After dilly-dallying for almost two years, the State government has pushed the pedal to roll out the National Education Policy beginning with the foundational level from the forthcoming academic year. The seriousness of the decision became known after the Education Department Secretary Prasad Lolienkar addressed a press conference on Monday and announced that the new format would cover the “foundational level” of five years from Nursery to Std 2.
Interestingly, the training of 100 master trainers began on Monday, while the academic year is scheduled to commence on July 3 for the foundational level. Also, the Department of Education has asked pre-primary schools across the State to seek approvals within the framework of the NEP, which means that the pre-primary schools will have to adhere to set protocols under which they will be assessed on parameters like infrastructure and human resource and no pre-primary will be allowed to operate without the department’s approval under the new system.
The pre-primaries have become unfair targets, and the department’s directive only means “fall in line” or quit. In Goa, the pre-primary section of education has been outside the purview of the education department with no government involvement and support. The education department is now asking them to meet the standards, register and foot their own bill that includes expenditure on infrastructural and teaching tools and upskilling teachers. Worse, the onus is on these pre-primary schools to fill the vacuum of trained teachers, should it arise. It must be noted that teachers at this level are hired on a temporary contract basis.
Secondly, under the NEP system, the foundational level will involve the ‘play method’, focussing on physical, cognitive, socio-emotional, moral and other aspects of a child’s development. On paper, this is a great idea and, if properly implemented, could go a long way in laying a solid foundation for students. However, this is easier said than done and would require an extraordinary effort from teachers who will have to junk their traditional ways of teaching and embrace more innovative and modern teaching tools. Therefore, a trained resource and infrastructure become the fulcrum of the NEP.
However, the department appears more interested in catching up with States jumping onto the NEP bandwagon rather than first putting the house in order. A month’s training for teachers is not good enough to start with, and even if the exercise is to continue for years, the hurry in implementing NEP is not justified given the long-term horizon it has.
The Education Secretary mentions that the success of the NEP implementation would largely depend on the teachers and how well they can grasp the teaching process in the new framework. That being the case, it would have been prudent for the education department to focus on training much in advance for a seamless transition. Currently, there is utter chaos between the master trainers and teachers against the backdrop of the limited time for launch, and no schools have shown preparedness.
Instead of strengthening the “foundation” and the formative years of students, the department is attempting a trial-and-error method despite understanding the impact it could have on young minds.