Of NEP, Schools and languages

Dr Sheetal Badyal, Dr. Hari Dutt Shishu
The Modi Government in a landmark decision on 29th of July 2020 announced the New Education Policy to energize the educational system of India. It covers all the aspects of human resources including elementary to higher education with a proper focus on technical education. The New Education Policy aims at the cohesive and uniform development both in rural and Urban India to realize the new vision of ‘Atamanirbhar Bharat’. Although, the New Education Policy (NEP2020), as per its objectives, is quite ambitious and visionary and has the capacity the gear up the entire educational system of the country to open new vistas of future but its real success depends upon the seriousness and the level of resources available for its execution in totality.
The NEP 2020 has been introduced after long wait of three decades as the first NEP was promulgated in 1968 by the then Government led by Late Smt. Indira Gandhi, followed by the Second NEP in 1986 by the Late Rajeev Government, which was partially modified by P.V. Narshima Rao in the year 1992. Now, after a gap of 34 years of the second NEP , a panel led by former ISRO Chairman K. Kasturiranjan came up with a draft proposal in the year 2018 and the same was put into the public domain by the Modi Government for public feedback and appraisal amidst the stiff opposition mostly from Non Hindi speaking areas with the serious allegations like of saffronisation of education in the country. However, the same has been approved by the cabinet without any discussion in the Parliament at this time when the educational system across the country is at grinding halt due to the pandemic and surely was looking for a drastic change.
The New Education Policy is quite dynamic and parts its way from the previous policy of Linear system of Education which followed sequential pattern starting from selecting objectives to selecting learning experiences and preparing child for a specific goal following a known cycles or step- by – step progression. However, NEP 2020 appears to be sufficiently open , flexible and fundamentally inclusive. The main strength of this policy is the open choice for the students for multiple entries and exits apart from being multi-disciplinary. The other important aspect of the NEP, is in its flexibility for the choice of students in the selection of subjects at school level and giving them open scope to pursue vocational and non-vocational subjects along with co-curricular and extra-curricular activities which, in longer run, will be helpful for curbing the rate of dropouts and bringing back those who have already dropped out.
The New Education Policy expands age group 6-14 years of mandatory schooling to 3-18 years of schooling. The structural reforms in the 10+2 school system shall have a paradigm shift and now its curricular and pedagogical structure will be guided by a 5+3+3+4 design. The new structure of schooling shall be spread in four stages namely 1.The Fundamental stage 2.The preparatory stage .3.The Middle Stage and, 4.The Secondary stage.
Fundamental Stage- This stage will be further split in two phases – 3 years of pre-school and the second phase shall be Grade 1 and Grade 2.This stage shall consist of playway activities , fun-making followed by focus upon cleanliness, hygiene and learning exercises.
The Preparatory Stage- The students in the age group of 8-11 yrs shall be under this category that will be in grades 3 to 5. It will be the formative stage and there will be gradual transition from play based learning to more formal but interactive class room learning. The focus in this stage shall be mainly upon reading, writing, speaking, physical education, art, language, science and mathematics.
The Middle Stage- The scope of learning shall be widened at this stage falling in the age groups of 11-14 in the 6th to 8th grades. The students shall be exposed to more abstract problems in subjects like mathematics, arts, social sciences and humanities.
The Secondary Stage- This stage will be comprised of four years of multi-disciplinary study, with more critical problems, coping with the growing ambitions for life ahead and this stage further provides flexibility to the students in the selection of their subjects. All these stages are aimed to provide wider choice of profession and making education a subject of attraction rather than boredom.
Finally, in school education, the policy focuses on overhauling the curriculum, “easier” Board exams, a reduction in the syllabus to retain “core essentials” and thrust on “experiential learning and critical thinking”.
Mother tongue as medium of instruction
The NEP puts focus on students’ mother tongue as the medium of instruction even as it sticks to the ‘three language formula’ but also mandates that no language would be imposed on anyone. The NEP only recommends the mother tongue as medium of instruction, and not makes it compulsory. It, although, will not be liked by some of the vernacular champions engaged in the promotion of their local language which mostly affects the lower middle class only whose kids are in the Governments school ,whereas those belonging to financially better position are already in the Private schools whose medium of instructions is English language and likely to remain so even after the NEP execution. English has become a language of social mobility and becomes a link language to a multilingual India but has reservations in terms of linking with Hindi speaking areas in the country. The idea behind the new language policy is children friendly as they learn and grasp some concepts more quickly in their mother tongue.
“Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language, mother tongue, local language or the regional language. Thereafter, the home or local language shall continue to be taught as a language wherever possible. This will be followed by both public and private schools,” the policy states.
Such emphasis is not new: Most Government schools in the country are doing this already. As for private schools, it’s unlikely that they will be asked to change their medium of instruction. As per the official clarification, the provision on mother tongue as medium of instruction was not compulsory for states. Since, education is a concurrent subject and both center and state have the right to take call on the issues of education system, the policy clearly states that kids will be taught in their mother tongue or regional language ‘wherever possible’ .However, “Teachers will be encouraged to use a bilingual approach, including bilingual teaching-learning materials, with those students whose home language may be different from the medium of instruction.”
To cap it all , it can be construed that a clear student-centric approach is adopted in the NEP2020 and appears to make room for critical thinking, holistic approach, inquiry-based, discovery-oriented, interaction-based and analysis-based learning in the new pedagogical models. Besides, it envisages new modes of evaluations to overcome rote learning, where assimilation of concepts and their applications are emphasized. Besides, exams are introduced in classes 3, 5, 10 and 12 which are said to lead the students to test their strengths and make choices for the selection of subjects for further studies. However, much depends upon the implementing agencies and their readiness to provide due infrastructure and resources both material and human as well.