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Educational policies help define rules, regulations, procedures and protocols necessary to run a system smoothly, safely and ensure that students receive a quality education. It also helps to establish rules and regulations to guide acceptable behavior and ensure that the overall educational environment is safe for the students and responsible to the larger world with an aim to create a productive learning environment.

Independent India with a new constitutional document makes elaborate provisions for the universalization of education all over the country. Education is a fundamental right under article 21-A of the constitution, besides Article 45 of the Directive Principles of State Policy states that, The state shall endeavour to provide within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory Education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years. Article 30 relates to certain cultural and educational rights to establish and administer educational institutions. Article 29 ensures language safeguards. Article 15, 17, 46 safeguard the educational interests of the weaker sections while as Article 29(1) removes discrimination. To ensure the implementation of these constitutional provisions there has to be a proper mechanism in place.

In post independent India the need for such a comprehensive framework to guide the development of education in the country was first felt in 1964.The same year Kothari Commission was constituted to draft comprehensive national policy on education and subsequently Parliament passed the first education policy in 1968.The second Educational policy in India came in 1986.The New educational policy or NEP 2020 largely focuses on overhauling the curriculum, ‘easier’ Board exams, a reduction in the syllabus to retain core essentials and a clear thrust on ‘experiential learning and critical thinking’. It also proposes changes including opening up of Indian higher education to foreign universities, abolishing the UGC and the (AICTE) All India Council for Technical Education, introduction of a four-year multidisciplinary undergraduate programme with multiple exit options with an aim to making higher education more flexible and relevant. The NEP 2020 changes the existing 10+2 structure of school education to a 5+3+3+4, covering children between the ages of 3-18 with an aim to fold children of the age group of 3-6 years, who were not covered in the existing structure, which begins only at grade 1.The NEP also states that there will be no hard separation among curricular ‘extra-curricular’ or ‘co-curricular’ areas, among arts, humanities, and sciences or between ‘vocational’ or ‘academic’ streams. In a significant shift from the 1986 policy the new policy also seeks to ensure that no student is at a disadvantage because they are from a Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Group. Gender Inclusion Fund and Special Education Zones will be instituted for this purpose. Vocational education will begin from grade six and include internship. This will open a real-world understanding of their subject of interest from local experts and inculcate sundry skills at an early age. At the secondary level children will also be given increased flexibility in the choices of subjects they wish to study. To streamline the system of examinations the new education policy intends to make them easier by testing only “core capacities” of students. Assessment will be done through a multidimensional report of students appearing for the board exam.

Apart from teachers assessment, the progress card will include self-assessment and peer assessment. Apart from board exams, the policy proposes school exams in Classes 3, 5 and 8.The new policy also suggests setting up of National Assessment Centre PARAKH-Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development. The body will be responsible for suggesting guidelines for student assessment and evaluation for all recognized school boards. There will also be the possibility of taking the board exams twice in a year, once for the main exam and once for improvement if a student so wishes. With the aim of creation of greater  opportunities for individual employment, the NEP brings about sweeping changes in the system of higher education.

The new reforms offer a single regulator for higher education institutions, multiple entry and exit options in degree courses, discontinuation of MPhil programs, low stakes board exams and common entrance exams for universities. In keeping with the multidisciplinary approach to education, a new system that the NEP is seeking to implement is an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC), which will be able to digitally store academic credits earned from various recognised institutions. The new ‘National Higher Education Regulatory Council’ NHERC is set to function as one single regulator for the higher education sector, including teacher education. The new policy also aims to promote multilingualism and a learning of native languages.

The policy seeks to implement the three language formula but with greater flexibility and without imposing any language. According to the new policy the medium of education until at least grade 5 should optionally be in the regional language, mother tongue or local language. To address the needs of the specially abled children Indian Sign Language (ISL) will also be standardized throughout the country and a new curriculum will be developed for deaf children. There are also provision for reduction of curricular content and rote learning and supplements it with conceptual learning, experimentation, and critical thinking.

To improve the skills of teachers, it also states that the eligibility tests will be strengthened to inculcate better test material and the scores of the same will be taken into account for recruitment purposes. Teachers will also be offered local, regional, state, national, and international workshops as well as online teacher development modules so that they are able to improve their skills and knowledge and will be expected to participate in at least 50 hours of such continuous professional development opportunities in a year. By 2030 teacher education will be moved into multidisciplinary universities, and by the same year, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a four-year integrated BEd.

Amid all the positive aspects there are a number of concerns about the new policy document which includes the concerns regarding the English language, imposition of sanskrit, introduction of vocational education at an early stage and more importantly bypassing the Parliament and disregarding the input of the states. The education per se falls in the concurrent list and the implementation lies with the state governments and their involvement is must.

The writer is IGNOU counselor and can be mailed at [email protected]

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