Insights into Editorial: Flexible education and training systems

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Insights into Editorial: Flexible education and training systems


 

Context:

India’s draft National Education Policy (NEP) was finally shared by the ministry of human resource development for public comment, and may soon become a policy. At least 115,000 meetings and two committees had done for this draft National Education Policy (NEP).

A meeting with all state governments has also been called later this month to seek their views. Once feedback is received, the government will finalise the policy and move it in Parliament.

 

Some of the broad draft recommendations on school education:

Curriculum and pedagogy:

 

While the 1986 education policy standardised school education with its push for a uniform 10+2 structure, the 2018 draft pitches for reconfiguration of curriculum and pedagogy in a “5+3+3+4” design, which recognises different stages of development of cognitive abilities in children.

The foundational phase, the draft policy recommends, should comprise five years of flexible “play-based, activity-based, and discovery-based” learning and interaction. Instilling multilingual skills in children will be the key focus of this stage.

This is followed by a preparatory phase consisting of three of basic education incorporating some textbooks as well as aspects of more formal classroom learning.

The next three years of middle school education would involve developing more abstract thinking and subject teaching leading up to a secondary education phase of four years.

It adds that the choice among science, arts and commerce should be delayed so that it is based on a student’s experience and interests and not dictated by parents and society.

 

Languages:

While the draft recommends continuance of the three-language formula, it has proposed flexibility in the choice of languages, as long as students can show proficiency in any three languages. Hindi and English are no longer the stipulated languages that students must study from Grade 6.

Further, it advocates reduction in curriculum load and reorientation of curriculum to promote multilinguism, ancient Indian knowledge systems, scientific temper, ethical reasoning, social responsibility, digital literacy and knowledge of critical issues facing local communities.

 

Board exam restructure:

Class 10 and 12 Board examinations, according to the draft NEP 2018, should serve as a “check for basic learning, skills and analysis”, which one should pass comfortably without coaching and cramming. To eliminate the “life-determining” and “high stakes” nature of Board examinations, it calls for changes including allowing students to sit for the examination twice in any given school year.

 

It also pitches a shift to a “modular” approach in which a student is able to sit for the Board exam in a range of subjects across eight semesters.

 

Technology in Education:

The policy dissects this topic into four broad areas:

  • Training of teachers in the use of educational technology, and use of educational technology for professional development of teachers.
  • Classroom tools and curriculum, such as “computational training”, online course software etc.
  • Access for those disadvantaged students who cannot attend a physical school.
  • Overall educational records management with a National Repository of Educational Data.

 

Governance of schools:

At present, the Department of School Education (DSE) in a state is in charge of operation, regulation and policy-making.

The draft NEP 2018 calls for decentralisation, with each of these functions carried out by separate bodies policy-making by a ‘Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog’ (Education Commission at national level, headed by the PM); operation by DSE; regulation by an independent ‘State School Regulatory Authority’ or SSRA in each state.

SSRA will set basic and uniform standards for both public and private schools; academic matters, including standard setting and curriculum, to be continued to be led by the State Councils of Educational Research and Training.

 

School Management Committees or SMCs:

While the policy advocates an end to “loading of regulatory requirements” against private institutions, it also recommends that school management committees or SMCs be set up in private schools.

SMCs (with parents as members) are currently mandatory for government schools and play a significant role in governance and functioning.

For fee hikes in private schools, the draft states that the percentage of increase, based on inflation, will be decided by SSRA for every three-year period.

Private schools will not use the word “public” in their names in any communication, documentation or declaration of status, it recommends.

It calls for a review of Clause 12(1)(c) — providing for mandatory 25% reservation for economically weaker section students in private schools — in the wake of its alleged misuse.

 

Conclusion:

Public investment in higher education to be raised from the current 10% of overall public expenditure in education to 20%, over a 10-year period.

The main thrust of the draft policy is on breaking the “rigid boundaries of disciplines” in higher education and moving towards broad-based, flexible learning.

Institutions offering single streams (such as technical education) must be phased out, and all universities and colleges must aim to become multidisciplinary by 2030.

The draft policy proposes a National Education Technology Forum, a group of education leaders and government officials to discuss and advise on how to strengthen educational technology, and Centres of Excellence in Educational Technology in prominent institutions.