With the approval of the New Education Policy 2020 in July, India is all set to witness a much needed reformation in education, one that focuses on the essentials of learning in the present, while preparing students for a future they get to shape. The current system that has often been criticised to be rigid and redundant, focusing more on content and results, will now pave way for NEP that aims to encourage cognition and creativity. With its multidisciplinary approach, students will have the opportunities to innovate and adapt, allowing them to swiftly move between different interests and fields, enabling constant up-gradation of skills. The policy doesn’t just change education for students, but the board and facilitators too, thus restructuring the entire system to be more learner centred, based on the pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability, and accountability.
The last time the education policy was reformed before this, was in 1986. Despite the humungous changes across the world, with respect to learning, skills, technology and careers, India has been following the same education system for 34 years, while education polices across the world continued to change dynamically, thus leaving out students here with less leverage, as compared to their counterparts globally. With the new policies in place, this aperture is reduced, ensuring the knowledge and opportunities students receive here, are on par with global standards.
Here’s a comprehensive look at the NEP and education policies of a few other countries, to help understand the relevance, effectiveness and impact NEP will have not just on the education sector today, but on the country’s economic and social progress in the future.
Highlights of NEP
· 10+2 Structure to be modified to 5+3+3+4. Ages 3 to 8 will fall under foundational stage, 8 to 11 under preparatory stage, 11 to 14 under middle stage, and 14 to 18 under secondary stage.
· Promotion of multilingualism and native languages. Medium of instruction wherever possible, to be home language, until class V. Indian Arts of all kinds to be offered to students at all levels.
· Students to take school examinations in Grade 3, 5, 8 to track progress of education throughout schooling, which will be overseen by an appropriate authority.
· Board exams in classes 10th and 12thto be redesigned to be easier, testing primary competencies, along with the option of taking improvement board exams.
· Undergraduate degree with 3 or 4 year duration, with multiple exit options and appropriate certifications.
· No hard separation amongst curricular, extracurricular, co-curricular, amongst arts, humanities and sciences, or amongst vocational and academic streams.
· All higher education institutions to become multidisciplinary by 2040.
· Students to be given increased flexibility in the choice of subjects they wish to study, in the secondary stage.
· Large number of merit based scholarships for studying quality four year B-Ed program.
· Teacher Eligibility Tests to be strengthened, to include better test materials, to reflect a score that will be taken into consideration during recruitment.
· Teachers to be offered local, regional, state, national, and international workshops, to help develop their skills and knowledge. A minimum of 50 hours of participation in such CPD is required in a year.
· By 2030, teacher education to be moved to multidisciplinary universities.
· National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) to function as one single regulator for higher education sector, including teacher education, but excluding medical and legal education.
· System of graded autonomy based on accreditation for colleges.
· High performing Indian universities may set up campuses in other countries.
· Selected universities among the top 100 in the world, may operate in India.
· Regulatory System of Higher Education to be distinct for regulation, accreditation, funding and academic standard setting, under Higher Education Commission of India or HECI.
Education Policies Across the World
Now that we have an insight into the new policies in place, let’s have a look at education policies across the world, for a better perspective on the former.
Managed by the Ministry of Education, Singapore’s education system has the highest performance in the international education, topping in global rankings. With the economic boom in Singapore in 80’s, the education system shifted its focus from quantity to quality, to cater to students with different abilities. In 2000, the Compulsory Education Act made failure to ensure enrolment of children in school (except those with disabilities), a criminal offence, holding the parents liable. More emphasis is laid on creative thinking and collaborative learning, while enabling schools to be more diverse, with greater autonomy to develop their own curriculum and niche. Teachers focus on factual and procedural knowledge, and receive about 100 hours of training a year. The latest reform in 2018 further develops the system to advocate mastery of skills, to encourage a future where students are encouraged to learn out of interest, than compulsion.
The third largest provider of international education, Australia’s education system focuses on student achievement, engagement, and well being. Formal schooling starts with a foundation year, followed by 12 more years of schooling. Several policies have been implemented over the years, with varying focus areas such as increased internationalization, improved access to training and labour market, continual professional development of teachers, and excellence in school leadership. It’s most recent policy “Students First” launched in 2014, targets sound national curriculum, quality improvement of teaching, expanding principals autonomy and engaging parents and the wider community in schooling. Australia’s continued dedication to improving its educational policies, combined with its use of technology in learning is well reflected in its development over the years.
The United States is known to have one of the most diverse education system in the world. However, despite is literacy rate of 99%, and the fact that the country spends more per student on education, as compared to any other country; it ranks relatively lower with regards to academic excellence. The education system is decentralized, with the primary responsibility of the same lying with the state and local government. Curriculum in each state differs, based on the accessibility, autonomy and diversity of that state. The federal government established a standardized curriculum called the Common Core, to ensure students graduate high school with knowledge and skills required to succeed outside school, in later stages of life. The system also places equal importance on arts, sports, extracurricular activities, encouraging overall development. CPD for teachers have a direct impact on their career, thus reinforcing the need for upgradation of skills.
Finland is one of the finest examples of how an effective education reform can bring about long lasting impactful changes, not just in the education sector, but the overall development of a nation. Some highlights of Finland’s education system, considered to be the most successful and balanced in the world, include student centred learning, teacher autonomy, life skill rich flexible curriculum. The current system is the outcome of a reform aimed at providing equal education opportunities to all, based on a humanist approach to learning. Quality, efficiency, equity, well-being, and lifelong learning are the pillars of the Finnish Education Policy. Recent reforms aim to further develop schools as learning communities, focusing on the joy of learning, collaborative atmosphere, while promoting student autonomy.
Russia has one of the highest literacy rates at 99.7 %. General education in Russia comprises pre-school education, elementary education, lower-secondary, and upper-secondary education, with compulsory education until Grade 11. Education is state owned, and regional authorities regulate education within the framework of federal laws. Compared to other OECD countries, Russia has the smallest class sizes, and shortest instruction hours per year. The distinct features of the education system are its focus on high level of education, especially in technical areas, which has been instrumental in the development of its new economy.
Education in China is primarily managed by the state run public education system. The first Nine years of compulsory schooling is funded by the government. China’s Education Reform of 2017 focuses on promoting world class universities, amending mending the Provisions on the Management of Students in Regular Institutions of Higher Education, reinforcing ideoplitical work in higher studies, providing more autonomy to higher education institutions, campus safety and risk management, special education, reformation in medical education, development of special education, moral development in primary and secondary education, reformation in education mechanisms, and greater integration between industry and education.
The National Curriculum established in 1988 provides a framework for education in England and Wales, between the ages of 5 and 18, making full time education a compulsion. This education however, may be academic or vocational. The national curriculum covers essential knowledge required to be educated citizens, focusing on appreciation of creativity and achievements. The curriculum also covers what subject has to be taught in which grade. The Education Act of 2002 advocates a curriculum that promotes spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of students, to help prepare students for opportunities, responsibilities, and experiences of later life. Schools have greater autonomy, although they are all subjected to assessments and inspection by the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills).
Comparison and Conclusion
A comparative study of these different educational policies brings about the repeated need for students being educated, not for year-end assessments, but for life outside the confines of an educational institution. Similarly, the more the focus on continuous development for teachers and greater autonomy with institutions, the better the education system over all is. The New Education Policy has covered these aspects well, but we will have to wait and watch as these policies take shape in the coming years, to truly understand how impactful it is in real time.