We have been closely watching the developments related to the promulgation and practice of the new National Education Policy and have written on its implications before. In this article we are trying to get more specific and reflect on the changes that a good private unaided school will consider in order to make its policies, structure and operations compatible to the NEP.
The not-for-profit nature of private schools has been held responsible by many for private investors who could add value to the educational practices, the NEP has not specifically dealt with the question however, and in the document there are recommendations to encourage private investors and organizations to invest in education. It remains to be seen exactly how and for what reasons, besides philanthropic, such investors would be interested to invest in education.
What to expect reasonably?
There are indications that the level of education, infrastructure etc. of government schools will improve after the NEP takes effect. Private schools, assuming this happens in near future, will have to compete with the government schools and provide much better educational ecosystem just to justify their fees.
By far the most fundamental of shifts that the NEP has proposed is the supplanting of the conventional 10+2 structure of the school education by 5+3+3+4 structure. Now, what does this mean and what would a school look like after adopting the said feature of the NEP.
The 10+2 structure of the K-12 schools comprised of five years of primary schooling, three years of lower secondary, two years of secondary and finally two years of senior secondary schooling. As we can see, the kindergarten was not formally considered a part of K-12 schooling , nonetheless, most of the schools had kindergarten which added additional two years to the school tenure. The NEP has proposed to not only integrate the kindergarten formally into the school system but it has also added an additional one year of preschooling to the structure. Now the first five years of schooling will include the preschool and kindergarten and the first two or three years of primary schooling as a single subset of the overall schooling.
This restructuring is not nominal and has wider implications than adding one year to the schooling. This will herald the integration of the curriculum of the early childhood education with the initial years of primary schooling. The curricula for the early childhood education has remained more or less unstructured with lot of independent players researching and formulating syllabus, learning outcomes and assessments. We had lot of educational philosophies being implemented in the early childhood education programmes, viz Montessori, Reggio Emilia. The focus in the early years was on building numeracy, motor skills, language skills, and this prepared children for primary education but did so inadvertently. Moreover, the shift of the curriculum from kindergarten to class 1 was rather abrupt as it was basically a shift from the unstructured to the structured syllabus, from fluid to rigid learning outcomes, from informal to formal assessments, from automatic to exam based progress.
It is notable that the CBSE and NCERT used to approve syllabus from middle class onwards only and a lot of schools went on teaching a mix of NCERT and other syllabuses as late as class 5. The formalization of the syllabus came only in class 6.
The observers have long felt that the transitions from one phase to another in the k-12 structure was not seamless. in other words, a lot changed too soon for children as they progressed in the school, the shift was most pronounced in the early primary years and it was most noticeable in the years when a student progressed from class 8 to high school. The rigor of the assessments, structure of the syllabus, classroom transactions, homework, supplementary classes, need for coaching and tuitions all changed, and changed too suddenly. The continuum seemed to lapse at several stages throughout the schooling years.
With the introduction of the 5+3+3+4 structure, the restoration of the continuum is intended. The phases of schooling will become appropriately segmented with this and the transition from one to the next will become smooth and will not add to undue pressure on the children.
What does this mean for the schools?
The new schools will be better placed to have provisions for early childhood schooling. It is further advisable to choose curriculum for early years with an eye on the continuum rather than ad hoc academic engagements. It is advised that the assessments be more structured and well-defined and learning outcomes more quantifiable. The introduction to technology has to be phased and not abrupt.
It is possible that the bodies like NCERT and CBSE will start approving syllabus for early years too and this will require the schools to apply for approval much before the middle class stage.
The teacher recruitment guidelines may also see a change in the coming years. The teachers that enter the educational arena experimentally and get hired just for the economy of it, may see their prospects dwindle as the schools adopt more structured educational programmes in the early years. The kindergarten teachers may be recruited in the future on their capabilities for teaching primary classes as well, again for the sake of continuum.
The NEP has recommended changes in the frequency of the exams also. It will be too early to say how exactly the examination models will change but it can be safely said that the pre-primary classes will see a reduction in overall examination frequency and their rigidity. It is proposed that the exams take place only in classes 3, 5, and 8 before high school level. There is a possibility that checkpoints will be introduced at appropriate stages for assessment of the learning outcomes and academic progress, it is also likely that a centralized body for standardization and evaluation of learning outcomes will come into being for early childhood and pre-primary and primary classes.
As for the secondary and higher secondary, the flexibility in subject choices is on the cards and there are indications that the streams will become more fluid. It implies that the national curricula will finally start resembling to some measure the international curricula. Naturally, it will compel international schools to competitively enhance features in their offerings and make difference more pronounced.
Another important recommendation that is pertinent to the higher classes is related to the reformulation of the board examinations and the pattern of the question papers. The National Curriculum Framework that is in its early stages of development deals with the subject at some length.
If the pattern of the examination changes, it will impact the classroom instruction practices definitively. Concept-based, practical oriented education, project based and experiential learning is likely to get mainstreamed.
Another area of NEP that has where debates and speculations have been rife is that of the medium of instruction. The NEP has recommended use of mother tongue for instruction till class 5. This has given ground for apprehension that English as a medium of instruction might fall out of favor. It is too early to definitively comment on the future of English as a medium of instruction, but it is safe to say that private schools will not be forced to implement any policy, although the instruction will become multilingual at least in the early phases of schooling. It is important to understand that the language policy is not proposed to put any given section at a disadvantage, it is proposed to remove the disadvantage that the children who are instructed in their mother tongues tend to face. The modalities are yet to be finalized.
The subject of introducing vocational subjects as early as class 6 has been touched upon in the NEP. Which subjects, in what degree etc. will be unveiled later. Schools may see the need to introduce vocational education and ready the infrastructure required for that.
Introduction of technical-skills and ed-tech has also been touched upon, naturally, schools will do better to get comfortable with the use of technology in classrooms. NEP recognizes AR, VR and even Blockchain applications as inevitabilities in the education ecosystem of the future. Given the promptness it demonstrates in recognizing them and assuming that it will be prompt in implementing them, it is advisable that the private schools upgrade their systems and refrain from shying away from extensive use of the technology.
Timely preparation goes a long way
The writing is on the wall, the education systems will change across the board. Although it is tempting to dismiss the calculated predictions as speculations, and be wary of the timing and intention government-driven changes, it would not be prudent to remain attached to the status quo and get caught unawares whenever and in whatever measure the changes come. It is strongly advised that the schools take stock of their internal situation, and gradually align their systems for the influx of new policy changes.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.