One of the many recommendations made in the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was to replace the 10+2 school curriculum structure with a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure, corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years. The Andhra Pradesh government has been taking steps towards switching to the new structure and has announced guidelines towards implementing some of the NEP 2020âs recommendations. In its recently issued implementation guidelines, the Andhra government has recommended major changes in physical school infrastructure, including shifting students in classes 3 to 5 from existing primary schools to nearby upper primary or high schools. The Andhra Pradesh United Teachersâ Federation (APUTF) has raised several concerns with these guidelines. The federation noted that apart from increasing the distance to school for students of classes 3 to 5, the physical restructuring, which wasnât even recommended by the NEP, would also complicate teaching post allocations and availability of teachers.
What is the 5+3+3+4 structure?
The new pedagogical and curricular structure recommended in the new NEP has four stages.
>Foundational stage (ages 3-8 years): Three years of Anganwadi or preschool, Class 1 and 2
>Preparatory stage (ages 8-11 years): Class 3 to 5
>Middle stage (ages 11-14 years): Class 6 to 8
>Secondary stage (ages 14-18 years): Class 9 to 12
The 5+3+3+4 structure is broken down based on childrenâs cognitive development stages. While the existing 10+2 structure only begins at age 6 with Class 1, the new structure brings 3 years of pre-school into the fold of formal education. The NEP pushes for investing in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), noting that at present, âquality ECCE is not available to several crore young children, particularly those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds."
How the Andhra government plans to implement it
The guidelines, issued by the School Education Department, are meant to âpropose the best mapping of schools to transform to the new structure of 5+3+3+4â while focusing on ECCE and foundational learning. In the new set-up proposed, there will be three kinds of schools in the government sector â pre-primary schools (PP1 and PP2), foundational schools ( PP1, PP2, Preparatory Class I, classes 1 and 2) and secondary schools (classes 3 to 10/12).
All existing Anganwadi centres will function as âYSR Pre Primary Schoolsâ with PP1 and PP2. The existing primary schools (which currently have classes 1 to 5 in most cases) will be turned into foundational schools, and will have preparatory class, and classes 1 and 2. In cases where the Anganwadi centres (or pre-primary schools) are located within 1 km of a primary school, as is often the case, the pre-primary school (with PP1 and PP2) and the primary school (with preparatory class, and classes 1 and 2) will be seen as the combined unit of a foundational school. The NEP suggests that children before age 5 move to a preparatory class with an ECCE-qualified teacher before enrolling in Class 1.
Children who are currently in classes 3 to 5 in existing primary schools will be moved to the nearest upper-primary school or high school within a three-km radius of the existing primary school. Officials have been asked to identify the number of students who can be shifted in this way during the 2021-22 academic year. They have also been asked to identify additional classrooms needed (in upper primary or high schools which cannot accommodate the additional intake) to shift the remaining students in the next two years (2022-23 and 2023-24).
If there are two such âsecondary schoolsâ (class 3 to class 10 or 12) with both English and Telugu medium within a distance of 5 km from each other, based on the enrolment in a particular medium, they can be proposed to be turned into exclusively Telugu or English medium schools, the guidelines say. District Education Officers have now been tasked with mapping Anganwadi centres for merging with primary schools, and upper primary and high schools for shifting students in classes 3 to 5.
Although the guidelines require all students of classes 3 to 5 to be moved to secondary schools within a three-km radius, this is not possible in many parts of the state, the AP United Teachersâ Federation has said. âA survey of around 15 mandals across the 13 districts showed that in many rural areas, upper primary and high schools are not very accessible. Especially in tribal Agency (Integrated Tribal Development Agency) areas like Parvathipuram, Paderu etc. the distance is often more than 5 km. Parents are likely to hesitate to send children in classes 3 to 5 even three-km away, and dropouts are likely to increase in such cases. This is true especially in the case of girl students,â APUTF President N Venkateshwarlu said. He also pointed out that these changes violate the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act which requires a school to be accessible within a walking distance of one km for children in classes 1 to 5.
Of the 45,000 government schools in the state, 34,000 are primary schools which will now be turned into foundational schools, leaving 11,000 secondary schools. The government guidelines say that each foundational school will have one SGT (secondary grade teacher) to look after classes 1 and 2, but in case the preparatory class is introduced in the school, âthe manpower deployment will be separate.â The remaining teachers will be moved to secondary schools, along with students of classes 3 to 5.
Earlier on May 27, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy said that it was proposed to bring Anganwadi teachers into the ECCE teaching stream by training them so they can be promoted to work as SGTs in foundational schools. He further proposed that health-related work in Anganwadi centres would be shifted to village and urban clinics. He said that the new proposals would focus on âeffective utilisation of teachersâ to provide the best ECCE, and said that âappropriate rationalisation should be undertaken to make greater use of the teaching capacity of teachers.â
Venkateshwarlu said that the slew of changes in physical infrastructure proposed is likely to lead to a mess, and shift focus from the bigger concerns like teachersâ capabilities and recruitment in strengthening school education. âIf the problem lies with teachers, these flaws need to be corrected. There are at least 25,000 vacant teaching posts that need to be filled. Instead, these measures will effectively end up obliterating primary schools, as we will only be left with foundational and secondary schools,â he said. While the move to focus on ECCE and to bring pre-primary education under government schools is welcome, he said it was unclear how the foundational schools will be managed with limited teaching staff.
The APUTF has noted that the NEP itself doesnât warrant any physical restructuring. The NEP document notes that the new 5+3+3+4 stages are âpurely curricular and pedagogicalâ and meant to inform development of national and state curricula and teaching-learning strategies at each stage. It specifies that âparallel changes to physical infrastructure will not be required.â While welcoming the inclusion of pre-primary schooling into primary schools, the APUTF has asked the government to rethink its decision of splitting primary schools and to hold consultations with experts, educators and parents before taking such a drastic measure.