Radhika Zahedi currently serves as School Director at the Acres Foundation. She has been working in the field of education for the past 14 years. She has experience as a school Principal at the Gateway School of Mumbai and also in other roles as teacher-coach, teacher, and curriculum designer in a variety of settings including IB, IGCSE, Special Needs and Municipal schools in Mumbai, Public schools in New York City, and a rural school in the northeast of India.
School leaders should encourage their school teams to read and reflect on the very important principles laid out in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. The NEP 2020 presents the Indian education community with an inspirational vision for education, consisting of an essential set of evidence-informed practices. This wide-ranging list covers recommendations on foundational literacies, equity, holistic development, character development, cultural appreciation and education, adoption of technology and 21C skills, teacher development, continuous improvement and research.
But why doesn’t the NEP 2020 give a more concrete plan about how schools should implement this? As a teacher, I often found myself asking these questions while reading new Education policies like the NEP 2020. However, after working as a Leader and looking at change from a systems lens I slowly came to realize that policy must provide essential principles and recommendations but cannot provide a one-size-fits-all blueprint for implementation. Our country is too diverse for a single NEP policy to lay out a concrete implementation plan that will work for everyone. Our schools are public and private, large and small, rural and urban. Each with different languages, diverse cultures, different access to key resources – teachers, technology and curriculum.
It is impossible for a National Policy to provide a very specific implementation plan that works for everyone. At the same time, successful implementation is what makes or breaks it all. So how do we do this?
When we try to implement the NEP 2020 principles, CONTEXT MATTERS. What is the size of my school? What knowledge do my teachers come in with? What systems do I have in place for continuous learning? What Curriculum and Technology do I have access to? What are the priorities and cultural norms of the place that the school is in?
It is not sensible for a school in a large city school with a 1000 teachers to have the exact same Professional Development (PD) plan as a small rural school with 30 teachers. They can use the same principles – continuous PD, differentiated PD, evidence-based PD; but will need context specific plans. Similarly, a technology integration for these two schools would have to be different based on their unique contexts – what cost can they afford, what access to internet is available, how digitally literate is the community?
Since context matters while implementing the NEP 2020 Principles, we need educators and schools around the country to be early adopters of NEP 2020 and generate learning for implementation of these principles in their school contexts. When schools around the country apply these principles and share their learning, as an education community in India we will collectively generate knowledge about what successful implementation of NEP 2020 looks like in all of these different contexts!
This is a call to action for all educators – study the NEP 2020, understand, apply, reflect on your experience and share what you have learned with other educators. That is how the NEP 2020 Principles will have a positive impact on the landscape of education in our country.
If you are looking for a good place to start, here are 5 NEP principles to act on:
- Highest Priority for foundational Literacy and Numeracy:
Why? Poor Early basic literacy can result in a ‘mathew effect’ i.e. it cascades into a wider gap in academic achievement with every year that passes by.
How? Use Early Basic Literacy and Numeracy assessments to evaluate if primary students are achieving their reading goals. Introduce research-based reading programs to build phonics skills, fluent reading skills in KG and Grade 1.
- Focus on regular formative assessment for learning rather than the summative assessment that encourages today’s ‘coaching culture’
Why? Promote ongoing assessment of learning – because that is the only way students can get useful feedback to improve. If it is at the end of the term, it is too late to improve.
How? Get teachers and parents to recognize that the purpose of assessment is not to judge students but to evaluate if they have improved so that we can help them learn better! Introduce systems of smaller ongoing assessments (these should also contribute to their report card grade) in the school to support this idea.
- Recognizing, identifying, and fostering the unique capabilities of each student
Why? Because Learning is so much more than getting the 1st Rank on an exam
How? Bring in an awareness of a holistic view on learning that includes traditional academics but also sports, arts, socio-emotional learning and 21 century skills like creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking! Support this with teacher professional development and thoughtful curriculum choices.
- Extensive use of technology in teaching and learning
Why? Not just because of the need for building 21st century but also because technology can support achievement of other NEP goals like ongoing assessment, individualised instruction and choice – at scale.
How? Do you research to find cost effective technology in your city. There are lots of options emerging in terms of hardware, internet access and educational technology. Communicate the value of technology to all stakeholders in your school!
- Teachers and faculty at the heart of the learning process – their recruitment, continuous professional development, positive working environments and service conditions.
Why? For years research has shown consistently that teachers have the #1 influence on student learning.
How? Make use of the world of knowledge that is available online for teacher development. A lot of it is free or affordable. Also invest in building learning communities in your schools – in which teachers come together to reflect on their teaching (including using data) and continuously improve together.