While it may be a great move on paper, how the curricula are designed and stakeholders are educated could make all the difference.

Students in uniform take the public exam in KeralaPTI
news Education Friday, July 31, 2020 - 09:22

The National Education Policy was released on Wednesday to mixed reactions, and one of the many points was that students in secondary school were going to be given more flexibility. The policy states that there will be no “hard separation” between arts, humanities and sciences, vocational and academic, etc. And while the policy may be good on paper, experts say that the devil lies in the details.

BS Rishikesh, an Associate Professor at Azim Premji University’s School of Education, says that subjects were narrowed down into streams because they had to study professional courses. This, he says, harmed students in classes 11 and 12, as well as in professional education.

“We started creating engineers and doctors with such narrow viewpoints that they didn't know anything else happening around them. Class 10 would have been the last class where they would have read anything about social sciences or political science or current affairs. So it did a lot of harm to the society. Those are the things that the policy is trying to dismantle,” he says.

However, he questions if giving options would prove counterproductive to the cause because a student looking to pursue engineering may not consciously choose to study political science in Class 11 and 12.

“This is where the basket system comes in. The ideal approach would be to say that the student has to have minimum credits from each basket – a science basket, a commerce basket, a social science basket, a language basket etc – to qualify their class 12 board exams. They cannot pass the exam by skipping an entire basket. This is where NCERT should be careful in bringing in reforms, since the policy is silent on the modalities of it,” he says.

Educationalist and career consultant Jayaprakash Gandhi is of the opinion that if the student wishes to pursue subjects as they exist currently, as they would fall into ‘science’ or ‘commerce’ streams, that should exist. However, he says that everything is becoming interlinked, and if a student wants to go into data science, they will want to learn computer science but also statistics, which is the option which has been given now.

However, he adds that it would require the student to know well in advance what they would like to pursue.

“The world is moving towards skill-based requirements, so that’s why so much flexibility is needed. One particular course, one particular stream will not get people jobs in the future because multi disciplinary skills are needed,” he says. He cites the example of Liberal Arts courses, and says those students are now getting good jobs because they are skilled in more than one discipline.

He points out that the bigger challenge will be in educating students and teachers about a system such as this.

“Even today, we have many first generation graduates in the country. To understand this type of skill-oriented career in the future, we really have to educate them. The school has to take up a lot of work, the teacher has to be taught about this and regarding future prospects so that they can tell the class about the importance of each subject, what the career benefit of that subject will be, what skill they have to develop. It’s not just putting them in a particular stream and then letting go. We have to streamline this,” he says. 

Poonam Batra, professor in the department of education at the University of Delhi says that the choice of subjects is not going to be a problem, and that there should be flexibility, but how the curriculum is designed is going to be an issue. She cites the example of Delhi University’s Choice Based Credit System, where the issue was with the curriculum design.

“The system says it is choice based, but eventually, very few choices are given to students. All this is very good on paper, but there needs to be an implementable framework and curricular designed approach which is not quite there because the tacit narrative of the policy is to homogenise the curriculum both at the school and at the higher education level. This policy move is towards standardisation,” she says. 

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