A new way forward

Cabinet approval of New Education Policy (NEP) on 29th July 2020 is seen as a great step forward for the education sector, especially for school education. The formative years of education and the way students receive and perceive it has a long-lasting impact on overall grooming of a person. Quality education received early on helps build a qualified and well-trained mind that can gradually turn out to be an important resource for the progress of any nation.

With the NEP in place, India is going to see a paradigm shift in school education at all levels as the policymakers have invested a lot of their time in understanding the flaws and strengths in the present curriculum. It is after 35 years of a long spell that country thought of taking a plunge into deep waters and dive neck deep into it to understand the nuances. NEP has addressed school education from an entirely novel perspective. For long, students, teachers, employers from industry, public sector undertakings and researchers have been talking about a change of curriculum, improvements in modes and methods of evaluation but nothing concrete happened to tackle the issues. Though time and again Central Board of Secondary School Education (CBSE) and subsequently other state Boards came up with ideas and incorporated those in terms of internal assessments, summative evaluation and so on, the larger section of society and the beneficiaries remained unhappy. Last few years also witnessed focus on co-scholastic activities including sports and fine arts to be important parameters for evaluating, but overall things remained unattended as neither were the teachers ready for the challenges in assessment nor were parents accepting the changes. This time the government has taken one major leap. It has taken all the stakeholders, parents, students, teachers, and society taken on board. While being on the same page, they were asked to give their feedback and suggestions on the Draft Education Policy. The given suggestions were analyzed assessed and deliberated upon by various empowered committees. The government took some concrete decisions to revamp school education that was seen to have many lapses. Educationists across the country had been arguing the problems in content that is taught to the students as that was redundant and was not keeping pace with changing times. Heavy content, too much information was another thing that was a general complaint. Many educators had brought the flaws in the delivery systems and advocated that the early education should be imparted through mother tongue and local regional languages so that students can relate to it more and do not have to negotiate the language barriers. 

Dr. Anita Kanwar, Secretary School Education and CBSE director also elucidated in-depth on the evaluation procedure. The present evaluation system that has been based on typical examination pattern where one is judged on the basis of the performance of answering a set of questions has been revisited. A new evaluation system that has been nomenclature as PARAKH will be 360-degree evaluation pattern and the present Report Cards that are given to students yearly will have a new set of assessment and will give an in-depth analysis of child’s learning abilities, learning outcomes, the skills that students acquire, the things student enjoys. The data will be analyzed using artificial intelligence to help students choose the subjects/skills where he can get advanced training. PARAKH will also evaluate the learning pace, abilities, and disabilities. For specially challenged and gifted children, particularly PARAKH will help educators to frame tailor-made curriculum that can cater and match the needs of the said students. This is actually a breakthrough and will go a long way in getting the best of the students. The most interesting aspect that NEP has investigated is universal operational procedures of various state boards involved in imparting school education and yet maintain diversity in some features that are regional and more specific. NEP has decided to have unity in diversity, by focusing on the regional languages, the regional aspects with broad goals of national importance. Skills and vocational education right from class six is another thing that is a masterstroke in NEP. This aspect has been missing for ages in educational framework. Students can leave their heavy school bags and spend time acquiring traditional crafts of the family if they are interested in, or spend time with persons and people who are involved in pottery, painting, knitting which will be classified into an internship period and considered as a component of the education. Focus on language and basic numeracy skills along with general knowledge is also included. NEP also will focus on building on Scientific Temper without going in deep into the science. The scientific temper would be built along with the basic curriculum through various activities and interdisciplinary platforms. NEP is actually a paradigm shift in education and aspires for self-reliance in terms of the stakeholder taking responsibility for his ways and means of acquiring and assimilating knowledge. The four-tier stratification where the pre-school, formative preprimary, primary, and secondary school education will be interlinked and yet discrete to help India to achieve its dream of becoming a knowledge-based economy is something that will take us forward. The aspirations and goals are many and it is through training of teachers and trainers that the goals can be achieved. The school education is on a way forward and together we shall achieve what we aspire to. Kudos to the NEP. There is a light glowing and we will have a great future ahead.

Dr Monika Koul, Assistant Professor, Department of Botany, Hansraj College, University of Delhi, Delhi-110007