Raising new foundations

New Education Policy, which mostly focuses on the 21st-century challenges and is aligned with SDG-4, need to be implemented systematically in a phased manner in union territory of Jammu & Kashmir, to set the system right. Few initiatives need to be carried on war footing basis.

  • School Complexes for effective governance of schools

Grouping schools together to form school complexes is a challenge. One secondary school and cluster of around 30 schools have to be grouped into a conglomerate. This will ensure effective governance, infrastructural resources and manpower not only in school complexes but in schools which fall within 5 kms radius. The sharing of resources across complexes will have a number of other benefits besides sharing of teachers including the use of ICT tools to conduct virtual classes, better student support, enrollment, attendance and School Complex Management Committees for more robust governance. It means:

We need to identify few existing Higher Secondary Schools (probably 10 in each in each district in Phase- 1) to form School Complexes, having expansion options too. For these Complexes, we need to identify academic leaders and have to train the staff at least for 4 weeks after making three tier selections within the system. Each complex should be funded adequately not less than Rs. 1 Crore and shall be supported by all means including deployment of accounts officials and administrators.

  • State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) for school regulation

All academic matters, including academic standards and curricula in the State will be led by the SCERT (with close consultation and collaboration with the NCERT), which will be reinvigorated as an institution. The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) as a unit. It means, to ensure that all schools follow certain minimal professional and quality standards, States/UTs will set up an independent, State-wide body called the State School Standards Authority (SSSA).

It will help self-regulation/accreditation for schools. However, Directorate of School Education (including the offices of the DEO and BEO etc) will work independently to implement policies regarding educational operations and provision. The present one needs to be strengthened and expanded as per New Education Policy.

  • Restructuring of schools

The current structure of school education must be restructured to make it more relevant to the needs of students at different stages of their development. The existing 10+2 structure shall be redesigned as ‘5+3+3+4’ corresponding to ages 3-18. The structure have to be divided into two parts i.e {5+3} & {3+4}, keeping in view the mandate.

Up to class 5th, assistance of number of organizations and public private partnership is needed. There is a thrust on early childhood care and education as it is a crucial stage for the development of mental faculties of a child. The Preparatory Stage includes play, discovery and activity-based interactive classroom learning.

From Class 6th, there should be a uniform syllabus/text books/ time table/colander and should have the one school complex. Middle Stage (11-14) includes empirical learning in sciences, maths, arts, social sciences, humanities with vocational education and Secondary Stage (14-18) includes classes from 9-12, envisages multidisciplinary study where students would be able to pick and choose any set of subjects from the available structure. Teachers having Masters degree have only to be deployed, keeping in view the standard of syllabus.

  • Restructuring of school curriculum and pedagogy

Curriculum load in each subject should be reduced to its essential core content to allow for critical thinking, discussion and analysis based learning.  Students should be given more flexibility and choice in subjects of study, particularly in secondary school.  Vocational Education and coding have to be introduced from Class 6.

Rote learning has to be closed and as such there is a need to reduce curriculum to essential core. It is the most difficult task, what to be carried and what portion to be dropped.

  • Reformation in Examinations

A rate-race set for obtaining high marks wreaks havoc. Class 10 and 12 Board Exams will be conducted as usual, but the exams will be made easier. The exam will have two parts, Objective and Descriptive. From 6th class onwards that will give a comprehensive report on skills and capabilities instead of just marks and grades.

Board Exams will be allowed on up to two occasions during any given year, one main examination and one for improvement, if desired.

  • Digital education and technology in education:

National Education Technology Forum (NETF) should be set up to facilitate decision making on the induction, deployment and use of technology. It is a platform to facilitate the free exchange of ideas on technology usage in education.

Several interventions must be taken to ensure inclusive digital education such as: (i) developing two-way audio and video interfaces for holding online classes, (ii) creating a digital repository of coursework, learning games and simulations through virtual reality, (iii) use of other channels such as television, radio, mass media in multiple languages to ensure reach of digital content where digital infrastructure is lacking, (iv) creating virtual labs on existing e-learning platforms to provide students with hands-on experiment-based learning, and (v) training teachers on how to become high-quality online content creators.

  • National Curriculum Framework for School/Teacher Education (NCFSE/NCFTE)

National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be undertaken by the NCERT – to address frontline curriculum needs. Similarly, a new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT. Teachers required completing 50 hours of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) training every year.

Other   initiatives

  • Merit-based scholarship to encourage outstanding students to enter the teaching profession. Teachers need to identify students who could be passionate teachers.
  • Rigorous, impartial and transparent recruitment will be 3-tiered.
  • Experiential learning will include hands-on learning, arts-integrated and sports-integrated education, story-telling-based pedagogy, among others, as standard pedagogy.
  • School Education will develop scientific temper, communication and knowledge of critical issues facing the community and the world.

NEP has the potential to revamp the skills of the youth and has all the right tools that are needed to be competitive at the global level to address global challenges.

Dr. M A Shah,  Special Center for Nanosciences, P.G Department of Physics, NIT, Srinagar