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We Had A Discussion Over The NEP With Students, And This Is What We Found

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Written by: Shukti Anantha

Introduction To The National Education Policy 2020

Students have waited for this revolutionary change for more than a decade. The new National Education Policy (NEP) was introduced on July 29, 2020. The very purpose of NEP 2020 is to help students increase their critical thinking capacity and develop their decision-making skills. The same old methodology of memorising and by-hearting academic material would no longer exist. Try asking a student if they like studying, and a majority of them will say that they study for the sake of it, and not because they are passionate about it.

It is high time we realise the gravity of the issue, as there is no point in education if a student doesn’t feel strongly about studying happily. The same old teaching methods and dry textbook content would be replaced with fun ways of teaching, as well as informative and relevant material.

The NEP has taken various challenges that students face on a daily basis into consideration and modified it accordingly. The language barrier, the non-diversity in courses after Class 10, issues with the 10+2 structure, negligence of mental health of teenagers, are few of the prominent issues. There are proposed changes in the education system based on these challenges, and it seems like a step forward, although the implementation process is still a far sight.

The NEP has made it clear that until Grade 5, the mode of communication should be in the regional language or mother tongue. It also offers diversity in courses rather than just arts, science and commerce. Students are free to choose any combination and even mix up the typical combination. The 10+2 structure is replaced with 5+3+3+4 making it kindergarten, primary, middle school and secondary school. There is also some focus on appointing therapists and making sure students can have a safe space to communicate and talk to someone with no judgement.

a girl and boy in school uniform writing on the blackboard in the classroom
The NEP has made it clear that until Grade 5, the mode of communication should be in the regional language or mother tongue. It also offers diversity in courses rather than just arts, science and commerce.

It seems like a far-fetched plan but also promises a lot of change in the life of a student. The NEP is envisioned to be fully operational by 2030-40, i.e. a decade or two away. Young people and adolescents must engage with the government to hold it accountable and make sure that the NEP is implemented smoothly without compromising on any of the promises made. The implementation process will be quite a challenge, as teachers would have to undergo training, students would take some time to adjust to this new way of teaching and the curriculum will be changed.

Although there are many loopholes and things that seem like a far off goal, the NEP promises a bright future to all those students that want to follow their passion, feel happy while studying, and enjoy the entire teaching and learning process. Each student has a different perspective on the NEP, and each diverse opinion is what makes the policy even more intriguing.

Understanding What Students Have To Say

After having a discussion with students from different states in India, I could gather a lot of input from each person. It was enriching to know what each student had to say in the context of their respective background. Although we are divided by states, our perspectives were almost the same, albeit with a tinge of differences.

When asked about their opinions on the introduction of the mother tongue until Grade 5 as the mode of communication or language of instruction, most students had a clash of opinions. While some said that it would be a great way to bring about patriotism and love for your country, others said it would be a huge barrier to understand lessons and adapt to a regional language, rather than a globally accepted language such as English.

They also pointed out that job transfers or shifting to another state would be a huge disadvantage as that particular student would have to learn a new language all over again and adapt to that region’s culture. There were mixed feelings about this particular topic, as we ourselves are uncertain about how the implementation process would go about and how students would adapt to this new form of communication.

We also discussed the 5+3+3+4 structure, and many of them said that it would increase the employability of the youth and that it is inspired by a similar system abroad. This Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) helps in the development of a child and fosters better thinking capacity from a very young age. The new structure is in favour of reducing the burden of board exams, as the policy states that the focus on boards should be reduced comparatively.

One of the students said that they were glad about the school complex policy as it would bring together a large number of schools with few teachers and students on one platform.

One of the most interesting comparisons a student made was to building a house. The 5+3+3+4 structure is the exact same as building and developing a house, starting with the foundation layer and finally developing a solid, wholesome building. The 10+2 structure focused more on the theoretical knowledge, but missed out on the practical part, and was a huge challenge to the people who were already employed in jobs.

The new structure promises a practice-oriented curriculum with internships by Grade 6 and improves the chances of employability as children would have basic knowledge of jobs and would be more familiar in that field. It is also an overall development for a child, mentally as well as physically, from a very young age.

The next topic we discussed was the diversity in courses being offered. Breaking away from stereotypes and the same old courses of science, commerce and arts being offered, there was a very beneficial change to the education system in the students’ eyes. While some disagreed, a majority of them were ecstatic. They agreed that the new structure would increase passion in students and would benefit the country as well. However, practically, it seemed like a rather far-fetched goal. A student very rightly said that science subjects go hand in hand — you cannot take physics without math, and vice-versa.

The implementation process was a very important topic that we focused on. Some students said that there should be centralised policies with regard to the introduction to the regional language. Also, the training of the teachers would be mandatory on the various new changes to the education system, so that they can train the students to adapt efficiently to the NEP.

One of the students said that they were glad about the school complex policy as it would bring together a large number of schools with few teachers and students on one platform. They also pointed out that the implementation process would be very hectic and that it would take a long time for it to run smoothly. They were doubtful on how the NEP would focus on the physically challenged students and give them equal opportunities to progress, just like any other student.

While we all had our own opinions and did not completely agree with what others had to say, it was a very wholesome and mind-boggling session. To be able to understand and communicate with students from different language backgrounds, schools and from different states was a special and enhancing opportunity.

Understanding what a student has to say is the most crucial aspect of the NEP, as the future of the country is the youth. Giving them a voice and understanding their perspectives is crucial to the implementation process as well. Although we ourselves might not be directly affected by the proposed changes under the NEP, we have equal responsibilities attached to it, such as making sure that the policy is meaningfully being implemented, and that the students being affected by it are educated about the policy effectively.

The Way Forward

As the youth of the country, it is our responsibility to ensure that the implementation, planning and structure of the NEP does not get lost as we move forward. Every student deserves a chance to experience this new change, and have multiple opportunities to enjoy studying and improve their cognitive skills. We must ponder over our expectations from the government, the school authorities, such as sticking to all the points made in the policy without compromising on any of them and understanding the various challenges students and teachers may be going through as it is a new beginning for them all.

Although there is quite a lot of time for this policy to run effectively, we can always think of ways in which we can help in the smooth and efficient functioning of the NEP, such as going through with the implementation process and supporting meaningful youth engagement.

About the author: Shukti Anantha is a Grade 12 student and member of the Policy Working Group — Stepping Towards Enhancing Policy Structures (PWG-STEPS).

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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