From expanding RTE Act's ambit to making board exams low-stakes, highlights of new National Education Policy

The NEP also features a single regulator for higher education institutions, multiple entry and exit options in degree courses and common entrance exams for admissions to universities, among other things

FP Staff July 29, 2020 22:21:08 IST
From expanding RTE Act's ambit to making board exams low-stakes, highlights of new National Education Policy

India's National Education Policy (NEP) has been given a complete overhaul for the first time in close to three decades with the Union Cabinet givings its approval to the new policy document on Wednesday. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), which looked after all education related legislation is also getting a new nomenclature, and will henceforth be known as the Education Ministry.

The key highlights of the revamped policy include a single regulator for higher education institutions, multiple entry and exit options in degree courses, discontinuation of MPhil programmes, "low stakes" board exams and common entrance exams for universities, among other things.

The Union Cabinet has approved the revamped NEP, which was framed in 1986 and revised last in 1992.

"NEP 2020 aims to increase the gross enrolment ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3 percent (2018) to 50 percent by 2035. At least 3.5 crore new seats will be added to higher education institutions," HRD higher education secretary Amit Khare said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

From expanding RTE Acts ambit to making board exams lowstakes highlights of new National Education Policy

Representational image. PTI

School Education

Introduction of multilingualism in primary schooling, extension of three-language policy with special focus on Hindi heartland states, extension of the Rigth to Education (RTE) Act to cover pre-primary and secondary education were among key highlights of the NEP.

  • As per the new policy, the home language, mother tongue or regional language will be made the medium of instruction up to Class 5. The goal is to enable "development of multilingual skills in children".
  • Besides peforming existing tasks, the NCERT will now also work on development of a Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Education.
  • A major change in the new policy is the extension of the RTE Act to now include pre-primary education (nursery and kindergarten) as well as secondary education (Classes 9-12). The NEP states that it will be obligatory for the public system to provide appropriate and quality educational infrastructure, facilities, and educators to all children in the age group 3-6 years, with a special emphasis on reaching the most socio-economically disadvantaged children.
  • The NEP also focuses on developing foundational literacy and numeracy by Class 5 as it remains a key problem area for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. "Numerous studies show that, in the current educational system, once students fall behind, they tend to maintain flat learning curves for years, perpetually unable to catch up," the policy document said. To help this, the NEP talks about opening up the education system to 'community volunteers' who wish to teach reading and writing skills to children. The curriculum of Classes 1 to 5 will also be revamped to improve basic literacy and numeracy.
  • The NEP also expands the mid-day meal scheme to include a breakfast in pre-primary and primary schools.

"Both a nutritious breakfast even just some milk and a banana and a midday meal will be served to pre-primary and primary school students," the new policy states.

  • The NEP also creates a system for appointment of peer-tutors to boost learning in early stages of schooling. "A National Tutors Programme (NTP) will be instituted, where the best performers in each school will be drawn in the programme for up to five hours a week as tutors during the school for fellow (generally younger) students who need help," it says.
  • The NEP also focuses on ensuring proper teacher deployment and teacher conditions, and a pupil-teacher ratio under 30.
  • Students will be given increased flexibility and choice of subjects to study across the arts, humanities, sciences, sports, and vocational subjects. The NEP says that hard separation in arts and sciences, and vocational and academic subjects in the curriculum will be done away with.
  • Another major change brought into school education by the new NEP is " low stake" board exams. As per the new policy, the focus now will be on testing concepts and knowledge application.

The NEP states that board exams promote a culture that thrives coaching classes and promotes rote learning, while forcing students to focus more on a few subjects at the cost of others.

Higher Education

The policy envisages broad-based, multi-disciplinary, holistic under graduate education with flexible curricula, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education and multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification.

As per the new policy, under graduate education can be of three or four years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period.

Among the key reforms in the policy are:

  • A single regulator for all higher education institutions except for legal and medical colleges.
  • Common entrance exam for admissions to universities and colleges to be conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) and common norms to be in place for private and public higher education institutions under the Central government's new Education Policy.
  • Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism is to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges. Over a period of time, it is envisaged that every college would develop into either an autonomous degree-granting college, or a constituent college of a university. A major goal of higher education policy is "ending the culture of specialised institutes and promoting multidisciplinary large universities to help break down harmful silos between disciplines".
  • NEP also envisions to establish a National Research Foundation (NRF) to grant competitive funding for outstanding research proposals across all disciplines, as determined by peer review and success of proposals.
  • Higher education institutions will be governed by "independent boards", with complete academic and administrative autonomy.
  • A new institutional architecture with three kinds (or type) of institutions shall be developed. Type 1 will include research universities, type 2 will include teaching universities and type 3 will include colleges which will run undergratuate, diploma and certification courses.
  • A liberal and broad-based undergraduate education will also be accompanied by rigorous specialisation in chosen disciplines or fields in order to develop deeper expertise in one or more subjects. The NEP focuses on introducing basic liberal arts knowledge in Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM courses as well) to enhance creativity and critical thinking.

The new education policy was part of the BJP's manifesto ahead of the 2014 general election to Lok Sabha.

In May 2016, a "Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy' under the chairmanship of TSR Subramanian, former cabinet secretary, submitted its report. Based on this, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) prepared a document called 'Some Inputs for the Draft National Education Policy, 2016'.

Then, a panel led by former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief K Kasturirangan had submitted the draft of the new NEP to Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' when he took charge last year.

The draft was then put in the public domain to seek feedback from various stakeholders and over two lakh suggestions were received by the HRD Ministry about the same.

With inputs from PTI

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