Centre ‘ignores’ suggestions: Kerala SCERT has concerns over curriculum framework

Kerala officials suspect the Centre will “ignore” state suggestions like it allegedly did with NEP 2020. NCERT had called a meeting with state SCERTs.

Centre ‘ignores’ suggestions: Kerala SCERT has concerns over curriculum framework representational image (source: Shutterstock)
Atul Krishna | Jun 29, 2021 - 2:43 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: Officials from Kerala have raised concerns about the drafting of new National Curriculum Framework (NCF) and the process the central advisory body on curriculum design, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has adopted for it. The NCF serves as a guide to designing textbooks and teaching.

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The last framework came in 2005 and was adopted across states in subsequent years. The National Education Policy 2020 proposes replacing NCF 2005 with a new framework by 2023. NCERT started work on it before even the NEP was cleared by the Union Cabinet in July last year.

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) had called a meeting with the SCERT directors of different states last week. The representative from Kerala State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT) expressed dissatisfaction with the process while the West Bengal representative skipped the meeting altogether.

Also read: NEP 2020: Implementation will take years, say state committees

Kerala officials have reservations about the new framework as well as the NEP itself, they told Careers360. Kerala SCERT officials said the NCERT was asking the states to come up with their frameworks before framing a central one. In the past, states devised their own frameworks based on the NCF 2005. The Kerala Curriculum Framework was in place by 2007.

Officials at the Kerala SCERT suspect a “hidden agenda” behind the new process -- that the opinions of the states will be completely ignored while allowing the BJP-led Union Government to claim its decision was democratic and came after wide consultation.

NCERT’s Curriculum meeting

“For preparing the new national curriculum framework, the NCERT has asked states to submit the state curriculums first. They are employing a “bottom-up approach” and ignoring all norms of federalism and democracy. This shows a hidden agenda where the Centre wants to show that they have taken the opinion of states while, in reality, totally ignoring them,” said an official at the Kerala SCERT, asking not to be named.

Kerala officials argued that the Centre used the same tactic for the NEP 2020 which was not tabled in Parliament but simply approved by the Union Cabinet. However, in all promotional activities, the education ministry claims wide consultation.

Since, education comes in the concurrent list of the Constitution, both states and the central government has a say in the subject.

Also read: NEP 2020: Four-year courses with exits from 2021 at some institutions

Officials said that in the meeting called by the NCERT, states were given a template which had four broad categories and 25 subsections. The four categories included early childhood education, school education, teacher education and adult education.

Officials said that they were asked to convey the existing scenario of education in these categories and suggest improvements that should be included in the new curriculum framework.

“The template just had “yes or no” questions for these categories. One can see how much value is given for the state input,” said the official.

Concerns about NEP 2020

Officials said that they had also raised concerns about the NEP 2020 which were ignored.

“The policy proposes discarding well-established standalone institutions. We had raised concerns about that as well as other aspects of the NEP. But everything was ignored as they just want to enact their agenda by discarding the state’s opinions,” said the official.

A former member of the Kerala SCERT also accused the central government of suggesting “unscientific” measures. He said that one aspect they flagged was the integration of early childhood education to the school system as proposed in the NEP.

“Currently, students of 3 to 5 [years of age] can join anganwadis under social welfare and the women and child welfare department and a student can join the school system by age 5, that is the general understanding,” said PK Thilak, former research officer at the Kerala SCERT.

Thilak said that the focus on ensuring literacy and numeracy by age 8 can be counter productive to the students’ development.

“The current system of education is a generalised structure. Some students might be ahead of their peers by age eight and some might take some more time to reach the basics . The responsibility of the school is to allow both groups to develop,” said Thilak.

“Literacy and numeracy are just a tool to help the social development of students to allow them to function in society. Focussing on achieving a set standard by a certain age is unscientific. If a student needs more time, they should be given more time,” said Thilak.

However, Thilak said that the Centre did not even communicate to the states about the NEP 2020 following the submission of suggestions.

NEP 2020 suggestions in ‘trash can’

“All these suggestions, along with others, ended up in the trash can There was no communication from the Centre about the suggestions put forward by the state,” alleged Thilak.

Officials also said that apart from mentioning it, the Centre has not said anything on what kind of support it will give to the states to achieve these targets.

Also Read | NEP 2020 Analysis: What it says about schooling

They also raised concerns about integrating “laymen” into school education.

“The policy also talks about bringing retired generals, etc., to teach students. These are people that have no training or understanding as to how to teach children,” Thilak said.

The NEP 2020 has proposed that “retired scientists/government/semi government employees” be involved to “enhance learning by providing it at schools”.

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