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National Education Policy: Can I study literature with my BSc degree, will board exams be scrapped and other key questions answered

From choosing subjects in schools to entry/exit in college degree programmes, a lot will change in India after National Education Policy is implemented. We try to answer some of the burning questions.

July 31, 2020 / 06:09 PM IST

The National Educational Policy was approved by the Union Cabinet today. This brings a sea of change in the way education will be delivered by the schools and colleges, providing far more flexibility to students.

The emphasis is on giving students the freedom to decide how long they want to stick to an academic programme. It also gives the final choice to these candidates to decide what subjects to study. The policy has been notified and the changes will be implemented over the next few months.

Moneycontrol brings you the transformation that will be initiated under the National Education Policy and how your life as a student will change:

First of all, what is National Education Policy?

This is the first education policy of the 21st century. It replaces the thirty-four-year-old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986.  The National Education Policy (NEP)’s idea is to promote more flexibility in the education system and make school/college education more holistic. It is aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student.

Under the NEP, a slew of changes will be made in school education, higher education, and also the way knowledge is delivered in these institutions. The first change is that the Ministry of Human Resource Development will be renamed as the Ministry of Education.

So how does life change for me? I am just a school student

School education will not be the same anymore. Not only can students choose what subjects to study and what activities to take part in, but also the medium of instruction itself could also change.

The medium of instruction? Can you simplify it?

The government wants students to be well versed in their respective mother tongues. Hence up to the fifth grade, instead of English, students will be taught in the language that is specific to the region. This means that a student in Maharashtra could be be taught in Marathi, a student in Kerala may taught in Malayalam and a student in Nagaland could be taught in Nagamese and so on.

NEP said that this should to be followed at least the fifth grade, but preferably until the eighth grade. So, except English or Hindi languages, the other subjects (Mathematics, History, Geography) will be taught in the specific regional language. But individual schools may get to choose if they would be able to implement this system.

What? Can’t I opt-out and continue to study in English?

No. The idea is to ensure that the student is not just fluent in English or Hindi but in all regional languages where he/she belongs to. Learning a language isn’t harmful. However, it has to be seen how this is implemented.  This will mean that all the English textbooks will have to be replaced with that of the specific region. Teachers will also need to get skilled in teaching a subject in a non-English language. No student can simply opt-out of the system. It will be applicable to all if the school chooses to change the language.

But can I at least choose what subjects to study?

Yes, you have that flexibility. Now, your school cannot decide that if you are an Arts student then you only study History or Geography and not Mathematics. You can decide to take Physics and Biology along with English and Sanskrit as your subjects in your school education.

Students will be given the option to choose whatever subject combinations they like. Schools will have to adjust individual student subject lists accordingly. There won’t be any compartmentalization like Arts or Science.

Can I ask my school to include a new subject that I like?

If your school does not offer that particular subject, for example, Fashion Studies or Western Classical Music, students can place a request for the inclusion of that subject. It is likely that each school will decide on the inclusion of that subject depending on the number of students wanting to study that particular topic. But say if you are the only student sending a request for that subject, it could be tough to get that included.

I heard that extracurricular activities will also get preference?

Preference may not be the right word. It is of equal importance. Now, you need not lie to your parents for staying back in school for a play practice or a dance competition.

NEP emphasizes that schools will have to give equal importance to activities like sports, music, or dance because that helps in the overall development of a student.  This will change. Now, there are segregated hours for extracurricular activities, usually 30-40 minutes twice a week.

So, can I play football all day instead of attending classes?

Well, it is not that simple. Playing football will be given equal importance but that does not mean you can play football all day skipping daily lessons. It is likely that a considerable amount of change will be made in the daily academic plans. At least one hour could be set aside for playing football for you or say your friend who wants to play the guitar.

Then my report card may also look better, right?

Definitely. Your sports activities will be prominently reflected in your annual report card. Your non-academic skills will be mentioned in a detailed progress report provided each year. Your vocational skills will also matter and will reflect in your report card.

Also, your report card could have an assessment based on your individual assessment as well as based on teachers' and peers' assessment of you. So basically your classmates' opinion will also reflect in the report card. The help of artificial intelligence will be taken for this. If you aren't a popular child in class, good luck.

Vocational? Now, what is that?

Sixth grade onwards, each student will be required to take part in vocational education. This means that you could spend one day a week with a local potter understanding the pottery skills and how he/she develops their products and sells them to customers.

Or you could be made to spend one day with a neighbourhood carpenter to understand how they create materials for use in households and in commercial buildings. Don’t think of these activities as casual. This is called vocational education and will help to build your overall personality.

Now the biggest question, are board exams scrapped?

Unfortunately, not. Board examinations will continue to be conducted at the end of Class X and Class XII by the different educational institutions. But you are in for a surprise.

NEP aims to reduce the emphasis on board exams and the allied rote learning system. So the board exams won’t be the standard ones with lengthy papers held between February to April each year.

There could be a choice to hold two board exams in one year and it could have a variety. There will be objective questions and descriptive questions so that students can excel in both.

So, will the 2021 board exam structure be changed?

That is unlikely. NEP has just been approved by the Cabinet. This now needs to be implemented across various phases. The education ministry would have to decide on how the board exam structure would be tweaked and then consult with the schools and education boards to decide on how and when the changes will be implemented.

I study in an international school. When will my curriculum be changed?

Schools following certifications like International General Certificate of Secondary Education by the University of Cambridge will not see any changes to the existing curriculum or academic design and delivery. NEP will be applicable to only schools under various state government boards and central education boards of India.

I heard college courses are also changing. How will that work?

Colleges will no longer need to restrict students from studying only subjects from one discipline. So an Arts undergraduate student can also study Biotechnology and Accounting as course subjects. Similarly, a Science undergraduate can study English Literature and Sociology as part of the course. Since there is a credit transfer, this will be made easy.

Credit transfer? What does that mean?

Each course will allow the student to choose which subjects they would want to study. So say a student graduating in Physics would have thermodynamics as a major field of study while he/she can take other subjects not necessarily relevant to Physics. So, if he/she chooses Political Science as a subject, that would be called a ‘minor’ credit. These minor credits can be accumulated and used as a part of the degree.

What this means is that instead of being stuck with the same subjects under one field, a student gets to explore subjects from completely different disciplines. This keeps education interesting.

But the university education system in India is still rigid, right?

Till now, yes. But NEP wants to change. You can now enter or exit the educational degree as per your choice. So, if you complete one year of a BA degree, you will get a certificate. Complete two years and you get a degree.

If you decide to stick for the entire three-year course, then you will get the degree post the examination. You will have a digital locker where the credits get stored for every year of completion of the educational programme.

What if I fall sick and the academic credits get wasted?

Students will be allowed to take sabbaticals in case of personal emergency, medical reasons, or pressure to find employment due to financial conditions. In these cases, the academic credits that get stored in the savings bank can be revived.  The student need not repeat the years that he/she has completed.

Savings bank? Sounds like a bank account.

Well, it is exactly like a bank account sans interest payment. Whenever you complete a course module, a credit will be added to your digital locker of academic credit. If you drop out of college after two years and decide to join back after a year, the academic credits stay intact in your digital locker.

Like a bank account that safely keeps your hard-earned money, the digital locker will store your hard-earned academic credits for each module completed.

Since you wouldn’t be required to complete a full module, you can directly do a one-year Masters and then proceed for doctoral programmes (Ph.D) after four years.

Directly? Don’t I need to do an M.Phil post my Masters’ degree?

NEP has called for a new structure as far as university education is concerned. So, a student whose ultimate aim is research (PhD), he/she need not pursue lengthy programmes in this path. As per the new structure, a student only has to complete a four-degree programme and one-year Masters’ programme and then directly get into doctoral research, popularly called PhD.

And yes, there is good news. The M.Phil programme will be discontinued so you need not spend your time finishing another degree.

My institute is regulated by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Will they agree?

NEP has said that there will one single regulator for higher education courses. So instead of having AICTE regulate technical and management programmes, UGC regulating universities and so on, there will be one regulator. Medical and legal streams of education will not be part of the single regulator norm.

This makes things simpler and all processes will be made uniform for the educational institutes. This ensures that flexibility in the transfer of credits is also easier.

Finally, what is NEP looking to achieve?

Through these extensive set of changes in school and college curriculums as well as programme delivery, NEP wants India to be the world-class destination as far as education is concerned. The idea is to make India the first choice whenever someone in any part of the world thinks of higher education. Top-ranked universities will also be allowed to open campuses in India.


M Saraswathy
M Saraswathy
first published: Jul 29, 2020 08:48 pm