanical mind-set to get them involved in the daily doldrums of life. Education should fulfil the purpose of nurturing citizens who can contribute to the motherland and therefore this is a long awaited step in the right direction.
(Dr. Arnab Chakrabarty is Lecturer, Department of International Relations, Sikkim University, Gangtok Sikkim)