Making education holistic, flexible, and multi-disciplinary

National Education Policy 2020 is a vision document that has come after a gap of 34 years to reform and revamp the education system. This document is built  on five foundational pillars of access, affordability, accountability, equality and quality, with the aim to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge super power by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multi-disciplinary suited to 21st Century needs.

The policy envisages path breaking reforms and an overhauling of school education with an emphasis on developing competencies and to do away with rote learning and memorization and an impetus on developing literacy and numeracy along with critical thinking and problem solving, social ethical and emotional capacities. A major reform is the reconfiguration of school curricular and pedagogical structure  from 10+2 to 5+3+3+4 design consisting of a Foundational stage, Preparatory stage, Middle stage and Secondary stage with a focus on experiential learning, multi- disciplinary study with greater depth and critical thinking. In the middle stage every student will take a few courses that will give students hands on any local important vocational craft such as pottery making, metal work, gardening, plumbing etc. as decided by states or local communities. Content will be reduced and bag less days will be encouraged throughout the year. In secondary school there will be increased flexibility and choice of subjects to study, there will be no hard separation among curricular, extra- curricular or co-curricular among arts, humanities and science or between vocational or academic streams.

There is a need to evolve Pedagogy and reform the age old lecture method by experiential, integrated, inquiry driven, discovery oriented, learner centered, and discussion based pedagogy. Schools have to be flexible and the learning enjoyable. The aim of education will not only be cognitive development but also building character and developing life skills. All aspects of curriculum and pedagogy will be re-oriented and revamped to attain these critical goals. Specific set of skills and values across domains will be identified for integration at each stage of learning. The assessment of learners will be done in a 360 degree holistic multi-dimensional report that reflects the uniqueness of each learner in cognitive, affective and psychomotor domain along with self-evaluation and peer-evaluation and progress of the child in project based and inquiry based learning, quizzes role plays and group work. To enforce the changes in pedagogy and curriculum, adequate number of teachers across subjects will be required. Subject wise teacher vacancies will be assessed and a comprehensive teacher requirement planning exercise will be conducted by each state. Large scale recruitment of teachers will create a demand for quality teacher preparation programs. Recognizing teachers will require training in high quality content and pedagogy. It is enshrined in the policy that by 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4 year Integrated  B.Ed. degree that teaches a range of knowledge content and pedagogy and includes a strong practicum training. The 4 year integrated B. Ed. will be a dual major holistic Bachelor’s Degree in Education as well as specialized subject such as Languages, History, Music, Mathematics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Economics, Art, Physical Education etc. The 2 year B. Ed programme will also be offered alongside with 4 year integrated B. Ed program and will be intended only to those who have obtained the Bachelor’s Degree. One year B. Ed programme will be offered only to those who have completed the equivalent 4 year multi-disciplinary Bachelor’s Degree or obtained a Master’s Degree in a specialty and now wishes to become a subject teacher in that specialty. All such B. Ed programs to be offered by an accredited multi- disciplinary higher education institution.

However, to prepare highly motivated and capable teachers B.Ed programs need to be revisited and revamped such that they focus on use of technology in teaching and learning, modifying pedagogy to achieve fundamental literacy and numeracy, teaching children with special needs, teaching gifted children with special talents, using collaborative and team teaching, encouraging self-study by giving project based learning. By 2021 a new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE) will be formulated by NCTE in collaboration with NCERT based on the principles enshrined in National Education Policy2020. Many recommendations suggested by NCF 2005 and NCFTE 2009 were not implemented in school education as at that time J&K had a choice of provisions granted by the Article 370 giving it a special status. However, the National Curriculum Framework 2021 will have to be integrated in letter and spirit for which school education will have to work hard to make the curriculum in tune with the suggested changes. Teacher preparation programs will also be revamped as per the emerging trends laid down in the guidelines given by NCFTE 2021.

The policy document lays prominence on quality of TEIs. To restore the integrity of Teacher Education system stringent action will be taken against substandard, stand-alone Teacher Education Institutes. According to Justice J.S.Verma Commission (2012) constituted by the supreme court majority of stand-alone TEIs are not imparting quality Teacher Education but are essentially selling degrees for a price. To restore the credibility, integrity, efficacy and high quality to teacher education a regulatory system shall be empowered to take stringent action against these substandard Teacher Education Institutes. By 2030 only educationally sound, multidisciplinary and integrated teacher education programs will be in force.

To this end all standalone colleges offering B.Ed programs have to convert to multidisciplinary institutions gradually. Government College of Education, Srinagar is a historical Teacher Training College established in 1937 imparting quality teacher education ever since. Presently it’s a constituent college of Cluster University Srinagar, which has four most prestigious colleges of Kashmir as its constituent colleges. The 4 year Integrated B.Ed which as per National Education Policy 2020  is an essential requirement for teaching can be offered by the Cluster University Srinagar where students can have flexibility to choose different courses/ streams offered by the different constituent colleges of Cluster University Srinagar. The structure of 4 year Integrated B.Ed. program will be with multiple exit options with appropriate certification, however, 4 year B.Ed. program shall be a preferred option as it is envisioned to create passion and vision for teaching. The four year integrated B.Ed. program will lead to a degree with research if student during this period completes a rigorous research project. Students enrolled in the 4 year integrated B.Ed. program can pool the credits from different constituent colleges offering science, humanities and commerce and the credits can be kept in the academic bank. Within the available human resource in these colleges the program can be intended and will surely find many takers.

Under the dynamic leadership of Mr. Talat Parvez, Commissioner Secretary, Department of Higher Education, has been a trend setter by way of taking lead in integrating technology in teaching and learning in all colleges across J&K, encouraging innovation and research and above all promoting quality education in all Higher Education Institutions. The department can also take lead to start an innovative flexible Teacher preparation program with a multidisciplinary perspective having grounded in sociology, history, science, psychology, early childhood care and education, foundation literacy and numeracy, knowledge of India and its ethos by giving permissibility to have this academic bank of credits to the affiliating university. This path breaking approach will not only help in introducing a quality teacher preparation program but will help Govt. College of Education, Srinagar to achieve its vision of, Excellence in Teacher education and move into a multi-dimensional perspective.

Dr Seema Naz is a Teacher Educator & Executive Member of Research Innovation & Transformation in Education (RITE)