What does the NEP policy mean for Primary education?

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Recently the NEP 2020 draft was accepted by both the houses in the Parliament which contained a slew of changes made for the education system in India.

It was the first change made in the education sector for over 34 years. A new change beckoned in the way education was done in India.

With the world moving towards a more practical and dynamic approach, the government has drafted a complete change in the education system.

With more focus on solving problems of today and the future, the education policy is encouraging students to be more practical and independent thinkers than the previous times.

But what does this policy mean to the students of India?. Moreover what role do the parents have to play to make sure that the smooth transition takes place in the way of learning?

The way people and their kids have to cope up with the current education policy is different for each individual.

For some, it may be easy to transform, while others may find it difficult to adjust. But the way we execute this is going to decide the fate of the Country and its students for the coming years.

What changes are made in primary education?

The objective stated by the Government,” Every child in the age range of 3-6 years has access to free, safe, high quality, developmentally appropriate care and education by 2025.”

The government asserts that the age of 3-6 years is the most important stage in any child’s cognitive development ability and that it must be fully utilized to make sure that the child develops proper cognitive ability.

The government has in its research stated that” Evidence from neuroscience shows that over 85% of a child’s cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of 6, indicating the critical importance of developmentally appropriate care and stimulation of the brain in a child’s early years to promote sustained and healthy brain development and growth.”

The National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) conducted a study which studied the impact of the exposure of pre-school education on retention in primary grades.

It is further stated that students often are undeveloped when they are first exposed to school education which makes it even more difficult to keep them in school. Since this is the single most reason most students tend to start hate school education and not enjoy it.

What does quality ECCE entail?

During the ages prior to 3 years, quality ECCE includes the health and nutrition of both the mother and the child, but also crucially includes cognitive and emotional stimulation of the infant through talking, playing, moving, listening to music and sounds, and stimulating all the other senses particularly sight and touch. Exposure to languages, numbers,

and simple problem-solving is also considered important during this period. From 3 to 6 years of age, ECCE includes continued healthcare and nutrition, but also crucially self-help skills (such as “getting ready on one’s own”), motor skills, cleanliness, the handling of separation anxiety, being comfortable around one’s peers, moral development (such as knowing the difference between “right” and “wrong”), physical development through movement and exercise, expressing and communicating thoughts and feelings to parents and others, sitting for longer periods of time in order to work on and complete a task, and generally forming all-round good habits.

Significant expansion and strengthening of facilities for early childhood education:

The government in a bid to improve the early education, it is going to improve the structure by strengthening the schools at anganwadis and pre schools. It is going to strengthen and expand the anganwadi system to include a robust education component.

Co-locating anganwadis with primary schools

This will be done to ensure that the students gets familiar with the surroundings during its initial stages of development till its primary education. It will help to build stronger school communities also.

Co locating pre schools with primary schools:

Pre schools along with primary schools will be added together to make sure that the students development during 3-6 years is comprehensive in the students health, nutrition and growth monitoring services during the pre school period.

Building stand alone pre schools

In areas where there are no anganwadis and primary schools, new pre schools will be set up for the educational requirements of the students aged 3-6 years old.

By computing these 4 goals the government aims to improve the accessibility of education in all regions and to all types of students. Anganwadis will be built to ensure development of students from 0-3 years, pre schools for children of 3-6 years and primary schools for students above 6 years of age.

This will ensure that the goal set up by the government of ECEE is accomplished and that every child’s early development will be the best investment that anyone can make for the future.

“Universal access to qualify early childhood education is perhaps the best investment the India can make for our children’s and our nation’s future”.

Role of MHRD in early childhood education:

The policy states that the early education of children will come under the Ministry of Human Resource Development(MHRD). MHRD will focus on the continuity of curriculum from pre primary school to primary school and work closely in the development of all aspects of education.

Since only one ministry will be engaged in the development of childhood education from anganwadis,  pre primary to primary, there will be smooth transition and integration of the quality of education across the 3 stages of education.

Design of learning friendly environments:

It is important not only to have a strong curriculum but also have the necessary environment for children to want to spend time in schools.

To implement a strong design which will invite children to schools, a committee will be set up in each state consisting of experts from various fields which will have the flexibility and funds available to them for design.

Clean toilets, clean drinking water facilities along with proper seating arrangement will be provided for children. Many learning materials will also be provided which will be environment friendly and will help the students in their extra curricular activities.

Books, and other learning materials also to be provided for engagement of students.

Professionalism of high quality educators for early childhood education:

Now within the entire infrastructure the most important component are teachers or educators. Without proper educators, there wont be proper implementation of the policy and the big part of the new system may fail.

So to have qualified educators, specific training programmes will be conducted by the state governments to enhance the quality of the educators.

Also the current anganwadi educators will also be provided with the opportunity to take part in a 6 month special training programme so that even they can carry out effective early childhood teaching learning practices.

Generating demand from stakeholders for early childhood education:

ECCE will be a success only and only if all the parties involved take an active part in understanding the system and its works. Parents, teachers, policy makers and community members must take an active interest and be well informed on how to fulfill the needs of a young child which may be different than formal education provided and why they should be fulfilled for the development of the young child.

Extension of the RTE act to include early childhood education:

Since education is necessary and is important for the development of appropriate learning of a child, it will be an integral part of the RTE Act.

It will be obligatory for public system to provide with the appropriate quality education along with the facilities for the development of the child aged 3-6 years old with special emphasis on reaching the most socio economic disadvantaged children through ECCE services.

Foundational literacy and numeracy

“By 2025, every student in Grade 5 and beyond has achieved foundational literacy and numeracy”.

A big problem plaguing the country is the inability of many students not being able to read, write and perform basic arithmetic operations with numbers.

Many governmental and non governmental surveys indicate that as much as over 5 crore people don’t have the basic understanding of reading writing and performing basic numerical operations.

Studies also showed that once a students falls behind in foundational literacy and numeracy, they tend to maintain flat learning curve for years, unable to catch up.

A large proportion of people fall behind during their elementary school years due to lack of school preparedness during ECCE. And since they fall behind in ECCE they lack the engagement of school education and formal training.

Also not a lot of time is spent in foundational literacy and numeracy, instead the focus is quickly shifted towards rote learning. This causes more distance between the student and formal education.

To eradicate this problem, steps must be taken from the ECCE level, to primary level.

With nutritious breakfast and lunch being provided there will be a positive impact on the students and have them stay in school a bit longer.

Initiatives will be implemented from grade 1 to 5, so that mathematics and reading becomes strong for all the students.

Dedicated reading and mathematics hours for classes 1-2 and 3, along with an extra writing hour for grade 4 and 5 to be introduced.

Designated language weeks and mathematics week for students to participate. A community event of language meals and mathematics meal with the involvement of parents teachers. Weekly school assemblies for language and mathematics to enhance the involvement of language and maths activists.

Workbooks on language and mathematics such as exercises to keep students interested and engaging in the subjects.

Having a national repository of language and mathematics to provide with all the resources along with a national tutors programme to help the best performing tutors pass on their knowledge and expertise to everyone.

Ensuring a proper pupil to student ratio of upto 30:1 i.e 30 students per teacher at every school so that the teacher can sufficiently provide proper attention to each student.

Reintegrating dropouts and ensuring universal access to education:

Achieve access and participation in free and compulsory quality school education for all children in the age group of 3-18 years by 2030.”

One of the goals of schools is to ensure that students are actually enrolled and attending school. According to a survey by U-DISE, the gross enrolment ratio(GER) in 201617 for grades 1-5 was 95.1%, Grades 6-8 was 90.7%, grades 9-10 was 79.3% and grades 11-12 was only 51.3%.

A Bar chart showing the GER numbers for various grades. GER decreases as the grades are increasing.
GER chart

A significant number of students drop out after grade 5, as evident from the data.

It must be one of the top priorities to bring these children back and prevent further students from dropping out.

One of the main reasons for dropping out seems to be the falling behind in formal education because of rote learning. Other issues such as socio economic issues and inadequate infrastructure also add to this problem.

To counter this a creative and effective school infrastructure must be created with special focus on creative learning and thinking. A strong infrastructure will immediately attract the dropouts and the curriculum will boost further interest. Transportation facilities and hostel facilities along with security will also be provided for students facing socio economic issues.  

Providing proper support to students by maintain their attendance record and monitoring students who fall behind can help reduce dropout of students significantly.

Curriculum and pedagogy in schools:

“Curriculum and pedagogy are transformed by 2022 to minimise rote learning and instead encourage holistic development and 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, scientific temper, communication, collaboration, multilingualism, problem solving, ethics, social responsibility and digital literacy”.

A new curricular and pedagogical structure for school education:

The old grade 10+2 system was a important decision taken at the time and helped formalise and structure the education system.  

Donut chart showcasing the new framework of education.
New education framework

The old system of 10+2 to be replaced by the new 5 + 3 + 3 + 4 design.

  • 5 years of foundational stage : 3 years pre primary and grades 1-2
  • 3 years of preparatory stage: grade 3,4,5
  • 3 years of middle stage: grade 6,7,8
  • 4 years of high stage: grades 9, 10, 11, 12

Foundational stage consists of flexible, multilevel, play-based, activity-based and discovery-based learning along with various Indian traditions for cognitive and emotional stimulation of children.

Preparatory stage will build on the foundational stage by slowly incorporating textbooks and formal learning methods. This stage will work as a base across subjects including reading, learning, writing, speaking. Physical education, art, language, science and maths.

Middle stage will build on the previous stage and it will delve deeper into the formal education with more specialized teachers for learning/discussion of each and every subject.

Secondary stage will build on previous stage with even greater depth and critical thinking and flexibility in the choice of subjects. The 4 years of this stage will be divided in 2 semesters each year for a total of 8 semesters. Each student will take upto 5-6 subjects each semester.

Holistic development of learners and reducing curriculum content:

Both these steps have been taken to improve the critical thinking and real understanding on how to learn. Many students fail to actually know how to learn and think critically to solve problems that they may face.

With the holistic development and reducing curriculum, student will be able to focus more on thinking and solving problems.

More flexibility in subjects and education in multiple languages:

 Students will have more flexibility in the subject that they can choose. From arts to Science students can choose any subjects of their liking in secondary school. There won’t be hard separation of vocational and academic streams.

More emphasis will be given on learning using mother tongue and more than one language. Between ages 2-8 years, multilingualism has great cognitive benefits for students.

Preferably, until grade 8, medium of instruction will be in home language.

During the foundational age, from pre primary to grade 2, language will be taught in a more fun interactive way.

An important point addressed in the policy is the exposure of Modern and Classical India to the children. Different courses specific to highlight the Modern and Classical India will be conducted.

Digital literacy and computational thinking:

New curriculum will integrate the hands on experience of digital literacy for all learners.

Ethics will also be introduced as a component in school curriculum. With this, the ethical, moral and constitutional values will be instilled in the students.

Assessment for Student development:

The old system of giving boards of 10th and 12th standard will be abolished as it puts undue pressure on students for just a few days which has also caused extreme reactions from students. Students should be able to give exams in the subject of their choosing and without any pressure.

So more focus will be given to adaptive learning, and the assessment will be more on teacher-learning process and not just on marks alone.

The culture of assessment must shift from one that primarily tests rote memorisation to one that is more formative, promotes learning, and tests higher order skills.

Census examination to be conducted in grades 3, 5, 8 to track the students progress.

To restructure board exams, as a suggested model, each student over the duration of secondary school would be required to take at least two semester Board Examinations in mathematics, two in science, one in Indian history, one in world history, one in knowledge of contemporary India, one in ethics and philosophy, one in economics, one in business/commerce, one in digital literacy / computational thinking, one in art, one in physical education, and two in vocational subjects.

Teachers:

Teachers are an important part of the execution of the new education system. The recruiting of teachers will change and the way the teachers are assessed. Improved and continuous assessment will be done of teachers to keep up to pace with the current education practices.

Equitable and Inclusive education:

“Achieve an inclusive and equitable education system so that all children have equal opportunity to learn and thrive, and so that participation and learning outcomes are equalised across all genders and social categories by 2030”.

Education is the single greatest tool for achieving social justice and equality. Inclusive and equitable education – while indeed an essential goal in its own right – is also critical to achieving an inclusive and equitable society in which every citizen has the opportunity to dream, thrive, and contribute

to the nation. Unfortunately, prejudice and bias, based on gender, social and economic status, and special needs, among other factors, often affect people’s capacity to benefit from the education system, compounding social cleavages that hold the nation back from growth, innovation, and progress. This Policy aims to shape an education system that benefits all of India’s children so that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of the circumstances of birth or background.

The social and gender gaps have been bridged a bit in the recent years but still a considerable amount of difference still exists. Many student are deprived of education because of social biases, gender biases. This is one serious issue that will be addressed with this policy.

Upliftment of underrepresented groups in education, education of girls without any hardships, education for SC/ST communities, education for tribal communities, education of children from urban poor families, education of transgender children and special needs will be addressed and will be tackled to help bridge the gap between these sections and education.

More updates of NEP policy for higher education, roadmap, Financing or for knowing the changes made in NEP, you can check them out here.

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