How School exams are set to change

CollegeKampus looks at the key reforms in the National Education Policy 2020 that is set to transform the academic landscape

In a much needed overhaul of India’s education, system, the National Education Policy 2020 aims to encourage higher standards for students in schools and colleges through sweeping reforms, seen as the most ambitious since the introduction of the 10 + 2 + 3 system. Here’s a a look at the key changes that will affect students across age groups.


More time to build a foundation
The policy modifies the current 10+2 structure, which covered schooling from Class 1 to 10 (age 6 to 16) and then Class 11 and 12 (age 16 to 18). NEP now breaks it down into foundational, preparatory, middle and secondary school levels — 5 years of foundational education, 3 years of preparatory, 3 years of middle and 4 years of secondary schooling. The new structure includes three years of preschool education for 3-6-year-olds with the objective to provide widespread access to early education through anganwadis and expansion of existing schools.

National mission on foundational literacy and numeracy

An estimated 5 crore elementary students are not proficient in reading and writing, and basic addition and subtraction. By 2025, the goal is to achieve universal “foundational literacy and numeracy” by the time a child reaches the Class 3 level. The focus on early childhood education in the NEP is being seen as a good step for school education.
Three-language proficiency
Students will be taught three languages through their schooling years. Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Class 5, but preferably till Class 8 and beyond, will be the home language/mother tongue/local language/regional language. The Centre has, however, said the language policy is a broad guideline and it is up to states to decide exact implementation. State governments are free to choose based on regional languages and students will be given the choice between other Indian and foreign languages starting in Class 6 or 7. According to Ramesh Pokhriyal, culture and education minister, there will be flexibility in the three-language formula and no language will be imposed on any state. The policies will also set in motion the standardisation of Indian Sign Language.
While these reforms in the policy have mostly been been appreciated, R Govinda, former vice chancellor, National University for Educational Planning, has some misgivings. He believes NEP hadn’t bridged the disconnect between the system and the ground reality in India. “Implementing the mother tongue and supporting early childhood education are good to listen to. But we have to see what has worked and what hasn’t. The most important thing we have to attain is learning for all children in school. This policy doesn’t say how they are going to bring about that change… there is some sort of disconnect with the ground reality that bothers me,” he said.
Board exams
Class 10 and 12 board exams will be made “easier” by testing ‘core competencies’, which means testing less material to reward better core understanding of subjects rather than memorisation. Students will also be allowed to retake board exams once and only the best score of the two attempts will be counted. Board exams will become modular (objective and subjective); they will be redesigned to include multiple-choice questions in addition to descriptive questions. The changes in the board structure will be implemented from the 2021 academic session.
Students will have increased flexibility and will be free to choose subjects across streams with no “hard separations” between arts and sciences, curricular and extra-curricular, and vocational and academic. Schools will be permitted to move to a semester or any other system to enable students to take a wider range of classes. All subjects and their assessments will be offered at two levels of proficiency — a standard level and a higher level.
In addition, schools will have 10 ‘bag-less’ days in a year during which they are exposed to a vocation of their choice (ie informal internship).
Referring to the focus on vocational education in schools, Ameeta Mulla Wattal, principal of Delhi’s Springdales School, Pusa Road, said “NEP will bring an end to rote learning and the obsession with marks. As learning is going to be holistic and experiential, it will be the closure of coaching institutes. Education will be based on inquiry and research. And children will be catered to in a personalised manner, thus helping develop scientific temper.”
However, there were some experts who were unsure about the push to vocational education. “In India, the vocational courses are designed by the industry and not by educationists. Clubbing these four years (9-12) is like telling students that if they are not good at something, they can opt for vocational education,” said Anita Rampal, professor and former dean, faculty of education, Delhi University.


Entrance exams

There will be an aptitude test on the lines of SAT in the US for entrance into colleges that will be conducted twice a year. Board results alone will no longer determine admission. To be overseen by the National Testing Agency (NTA) these tests will serve as a common entrance exam across the country with universities free to add other criteria. However, universities can choose to disregard NTA assessments altogether and continue with their own entrance exams. The new university entrance exam will be implemented for college admissions from the 2022 academic session.
Bachelor’s courses will be of three to four years and offer multiple exit points, that is, students can leave with a certificate after one year, a diploma for two years, or the bachelor’s degree after completing three/four years. The four-year programme, however, provides more opportunities for research-based education than the other options and will be the ‘preferred’ option. Mid-term dropouts will be given credit with the option to complete the degree after the break.
NEP 2020 allows institutes flexibility to design their own courses. For those who do a three-year bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree can be a two-year course, with the second year focusing on research. For students who do a four-year bachelor’s, master’s could be just one year. Integrated bachelor’s-master’s programmes spanning five years will be introduced but the M.Phil programme will be discontinued altogether. For a Ph.D, students will need a four-year bachelor’s or a master’s with a three-year bachelor’s degree.
Najma Akhtar, VC, Jamia Millia Islamia, said NEP would create new opportunities for students. “They can pursue education with greater flexibility and can enter, exit and re-enter as per convenience and career choices,” she said.
No affiliation, fee cap, and plans to going global

In addition to the above changes in higher education, over the next 15 years, colleges will be given graded autonomy to give degrees, affiliations with universities will end, and so would the deemed university status. There is also a proposal to cap the fees charged by private institutions of higher learning. Top-rated global universities from around the world will be facilitated to come to India and top Indian institutions will be encouraged to set up campuses in other countries.

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