How holistic education can inject positivity into the school system
Of the 293 transformative paragraphs of the National Education Policy 2020, around 180 are devoted to school education. The provisions of 86 of these paragraphs are contained in the revamped Samagra Shiksha 2.0 program which was approved by the Union government on August 4.
Recently, a video of a six-year-old girl advocating for a reduction in the burden of studying went viral. This monologue was a call to inaugurate a joyful education in our schools. Samagra Shiksha or holistic education is essentially joyful education: it encompasses the physical, social, emotional and mental well-being of the child as well as academic and skill development in an integrated format. Program version 2.0 focuses on Access and Retention, Strengthening Foundations, Equity and Inclusion, Quality and Standards, Holistic Curriculum and Pedagogy, Assessment Reforms, Strengthening capacity and stakeholder participation; and technological integration.
There are over 25 crore of children in the 6-18 age group. The first thing they need is affordable access to quality education. The program has funded basic school infrastructure, textbooks, uniforms and admissions to private schools under the RTE law since its inception. But for the first time, preschool infrastructure and workshops / laboratories and classrooms for vocational education will also be funded under the 2.0 program. For retention after grades 8 and 10, the program will provide transportation for students to attend formal school. It aims to attract out-of-school children aged 16 to 19 through the Open School system.
From the preschool stage itself, it is crucial to focus on learning reading, writing, communication and basic math operations. The NIPUN Bharat mission for basic literacy and numeracy is a first component of the new Samagra Shiksha. Play and toy based teaching-learning materials and pedagogy will be the cornerstone in building this base. By connecting and engaging with people, objects, representations, children acquire context. Play-based learning is strongly linked to cognitive, language, thinking, communication, collaborative and psychomotor skills.
Gender-related interventions were strengthened by providing additional funds for the extension of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas up to grade 12, and the provision of automatic sanitary napkin dispensers and incinerators in all girls’ homes. . The self-defense training component is now extended from grades 6 to 12. Girls with disabilities in Kindergarten to Grade 12 will now receive a separate amount as an allowance and separate funding for aids and devices etc.
There are 21 disabilities identified under the PwD Act of 2016, many of which are difficult to identify in a classroom. Children with unidentified disabilities have difficulty adapting to schooling and their teachers have no idea of their specific educational needs. The revamped Samagra Shiksha provides for the first time block-level camps for the identification and training of specialist educators and the equipping of block resource centers and home schooling for severe and profound disabilities.
The quality and standards aspect also presents several new aspects. Besides DIKSHA, ICT Labs, other digital initiatives, science labs, engaging teaching and learning materials, curriculum and pedagogical reforms and DIY labs, inclusion of a holistic progress map, thematic circles, bagless days, banks of criterion-referenced articles, and school complexes for effective schooling, heralds a move towards skills-based education. For each school that obtains at least two medals in Khelo India nationally, a grant of Rs 25,000 awaits.
Capacity building will now focus not only on in-service teacher training, but also on building the capacity of stakeholders – school management committee members, parents, PTAs, etc. Institutional strengthening of State Councils for Educational Research and Training (SCERT), Training resource centers, blocks and clusters should invigorate the teaching community. A special evaluation unit is set up in each SCERT to advance evaluation reforms in all states / TUs. The old system of financing the sectors has been abolished and any combination of subjects will henceforth be financed.
Instilling joy into every step and aspect of school education in a holistic way, with the full support and participation of all stakeholders is the way forward not only to induce positivity in the system, but also to bring synchronicity into the experience of both teachers and learners.
This column first appeared in the paper edition on September 1, 2021 under the title “A happier school”. The writer is secretary, school education, Union Ministry of Education