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July 06, 2019 Saturday 01:40:46 PM IST

The Salient Features of the Draft New Education Policy

Cover Story

The vision of India’s new education system is to contribute to many growing developmental imperatives; creating a just and equitable society. aspirational goals of 21st century education, while remaining consistent with India’s traditions and value systems.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted at the UN General Assembly in 1948, education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages and elementary education shall be compulsory’; education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms’.

The report, ‘Learning: The Treasure Within’, which the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century chaired by Jacques Delors, submittedto UNESCO in 1996,  argued that education throughout life was based on four pillars: i) Learning to know - acquiring a body of knowledge and learning how to learn, so as to benefit from the opportunities education provides throughout life; ii) Learning to do - acquiring not only an occupational skill but also the competence to deal with many situations and work in teams, and a package of skills that enables one to deal with the various challenges of working life; iii) Learning to live together – developing an understanding of other people and an appreciation of interdependence in a spirit of respect for the values of pluralism, mutual understanding and peace; and iv) Learning to be - developing one’s personality and being able to act with autonomy, judgement and personal responsibility, while ensuring that education does not disregard any aspect of the potential of a person: memory, reasoning, aesthetic sense, physical capacities and communication skills.

Such an articulation of a broad view of education encompassing the holistic development of students with special emphasis on the development of the creative potential of each individual, in all its richness and complexity, has grown increasingly popular in recent years at world organisations such as UNESCO, World Bank, World Economic Forum, etc. Students must develop not only cognitive skills – both ‘foundational skills’ of literacy and numeracy and ‘higher-order’ cognitive

skills such as critical thinking and problem solving skills - but also social and emotional skills, also referred to as ‘soft skills’, including cultural awareness and empathy, perseverance and grit, teamwork and leadership, among others. The process by which children and adults acquire these competencies is also referred to as Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). All learners should become more academically, socially and emotionally competent.

India’s heritage

Education in ancient India was not just the acquisition of knowledge, as preparation for life in this world or for life beyond schooling, but for complete realisation and liberation of the self.

Since Independence, we have been preoccupied largely with issues of access and equity, and have unfortunately dropped the baton with regard to quality of education.

The National Policy on Education 1986, Modified in 1992 (NPE 1986/92): A major development since the formulation of the NPE 1986/92 has been the establishment of Constitutional and legal underpinnings for achieving universal elementary education. The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, that inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India, envisages free and compulsory education for all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right. But in the education system today, students are not nurtured for their individual potential.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act), which came into force in April 2010, entitles every child of the age of six to fourteen years to the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till the completion of elementary education.

Young learners today belong to a generation that is born and raised in technology-rich environments. They will use technologies that haven’t been invented so far and enter jobs that don’t exist at present. Globalisation and the demands of a knowledge economy and a knowledge society call for emphasis on the need for acquisition of new skills by learners on a regular basis, for them to ‘learn how to learn’ and become lifelong learners.

It is essential that children and youth in the country are equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values as well as employable skills.     

The direction of the global education development agenda is reflected in the sustainable development goal 4 (SDG4) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable

Development. SDG4 seeks to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ by 2030. Five of the seven targets of SDG4 focus on quality education and learning outcomes.

Foundational stage

The present Policy begins with viewing early childhood care and education (ECCE) as a part of the Foundational stage of school education (three years of

pre-primary education and Grades 1 and 2), a single curricular and pedagogical phase of play- and discovery-based learning for very young children, between

the ages of 3-8 years.

The flexibility in the first five years will enable equalising of the multiple cognitive abilities of children. This is followed by a Preparatory phase consisting of three years (Grades 3, 4 and 5) of basic education incorporating some textbooks as well as aspects of more formal classroom learning. The next three years of Middle school education (Grades 6, 7 and 8) would involve developing more abstract thinking and subject teaching leading up to a Secondary education phase of four years (Grades 9, 10, 11 and 12). This last phase of four years of secondary school education will facilitate multidisciplinary studies with appropriate exit options besides preparing for the next phase of undergraduate programme of study, including early introduction to Liberal Arts education.

Even though a student may discontinue his/her studies in different phases, he/she will be eligible for re-entry and continuing education into the higher levels.

School complex management

The concept of interconnectedness also applies to the location of education in a social context. The Policy sees the engagement of the community extending to ownership for the success of educational endeavours, whether through deeper ownership of school complexes through School Complex Management Committees or through volunteering to ensure the success of educational programmes. With regard to schools, the introduction of school complexes will bring about a new culture of sharing common resources in an optimal way. The idea of the school complex was proposed by the Education Commission Report (1964-66) and is also mentioned in the Programme of Action 1992 document of the NPE 1986/92, but has faltered in its implementation. An attitudinal change needs to be brought in so that the implementation effort is carefully nurtured, and best practices and processes developed at successful school complexes can be replicated at many places.

It is only when institutions, school complexes, colleges and universities are autonomous and empowered to deliver on the goals of the Policy that we will have a responsive education that is key to achieving a knowledge society.

Corruption remains an important element that distorts governance of education.  Designing systems of governance that guarantee institutional integrity through organisational revival will be pursued as a key priority.

(Extract from Draft NEP)