Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 14 September 2023

Revised NCF

Source: By Raunaq Saraswat: The Indian Express

Once the revised National Curriculum Framework (NCF) comes into effect next academic year, students will study three languages in grades 9 and 10, two of which will have to be Indian; and two languages in grades 11 and 12, one of which will have to be Indian.

The revised framework released on 23 August 2023 makes the study of Indian languages an integral part of school education, and allows students the freedom to choose from a range of subjects across streams.

This is in line with the vision of the National Education Policy 2020 to promote teaching and learning in Indian languages, and make greater interdisciplinarity possible in school education.

The 640-page NCF, an update on the draft released in April, was developed by a 13-member steering committee led by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan. The NCF, a key document on which textbooks are based, was last revised in 2005.

Some key proposals

Like the draft, the revised NCF divides school education into four stages: Foundational (preschool to grade 2)Preparatory (grades 2 to 5)Middle (grades 6 to 8), and Secondary (grades 9 to 12).

It recommends the teaching of two languages till the middle stage, supplemented by a third language from the middle stage to class 10. Two out of these three languages must be “native to India”.

In the middle stage, students are expected to study, apart from the languages, mathematicsart educationphysical educationsciencesocial science, and a subject of vocational education. A subject of environmental education will be added in grades 9 and 10.

The framework allots specific times and weights to all subjects till grade 10, and recommends an optional “Additional Enrichment Period” in grades 9 and 10 to add to a student’s knowledge in any subject.

It also lists the competencies to be achieved by students in different subjects and stages. For example, a social science is to be thematically organised in middle stage — from knowing the “local to the global”. For the three languages, it aims for students to develop “effective communicationdiscussion, and writing skills”.

In grades 11 and 12, it is mandatory to study two languages, one of which must be Indian. In this phase, students have the freedom to choose the remaining four or five subjects from different streams — commercescienceshumanities — leaving ample room for interdisciplinarity. A student may pick English and Sanskrit as her languages for example, and study historyjournalismmathematics, and gardening alongside.

The framework recommends twice-a-year Board examinations in grades 10 and 12, with the best score retained. While the annual system will continue in grade 12 for now, the framework suggests a gradual transition to a semester system in the secondary stage, which will also allow students to take Board examinations immediately after a semester, is completed. The NCF suggests the creation of a “comprehensive test item bank” for this.

The two versions

While the revised NCF recommends the study of three languages, including two Indian languages, up to class 10, the draft document had recommended the teaching of three languages (called R1, R2, and R3) in classes 6, 7, and 8, and two languages in classes 9 and 10 (R1 and R2).

R1 would be the mother tongue or home language, R2 could be any other language (including English), and R3 was any language that wasn’t R1 or R2. State governments and school boards were granted the freedom to decide the classification of R1, R2, and R3. Also, in the draft NCF, language was an optional discipline in grades 11 and 12.

The changes in the draft, including on the Indian languages, were incorporated following feedback from 4,000 organisations. The revised draft favoured staying with the annual system for now after states expressed reservations about transitioning to a semester system too soon.

What happens now

The NCF provides the framework for the development of textbooks for different subjects. The NCERT has set up a 19-member committee to prepare textbooks and supplementary materials in line with the NCF for grades 3 to 12. It will be assisted by groups of experts in respective subjects.

The new textbooks are expected to be introduced in the 2024-25 academic session, the Ministry of Education had said earlier this year. The textbooks currently in circulation were prepared using the NCF 2005.

Neither the NEPnor the NCF are binding on the states. Congress-ruled Karnataka announced this week that it would not follow the NEP.

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