Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, on October 20, launched the National Curriculum Framework for foundational stage education of children between the age groups of three to eight. The proposed framework marks the first such integrated curriculum introduced in the country for young children.
Among the many notable recommendations in the document, it has talked of the stereotypical representations, the inclusion of diversity, the usage of the mother tongue, and inculcating a moral and ethical sense within the minds of the growing children. A key highlight is that it would revise several problematic contents that have been pinpointed by netizens over the years. A few such revisions include doing away with representations of traditionally assigned roles of women working in the kitchens and depictions of dark-skinned people as evil.
The new framework identifies the need for holistic development right from a young age and is considering tweaking the educational system accordingly. Several media reports suggest that the document proposes no textbooks for children between ages three to six and bases the learning on worksheets, toys, lived experiences, traditional concepts and so on. It brings a modern take to the education system through the revival of traditional ideas.
There are also mentions of stories of Indian heroes and lessons that help students understand the ideas of diversity, gender, and ethics in a formal setting. The proposal was welcomed by many, who believe this policy would be a game-changer in the Indian education system.
Introducing Holistic Development Right From The Start
The NCF places early childhood care and education as critical areas of development, and it will be taken as the basis for all pedagogy adopted by schools, pre-schools and anganwadis for children. The minister appealed to the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to complete the revision and curation of the curriculum, syllabus, and textbooks by the end of January 2023.
The document has set the guidelines for every element, such as the approach to language education and literacy, home-based learning, teaching styles, and assessment methods. This would considerably revolutionise the educational space in the country, and this idea has been supported by several research studies which show that a focus on holistic education in the founding years could have a transformative effect on the learning levels of children in later years.
The suggestions have also been mindful of children's learning patterns. Since they learn best through play, the curriculum is built around stimulating experiences for their development in all dimensions – cognitive, social-emotional, and physical. It is expected to equip the "young ones with cognitive and linguistic competencies of the 21st century", said Pradhan during the launch.
Key Takeaways From The NCF
The NCF-2022 has categorised the framework into four sections — the National Curriculum Framework for School Education, the National Curriculum Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education, the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, and the National Curriculum Framework for Adult Education.
It explores the idea that "brain development is most rapid in the first eight years of a child's life, indicating the critical importance of cognitive and socio-emotional stimulation in the early years". Several studies also convey that ensuring free, accessible, high-quality early childhood care and education is inarguably the best investment a country could make for its future.
The NCF considers it pivotal to familiarise students with various ideas of gender, diversity, and community from an Indian context. This could possibly be a positive switch from the years of learning subtly regressive or colonial ideas. According to the document, the curriculum would do away with the promotion of stereotypes such as "owls and snakes as evil, or dark-skinned people as scary, or the mother always handling the kitchen".
Incorporating a sense of reasoning and a moral-ethical awareness would instead take the front seat and will be taught through different forms such as classroom activities, discussions, readings, and so on. As a part of this, the document recommends stories of the Panchatantra, Jataka, Hitopadesh, and other fables from India. The framework also recognises the regional variations within the country and embraces them by providing representation of such diversity in the form of stories, characters, and pictures.
Emphasising that all Indian languages must be welcomed and cherished in the classrooms, the NCF directs teachers and other officials to encourage students to express themselves, interact, and learn in their "home languages" or mother tongues during the foundational stage. Beyond a mode of communication, it would help the child connect better with their personal, social, and cultural identity. This would, in turn, build an understanding of different cultures and create an acceptance of diversity.
The Panchakosha Concept
An intriguing concept that was listed in the NCF is that of "Panchakosha". According to an article by FirstPost, it is said to be an "ancient explication of the importance of the body-mind complex in human experience and understanding" that would provide clarity on a holistic approach towards education.
The five parts that constitute the 'panchakosha' are - physical development, development of life energy, emotional and mental development, intellectual development and spiritual development.
Under this ideation, an entry-level education system, 'Vidya pravesh', has also been developed by the NCERT for students entering the first grade. It would enable learning of ethical values and cultural diversity, along with an interaction with the physical, social, and natural environment.
Writing about the new initiative, the Chairperson of the National Steering Committee for National Curriculum Frameworks, K Kasturirangan, said, "The transformative nature of this phase of education is expected to improve the contents and outcomes of education qualitatively, thereby impacting the lives of our children towards a better future".
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