Union cabinet approves nation’s New Education Policy.
On Wednesday, the Union cabinet approved major reforms in the national education strategy, a development which will go a long way towards aligning education with the needs of the times. Although the pandemic-induced shutdown has intensified the cycle of introducing technology into learning, the program goes much further than merely supplying the chalk and talk framework with an alternate forum of prevalence.
What is the New Education Policy?
The 10 + 2 school curriculum system will be revised into the 5 + 3 + 3 + 4 system, where five are the early formative years, and four are from IX to XII. The 3 + 3 are the years in middle school. Commenting on the reforms, Anita Karwal, secretary of school education, said the objective is to achieve universalization of early childhood care and secondary education by 2030, in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs), and therefore a 100% enrollment rate percentage of pre-school to secondary school by 2030. “We have to bring two crores out of school children back to the classroom,” she said.
According to the New Education Policy, while early education will be focused on interaction and recreation, once they reach middle school, the children will move into “subjects.” And these must, however, be multidisciplinary, not straitjacketed, a principle that will continue right up to the standard XII. With other subjects, the snob image must go, with the humanities, sciences, and topics such as music and physical education looped into the extra and co-curricular programs, all now being handled in par.
Also at the college level, this multidisciplinary approach will persist, with students having opportunities for majoring in a single subject and taking other areas of interest as minor papers. So you can have the option of an engineering major with a minor in music. No more the set universe of PCBs and PCMs.
The “English-medium” premium will also ease a little, with the administration promoting early literacy in the mother tongue or regional language as per the New Education Policy. In addition, Karwal said it would be welcomed if the regional language can be used up to and even higher up the middle school.
Synchronizing curriculum with realistic knowledge and the needs of the times, the New Education Policy proposes that students be taught coding in class from the sixth grade onwards. Among the other goals of the program is the installation of mathematical thought and a scientific mind, which is primarily based on the K. Kasturirangan Committee, 2019’s suggestions. Focusing on the need for all forms of integration, the framework not only advises getting outliers back into the program but also early recognition of the gifted students. The multidisciplinary approach also seeks to ensure that each pupil is trained with a specific technical skill by the time they leave school.
What else does this New Education Policy promise?
Another much-needed improvement would be the effort to reduce the significance of board examination, which is the cause of multiple psychiatric illnesses in teenagers. Karwal said the New Education Policy’s emphasis would change to the applications of education rather than rote learning. In fact, there is a possibility that school may opt for the standard entrance exam of the National Testing Agency, the marks of which would be used to get entry to college.
If this entrance exam is not made mandatory, it would undoubtedly alleviate school boards’ tension to outperform each other and award ludicrous scores of 99.9 per cent to students in the bargain. In fact, the National Assessment Centre will issue guidelines so that the 60 recognised school boards in the country can reach a certain benchmark.
Flexibility is a driving principle of higher education. The New Education Policy proposes a simultaneous entrance and departure scheme, which encourages graduates to leave halfway through a course and yet receive a certificate of qualification. For example, the applicant obtains a certificate at the end of the first year, a diploma at the end of the second year, and the degree at the end of the third year. Several institutes have already implemented this scheme, and the program seeks to make it the standard.
Likewise, it helps students to obtain credits so that if they have a study break, they can restart later on from that point, using the credits earned in the past. Those credits will be deposited in the DigiLocker automatically.
The higher education secretary, Amit Khare, said that the government intended at a gross enrolment ratio of 50 per cent in higher education by 2035 while highlighting the need for technology. The guiding rule is technology’s use with equity so that the outliers aren’t left behind. The use of technology in education would be spread to every aspect, from teaching and learning to assessment. For this, the New Education Policy recommends developing e-content in regional languages, a minimum of eight regional languages to begin with.
Virtual laboratories, being developed by IIT Madras, too, will be popularised across institutions. The policy also recommends that special initiatives be taken to ensure that the physically challenged students were not left out of the teaching up process.
At the administration level, the New Education Policy recommends graded autonomy for institutes, and phasing out affiliations over the next 15 years, depending on the grading of that institute. Khare mentioned that some universities had so many colleges affiliated to them that they did little more than conduct exams and declare results. The policy also recommends that stand-alone institutes evolve into multidisciplinary ones.
The New Education Policy recommends a fee cap within a broad regulatory framework for institutions and aims for a six per cent spend of the GDP in education. At present, it is a little over four per cent. There is a clear-eyed focus on internationalizing Indian education, to attract foreign students and to have good ties ups between Indian and foreign institutes. The Institutes of Excellence, a scheme that was launched a couple of years ago, is already underway. It aims at making 20 institutions—ten each from public and private sectors—into world-class centres.
Khare said that the consultations for this New Education Policy were wide and thorough. The government reached out to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats through the MyGov.in platform for inputs. The Kasturirangan Committee report was translated into 22 languages. The HRD parliamentary standing committee met in 2019 to deliberate upon the policy.
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