An overview of the National Educational Policy (NEP) 2020: On July 29th, 2020 the Modi government announced the New Education Policy in a move that left us stunned over the sweeping changes involved. The only dismay that most of us had was that our wish to be able to study once these reforms are imposed is not possible.
In this article, we cover the key points of the NEP and their views from different perspectives with hopes that the policy is better understood and loopholes if any are addressed.
Highlights of the New Education Policy
This is the third education policy bought forward by the Indian government in its efforts to raise Indian education standards. A much-needed decision. 34 years after the last policy was implemented it is also the first Education policy by the BJP. The policy was approved by the union cabinet but is yet to be presented in the parliament.
The new National Educational Policy also requires further regulation between the state and center. However, it is still policy and not the law to be followed. The following are some of the points in the policy.
— NEP for Schools Students
1. New pedagogical and curricular structure of school education (5+3+3+4):
The education system currently follows the 10+2 structure. This will soon be replaced by the 5+3+3+4 curricular structure. The new structure can be better understood when it corresponds with a child’s age i.e. 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively. The first stage includes time spent in Anganwadi and preschools.
This new structure divides the existing structure as per the cognitive developmental stages of a child. These are early childhood, school years, and secondary stage. It also should be noted that this change in structure does not change the years that a child spends in formal education. They remain the same as before.
The new structure brings changes to the examination structure too. As per existing norms, a child gives an exam after every academic year. But once the NEP is implemented children will give examinations only in class 3,5, and 8. This is apart from boards which too will see considerable changes.
2. Earlier, schooling was mandatory for children aged between six and 14 years. Now education will be compulsory for children aged between the three and 18 years.
This move would allow those aged from 14-18 years to also demand the same Right to Education(RTE) that was earlier present only up till 14years. Now children above the age of 14 too can demand this. Meaning they can get educated up to 12th grade free of charges at any government educational establishment.
3. Mother tongue as the medium of instruction
It is obvious that the mother tongue is the first language that a child understands. Hence understanding newer concepts will be much easier when if done in the mother tongue itself. In order to implement this the medium of instruction in schools will change too.
This move is also inspired after observation of the medium of instruction imposed in some European countries. In these places, when a child is introduced into the schooling system he is only taught in his mother tongue be it German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, etc. depending on the country. Due to this, children are able to grasp trivial concepts easily. This will be made compulsory until 5th grade at least or preferably until the 8th.
The NEP also includes the three-language policy. Here all students will learn three languages in their school. It is mandatory that at least two of the three languages should be native to India.
The introduction of this policy is also in line with the NEP’s aim of increasing the Gross Enrollment Ratio in higher education. It has been found that the inability to cope with languages like English as the cause for dropping out.
4. Baglessdays and informal internship
According to this, students will participate in a 10-day bagless period. During this period students from Grades 6-8 will intern with local vocational experts such as carpenters, gardeners, potters, artists, etc.
This was another move, that was hugely appreciated as necessary professionals that are looked down upon by society will finally be viewed with newer outlooks in the coming generations. This move will also enable children to pick up at least one skill during the period.
5. Coding for Children
Children will now be able to learn to code from class 6 as coding will be included as a part of their curriculum. This move will put students at par with the Chinese where similar policies with regards to coding have already been implemented in their education system.
6. Multi-Stream Flexibility
Once the NEP is imposed, the compartmentalization of students post 10th into Arts, Science and Commerce will be blurred. Now students will be allowed to take up courses from varied streams depending on their interests.
For eg., A student interested in physics will be able to do so by also taking up subjects like economics and politics. This was one of the most lauded moves of the NEP. Furthermore, Bachelor’s programs too will be multidisciplinary in nature with no rigid separation between arts and sciences.
— NEP For College Students
7. Common Entrance Tests for Colleges
Students now will be judged by common SAT (present in the US) like tests that will decide the eligibility of students for different colleges. These tests will be held twice in a year.
8. 4-year bachelor degree
Funnily enough, just a few years back this move was highly criticized when implemented in Delhi. This move does not simply make bachelor degrees longer but also provides students with the option to change degrees if they feel it does not suit them. A student who realizes this and will be allowed to drop.
He also is allowed to transfer the credits he earned in the previous degree into the degree he chooses. A student who decides to drop out after completing 2 years can do so and will be provided with a diploma certificate associated with that degree. Students who drop out after 3 years will receive a bachelors missing out only on research opportunities present in the final year.
9. Fee Cap
The New policy suggests a cap on the fee charged by private institutions in the higher education space. One of the major hindrances a student faces when trying to obtain quality higher education has been affordability. A fee cap imposed would go a long way in making education more equitable.
10. Opening up higher education to foreign players
According to this the top 100 education institutions in the world will now be encouraged to come to India and set up campuses. Every year 750,000 Indian students go abroad in pursuit of higher education. This move will not only go a long way in reducing brain drain but also help in making global education more accessible. A similar move was implemented in the UAE successfully. The UAE is now home to universities like Hult International Business School, University of Wollongong, British University, American University of Sharjah and Dubai. Now that UAE can implement such a move it also shows the way to countries like India. Especially because we hold a student population much greater. Increasing the interest from foreign universities.
Differed Views over the NEP
Every point mentioned above is an advantage in itself. But post the disclosure of the NEP there have been varied viewpoints, concerns, and criticisms surfacing. We now look at these so-called loopholes in the NEP so that they can be further addressed
There are many viewpoints directly addressed at languages i.e. medium through which students will be taught in schools, and the options available to them. First comes the problem of even introducing mother tongues into schools. India already faces a huge shortage of teachers leading to the skyrocketing teacher: student ratio in the country.
On top of this finding, a staff that is Qualified to teach is a challenge in itself. Next comes the challenge of bringing forward material in each of the mother tongues. Say for eg. bringing forward textbooks of maths, social in each of our mother tongues is a herculean task in itself.
It is completely understandable that the government wants to hold the same status as Germany, China, etc. where foreigners have to learn the language in order to better deal with the country. At the same time when the NEP is marketed in that way, it does not address that there are 22 languages active in India instead of one national language as in other countries.
The other problems that have already been raised with respect to language associates with the three-language policy. States like Tamil Nadu have already begun calling out the center and have associated the NEP as a tactic simply to implement Hindi in the state.
The three-language formula in the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is “painful and saddening”, said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, as he vowed not to implement the new policy. Unfortunately, the imposition of Hindi has been a major issue in Tamil Nadu often leading to protest and has reduced the NEP to another gimmick by the center by the current CM.
2. The increasing disparity between sections of society
The policy shows how students in government schools will be taught in the regional languages up to 5th standard if not 8th. The private schools, however, will not take a step back in introducing English from the early stages. If a student only begins to learn English 7 years later to that of students in private schools the difference will only add to those of learning a language in an environment that is not conducive to speaking, writing, and reading English.
Even when it comes to providing material to students in regional languages or mother tongues the NEP 2020 mentions that textbooks should be available in regional languages, but also must be downloadable and printable. It fails to address that less than 30% of Indians have smartphones. And if you and the people around you do have one it just shows us the fortunate category we are in and the fortunate category of people we surround ourselves with at all times. Also, there is a need for computers in order to learn to code.
3. Four-year graduation program
The four-year graduation program, unfortunately, lets go of most of the benefits after approving dropouts in the first year in order to change streams. What is the purpose of allowing dropouts in the later stages? Why should a student even wait to complete 4 years if he receives a diploma in two? If he leaves immediately he may have added 2 years of work experience instead of classwork.
And on top of all, how will a child from a lower-income background answer these questions when he is asked to take his diploma and start contributing to the family income.
Although there may be a few minor loopholes the new National Educational Policy, nevertheless is revolutionary. Hopefully, these are further addressed in the parliament sessions to come. The next question that pops up is – By when will the policy be implemented? The implementation, however, will start immediately with the first change being the Ministry of Human Resource Development getting renamed as the Ministry of Education.
Other implementations are to be done in phases from next month. Meaning many significant changes of the over 100 action points being noticed. The complete policy, however, is meant to transform the education system by 2040. Final judgment on the extent of its success can only be made on its execution. Hopefully, it doesn’t take till 2040.