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NEP focus on inclusive approach, students, says Education Minister Nishank in an Exclusive interview

Union Education Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank

In this freewheeling interview, Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokriyal Nishank talks about various aspects of  the recently unveiled New Education Policy (NEP) and gives  an insight into the wide consultation process, NEP’s timelines, its focus on students and autonomy envisaged  for higher  educational  institutions: Here are edited excerpts: 

Would you please elaborate on the consultation process before adopting in the cabinet as some state governments are raising questions on the consultation process.?

Answer: The Ministry of Education conducted a rigorous consultation process to ensure an inclusive, participatory and holistic approach while forming the National Education Policy. The policy took into consideration expert opinions, field experiences, empirical research, stakeholder feedback, as well as lessons learnt from best practices. Over two lakh suggestions from 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats, 6,600 Blocks, 6,000 urban local bodies and 676 districts had been received between May 2015 and October 2015, which were also taken into consideration. Probably no policy in the past had such an elaborate and democratized consultation process.

Education is in the concurrent list of the Constitution. How you will ensure its implementation throughout the country if there is no consensus on the policy?

Answer: We haveimbibed the vision of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji on cooperative federalism. He says that “Let us forge a model of cooperative, competitive federalism; chart a common course to progress and prosperity”. The NEP 2020 recognizes the role of states in education. Education is in concurrent list and no part of the policy implies that it will be imposed on the states. The policy empowers the states to take decisions on various matters keeping up with the Concurrent provisions of the Constitution. The Ministry believes in cooperative federalism and thereby the recommendations specified in NEP do not follow the agenda of Centre vs State but have been designed keeping students as the focal point. 

The policy is aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, suited to 21st century needs and aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student.  Every state is concerned with the welfare of her students. We are not imposing the policy on any state but we are confident that the states will come on board.  

How do you propose the funding in education sector till the goal mentioned in the policy, as basic infrastructure of our education system is still to be improved?

Answer: The Centre and the States will work together to increase public investment in Education sector to reach the target of spending six per cent of GDP. It is extremely critical for achieving the high-quality and equitable public education system that is truly needed for India’s future economic, social, cultural, intellectual, and technological progress and growth.

The Centre will provide financial support to ensure universal access, improve learning resources, provide nutritional support to students, on matters related to students’ safety and well-being, arranging adequate numbers of teachers and staff, teacher development, and to support all key initiatives towards equitable high-quality education for underprivileged and socio-economically disadvantaged groups.

In addition to one-time expenditures, which will primarily be related to infrastructure and resources, this NEP also identifies key long-term thrust areas that would require financing to further improve our an education system – (a) universal provisioning of quality early childhood care education; (b) ensuring foundational literacy and numeracy; (c) providing adequate and appropriate resourcing of school complexes/clusters; (d) providing food and nutrition (breakfast and midday meals); (e) investing in teacher education and continuing professional development of teachers; (f) revamping colleges and universities to foster excellence; (g) cultivating research; and (h) extensive use of technology and online education.

If basis for education in primary level is mother tongue, is there any option for choosing English at that level or from which level English can be medium of instruction?

Answer: Children will be exposed to different languages early on but there will be particular emphasis on the mother tongue starting from the Foundational Stage onwards. All languages will be taught in an enjoyable and interactive style. The focus will initially be on reading in mother tongue and subsequently on writing in the formative years, with skills developed for reading and writing in other languages in Grade 3 and beyond.

If we see the developed countries such as France, China and Japan, the medium of instruction is their mother tongue. Most countries have made emphasis on the mother tongue so that both the parents participate in education of their children in the early years.

The ‘Three Language’ formula encompasses two native languages of India along with English. The teachers will be encouraged to use bilingual approaches to address the diversity of regions and students. All efforts will be made in preparing high-quality bilingual textbooks and teaching-learning materials for science and mathematics, so that students are enabled to think and speak about the two subjects both in their home language/mother tongue and in English.

From which level pass-fail system is applicable or will there be new system of assessment of the students?

Answer: Under the new policy there will be a shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment, which is more competency-based, promotes learning and development, and tests higher-order skills such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity. Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued, but be reformed to eliminate the need for taking coaching classes. Board exams will be redesigned to encourage holistic development and will also be made ‘easier’ by testing core capacities/competencies. All students will be allowed to take the Board Exams twice in a given school year; one main examination and one for improvement, if desired. All students will take the school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority.

A new national assessment centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development),  will be set up as a standard-setting body for setting norms, standards, and guidelines for student assessment and evaluation for all recognized school boards of India, guiding the State Achievement Survey (SAS) and undertaking the National Achievement Survey (NAS), monitoring achievement of learning outcomes and encouraging and helping school boards to shift their assessment patterns towards meeting the skill requirements of the 21st century.

The progress card of all students for school-based assessment will be redesigned which will be a holistic, 360-degree, multidimensional report that reflects in great detail the progress and the uniqueness of each learner in the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. The progress card will include self-assessment, peer assessment and teacher assessment.

What will be the basis of the new curriculum and the thrust on it? How do you propose to change the present curriculum to match with the NEP?

Answer: The NEP recommends that the curricular and pedagogical structure of school education guided by a 5+3+3+4 design corresponding to the age ranges of 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years, respectively.  There are numerous studies across the world that say that the curriculum of the school should match with the brain development. The new NEP curricular structure is based on the brain development of the child. NEP 2020 emphasises on the criticality of the early years to ensure quality early childhood care and education for all children between 3-6 years by 2025. The children in the age group of 3-5 years will be catered to by the current system of anganwadis and pre-schools and age 5-6 will be included with the schooling system in a seamless integrated manner, with a play-way based curriculum to be prepared by the NCERT.

The formulation of a new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be undertaken by the NCERT based on the principles of this National Education Policy 2020, frontline curriculum needs and after discussions with all stakeholders including State Governments, Ministries, relevant Departments of the Central Government, and other expert bodies, and will be made available in all regional languages. The NCFSE document shall henceforth be revisited and updated once every 5-10 years, taking into account frontline curriculum.

How the Foreign Universities will be eligible to set up any campus in India?

Answer: India will be promoted as a global study destination providing premium education at affordable costs thereby helping to restore its role as a Vishwa Guru. Research/teaching collaborations and faculty/student exchanges with high-quality foreign institutions will be facilitated, and relevant mutually beneficial MOUs with foreign countries will be signed. High performing Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses in other countries, and similarly, selected universities, such as those from among the top 100 in the world, will be facilitated to operate in India. A legislative framework facilitating such entry will be put in place and such universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on a par with other autonomous institutions of India.

How the NEP proposes to raise the standard of higher education at par with the top institutions of the world?

Answer: The National Education Policy envisions establishing autonomous degree-granting Colleges that could eventually evolve into research-intensive or teaching-intensive Universities, if they so aspire. The HEIs will have the autonomy and freedom to move gradually from one category to another based on their plans, actions and effectiveness.

The new regulatory system envisioned by this Policy will foster this overall culture of empowerment and autonomy to innovate including by gradually phasing out the system of ‘affiliated colleges’ over a period of 15 years through a system of graded autonomy, and to be carried out in a challenge mode. Each existing affiliating university will be responsible for mentoring its affiliated colleges so that they can develop their capabilities and achieve minimum benchmarks in academic and curricular matters; teaching and assessment; governance reforms; financial robustness; and administrative efficiency. All colleges currently affiliated to a university shall attain the required benchmarks over time to secure the prescribed accreditation benchmarks and eventually become autonomous degree-granting colleges. This will be achieved through a concerted national effort including suitable mentoring and governmental support for the same.

The new policy also sets path for transformational reforms at both school and higher education which will enable the youth of India to adept for the 21st century skills while keeping at core the values, morals and virtues of India.

Autonomy of the Institutions is a major demand of the educationists. Your views.


Answer:
 The National Education Policy has adopted a middle path between autonomy and regulations. At every stage autonomy and accountability will be there, with transparency. The change has already been started through the IIMs. Thus, the new regulatory system envisioned by this policy will foster this overall culture of empowerment and autonomy to innovate, including by gradually phasing out the system of ‘affiliated colleges’ over a period of 15 years through a system of graded autonomy and to be carried out in a challenge mode. Each existing affiliating university will be responsible for mentoring its affiliated colleges so that they can develop their capabilities and achieve minimum benchmarks in academic and curricular matters, teaching and assessment, governance reforms, financial robustness and administrative efficiency.

What is the deadline you are looking for the implementation of the NEP?

Answer: The policy is certainly what the country needed to move onto the path of development and progress. The policy has advocated progressive structural reforms with clear mention of the expected outcomes.

School Education

Universal provisioning of quality early childhood development, care, and education must thus be achieved as soon as possible, and no later than 2030, to ensure that all students entering Grade 1 are school ready.

All State/UT governments will prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners by grade 3 to be achieved by 2025.

Teachers to be prepared for a transformation in the assessment system by the 2022-23 academic session.

Teacher education will gradually be moved into multidisciplinary colleges and universities by 2030.  By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree.

The challenges of optimal utilization and sharing of resources will, by 2025, be addressed by State/UT governments by adopting innovative mechanisms to group or rationalize schools, such as, school complexes

By 2025, at least 50% of learners through the school and higher education system shall have exposure to vocational education

Higher Education

By 2040, all higher education institutions (HEIs) shall aim to become multidisciplinary institutions, each of which will aim to have 3,000 or more students.

There shall, by 2030, be at least one large multidisciplinary HEI in or near every district.

The aim will be to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035.

By 2025, at least 50% of learners through the school and higher education system shall have exposure to vocational education, for which a clear action plan with targets and timelines will be developed.

The BoG of an institution will be empowered to govern the institution free of any external interference. It is envisaged that all HEIs will be incentivized, supported, and mentored during this process, and shall aim to become autonomous and have such an empowered BoG by 2035.

All institutions offering either professional or general education will aim to organically evolve into institutions/clusters offering both seamlessly, and in an integrated manner by 2030.

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