NCF: What are the changes set to take place in India’s school education system?
Despite broad agreements with NCF, questions remain about the availability of trained teachers and the logistics involved in holding board exams twice a year.
New Delhi: The school education system in India is set to undergo a major overhaul with NCERT releasing the new National Curriculum Framework (NCF) on August 23.
Recommendations under the new framework include board examinations twice a year, a semester system for classes XI and XII, Indian languages as compulsory subjects in classes IX and X and the freedom to choose subjects from arts, sciences, and humanities.
The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) released the final NCF, drafted by the union government-appointed national steering committee headed by K Kasturirangan, the former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), in line with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
The NCF was last revised in 2005, and the current textbooks, barring the recent deletions, are based on it.
The NCF defines benchmarks for NCERT textbooks used in schools affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), teaching and learning practices, and assessment methods while it will remain recommendatory in nature for state education boards.
HT explains the major changes expected to take place in the school education from next year.
Bi-annual board exams
A major change recommended in the NCF is the holding of board exams twice a year for classes X and XII while allowing students to count their best score as final.
“Board examinations should be offered at least twice a year to ensure that students have enough time and opportunity to perform well. Students can then appear for a Board examination in subjects they have completed and feel ready for,” the framework stated.
As of now, board examinations are conducted once at the end of the academic year in these two classes.
Design of subjects at secondary stage
The NCF combined the present secondary (classes IX and X) and senior secondary (classes XI and XII) stages of schooling and has termed it as one “secondary stage education”.
The secondary stage is further divided into two phases – classes IX and X and classes XI and XII, and recommends g ‘four years of multidisciplinary study’ across all “Curricular Areas” in this stage.
According to the new NCF, students will study 10 subjects in classes IX and X including three languages. Presently, students study six to seven subjects in these classes.
In classes XI and XII, students will study compulsory six subjects, including two languages, and will be offered “choice-based courses” that will enable flexibility and “remove hard separations between disciplines and academic areas.”
Choice-based courses in classes XI and XII
The NCF has divided subjects into four groups, and students will be able to choose subjects from these groups.
From group 1, students need to study two languages with at least one of which must be a language native to India.
In addition, students must choose four or five subjects from at least two out of the three remaining groups.
Group 2 comprises art education, physical education, and vocational education.
Group 3 consists of social science and humanities and interdisciplinary areas. Subjects such as history, geography, archaeology, psychology, and economics come under the ambit of social sciences. The ‘interdisciplinary areas’ comprise journalism, Indian knowledge systems, climate change, business and accounting, and so on.
Group 4 has mathematics and computational thinking: Mathematics, Programming and Coding, Business Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, among others.
“Students are expected to make their choices on the basis of their passions and interests, and their future plans either in the world of work or in higher education after their school completion,” the framework stated.
Semester system in XI and XII
The framework recommends a semester system for classes XI and XII to provide “greater flexibility in the design of courses”.
“For Grades XI and XII, each semester-long course can have its own specific course compendium. At this stage, a variety of content addressing specific concepts and methods of inquiry should be made available to teachers and the teachers should choose appropriate content packages to meet the Learning Objectives of the courses,” the NCF stated.
It also recommends that all education boards should eventually move to a semester system.
“In the long term, all boards should change to semester or term-based systems, where students can test in a subject as soon as they have completed the subject, which would further reduce the content load being tested in any one examination.”
Indian languages as a compulsory subject in classes 9 to 12
Under the new NCF, it will now be mandatory to study two Indian languages as compulsory subjects in Class IX and Class X and one in Class XI and XII.
“Learning a language is learning a culture. Language education aims to enable the student to immerse and participate in the linguistic heritage and culture of India, including through participatory engagement with the rich written and oral literature of India such as stories, poems, songs, epics, plays, films, and more,” the framework stated.
According to the framework, in Class IX and Class X, students will now study three languages of which “at least two of which are native to India”. In Class XI and Class XII, students will now be studying two languages with one being an Indian language.
Currently, students study two languages in classes IX and X, and one in classes XII and XII.
The languages will be chosen by students from the pool of language and literature courses that are offered. The choices for languages include Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Pali, Persian, and Prakrit. In addition to this, foreign languages, such as French, German, Japanese, and Korean will also be offered.
“This is to ensure that these languages and literatures stay alive and vibrant, especially in states where they may be best taught and nurtured,” the framework said.
When do we expect these changes to take place?
The final NCF has now been handed over to a recently constituted 19-member National Syllabus and Teaching Learning Material Committee (NSTC) which will finalise the curriculum, textbooks and learning material based on this.
The committee will now constitute sub-committees to design curriculum for each subject, and is expected to complete before the commencement of the next academic session. The revised textbooks, and structural changes are expected to be implemented in the next academic session.
Questions remain about the availability of trained teachers and the heavy logistics involved in holding board exams – twice a year now under the NCF
Broadly welcoming the NCF’s focus on the study of Indian languages, Jyoti Arora, principal of Mount Abu Public School in Delhi, raised a sharp question: Does India have qualified teachers to teach those languages?
“It is a welcome move to introduce Indian languages as mandatory subjects and it will help preserve our culture and heritage. However, schools will take time to fulfil the requirements for the successful implementation of NCF. We will need trained teachers, more space, and resources for the introduction of new courses,” she said.
Educator Sudha Acharya welcomed the multidisciplinary approach recommended in the NCF. Her big question, however, is how efficiently will schools be able to hold bi-annual board examinations.
As the chairperson of the National Progressive School Conference (NPSC), which has more than 120 Delhi schools as its members, Acharya knows the work that goes behind holding board examinations.
Acharya, who is also the principal of the ITL Public School in southwest Delhi’s Dwarka, said it takes more than two months to conduct board examinations. “It requires a huge amount of logistics, human resources, and time to conduct one board examination. How is it even possible to conduct board exams twice? Instead, the second exam should be provided as an option to students who want to only improve their scores,” she said.