Last week, India launched the National Educational Policy of 2020, a bold attempt to revamp a somewhat outdated and stagnating education system. In what are most unfortunate times to be living and learning in, there is perhaps no better opportunity to look at how the Indian education system can evolve to meet future challenges. Hello and welcome to ShikshaCentre’s new series: Taking Indian Education Forward.
First, a little bit about us: ShikshaCentre is a niche job portal that exclusively caters to Educational and Teaching jobs across India. Our goal is to create value for teachers and educational institutions and become the go-to platform for anyone seeking to work with others in the educational field.
We aspire to use our platform not just for collaboration, but also expression, by giving educators and professionals in this field the chance to talk about their experiences and express their opinions on topics relevant to this sector. It is our hope that these articles will help inform the educational community and wider public as to how India’s educators have been doing their utmost to raise the country’s next generation, keeping in mind the challenges they now face.
In this series, we will be looking at aspects of the National Education Policy of 2020 and we will also be speaking to a variety of educators and professionals in this sector. Readers will learn about how the pandemic has impacted them professionally, as well as how they have adapted to the challenges the pandemic has presented them. You can also expect to read their thoughts on how they see Indian education evolving as a result of this pandemic, as well as their thoughts on the National Educational Policy of 2020, among other things.
Given our goal is to create value for teachers and educational institutions, there is perhaps no better place to start than with a look at what the National Education Policy of 2020 entails for Indian teachers. Plenty of articles have already been written that focus on the changes coming to the content and methods that will be used to teach children in the coming years, but not enough has been written about the policy’s proposals for its teacher-centric reforms.
For now, we will give a broad outline of the most noteworthy proposals that have been made on this matter, as well as some preliminary thoughts on them. The new policy has the stated aim of putting teachers “at the centre of the fundamental reforms in the education system”. We’ve listed 10 of the biggest takeaways from the policy with regards to its plans for teachers in India:
- This policy plans to introduce a large number of merit-based scholarships across the country for studying high-quality 4-year integrated B.Ed. programmes. In rural areas, such scholarships will also include preferential employment in their local areas upon completing their programmes. In areas that have historically faced shortages of high-quality teachers, appropriate incentives will be given to ensure these teaching vacancies are filled. Such incentives include the provision of local housing nearby or an increased housing allowance.
- The process of teacher recruitment will be made more rigorous by expanding Teacher Eligibility Tests (TETs) to cover teachers of all age groups and making classroom demonstrations/interviews an integral part of the recruitment process. Suitable TET scores in corresponding subjects will be taken into account, as well as the teacher’s proficiency in the local language.
- A technology-based teacher-requirement planning forecasting exercise will be conducted by each State to assess expected subject-wise teacher vacancies over the next two decades, enabling better planning with regards to teacher recruitment, training and placement.
- Teachers will be given more freedom to choose aspects of pedagogy to ensure they can teach in a manner they find most effective for their students. They will also be more involved in governance and less involved in strenuous administrative tasks to ensure they can fully concentrate on their teaching duties.
- This policy places more of an emphasis on encouraging the creation of positive learning environments in schools, and explicitly asks principals and teachers to help foster a caring and inclusive culture. Teachers will also focus on socio-emotional learning to ensure students’ holistic development. Novel approaches to teaching that improve learning outcomes will be rewarded.
- In terms of recognition and career progression, the policy proposes the development of a merit-based structure of tenure, promotion and salary structure to incentivise and recognise outstanding teachers. This system will be developed by State Governments based on a variety of factors such as peer reviews, attendance and commitment, among others. The policy also states that “all stages of school education will require the highest-quality teachers, and no stage will be considered more important than any other”, and future career progression will reflect this, ensuring that the teaching requirements for early years students are not neglected in favour of secondary school students.
- The policy commits to developing a common guiding set of National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) by 2022. These standards would outline the role of the teachers at different stages, as well as the competencies required for each stage. Accountability procedures through periodic performance appraisals will be implemented. Promotion and salary increases will not be based on seniority but on these appraisals instead. These standards will be reviewed and revised in 2030 and thereafter every 10 years.
- B.Ed. programmes will include training in traditional as well as modern techniques in pedagogy, such as teaching children with disabilities, special interests or talents, as well as the usage of educational technology and collaborative learning. This will be complemented by practical training in local schools through in-classroom teaching. With regards to specialist educators such as teachers for specific learning disabilities, such teachers would require not only subject-teaching knowledge and other related theoretical understanding, but also the relevant soft skills for understanding the special requirements of such children.
- Teacher education will gradually be moved into multidisciplinary colleges and universities by 2030. As colleges and universities become more multi-disciplinary, they will aim to house outstanding education departments that offer B.Ed., M.Ed., and Ph.D. degrees in education.
- Furthermore, stringent action will be taken against substandard stand-alone Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs) running in the country, including shutting them down, if required. This will help fully restore the integrity of the teacher education system.
The teacher-centric reforms outlined by this policy are a very good, progressive step forward for the Indian education system, generally speaking. For too long, the system has unwittingly placed a premium on how effective teachers are at transmitting content as opposed to teaching concepts and critical thinking. This policy directly addresses the need for teachers to better develop soft skills as well as how they impart those soft skills to their students. The attention given to inclusive education and special needs teaching is also welcome. Point 3’s mention of technology-assisted forecasting to plan every State’s teaching requirements is particularly noteworthy, as all the other ideas proposed cannot be implemented without properly assessing each State’s strengths, needs and shortcomings.
Many ‘carrots’ are promised to help encourage more would-be teachers to take up and stick with a profession that has historically not been the first choice for most young Indians. There is even a ‘stick’ of sorts promised towards the end of the recommendations, which demonstrates good awareness of the need to not only create and expand the beneficial aspects of the Indian education system, but to also trim and eliminate its harmful side-effects.
What will concern policymakers and teachers is the age-old question of how this will be implemented. Importantly, this policy is not law and States are not legally required to observe them. The education system in every State can vary wildly in terms of teaching methods, available funding and infrastructure. Clarity of coordination, oversight and accountability will be key to ensure these reforms do not get lost in a bureaucratic mess. As recommendations, they can easily be ignored if State Governments do not buy into the ideas or decide that they simply do not have the funding to pursue what is an admittedly grand vision for Indian teachers and education in general.
However, if India as a nation is serious about reforming its education system and becoming a global leader in education, it must remember the statement made at the beginning of this policy and place teachers “at the centre of the fundamental reforms in the education system”, regardless of how it chooses to go about the policy’s recommendations.
Siddharth Jairaj is a graduate from The University of Edinburgh and holds an MA (Honours) in Economics and Economic History. He has written articles about topics like Inclusive Education, which have been published in ParentEdge magazine whilst studying at High School. At University, he was the Director of FreshSight Ltd., an independent student-led consultancy that aimed to create positive social impact by providing innovative business solutions for socially conscientious clients.