The National Council for Education Research & Training (NCERT) in October 2022 circulated the National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage (NCFFS). On 8 April 2023, it circulated the National Curriculum Framework for School Education henceforth called NCFSE. These two, as it appears, will be amalgamated to form a complete framework for school education in tune with National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. In the foreword of the NCFFS, it was stated: ‘‘This curriculum framework will be an integral part of the overall National Curriculum Framework for School Education, which is under development’’.
So, the second one has been framed and these two documents combined together would conduce to the central government’s design to overhaul the school education system in the country. The first one is a long 360-page document and the second one is a 628-page document. At the end of both are appended the words: ‘‘Updates will continue to be made to this document as it is integrated with and incorporated into the full National Curriculum Framework for School Education’’. So, the volumes as well as the contents of the documents are likely to be updated from time to time as per design and where they would end is beyond our conjecture. We cannot but mention here that the present BJP-led Central Government seems to be aggressively active in speedy implementation of the different prescripts of the NEP 2020 ignoring the countrywide protests that have been voiced by the teachers, educationists and intellectuals since the publication of the Draft National Education Policy (DNEP) 2019 and announcement of the NEP on 29 July 2020.
NCFFS and NCFSE operative part of disastrous NEP 20
In the preambles of both the NCFFS and the NCFSE, there are scores of tall talks—all with an ulterior motive to hoodwink the people as it has been done throughout the policy statements of the NEP. There is also desperate attempt to give a theoretical justification to different aspects of the policy concerning school education. We will mention a few of them. On various occasions it quoted from the texts of DNEP and NEP. To state the vision of the NCFSE, it stated that it would inculcate values like ‘‘democratic outlook and commitment to liberty and freedom; equality, justice, and fairness; embracing diversity, plurality, and inclusion;’’ etc.. [DNEP 2019, 18.104.22.168].
It ‘‘envisions an education system rooted in Indian ethos that contributes directly to transforming India, that is Bharat, sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society, by providing high-quality education to all, and thereby making India a global knowledge superpower.’’ [NEP 2020, the Vision of this policy]. The objective is to ‘‘inculcate scientific temper and encourage evidence-based thinking throughout the curriculum’’ [DNEP 2019, 22.214.171.124]. So on and so forth.
Vile design to strip education of its essence
On number of occasions in the pages of Proletarian Era, we have pointed out that the central focus of the NEP is just contrary to all these claims. It may be mentioned that on the pretext of ensuring ‘‘diversity, plurality and inclusion’’, the framers of government policies are out to impose Hindi as sole official language and medium of instruction in a multi-lingual country like ours. How the spirit of diversity or plurality would then be abided by? This is only one out of thousands of similar examples that can be cited. They have simply copied from the US and other foreign education systems many aspects of the NEP like four-year undergraduate program (FYUP), multi-disciplinary system, multiple entry and exit system etc. without caring as to whether those are suited to the specific situation of India. Still, they go on claiming that their policies are ‘‘rooted in Indian ethos’’.
What an exhibition of double standard! Indian knowledge system, for example, is the central theme of the NEP. Under the garb of it, the ploy is to orient the minds of the students from very tender age towards all sorts of unscientific, unhistorical and irrational ideas typical of the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar. They claim the vision of NEP is to ‘‘inculcate scientific temper’’. How is that fulfilled? The students are taught that the very elephant head of ‘Lord Ganesha’, a mythical character now transformed into a deity, attests to the existence of plastic surgery in Vedic India. Let alone elephant’s head, can plastic surgery today replace a chopped head in a body through plastic surgery? It shows that either the proponents of such weird stories are ignorant of what plastic surgery means or they are in a motivated way, trying to distort medical science.
Of late, it is noticed that there is an emphasis on the point that both 1 and 0 were invented in India. While it is true that the digit of 0 (zero) was first invented in ancient India, though long after the Vedic period, there is no evidence that the digit 1 (one) also owes its origin in India. It was the Egyptians who transformed the number one from a unit of counting things to a unit of measuring things around 3,000 BC. Then why so much ado about discovery of 1 in India? Because information Technology or computer science is based on 0 and 1 binary (1 is high or ‘‘on’’, and 0 is low or ‘‘off’’). Hence, if people can be made to believe that not only 0 but even 1 was discovered in India, it would be convenient to claim that computers existed in the period of the Ramayana or Mahabharata and the description of Sanjoy, a mythical character of the Mahabharata, of Kurukshetra battle to Dhritarashtra, another mythical character of the same epic, through divyadrishti (‘spiritual eye’) could well be furnished as evidence of internet during that time. Similarly, the bizarre theories like ‘the cow exhaling oxygen during breathing’, ‘cow milk contains gold’, ‘cow dung can shield radioactive radiations’, would also gain ground. Such is the RSS-BJP brand of scientific temper! And through all these, they are vending a dream that with such a powerful knowledge system under its command, India would soon be catapulted to the position of ‘Vishwaguru’ (global knowledge superpower). There are many such theories and templets in the various documents of NEP including NCFFS. But we shall discuss here only a few essential aspects which are slated to destroy the very fulcrum of school education.
School education on the precipice of ruination
If one studies these two documents, one will find that the present (4+6+2) or (10+2) school system is going to be replaced by a (5+3+3+4) system. The names of the four stages are: Foundational Stage, Preparatory Stage, Middle Stage and Secondary Stage. Evidently, formal school education will start at the age of 3 years and the period of school education will increase from 12 years to 15 years. The first 5, i.e., (3-8 years of age) will be called the Foundational Stage and will comprise 3 years of pre-school and Grades 1 & 2. However, for the first 3 years, no formal government-funded school system exists at present.
The NCFFS admits that ‘‘a large proportion of children spend significant time in institutional settings such as ‘Anganwadis’ ‘Balvatikas’ and private-run ‘pre-schools’.’’ The document has expressed a pious-wish: ‘‘Providing high quality preschool education in an organized setting for children above 3 years of age is one of the key priorities of NEP 2020’’. But it preferred to remain silent on how the high quality system for this age-group will be created and who will fund it. Some ‘Kendriya Vidyalayas’ (KVs) run by the central government will house ‘Balvatika’ for 3-5 year stage, but the infrastructural facility will be too meagre compared to the requirement. The existing ‘Anganwadi’ centres, as is known to all, have workers and helpers for preparing and serving cooked food for mothers and children and do not have infrastructure for teaching-learning. Also, the scantily-paid Anganwadi workers and helpers have no training to teach anyway. How they would provide the minimum dose of education to the tender-aged school beginners, let alone ‘‘multi-faceted, multi-level, play-based, activity-based and inquiry-based learning’’ as highlighted in the policy statement? However, the document prescribed a typical way-out. On the basis of their qualifications, these workers/helpers will have to undergo on-line training for one year or six months, either in digital mode or through Direct to Home (DTH) platforms. And thus, the rural Anganwadi workers would be adequately trained to teach the children in play-based, activity-based education mode. What a novel solution to a complex problem! If this prescript is implemented, it will simply be a mockery of pre-school education and the budding minds would learn nothing. Apprehensive of the future of their wards, the guardians at large would be forced to admit their children in whichever private pre-schools are available in the neighbourhood. This would definitely lead to further mushrooming of private-run Montessori type kid-schools giving fillip to rampant privatization and commercialization of education.
Highly expensive kid-schools named ‘Balvatika’ have been existing for long. These are mostly run by the Hindutva quarters and the students admitted there are reportedly receiving schooling based on the arch communal doctrine of the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar from the very tender age. It is also not clear from the document whether there would be any examination in Grades 1 and 2 of this stage or would be subjected to the so called method of assessment.
Deforming learning process from preparatory stage
Next is the ‘‘Preparatory Stage’’ i.e., from Grades 3-5 that will also be mainly ‘‘play-discovery-and activity-based pedagogical and curricular style’’ with minimum number of prescribed books. Here too, it is not specified whether examination or pass-fail system will be in vogue. So, in the first two stages of school education, there would be virtually no scope for any teaching and learning worth the name. Fully textbook-based teaching will start from the ‘‘Middle Stage’’ spanning from Grades 6 to 8. Though ‘‘Formal and explicit’’ assessments will be there in the Middle Stage, it is not spelt out whether a pass-fail system will exist or not. However, from this stage, there will be strong emphasis on vocational education. In fact, one of the essential thrusts of the NEP is vocationalization of entire education. This would start from the very Foundation Stage. The very design behind the fairy talks like ‘play or activity’—based education in the first two stages is merely to develop pre-vocational capacities. The NCFSE says, ‘‘In the Foundational and Preparatory Stages, multiple capacities will be developed through play and other activities, which will be subsequently useful in vocations. These capacities will be called prevocational capacities. In the Middle Stage, exposure to a wide range of work will be given to students. This will equip them to achieve skills in a vocation of their choice in the Secondary Stage and help them progress into gainful employment.’’ [pp 425]. How these skills will be achieved? Students will have to go for ‘‘relevant internships’’ in ‘‘poultry, dairy farms, pest control units, nursery, local mechanic workshops, carpentry workplaces, tailoring units, hotels, restaurant, hospitals, gyms, old age homes, beauty salons, etc.’’ [pp 432].
Of late, CBSE director-general has said that school principals have been advised to give emphasis on the activity-based learning to upscale students’ skills to think critically, which will be reflected on the marks. Incredible indeed! When the students will be initiated into textbook-based education, they will be made to devote large part of school hours to poultry farms, hotels, beauty parlours etc., in acquiring skills for future employment and develop a critical mind. What else is this other than a caricature of education! The very purpose of the framers of this ‘unique’ education system is to instil deep into the minds of the students that after completing education, they need not search for jobs but will create jobs on their own! So, it is a double-edged conspiracy—denial of basic education as well as right to employment.
Farce of Secondary stage
Far more devastating would be the ‘‘Secondary Stage’’ consisting of Grades 9-12. Here at the end of Grade 10, students will be allowed to exit and re-enter into Grade 11 after a lapse of time. But the document is conspicuously silent on whether there would be any state or central level Board conducted secondary school examinations currently in existence and whether students who will pass that would get a certificate. At present, this school pass out certificate is treated as minimum qualification for obtaining certain government and non-government jobs. If there is no such examination, students will have to wait for two more years for getting a school-leaving certificate which would entail exorbitant rise in cost of education and more dropouts.
In Grades 11 and 12, the proposal is to introduce a semester system with choice-based subjects. There will be four semesters in two years. Eight curricular areas are proposed. Each curricular area comprises some disciplines. Curricular areas that are tabulated in the NCFSE are Humanities, Social Science, Arts, Science, Vocational Education, etc. Disciplines means Languages, Philosophy, Physics, Chemistry, Music, Dance, Indian Knowledge System (IKS), etc. Each of them will belong to a particular curricular area. One student will have to choose one subject from a particular discipline corresponding to a particular curricular area and will have to study that subject through all the four semesters.
Thus, he or she would complete four courses. Four subjects should be taken from four disciplines on the basis of choice of the students i.e., the system is choice based. So, in four semesters students have to complete sixteen (4×4) courses. The existing system of streams in HS like science, arts/humanities and commerce will be done away with in the name of ‘‘multi-disciplinary study’’ and will be replaced by choice-based credit system. A student will be allowed to opt for any combination of four disciplines (subjects) like, say, Philosophy, Physics, Dance and IKS. One can clearly see that all these are delinked subjects and cannot help in developing a comprehensive knowledge in any stream.
It cannot but be acknowledged that combination of subjects like Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, etc., are complementary to each other. Combination of subjects like Philosophy, History, Political Science, etc., is also of a similar nature. But how a combination like Physics, Dance, Philosophy and IKS help a student in acquiring an in-depth knowledge in any of the subjects? Hence, natural tendency of the students would be to opt for subjects that yield higher marks. This hotchpotch prescript has been termed as multi-disciplinary system.
Moreover, such freedom of choice is proposed to be given to a student in the name of ‘learner centric’ education. Whoever has any rudimentary idea regarding ‘learner centric’ education will admit that what is being passed in that name is nothing but a misnomer. Regarding introduction of semester system, it is pertinent to mention, that the CBCS (Choice Based Credit System) has been in vogue for long in the 3-year undergraduate courses. Teachers of the undergraduate classes have very bitter experience of it. They have seen that only 14-15 weeks are available for a semester. This time is too short for a student to grasp the contents of the subjects and try to memorize the essentials for examinations. Also, the question of providing adequate infrastructure in running the CBCS in colleges cannot be overlooked.
Already, there is a commotion over it as apprehension about availability of the same looms large. Ignoring all these experiences of college education, the policy-makers of new education system are out to introduce the model right from the school level. So, the newly introduced semester and the multi-disciplinary systems are destined to shatter the very discipline of teaching-learning process in school education. We know school level learning sets up the foundation of education. If it remains weak, no higher learning is possible in future. Majority of the students aspiring for higher education would find themselves unfit for it. Only a handful of students whose guardians can afford to pay for costly coaching centres or other aids including online coaching portals might find themselves competent for getting admission in higher and professional courses. In this way, the heinous ploy of curtailment of education is sought to be made successful.
It is to be noted here that introduction of IKS as a separate subject of study in grades 11 and 12 is fraught with immense danger and serious consequence. We are not discussing in this article how ominous this decision is going to be. Only thing to mention here is that omission of Darwin’s theory from NCERT syllabus is the fall-out of the IKS-based pattern of thinking that the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar intend to inculcate in the minds of the students so that they, instead of developing a rational thought process and be familiar with genuine history, are led into the blind alley of mysticism and obscurantism.
Who will fund implementation of NEP 20
However, the most concerning question is that the policy statement is completely silent on where the funds would come from or implementation of the NEP 2020 along with its new framework for school education. The Modi-led BJP government has been continuously cutting down education budget since it came to power in 2014.
In the financial year 2014-15, before this government was voted to power, the allocation for education was 4.6% of the central budget. Now it has been slashed to 2.5% in the FY 2023-24. It may be mentioned that all recommendations of national level education commissions have been to allot 10% of the central budget for education. There is no monetary commitment for either creating infrastructure for pre-school stage or introducing the semester system. It seems that the government is forcing the guardians to depend on private kid-schools and saffron-tainted highly expensive ‘Balvatikas’. Hence, this would prove complementary to the scheme of rampant privatization and commoditization of education.
To summarize what has been discussed in the foregoing paragraphs,
i) if the two documents are implemented, the total period of school education will be increased by 3 years,
ii) cost of education will go up,
iii) number of dropouts would rise,
iv) pupils from the very tender age will be subjected to saffron-tainted education based on religious revivalism, bigotry and unscientific, unhistorical, irrational propositions,
v) and boost further mushrooming of Montessori-type private run schools for the 3-year pre-school stage.
vi) The documents remain silent on introduction of pass-fail system at school level which has been a long-standing demand of the educationists, teachers and guardians. If the pass-fail system is absent, it will adversely affect the foundation of school education.
vii) Abolition of board examinations like the secondary examination will be a retrograde step as it will deprive a large number of students from the marginalized section of population of having at least a school-leaving certificate for competing in the job market.
viii) Introduction of semester system with multi-disciplinary approach will produce pass-outs with higher marks having virtually no in-depth and comprehensive knowledge in any discipline.
ix) Emphasis on vocationalization will undermine the need for basic education and is effectively a denial of job to citizens on the part of the government.
x) Introduction of ‘Indian Knowledge System’ (IKS), a euphemism for presenting myths, concoctions and bogus interpretations of ancient Indian territory, as an independent subject will shatter the desired growth of a scientific bent of mind to know truth.
xi) Finally, systematic curtailing of education budget thereby disowning to finance an extremely important sector like education will lead to unbridled privatization, commercialization and commoditization of education. This will ultimately throw the poorer masses out of the arena of education which will be an exclusive preserve of the rich and affluent.
So, we vehemently oppose this curriculum framework, demand its immediate withdrawal and call upon all education-loving people to rise up against the lethal attack on education by the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar at the behest of their masters, the ruthlessly oppressive and repressive ruling monopoly houses hell-bent to dehumanize people by depriving them of secular, scientific, democratic education which our revered national leaders, eminent educationists, internationally acclaimed scientists stood for.