During the last few days, the Union Cabinet has cleared a new National education policy (NEP). According to this, some drastic changes have been made both in schools and higher education.
What is NEP?
NEP is a comprehensive guideline that has framed a new education policy for our country. Its requirement was first felt in 1964 when Congress emphasized on the education due to its lacking vision and philosophy. It was in the same year that a national and coordinated policy on education was framed by a 17 member Education Commission. Based on this Commission’s decision, the first education policy was passed by our parliament in 1968.
Generally, a new NEP comes along in every few decades. The first came in 1968 and the second in 1986, under India Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi respectively. The New Education Policy of 2020 is the third and released few days before under the Prime Ministership of Narendra Modi, replacing the 34-year-old NEP that was continuing since 1986. It has opened up India’s higher education policies to foreign universities, dismantling of the UGC and the AICTE. It is introducing a 4-year multidisciplinary UG programme with several exit options and discontinuation of the MPhil programme completely.
It focuses on making the curriculum easy with a reduction in the syllabus so that students can learn the “core essentials” and emphasize more on “experimental and critical thinking”.
The Structure of NEP
A significant shift from the last NEP structure of 1986 has paved the way for a new structure of school education. The 10+2 old system has been removed and has been pitched with a new NEP system of a “5+3+3+4 design”, pertaining to the age groups 3-8 years (foundational stage), 8-11 years (preparatory stage), 11-14 years (middle stage) and 14-18 years (secondary stage). This has made the basis of formal schooling.
Added to this, our PM has extended the mid-day meal programme to pre-school children. Also, it has been taken into account that students must be taught in their mother tongue until the 5th standard. This policy also proposes that all institutes offering single streams and all other colleges and universities must become multi-disciplinary by 2040.
Implementation of NEP reforms
The NEP is not only a wide education change but also a compulsory guideline to be henceforth adopted and continued. Since education is a matter concerning both the Central and State governments, any reforms proposed can be collaboratively implemented both by the recommendations of the Central and the States. The target for this plan to be accomplished has been set to a time limit within 2040 for the entire policy to get executed completely. Also, the problem of fund shortage that has always hindered the smooth functioning of the last 1986 NEP must be crucially handled. The government plans to set up member committees subject-wise from relevant ministries at both Central and State levels. These plans will be further formulated and acted upon by certain bodies including the HRD Ministry, school boards, NCERT, State Education Departments, Central Advisory Board of Education and National Testing Agency.
Importance of regional language in English-medium schools
Most government schools in our country are already following this. But for private schools, it is difficult to ask them to change their instruction medium. So, a senior ministry official has clarified to the Indian Express that the provision of the mother tongue cannot be made compulsory as the medium of instruction for all Indian states. As education is a concurrent subject, kids will be taught in their mother tongue or regional language wherever and whenever possible. Furthermore, NEP acknowledges children living in multi-lingual families. Teachers are told to focus on a bi-lingual approach using bi-lingual learning materials so that the students, whose home language does not vary with the medium of instruction in schools, can easily coordinate.
The outline of the 4-year multi-disciplinary bachelor’s programme work
The Delhi University has been instructed to exit out from the 4-year undergraduate programme and formulate according to the new NEP in which students can exit after one year with a certificate, after 2 years with a diploma and after 3 years with a bachelor’s degree. Students can decide in which subject they want to major in and should be able to enter any research degree programme depending upon their performance. However, the master’s degree course will continue as they have been functioning.