The long-awaited National Education Policy (NEP) draft has been finally released by the government. The draft has been uploaded on the Ministry of Human Resource Development website for public feedback. An education policy report of central government lays roadmap of the education system of the country for following decades, the previous education policy was implemented in 1986 under Rajiv Gandhi and later revised in 1992 under PV Narasimha Rao.
The previous policy became archaic with internet led ‘Information Revolution’ and therefore a new roadmap to guide the education system of the country was the need of the hour. “The NPE 1986/92 was formulated just before the Internet revolution and, while recognising the potential of technology, could not foresee the radical changes of the past few decades,” wrote Dr. K Kasturirangan, chairman of the Committee for Draft National Education Policy in the preamble of the report.
Modi government started the process of designing a new education policy a year after it came to power. It took four long years for the ‘final’ draft to come out. However, after reading the comprehensive 484-page document, one feels that it was worth a four-year wait. This is a multiple part series on the Draft National Education Policy by tfipost.com, where we will analyze the changes recommended by the drafting committee for in sequence to the age of the child and with the current status. The first part is on ‘preschool’ education of a child.
Pre-school or early childhood education has not been recognized by the central government in the last seven decades of independence. Early childhood education was part of Aganwadis which run under Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) but they had no standalone recognition. But neuroscience has proved that 85 percent of the child’s cumulative brain is developed under the age of 6 years. Therefore early childhood education becomes crucial for the holistic development of the child. The NEP recognizes the importance of preschools and set the objective of “Every child in the age range of 3-6 years has access to free, safe, high quality, developmentally appropriate care and education by 2025.”
There was a huge divide between the ‘privileged class’ and the ‘underprivileged’ ones in access to early childhood education. Given the fact that standalone pre-school was unregulated and did not require government permission, it became an industry for the ‘education mafia’. The private schools charged fees ‘arbitrarily’ and some ‘elite’ schools opened their own branch or collaborated with some pre-schools and made the education in the particular ‘preschool’ prerequisite for the admission in the primary stage. Therefore ‘pre-schools’ became a luxury of the privileged class and also a financial burden for parents.
After the implementation of NEP, the government would provide ‘free and compulsory’ early childhood education of every child and it will reduce the burden of the parents, as well as the ‘divide’ of privileged and underprivileged, would also get ‘bridged’.
The NEP has categorized three years of pre-school (ages 3-6) and the end of Grade 2 (age 8) under ‘Foundational Stage’ of education. The Early Childhood Education (ECE) will be delivered to the child through any of the following four methods:
- Strengthening and expansion of the Anganwadi system to include a robust education component
- Co-locating Angawadis with existing primary schools
- Co-locating pre-schools with primary schools where possible
- Building stand-alone pre-schools
NCERT, the existing textbook development authority for school education will prepare the Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for early childhood education. As per the draft report of NEP, “Universal access to quality early childhood education is perhaps the best investment that India can make for our children’s and our nation’s future.” It gives ‘foundational stage’ of education ‘utmost importance’, “Access for children aged 3 – 8 years to a flexible, multifaceted, multilevel, playbased and activity-based education is of utmost importance,” read the draft report.
The early childhood education under the National Education Policy is a welcome move. If the policy gets implemented, the quality of Human Resource in the country would improve drastically and every children irrespective class, caste, religion would be able to realize their full potential.