A look at NEP 2020 from the bottom of the pyramid
Unlike students from private institutions in India, who get quick and easy access to new tools and processes in education, students relying on government institutions have to wait for the new education policies to be adopted. Given that school education plays the most crucial role in life-long learning, the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 adopted by the Government of India after a long wait of 34 years holds immense significance for India’s government schools and their students. On 29th July 2021, NEP 2020 completed one year of adoption, leading keen followers of this space to take stock of how the policy had shaped governmental and non-governmental action towards its successful adoption.
What changed between 1986 and 2020?
National Education Policy 2020 is the most significant reform towards the public education system, undertaken by Government of India, since the National Policy on Education 1986. Given how much the world and India has changed between 1986 and 2020, the introduction of a new education policy that’ll enable our youth to be part of India’s growth story was truly long due. While the National Policy of Education 1986 focused more on providing access to public education to India’s citizens, the National Education Policy 2020 focuses on improving the quality of education, learning outcomes and employability. The new policy aims to leverage education-technology tools in a big way to achieve its objective, which is interesting to us as we’ve seen first-hand the kind of impact this can have on the learning outcomes and academic performance of children
Focus on early language skills, mathematical abilities and vocational skills
Our government schools have always struggled to impart language & mathematical skills to students in their formative years, which has later hampered understanding of other subjects and led most students to be ill-equipped and underconfident. Additionally, as students graduated to senior grades, government schools failed to impart vocational skills that would ensure employability, which has been detrimental to an entire generation of Indian youth. The new education policy’s strong focus on imparting early language and mathematical skills between Grade 1-3, and providing vocational education as early as Grade 6 is highly appreciated as we’ve observed the above problem first-hand, and strived to improve it by creating educational content that focuses on strengthening fundamentals before building upon it. We see the National Education Policy 2020 impacting the approach taken by other organisations working towards government school students which is great.
Teaching in mother or regional tongue takes centre-stage
Over the last few years, a big faction of India’s education and education technology industry was in favour of the gradual conversion of local language governmental schools to schools that followed English as the primary language of instruction. While there is no doubt that English is an important language to enable India’s youth to compete and succeed in today’s world, several studies worldwide have shown that learning in one’s mother or regional tongue in formative years is extremely effective. The National Education Policy 2020 has recognized the effectiveness of educating children in their mother or regional tongue during their formative years, which is a sentiment echoed by renowned educationists across the world. In fact, we, at ConnectEd Technologies, have closely witnessed the impact of our vernacular educational content on understanding levels and academic performance of government school students and are happy to see more organisations working as per the approach advocated by Government of India.
Assessments retain their importance, with a completely fresh approach
India’s public education system has always assessed and ranked students based on their performance in examinations; using marks as a yardstick to serve students with future opportunities – be it in terms of education or work. We have always believed that India’s education system needs to assess its students with a broader perspective, and leverage data from assessments to tailor education based on a student’s competencies – which is a global trend in education, that we follow across all projects. The new education policy has not only widened the scope of assessments but also ensured electronic storage of data collected from assessments and a comprehensive representation of this data. We believe this is a great step taken by the Government of India which has pushed the entire educational ecosystem to take a broader perspective of an individual’s competencies. Soon, we hope to see industry leveraging this data to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their recruitment and training practices, which will positively impact their productivity and the country’s economy.
Creating a National Education Technology Forum (NETF)
Before founding ConnectEd Technologies in 2015, my partner and I had conducted extensive primary research across 570 government schools on the use of education-technology tools to improve quality of education in government schools. While there has never been a dearth of edtech companies in India, most organisations have chosen to create education-technology tools for private schools students, particularly those in urban or semi-urban areas. As a result, the peculiar needs of government schools and children that study therein have either been ignored by India’s edtech industry or catered to with sub-standard attempts that have failed to yield results. While ConnectEd Technologies has been extensively creating and deploying tailor-made edtech tools to government schools and their students across India, it has been interesting to see creation of a National Education Technology Forum (NETF). As a dedicated education technology unit that strives to understand and meet the peculiar infrastructure, content and service requirements of government schools, we see NETF being able to improve the quality of education in government schools, whilst inspiring others to do so too.
Future looks bright
There is no doubt the National Education Policy 2020 is a much required step in the right direction. The policy has all the elements required to prepare our youth to participate in India’s growth story, and one can see how the entire machinery has started transforming itself in the last one year to embrace the policy to its fullest. Having said that, there’s still some time to go before one can certainly say how effectively the policy has transformed into action. More importantly, it’ll be interesting to see how private players in the education and edtech industry supplement the government’s inclination, particularly when it comes to government schools which have been largely ignored so far.