Panel suggests sweeping education policy reforms

A complete overhaul of board examinations, removing distinctions between different “streams” of study, a greater freedom to choose subjects and learn in local languages, and a new Prime Minister-headed national commission for education are among a wide set of sweeping changes recommended in what could become the country’s next education policy. .

The draft of the new National Education Policy (NEP) was on Friday handed over to the country’s new human resources development (HRD) minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ by the committee that was formed in 2017 and led by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan. It was also uploaded on the ministry’s website.

The recommendations, spread over 500 pages, also include changes to training of teachers, suggestions on how school fees must be regulated, and the start of a new, four-year liberal arts undergraduate course that will let college students pick from a wider variety of disciplines to study. The existing NEP was framed in 1986 and revised in 1992. A new education policy was part of the BJP’s manifesto ahead of 2014 general polls.

In school education, the policy pitches for sweeping changes in teaching and assessment so that current methods that reward memory and learning by rote are replaced.

“Curriculum and pedagogy are transformed by 2022 in order 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,” the draft says. The panel said the present system of board exams in class X and XII led to stress and promoted a coaching centre culture, suggesting instead a flexible system spread over the four years between grades IX and XII in which students can take a board examination in a subject in the semester they study it in. It also recommended that students be allowed to retake tests if they feel they can study and do better – especially when computer-based adaptive tests can be rolled out.

An overhaul must also be made to higher education to put greater focus on world-class research and multi-disciplinary studies – removing silos between disciplines.

“Even within multidisciplinary universities, there is currently little interaction among different disciplines. Students are streamed into narrow areas such as science, or engineering, or art, or professional or vocational subjects… This is a very harmful practice that prevents students from having the flexibility to develop their own individual interests and talents,” the draft said.

It also recommended a new four year flexible degree called Bachelor of Liberal Arts in which students will be given the option to elect minors across disciplines, but also exit the course in a more conventional three-year timeline to earn a BA degree.

The panel has called for a complete change in the present system of regulation where bodies like the University Grants Commission (UGC) not only distribute funds but also enforce regulations. It has called for setting up a National Higher Education Regulatory Authority for a higher education and a similar body for schools.

The panel has held that private schools may be free to set their fees, but there shall be no arbitrary hikes. Substantial increases that cannot be anticipated and/or justified shall not be made, including under any ‘fees head’, such as ‘school development’, ‘infrastructure fund’, etc, it said. The Right to Education Act should also cover secondary education, the report said, calling for the availability of free and compulsory quality secondary education for all students by 2030.

The committee also proposed major transformation in teacher education by shutting down sub-standard teacher education institutions. The 4-year integrated stage-specific BEd programme will eventually be the minimum degree qualification for teachers.

The experts also took into account the report of a panel headed by former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian. “Indian contribution to knowledge and the historical context that led to them will be incorporated wherever relevant, into the existing school curriculum and textbooks,” the policy draft read.

“The topics will include Indian contribution to mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, psychology, yoga, architecture, medicine, as well as governance, polity, society, and conservation course on Indian knowledge systems,” it added.

First Published:
May 31, 2019 23:54 IST

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