After three decades and more, the NEP 2020 is here, and as an educator, I am fairly positive about the developments proposed. The NEP is a starting point for reforms. It is not the end point. There would be a lot of introspection that many educators would need to do to ensure that essentially, there is a reflection of 21st century skills reflected in the classroom. India is a country that changes every 100 kilometres (perhaps, lesser) and I am confident that as we head into a new world order, this exciting digression of India will be the changemaker for us.
Ensuring continuous professional development of teachers is perhaps the most important responsibility of education leaders. The NEP sets guidelines for the number of hours of teacher development per year. But, schools needs to go much further than this and ensure high quality learning for teachers. They also need to unburden teachers from excessive hours of teaching and administrative responsibilities to ensure that they have time for their own professional development.
Along with training the teacher on subject matter, a greater emphasis needs to be placed on pedagogical changes. The profile of the learner has undergone tremendous change with reduced attention spans. The teacher needs to adapt to these changes. Students need to be made to participate in the classroom a lot more today than in yester years to maintain their level of engagement. This will ensure that they are more ready for a volatile 21st century. Lesson planning and benchmarking learning outcomes also needs to be done in a more scientific and organized manner. Peer learning, project learning, student led classrooms, learning beyond content, real-issues in the classroom- these have become a reality of today’s world, and fast-tracked courtesy the pandemic, and the requirement of present times.
Today, online education has opened up new opportunities for continuous teacher development. During the last few months teachers have gotten used to teaching and learning online. We must make use of this newly learned skill in order to keep them growing as educators. Finally, technology will not be an enabler in theory but in the true sense, the delta between the generic and excellent.
Some of the suggestions laid out in NEP 2020 including formalizing pre-primary education, benchmarking students across the country at Grade 3, 5, 8, improving B. Ed. programs and teacher education. Each of these have far reaching implications, and would require tremendous work at ground levels to operationalize. I believe that the policy document is broad enough to allow for adaptation during implementation. The makers of the policy have given us a framework, and given us enough food for thought to differentiate and excel on the implementation.
Let’s take the example of state wide or nation wide exams at multiple grades. We know that students in India lag behind the learning outcomes in early years of their school education. In the current system there is no standard benchmarking of learning till class 10. This is far too late. The NEP introduces the concept of benchmarking at class 3,5 and 8 through a central exam. This will this help us identify the students who need help in time and address the learning gap rather than wait many years and do a post mortem of their failure in class 10. It will also provide better learning oriented information to parents making school choices at lower grades thus adding transparency to the system. However, the implementation of this policy is still dynamic and allow for adjustments to be made.
Many such broad issues have been correctly identified by the NEP 2020 and a framework is suggested. I believe this is the right 1st step towards addressing the requirements of the schools of today.