Will India’s New National Education Policy Spell the End of Rote-Learning?

Social Commentary

Will India’s New National Education Policy Spell the End of Rote-Learning?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

For years, students in our country have been made to rote-learn their way through dozens of exams, in subjects that have little relevance to what they go on to do with their professional lives. That’s all set to change very soon.

A National Education Policy was announced by the Centre on Wednesday, which when implemented, will overhaul the Indian education system that’s been in place for the last 34 years, and replace it with a more “holistic and skill-based” one.

Of the many changes, the most prominent is possibly that schools will no longer follow the 10+2 system that most millennials will be familiar with. Instead they will follow a 5+3+3+4 year system — with the first five years being the foundational stage (ages 3-8), followed by pre-primary, then middle school, and finally secondary school (ages 14-18).

The new policy goes on to blur the lines between extra-curricular, co-curricular, vocational and academic training during this period, implying that extra-curricular activities will have the same bearing on your final grades as cramming from a text-book a night before the exam used to in the ’90s and early 2000s.

Board exams, meanwhile, are set to become both “easier” as well as be held twice a year, for students who want a chance at bettering their grades a second time around.

The age-old question of whether to opt for science, commerce, or arts will also be retired for good, with the new policy suggesting that science students can pick arts subjects, and vice-versa. By 2040, in fact, all higher education institutions are set to become multidisciplinary and will no longer teach just a single stream.

The policy also puts an increased focus on local languages, with students now being asked to learn upto three languages, two of which should be Indian.

Several changes have been made to higher education as well — mainly that it’s become longer by a year. But the four-year programme also allows students more flexibility.

Students who decide to, say, drop out after the first year, get a certificate, after two years, get a diploma, after three years, a degree, and after four years be directly eligible for a PhD. Which means, goodbye MPhil!

The new policy, and the sweeping changes it has brought with it has already been on the receiving end of praise a day after its announcement, with Nobel prize winner Kailash Satyarthi calling the move “bold and progressive”.

And certainly, with the reduced emphasis on board exams, and increased focus on all-round development, that cheer will also be felt by students.

Going by the policy, no longer will students have to spend nights memorising definitions like “Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell” to excel in school.