Since the government has made it amply clear that interests of all languages will be taken care of, there is scope in public discourse for exploration of other important proposals in the draft National Education Policy (NEP). Going by the 450 odd pages of the draft NEP, we extracted some of the points which are farsighted and transformative.
Stress on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)
Evidence from neuroscience shows that over 85% of a child’s cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of 6. Citing this, the draft demands that India absolutely must invest in accessible and quality ECCE for all children. Arguing that most Anganwadis have remained relatively light on the educational aspects of ECCE, the Policy suggests that ECCE be included as an integral part of the RTE Act. It envisions that a committee of cognitive scientists, early childhood education experts, artists, and architects will be formed in each State (or locality) to design spaces, within the funding allocations, that are truly inviting and inspiring places to spend time and learn.
Mathematics and Story-telling: Getting the Prime Foundations Right
The draft says- “The school and classroom curriculum and schedules for Grades 1-5 will be redesigned to focus on foundational literacy and numeracy, and to build a love for reading and mathematics among students.” How is the draft policy aiming to achieve this? Some points mentioned in the draft have been taken here:
- Designated “language weeks” and “mathematics weeks” during the school year, where children will participate in a variety of activities and projects around languages and mathematics.
- Weekly activities around the library, such as story-telling, theatre, group reading, writing, and display of original writings and other art by children.
- Weekly fun puzzle-solving sessions that naturally inculcate logical and mathematical thinking
No ‘Extra-curricular’, Everything Within Curriculum
In a fresh breeze and keeping abreast with the global standards, the draft says, “In particular, there should be no extra-curricular and co-curricular activities; all such activities must also be considered curricular.” It further says, “Students will be given an increased flexibility and choice of subjects to study, particularly in secondary school – including subjects in physical education, the arts, and vocational crafts – so that they may be free to design their own paths of study and life plans.”
The Life Skills
This is how the draft NEP proposes to prepare the young generation for career and source of livelihood. “All students will take vocational courses which will be an integral part of the formal curriculum, and will give learners in-depth exposure to areas such as agriculture, electronics, local trades and crafts, etc. During the school years, students will be exposed to different careers, and will be kept abreast of the ever-changing world of employment and the corresponding curricular choices available to them.”
Focus on Indian Classical Languages
While most of the social media talking heads and the opinion makers are busy raising a bogey of ‘imposition of Hindi’, the draft NEP actually pitches for the study of Indian classical languages. A portion of the draft reads, “In addition to Sanskrit, the teaching of other classical languages and literatures of India, including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Pali, Persian, and Prakrit, will also be widely available in schools.” It further proposes to incorporate the important writings among these languages in curriculum. For example, Sangam poetry in classical Tamil, the Jataka tales in Pali, the works of Sarala Dasa in classical Odia, excepts from Raghavanka’s epic Harishchandra Kavya in Kannada, Amir Khusro’s works in Persian, and Kabir’s poems in Hindi, etc.
Bringing More Productivity Through Arts and Music
Stating that even the scientists and engineers who were inclined to arts and music proved to be more productive, the draft NEP unveils the plan like this: “Every student from the Foundational stage onwards will have basic exposure to the notes, scales, ragas, and rhythms of classical Indian music (Carnatic and/or Hindustani) through vocal exercises, singing, and clapping, as well as in local folk music, art, and craft in a hands-on way.” Further it emphasises on theatre, poetry, painting, drawing, and sculpture, and vocational arts such as carpentry and embroidery/sewing/ clothes-making.
Research Comes to the Centre Stage
A new National Research Foundation (NRF) that will focus on funding research within the education system, primarily at colleges and universities. The Foundation will encompass the four broad areas of Sciences, Technology, Social Sciences, and Arts & Humanities. Besides strengthening the presently less focus on subjects such as the Social Sciences and the Humanities receive, NRF will also bring in cohesion among the various research endeavours of multidisciplinary character.
The things outlined above are only some of the finer points from the draft NEP. Beyond this, there are broader outlines in the document which discuss how to prepare teachers for the newly proposed education structure, how to mobilise resources, the parent’s participation at various stages of education etc. The last education policy was in 1986 which was modified in 1992. So, after all these years, the draft NEP has come out. It may be a disservice if we submerge ourselves in the unfound campaign of ‘imposition of Hindi’, and not discuss other aspects of the draft that intend to shape the next generation.