“Teachers are the key to the implementation of NEP 2020”

Says Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank,’ Minister of Education, in conversation with The Progressive Teacher.

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Union Cabinet has approved the new National Education Policy, NEP and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has now been rename as Ministry of Education. The announcement was made by Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and Union Minister Prakash Javadekar at the National Media Centre on July 29, 2020. The idea behind changing the name is to give a clearer definition to the ministry’s work.

The National Educational Policy 2020 is out. It is significant to note that the new National Education Policy has been drafted by committee headed by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan, and replaces the one formulated in 1986, last modified in 1992. The draft policy was released last year and has undergone several deliberations since then, including the latest change on making it ready for an education system suited to a Covid-19 world.

National Education Policy 2020 will bring transformational reforms in school and higher education systems in the country, with an aim to make “India a global knowledge superpower.”

Here Minister of Education Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, shares more about the same:

TPT: Congratulations on the HRD Ministry being renamed as the Ministry of Education. Please share your views on the same.

Minister of Education: While I thank you for the same, I would instead like to congratulate all the students, teachers and parents of the country, as this step was long due. Under the iconic leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narender Modi ji, the National Education Policy brings the focus back on education and learning. Thereby, making it desirable that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) be re-designated as the Ministry of Education (MoE). India will emerge as a ‘superpower of knowledge’ while stepping towards embellishment of Shreshth Bharat.

TPT: The NEP policy has been formalized. According to you, what would be the key takeaways?

Minister of Education: For the first time, students are kept as the ‘focal point’ of the entire policy. The policy reflects the 5 ‘I’s – Indian, Internationalism, Impactful, Interactive and Inclusive – while beholding itself on the principles of equity, quality and access. Through the policy we will bring transformational changes for students making them adapt to the skills of the 21st century at both school and higher education levels.

For me the top key changes are:

  • Early Childhood Care Education: 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 ages of 3 to 5 will be catered to by the current system of Anganwadis and pre-schools and ages 5 to 6 will be included with the schooling system in a seamlessly integrated manner.
  • New Curricular and Pedagogical Structure: With an emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education, the 10+2 structure of school curricula is to be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively.
  • Holistic Multidisciplinary Education: The policy envisages a broad-based multi-disciplinary holistic education at the undergraduate level. The undergraduate degree will be of either 3 or 4-year duration, with multiple exit options within this period, with appropriate certifications.
  • An Academic Bank of Credit (ABC): ABC shall be established which would digitally store the academic credits earned from various recognized Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) so that the degrees from an HEI can be awarded taking into account credits earned.

TPT: What is the way forward and how will the government implement it?

Minister of Education: As the Hon’ble Prime Minister has guided us to follow the mantra ‘Niti se Ranniti’ – This will be our guiding principle. Every page and every word of policy is important for us in terms of implementation. The Chapter 27 ‘Implementation’ Para 27.1 to 27.3 briefly discusses the implementation plan in order to ensure that the policy is implemented in its spirit and intent, through the coherence in planning and synergy across all bodies involved in education. The policy will be implemented in a phased manner. A detailed implementation strategy will be developed in consultation with all States and UTs for the implementation of NEP 2020. A new example of ‘collaborative federalism’ will be seen as the implementation of the new education policy.

We believe that the teachers are the key to the implementation of NEP 2020, and hence we invited suggestions from all school teachers and principals from across the country on how to take the implementation process of National Education Policy forward.

TPT: What would be the short-term and long-term impact due to its implementation?

Minister of Education: With the National Education Policy 2020 coming in effect, as Honourable Prime Minister proclaimed that the policy emphasises on making ‘job creators’ instead of ‘job seekers’. Through the policy, we are hoping to transform education and putting a significant thrust on learning about how to think critically and solve problems, how to be creative and multidisciplinary, and how to innovate, adapt, and absorb new material in the novel and changing fields. Pedagogy is expected to evolve to make education more experiential, holistic, integrated, inquiry-driven, discovery-oriented, learner-centred, discussion-based, flexible, and, of course, enjoyable. The new curriculum will include basic arts, crafts, humanities, games, sports and fitness, languages, literature, culture, and values, in addition to science and mathematics, to develop all aspects and capabilities of learners; and make education more well-rounded, useful, and fulfilling to the learner. NEP aims to build character, enable learners to be ethical, rational, compassionate, and caring, while at the same time prepare them for gainful, fulfilling employment.

The gap between the current state of learning outcomes and what is required will be bridged through undertaking major reforms that bring the highest quality, equity, and integrity into the system, from early childhood care and education through higher education.

The long-term aim will be for India to have an education system by 2040 that is second to none, with equitable access to the highest-quality education for all learners regardless of social or economic background.

TPT: The NEP lays emphasis on teacher education. How will this be achieved?

Minister of Education: The New Education policy strongly emphasizes the criticality of teacher education, hailing the legacy of Acharya Devo Bhava. Teacher education is vital in creating a pool of school teachers that will shape the next generation. The teachers will be facilitated with the qualities of reforming, transforming and performing at the same time. Abreast with the 21st century needs, teacher preparation is an activity that will require not only multidisciplinary perspectives and knowledge, the formation of dispositions and values, and development of practice under the best mentors. Thereby, an overhaul of teacher education is required, in adherence to this the 4-year integrated stage-specific, subject-specific Bachelor of Education will be offered at multidisciplinary institutions would be the way forward.

A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT. By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree that teaches a range of knowledge content and pedagogy and includes strong practicum training in the form of student-teaching at local schools. Stringent action will be taken against substandard stand-alone Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs). These measures will help us in developing best teachers and emerge as global leaders.

TPT: There are many vacant teacher seats across the country. How will this be taken care of?

Minister of Education: The National Education Policy 2020 puts teachers at the centre of the fundamental reforms in the education system. It will help to re-establish teachers, at all levels, as the most respected and essential members of our society, because they truly shape our next generation of citizens. The new education policy proposes measures to recruit the very best and brightest to enter the teaching profession at all levels, by ensuring livelihood, respect, dignity, and autonomy, while also instilling in the system basic methods of quality control and accountability.

Teacher vacancies will be filled at the earliest, in a time-bound manner – especially in disadvantaged areas and areas with large pupil-to-teacher ratios or high rates of illiteracy. We are motivated towards making the process transparent and responsible. Special attention will be given to employing local teachers or those with familiarity with local languages. Teachers will be trained, encouraged, and supported – with continuous professional development – to impart foundational literacy and numeracy.

Further, a technology-based comprehensive teacher-requirement planning forecasting exercise will be conducted by each State to assess expected subject-wise teacher vacancies over the next two decades. The above described initiatives in recruitment and deployment will be scaled as needed over time, to fill all vacancies with qualified teachers, including local teachers, with suitable incentives for career management and progression as described below. Teacher education programs and offerings will also align with the vacancies thus projected.

TPT: The government has declared 6% GDP to be used for education? How will this be done?

Minister of Education: NEP has proposed to raise the expenditure on education to 6% of GDP. Considering the funding needs of the sector and the complexity in the different categories of funding, sound diversification of the funding streams for higher education is needed. This includes Government funding (both Centre & State), Government guaranteed loan mechanism for institutions (Higher Education Financing Agency, HEFA), Philanthropy (Corporate, individual, alumni etc.), Flexible Student Loans, Performance-based Matching Grants system by Government, Outcome-based Government funding, use of technology to maximise philanthropic outreach (e.g. crowdfunding), facilitating legislative reforms, collaborative arrangements with private sector in institution creation and operation etc.

Further, fine tuning would be done to optimize the mobilization of funding from such avenues. Both existing and alternative mechanisms require a set of functional, structural & governance measures to be instituted for educational financing to attain higher levels so that quality, adequacy and equity. There will be an all-round assessment of education to enable students to become global students.

TPT: According to NEP, the medium of instruction till class 5 will be in mother tongue or local language. What about English-medium private schools? Besides English being a global language, it might be a deterrent for students. Your views.

Minister of Education: The NEP seeks to establish local to global citizens so that they can in turn imbibe the spirit of becoming vocal for local. Stating that, NEP recognises that the young children learn and grasp nontrivial concepts more quickly in their home language/mother tongue. Home language is usually the same language as the mother tongue or that which is spoken by local communities. Thereby, ‘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/regional language.

The policy presents greater flexibility in the three-language formula, and thereby no language will be imposed on any State. The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and of course, the students themselves, so long as at least two of the three languages are native to India. Nowhere the policy talks about shedding the English language or its role instead it emphasized on the importance of multilingualism which has great cognitive benefit for young children.

TPT: COVID pandemic has shown us the importance of digital learning. Does NEP also address this requirement for the weaker sections of the society?

Minister of Education: The Ministry of Education has worked effortlessly to take education to children at home through digital means while doing so we were vigilant of the digital divide and thereby under the Aatmnirbhar Abhiyan initiatives such as PM E-Vidya was launched to provide multi-modal access to education to students. Simultaneously, initiatives such as Alternative Academic Calendar, PRAGYATA Guidelines, Digital Education-India Report, NISHTHA-Online, Learning Enhancement guidelines etc. were formulated to assure and maintain continuity in school education for ‘All’ children.

While the PRAGYATA guidelines have been developed from the perspective of learners, with a focus on enabling online/blended/digital education for students, the Learning Enhancement guidelines addresses the concerns of digital equity and inclusion and makes suggestions of models for three types of situations. Firstly, in which students do not have any digital resources. Secondly, in which students have limited digital resources available. Lastly, in which students have digital resources available for online education.

The National Education Policy 2020 is also cognizant of the digital divide and at the same time recognizes the importance of leveraging the advantages of technology while acknowledging its potential risks and dangers. Formation of NETF (National Education Technology Forum) will prove useful in promoting widespread use of technology in education. The policy recommends that to bridge the digital divide, educational programmes will be made available 24/7 in different languages to cater to the varying needs of the student population. A special focus on content in all Indian languages will be emphasized and required; digital content will need to reach the teachers and students in their medium of instruction as far as possible. Further, the existing e-learning platforms such as DIKSHA, SWAYAM and SWAYAMPRABHA will also be leveraged for creating virtual labs so that all students have equal access to quality practical and hands-on experiment-based learning experiences. The possibility of providing adequate access to SEDG students and teachers through suitable digital devices, such as tablets with pre-loaded content, will be considered and developed.

Up keeping the spirit of Aatmnirbhar Bharat, we entail to our commitment to provide quality education to all.

TPT: Your message to the teaching community…

Minister of Education: I have been fostering the spirit, ‘Acharya Devo Bhava’, for education to be powerful and the teachers need to be empowered first. This thought, helped us to conduct thoughtful discussions to enhance the role of the teacher to imbed the ‘vision of teacher’ as per the 21st century. Though sadly till today, the role of the teacher was circumscribed to clerical tasks and transaction of the curriculum and further conducting prescribed examinations. Through the NEP, there will be an evident transition wherein the transitional classrooms and the teaching-learning process will now emphasis on conceptual development and not a transaction, experiential learning in real-world contexts and an enabler for developing essential ethos and values in the digital age. The teachers are envisioned to educate and empower the country.

Keeping the transformation, I urge the backbone of our education system, the teachers that in line with NEP and needs and demands of 21st century, it is essential that the digital resources are appropriately intertwined in the teaching-learning process with a focus on the process of knowledge creation. A combination of conceptual, practical, personal and social skills will be needed by the teachers for transforming India, Bharat and re-emerge as Vishwa Guru.

A combination of conceptual, practical, personal and social skills will be needed by the teachers for transforming India, Bharat and re-emerge as Vishwa Guru.