By Gunmeet Bindra
Having received my farewell from the post of Principal, Welham Boys’ School, exactly six months ago, I still feel I was there yesterday. So strong is the bond with Welham, with Dehradun and with Uttarakhand. And, today, on the eve of Teachers’ Day, my thoughts went to the Education Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, also former Chief Minister, Uttarakhand.
The New Education Policy is the much-awaited breeze of fresh air. On this Teachers’ Day, I cannot but help feel good about some sweeping reforms that NEP 2020 has to offer.
I begin by talking about the universalisation of early childhood care education as a more than welcome inclusion. Research shows that 80% of a child’s brain develops by the age of five. Training the current Anganwadi workers/teachers through a systematic effort in accordance with the pedagogical framework developed by NCERT to prepare an initial cadre of high-quality ECCE teachers in Anganwadis implies strong Aganwadis and preschools which in turn means a strong, solid, and broad foundation for the emotional cognitive, physical and social development of the children.
The move to ensure that career growth is available to the teachers within a single school stage (foundational, preparatory, middle, or secondary) and that there is no career progression related incentives to move from one stage to another is to support the fact that all the stages of school education require the highest-quality teachers and no stage will be considered more important than any other.
The country has been working on a pedagogy shift but the results have been far from satisfactory. This is primarily because the shift in pedagogy cannot happen without a paradigm shift in the system of assessments. Like it or not, the natural inclination to take shortcuts gets schools to teach to the exam. Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) was a great endeavour in this direction. The NEP 2020 now emphasises implementing three modes of assessment which will not only have the teachers but also the students participating in the process of a holistic educational experience as active participants of assessment for learning and not assessment of learning. This is avant-garde for India!
Under the NEP, there will be no stiff separation between arts and sciences, between vocational and academic, and between curricular and extracurricular. I always prefer saying co-curricular for somehow the word ‘extra’ in this context gives me a feeling of it being out of the curriculum. This freedom from watertight compartments itself is a huge impetus to children to follow a balanced choice based on their aptitude, interest, and life goals.
The inclusion of the core values of our constitution is yet another admirable emphasis to move from a crowd of 1.2 billion people to a nation of 1.2 billion citizens.
The 5+3+3+3+4 curricular and pedagogical structure based on cognitive and socio-emotional development with a reduced stake at Board exams will hopefully bring room for innovative classrooms!
Implemented in letter and spirit, the NEP must reestablish teachers at all levels as one of the most respected members of our society. With the new education policy aspiring to set up enviable teacher training institutes, the best and the brightest will be encouraged to enter the teaching profession, promising them not only a livelihood but also respect, dignity and autonomy. For in the success and happiness of our teachers lies the success and happiness of our children, which beyond doubt means a happy and secure today and tomorrow.
(Dr Gunmeet Bindra has been a hockey player, served as principal of Welham Boys’ School for over 8 years and presently is Founder Trustee of Delhi Public School, Rajpura, Punjab).