The National Curriculum Framework for foundational age children provides an “organic” and “well-framed” roadmap for teaching 3- to 8-year-olds, but would be difficult to implement in the absence of proper teacher training and infrastructural support, experts say.
Educationists, who have done substantial work in elementary methods of teaching, said that the NCERT or, more specifically, the State Boards or SCERTs need to involve teachers as they are the primary stakeholders. NCERT refers to the National Council of Educational Research and Training and SCERT to the State Council.
“It is good that this (NCF) got released. It is necessary, but far from sufficient. Leaving it here would make it incomplete,” Shaveta Sharma-Kukreja, CEO of the Central Square Foundation, told The Hindu.
Ms. Kukreja said that the timing of the NCF was absolutely right and so was the focus on early education. Now it was for the NCERT and SCERTs to identify the gaps in the current pedagogy so that the NCF could be implemented, failing which it would remain just a “another document”.
According to Vineet Nayar, founder and chairperson of Sampark Foundation, implementation would need “frugal” and “innovative” ideas that disrupt the resistance to change and resource constraints.
The national guidelines should talk of how to implement rather than just stop at what to implement. “Without these new implementation ideas, I am afraid despite best intentions we will see limited change,” he said.
The NCF 2022 for foundational age groups, a 360-page document, favours developing an interactive curriculum for children at various levels using story-telling techniques and real-life experiences. It says board games and stories from the Panchatantra (a collection of Indian fables and folk tales) should be used to teach children in the age group of 6-8 years.
For the first three years of the foundational stage, that is 3 to 6 years, there should not be any prescribed textbooks. Rather, simple worksheets are more than sufficient to meet the curricular goals, says the document.
It also recommends that the mother tongue should be the primary medium of instruction for children till eight years of age, in both public and private schools. English could be one of the second language options, it says, without giving any time-frame for introducing the language.
It is here, educationists feel, that the real challenge lies. “It is an ideal document, but are we really ready for this?” asks Ameeta Mulla Wattal, chairperson and executive director of education (innovations and training) at DLF Foundation Schools.
“It is most important to involve teachers in a big way. This kind of training for teachers has to be done with great urgency. Teachers have to be trained, whether it is on using the mother tongue or thematic concepts in pedagogy. We need to activate public and private agencies and involve Corporate Social Responsibility in teacher training,” she said.
Says Mr. Nayar of Sampark, “What NCF says has been known for many years amongst educationists. So, it is not new knowledge but bringing focus and attention to it that improves its chances of execution which is important.”
Another thrust of NCF 2022 is the focus on cognitive development and socio-emotional stimulation in the early years of a child through “panchakosha”.
“Panchakosha is an ancient explication of the importance of the body-mind complex in human experience and understanding. This non-dichotomous approach to human development gives clear pathways and direction towards a more holistic education,” the document says.
The concept’s five parts are physical development (sharirik vikas), development of life energy (pranik vikas), emotional and mental development (manasik vikas), intellectual development (bauddhik vikas) and spiritual development (chaitsik vikas).
Educationist Aatish Parashar, Professor at the Central University of South Bihar, said this was the first time that an Indian approach had been incorporated at the policy level. “Obviously for this you need time to prepare. Teachers have to learn how to incorporate this in the teaching methods,” he said.
He noted that since India was a vast country with parallel systems, as far as infrastructure was concerned, private and government schools cannot be equated.
“Thus the government has to push financial support for schools in rural and tribal areas,” he said.
He said that the government was, as of now, trying to use institutions which have good infrastructure to set a benchmark for the NCF.