Draft NEP: giving a pass to public exams

Much has been written analysing the 480-page draft report, 'New Education Policy' by a nine member committee headed by former Isro chairman, K Kasturirangan.

If the NEP is implemented even partially, it will usher in a new era in India’s education sector. There are many outstanding recommendations made by NEP. Some of them are: getting rid of public examinations like PUC and SSLC, shutting down all dysfunctional, corrupt and standalone teaching schools to be replaced by four-year degree colleges which are associated with universities or autonomous colleges to provide multi-disciplinary training, 5+3+3+4 structure to replace today’s 12-year programme and emphasising early childhood learning, three types of higher education: research-oriented universities, teaching-oriented universities and autonomous colleges, separating functions like regulations, funding, accreditation, and standard setting, and a high-level body called Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (National Education Commission) headed by the prime minister. 

There will be no fear of one examination deciding the destiny of the student. Going to school will be enjoyable and students will have far more flexibility to select courses. Rote learning will be replaced by creative thinking.

Though the report deals with all aspects of school education, higher education and professional education (health, technical, legal, and healthcare), greater emphasis is given to school education. Early childhood education gets the highest priority. This is influenced by the fact that over 85% of cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of six. 

It is at the high school stage where a complete transformation occurs. Pre-university or higher secondary has been eliminated. Each year will be divided into two semesters, for a total of eight semesters. Each student would take five-six subjects each semester, with some essential common subjects for all. Simultaneously, there will be a great flexibility in selecting elective courses including in the arts, music, vocational subjects and physical education. 

SSLC and PUC examinations will be eliminated. Each semester, students can take Board Examinations in subjects they have chosen and there will be no in-class final examinations. Thus, with the pressure of the examinations eliminated, the student suicide rate may decline.

Take my case. I am from a small town where I studied in Kannada medium. Dreading my PUC exam, I was planning to drop out. In the event, I took the exam and got a state rank and joined IIT. I wonder how many students might have suffered like me because of these public examinations. 

The objective of higher education is to create world class multi-disciplinary higher education institutions (HEI) across the country and to increase Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) to 50% by 2035 from the current level of 25%.

The NEP should have discussed the key success factors for its implementation. One factor is honest, competent, dedicated teachers and managers at all levels. While the NEP is exhaustive, substantive policies, specially concerning school education, could have been discussed in fewer pages.

They include: Getting rid of public examinations; No transfer of government school teachers; Developing a system to hold teachers and administrators accountable based on the performance of the students; Closing down of ‘small’ schools and to integrate them into larger and integrated schools like Kendriya Vidyalayas with library, and laboratory facilities; Children residing away from schools can be transported by bus like the children going to private schools; Government should allocate at least 6% of GDP for education sector, currently at 3%. 

Of all the recommendations, getting rid of public exams will be relatively easy to implement. Many others need experts, scientists and technologists and competent and honest leaders. However, with the elimination of public examinations, it will be the end of coaching schools.

Teachers' union are unlikely to favor the recommendations since they will be held accountable and will also be required to teach unlike preparing children only to take exams. But the general public and students should rejoice and welcome the NEP.

Unless there is a vibrant movement to support the NEP, it will remain a pipe dream and India would have lost another golden opportunity to usher in a million mutinies in education sector.

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