Draft NCF 2023: Boon or Bane for Students, a Musing

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The education system is expected to undergo a significant transformation in the coming period. The Ministry of Education has released the draft recommendations for the fifth revised version of the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), which has been developed under the New Education Policy 2020. While the proposed changes via the draft NCF could bring about a massive shift in the way children learn in India, starting from class 1 to class 12, across all four stages of schooling, including foundational, preparatory, middle, and secondary stages whether the Draft NCF 2023 acts as a boon or bane for students, well now that is exactly what we have to understand and fathom.

Being the mother of a teenager in Class 8, I exactly know the qualm all parents are feeling at this point in time with the proposed change in the education pattern by the central government in the form of NCF 2023. Being a part of a large group of parents who are currently discussing the pros and cons of this proposed draft, I thought of bringing forth some information related to the NCF 2023 for you guys.

What is NCF?

The NCF, or National Curriculum Framework document (last revised in 2005 under the Congress-led UPA government), is a key document based on which textbooks and course materials are prepared. In simple terms, the current set of NCERT textbooks is based on this.

Considering the latest round of revision, underway since September 2021, a draft framework on early childhood care and education has already been prepared, while work is in progress for teacher and adult education. After being adopted by CBSE as well as other state boards, apart from textbooks, the NCF also aims at restructuring various other aspects of the classroom, including the choice of subjects, the pattern of teaching, and assessment.

Proposed Draft NCF

Among the most significant changes recommended in the draft are the choices of subjects and exams in classes IX–XII. Over 2 years, in classes IX and X, the students will have to study 16 courses, which are broadly categorised under 8 curricular areas, including humanities (including languages), mathematics and computing, vocational education, physical education, arts, social science, science, and inter-disciplinary areas.

Basically, students will have to clear eight board exams, each of which will assess their grasp of the courses they learn in classes 9 and 10, to obtain the final certification, which will factor into their performances in exams held over a two-year period. Under the existing system, there are no such links between classes 9 and 10, and students across boards are usually expected to appear and pass at least five subjects to clear class 10.

As regards subjects, students have little scope for pursuing multi-disciplinary education, with the scope being predetermined and fixed. So, say, a student who has picked a combination of mathematics and chemistry cannot simultaneously take social or political sciences. But under the proposed system, this will be possible as there will be no “hard separation” among the arts, humanities, and sciences. As per the pre-draft NCF,

Modular board examinations will be offered as opposed to a single examination at the end of the year, with final certification being based on the cumulative result of each of the examinations.

In an overview, the proposal suggests no assessment for preschool to Class 2, and written tests be introduced from Classes 3 to 5. For classes 5 to 8, regular summative assessments that help students synthesise their learning at logical intervals are proposed. Summative assessments evaluate student learning at the end of a lesson or logical period of teaching, and the results of these can also be used for formative purposes.

Along with addressing issues like bullying and isolation, the NCF also proposes that Class 10 students engage in environmental education as a separate subject, focusing on a holistic understanding of key concerns and issues related to it. It also suggests that students must attend school for 5 and a half days a week, with Saturdays being a half day. The period proposed is 40 minutes for preparatory and middle stages and 50 minutes for students in classes 9 and onward.

So, now the main question is: Is this new revision a boon or a bane for students?

Well, the proposal that students should not be assumed to choose their disciplines broadens the spectrum considerably. An enrollment in biology cannot assume that students are enrolled in chemistry as well. And as final certification is based on the cumulative result of each of the examinations, it definitely is a big step towards encouraging the integration mode of learning.

With increased flexibility and choice of subjects to study, particularly in secondary school, and no “hard separation” being present between curricular, extracurricular, and co-curricular or between vocational and academic streams, I would say that this is definitely like providing wings to students and their aspirations since it surely gives a broader base and platform upon which they can work around and perform, discovering the best of their strengths, skills, and abilities, while at the same time not being bogged down or bound by pre-set standardized discipline and performing to the best of their ability.

With an interdisciplinary education, a provision of choice, the inculcation of values and roots, a focus on the moral development of students, better design, and an updated curriculum, I say, there is definitely an expansion in the horizon of thinking of students. On the other side, with eight small board examinations over the years rather than one, the burden and fear of boards will presumably increase, putting a bit of pressure on the students to study and perform throughout the year—well, that is an argument cited.

As a parent, I strongly feel that the NCF 2023 is definitely an improvement towards bringing about a life shift, a highly needed mindset change that shall benefit the students greatly in the long run, not only from the point of view of their careers but also on a holistic level since being the “jack of all trades” is passe and being the “master of all trades” is what we all, as parents in this new world, aspire for our children to achieve, right? With increased pressure, there is also a better potential performance that is visible, and definitely, the ability to customise and select once a choice of subjects is made is a trump card, which will surely ease off that pressure to a considerable level. If one knows they like something and takes it up instead of the pre-set, “forced” kind of content, the performance is bound to be better. As far as more exams are concerned, well, again, a silver lining since the more the child revises and studies it, the better he will incorporate its basics instead of only garbling and mugging it on the surface level. “Deep-rooted learning,” I call it.

NCF 2023: My Observations as a Parent

  • Freedom to choose multiple  disciplines vis-a-vis a unilateral one
  • Better bifurcation of study and schooling period
  • Focus on holistic development as opposed to the primitive bookish knowledge imparting alone
  • Provisions for education against bullying, isolation, mental education as well as environmental education
  • Provides an all-round, 360-degree development for the child as opposed to a closed, in-the-box kind of approach
  • 8 Board exams spread over the years instead of one single board
  • An increase in school timings, may or may not suit many students
  • Complicated since it is a free-willed sort of module, might be initially difficult to implement
  • The present education infrastructure in our country might not be accommodative enough to incorporate this  
In Conclusion

Yes, there is also no denying the fact that initially there will definitely be teething issues, but trust me, it will be worth it for sure. So, I am positive that with a bit of tweaking and fine-tuning, this will definitely be a major shift towards advancement and a change in the education system for the better. The NCF 2023, although a draft, is for sure a step in the right direction, and I, as a parent, stand positively for it, seeing the advantages it proposes to bring along.

Related: Clever Harvey-JuniorMBA: An Initiative Preparing Young Minds for their Ideal Dream Career and Education Abroad

So, do let me know your thoughts on this one. Tell me if you know of this new education reform in the making. What are your thoughts on this? I am awaiting your responses in the comments.

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Adios Amigos!

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