Lots to learn from draft Indian education policy

India’s draft National Education Policy 2019 is in the news for the wrong reasons. Political parties from the Southern part of India were outraged because one small part of the roughly 479-page extensive report, that otherwise calls for a much-needed overhaul of the country’s education system, asked for the Hindi language to be included in all state school curriculums.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government responded swiftly by revising the offending clause but the policy overall is laudable for its decisive approach that could help the country achieve a more inclusive and sustainable growth. It is still up in the air whether this policy in its totality will see the light of day but it is a good start.

The Committee led by the Chairman Dr. Kasturirangan submitted the Draft National Educational Policy to the Union Human Resource Development Minister, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and Minister of State for HRD, Shri Sanjay Shamrao Dhotre in New Delhi today in the presence of Shri R. Subrahmanyam, Secretary Department of Higher Education and Smt. Rina Ray, Secretary Department of School Education & Literacy and other senior officials of the Ministry. Photo courtesy: PIB
The Committee led by the Chairman Dr. Kasturirangan submitted the Draft National Educational Policy to the Union Human Resource Development Minister, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and Minister of State for HRD, Shri Sanjay Shamrao Dhotre in New Delhi today in the presence of Shri R. Subrahmanyam, Secretary Department of Higher Education and Smt. Rina Ray, Secretary Department of School Education & Literacy and other senior officials of the Ministry. Photo courtesy: PIB

Below are some interesting policy suggestions from the report that was released a few days back:

  • Committee’s own course was primarily to bring out a vision document which will hold the test of time for at least another 20 years.
  • Specific policy initiatives to be implemented to attain quality early childhood education for all by 2025. The mandate of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) be expanded to include the development of a Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Education.
  • Significant expansion and strengthening of facilities for early childhood education
  • Design of learning-friendly environments. Professionalisation of high-quality educators for early childhood education and a supportive regulatory environment.
  • Expansion of midday meal programme, increased focus in school on foundational literacy and numeracy
  • Every child in Grades 1-5 will have a workbook for languages and mathematics in addition to the school textbook.
  • Creation of national repository of language and mathematics resources
  • A National Tutors Programme (NTP) will be instituted, where the best performers in each school will be drawn in the programme for up to five hours a week as tutors during the school for fellow (generally younger) students who need help.
  • Various technological interventions will be made available to teachers, especially as computers, tablets, smartphones, and the relevant software will become widely available.
  • Teacher education and development, both pre-service and in-service, will have a renewed emphasis. Ensuring proper teacher deployment and teacher conditions, and a Pupil Teacher Ratio under 30: 1 at every school
  • The number and coverage of schools/sections will be increased at all levels, especially Grades 9-12, in order to work towards achieving 100% GER from the Foundational Stage through Grade 12 for all children by 2030.
  • Supporting transport facilities and security in schools
  • The availability of free and compulsory quality secondary education (Grades 9-12; typically ages 14-18) will be included as an integral part of the RTE Act to ensure that, by 2030, all students enrol and participate in quality school education through Grade 12.
  • Reduce curriculum load in each subject to its essential core content, in order to make space for more holistic, experiential, discussion-based, and analysis-based learning.
  • Students will be given increased flexibility and choice of subjects, particularly in secondary school – including physical education, the arts, and vocational crafts.
  • Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardised across the country, and National and State curriculum materials developed for use by students with hearing impairment
  • A choice of foreign language(s) (e.g. French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese) would be offered and available to interested students to choose as elective(s) during secondary school.
  • Every student in the country will take a fun course on “The Languages of India” sometime in Grades 6-8.
  • In addition to Sanskrit, the teaching of other classical languages and literatures of India, including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Pali, Persian, and Prakrit, will also be widely available in schools, to ensure that these languages and literature stay alive and vibrant, especially in States where they may be best taught and nurtured.
  • For the enrichment of our children, and for the preservation of these rich languages and their artistic treasures, all students in all schools, public or private, will take at least two years of a classical language of India in Grades 6-8, with the option to continue through secondary education and university.
  • Evidence-based reasoning and the scientific method will be incorporated throughout the school curriculum – in science as well as in traditionally “non-science” subjects – in order to encourage rational, analytical, logical, and quantitive thinking in all aspects of the curriculum.
  • Every student from the Foundational stage onwards will have basic exposure to the notes, scales, ragas, and rhythms of classical Indian music (Carnatic and/or Hindustani) through vocal exercises, singing, and clapping, as well as in local folk music, art, and craft in a hands-on way; they will have exposure to both vocal and instrumental music.
  • Incorporation of Indian knowledge systems into the curriculum: Indian contributions to knowledge – and the historical contexts that led to them – will be incorporated.
  • Guidelines will be prepared by NCERT, and teachers prepared, for a transformation in the assessment system by 2022, to align with the NCF 2020.  Assessment will be redesigned to primarily test core concepts and skills along with higher order capacities such as critical thinking, analysis, and conceptual clarity rather than rote memorisation.
  • Board Examinations will be significantly restructured to test only core concepts, skills, and higher order capacities in a range of required subjects and a range of elective subjects of the student’s choice.
  • National Testing Agency strengthened to conduct college and university entrance examinations: The autonomous NTA will comprise of numerous academic, educational, and psychometric experts, and from 2020 onwards will administer aptitude tests and tests in specific subjects that can be taken on multiple occasions during the year.
  • Teachers must have access to more short courses that are certified, for modular approaches that allow them to accumulate credits and earn certificates and diplomas, even leading to professional degrees (including an M.A. in Education or M.Ed. degrees).
  • All teachers will have possible career progression paths to become educational administrators or teacher educators.
  • Special Education Zones will be set up in disadvantaged regions across the country.
  • Admissions processes that go against the spirit of inclusivity will be abolished, and institutional processes (including timetables and academic calendars) will reflect the diverse needs of learners and their communities.
  • Multiple public schools will be brought together in an organisational and administrative unit called the school complex. This will not require physical relocation of schools. Each individual school that is viable in size will continue to function even as it is integrated administratively into a school complex.
  • New regulatory authority for schools called the State School Regulatory Authority (SSRA), will have the regulatory mandate and will set basic and uniform standards for both public and private schools.
  • Regulation of private schools will be conducted within the same framework as public schools, and all policies above will apply equally to public and private schools.
  • Private schools may be free to set their fees, but they shall not increase school fees arbitrarily. Reasonable increases that can stand public scrutiny can be made.
  • All private schools to build diversity and inclusion within their student populations, through recruitment, lotteries, and scholarships.
  • Schools must be not-for-profit entities, as evidenced by their audited financial statements that must be held to the same disclosure standards as for Section 8 companies.
  • Regarding higher education: the ending of the fragmentation of higher education by moving higher education into large multidisciplinary universities and colleges, each of which will aim to have upwards of 5,000 or more students.
  • Moving towards a more liberal arts undergraduate education
  • A National Research Foundation (NRF) will be established to grant competitive funding for outstanding research proposals across all disciplines, as determined by peer review and success of proposals.
  • In the decade of 2030-40, the entire Policy will be in an operational mode, following which another comprehensive review will be undertaken. It is, of course, expected that annual reviews will continue.