New National Education Policy and challenges ahead

Post independence, the first National Policy on Education (NEP) was released in 1968 and its biggest challenge was to promote education amongst India’s people. The literacy rate in 1951 was 18%. The National Policy on Education 1986 called for a child centered approach in Primary Education and launched operation “Black Board”. The government of India came with a new education policy after an elapse of 34 years. In a significant shift from 1986 policy, which had 10+2 structure of school education, the NEP – 2020 pitches for a 5+3+3+4 design corresponding to different age groups. This contemplates to bring pre-school education for children of ages 3 to 5 under the ambit of formal schooling. NEP-2020 has to face many challenges at the implementation level. The various challenges NEP-2020 is confronted at its initial stage of implementation in respect of following components needs early attention.

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE): Handling a child is not exactly a child’s play but a very delicate and daunting task. The NEP introduces formal schooling for children attaining three years of age, the age when child has right to enjoy his childhood. This age group claims its right of more care than education. If it is otherwise, charms of childhood would get robbed off. The Anganwaries are lacking accommodation and infrastructure and devoid of facilities to amuse children. These centers can attract children only, if they can enjoy freedom, fearlessness and a lot of fun which is age specific. The ECCE includes three years of foundational literacy and numeracy. When we say foundational, it carries a message for a teacher to lay strong foundation for nurturing child’s talent. That is possible only when there are trained teachers or Anganwadi workers displaying a lot of patience. The successful launch of ECCE by the implementing agency would invoke slew of measures in advance.

Medium of instruction: Kashmiri is the majority speaking language in Jammu and Kashmir and has the status of an official language. Researchers have shown that a child learns at a rapid pace in his mother tongue. The NEP has envisaged that children up to 5th standard shall be taught in their mother tongue. The children of marginalized families and from poor background do not cope with other languages in early years and can be one of the reasons for early dropout. The vice chancellor of Kashmir University has already initiated strengthening of department of Kashmiri in Kashmir University and accordingly Jammu University is strengthening department of Dogri. It is a big challenge for the government to gear up for introducing mother tongue as a medium of instruction.

Infrastructure development: The accommodation problem is a big hurdle in cities and particularly in towns. The quality education cannot be expected when education continues in a single and double roomed rented accommodations. What action plan the government is working upon to mitigate the sufferings of such students. It would have been better to shift such students to nearby schools having sufficient infrastructure and the staff shall be rationalized.

Every school shall have a school building, playground, civic amenities, library and laboratory facilities and sufficient furniture. The need of the hour is to initiate concerted efforts for creating necessary infrastructure. The new policy has advocated for attaining 6% of GDP, recommended earlier and reaches 20% of all public expenditure on education sector over a ten year period.

Curriculum and pedagogy: The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) was brought out by NCERT in the year 2005. The Right of children to, “Free and Compulsory Education Act” in 2009 invokes implementation of NCF-2005, where in children centered approach was emphasized. The NCF-2005 identifies following aims of school education.

  1. Empowering children to respond to new situations in a flexible and creative manner.
  2. Making children independent in their thought and action sensitive to others wellbeing and feelings.
  3. Developing in children the ability to work towards and contribute to economic processes and social change.

In my view these critical goals are yet in infancy as the tutors have not been well trained to effect the change. The overall thrust of curriculum and pedagogy reform across all stages will be to move education system towards real understanding and towards learning how to learn and away from the culture of rote learning. The new pedagogical approach will be to create holistic and well rounded individual. In school education the policy focuses on overhauling the curriculum, reduction in syllabus and subsequent content reduction and a resultant change in textbooks enriched by local content. For holistic development of learners the education imparted must be holistic one that seeks to engage all aspects of the learner including mind, body and spirit.

Teacher and teacher training: Dr. Radhakrishanan has rightly said “No matter how much we grow in life, a teacher’s contribution never diminishes. We tend to admire and respect them more when we begin struggling in life”. Teacher’s role in education system is always crucial. Teachers are considered as change agents as they play a key role in bringing successful changes in education. The new policy envisages that a teacher can facilitate a change in the learner’s beliefs, feelings and behavior. The desired goals can only be achieved if result oriented trainings are given to teachers. It is the teacher who has to create a suitable teaching learning atmosphere, where positive feelings are nurtured. The positive feelings give rise to motivation for learning and consequently student absenteeism can be minimized. The trainings must aim at bringing the requisite behavioral changes, because whatever is imprinted on the most receptive minds of children have long lasting effects. Teacher is the ultimate role model of a child. The sharp witness of this fact can be seen in the instance that the meaning of a single word conveyed by the teacher is final to the child even if the parents strike hard to modify the same for him. It is ultimately the teacher who is supposed to lay the foundation of a wisely coined “Foundational literacy and Numeracy”. The teacher training is a great challenge as the teacher has to adapt the new pedagogical approach devised by NCERT for all teachers and school heads in the form of NISHTHA.

The New Education Policy has come up with empowering teachers, ensuring decent and pleasant service conditions for teachers, as a result, the high respect and high status of this profession can be revived and restored. The coming years have to act decisively, if the authorities are really sincere in taking necessary initiatives to come up to the expectations of the society’s most sensitive class.

The success rate of NEP-2020 can be directly related to educational investment as there is no better investment than the high quality education made available to its young generation.

MIR GULZAR is In-Charge Principal, DIET Beerwah ,Budgam