NCF 2023 ‘detached from reality’; Indian schools 9.8 lakh teachers short, lack infrastructure

Draft National Curriculum Framework 2023: 9.8 lakh teacher vacancy; introducing IKS ‘disempowers children in terms critical thinking’.

The current school education system has neither the teaching force, nor the infrastructure, to implement NCF 2023 (source: Wikimedia Commons)The current school education system has neither the teaching force, nor the infrastructure, to implement NCF 2023 (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Atul Krishna | May 3, 2023 | 02:31 PM IST

NEW DELHI: The draft National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCF) proposes multiple choice-based courses at the secondary level, introducing a semester system for Class 12 and the option to write board exams twice. This and its many other prescriptions pertaining to “choice” and “options” show the framework is “detached from reality”, said academics and teachers.

The current school education system has neither the teaching force, nor the infrastructure, to implement these changes, said educationists. A recent Parliamentary Standing Committee report found that over 9.8 lakh teaching positions are vacant in government schools across the country, which includes more than 2.5 lakh vacancies at the secondary level alone.

Academics said that a large-scale resource mobilisation will be required for successful implementation of changes proposed in the NCF draft 2023. Moreover, teachers argue that the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is pushing towards a contract teacher system which will make the implementation of the NCF more unlikely.

Teacher recruitment, shortage

According to the NCF, students can choose four courses from eight curricular areas rather than choosing the disciplines of science, commerce and humanities at the senior secondary level. Students will have to complete 16 courses of their choice to gain a Class 12 passing certificate . This will give students the flexibility to choose, for instance, a physics course, a political science course and a music course together.

Academics said that implementing such a flexible system will require the intake of a huge number of teachers. With shortage of classrooms and lack of teachers, many government schools have around 60 students in a class at the senior secondary level.

“Now, in the higher secondary classes across Kerala there are more than 60 students. It is very difficult to teach a class of more than 50 students. To teach them with an activity-based method would be near-impossible. The same issue persists in Classes 9 and 10 where the ratio is still 1:45. Introducing such a system would be impossible in the current scenario,” said Abdul Majeed, president of Kerala Pradesh School Teachers’ Association.

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According to the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, there should be one teacher for 30 students at the secondary level.

This shortage of teachers will remain as recent policy decisions indicate a push for a contract teacher system.

“In Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar schools are being closed in the name of school complexes. New teacher postings are not happening. Even in KVs and JNVs it has been a long time since a large-scale recruitment has happened. The recruitments are not happening because in school complexes teachers are being pooled together in cluster schools,” said KV Manoj, principal of GHSS Vaduvanchal in Kerala and former research officer at the Kerala State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT).

national curriculum framework, ncf 2023, new education policy, nep 2020, school teacher vacancies, school education newsAcademics said that the NEP 2020 and NCF 2023 will enforce a contract teacher system which will affect the student-teacher bond“The NEP talks about the ‘tenure track’ system which has ensured that permanent teaching posts are not there. It talks about giving contracts of three years and five years based on the teacher’s performance.. So, they are not thinking of permanent teachers while implementing the NEP,” said Manoj.

Academics said that this performance-based approach will just lead to the system getting flooded with contract teachers. This tenure track system is already in place in schools that are employing the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF). Through NSQF , skill courses such as tourism, health care, power, retail, telecom, agriculture, etc., are taught to students through teachers specialised in the subject. However, none of these teachers are permanent.

“The concept of permanent teachers is not there in the NEP or the NSQF. Modules are coming, the semester system is coming, so they only need a contract teacher who can transfer these modular schemes,” said Manoj.

NEP 2020: Problem with contract teachers

“The main issue is that the contract teachers will have no commitment to the system or the children. One day they will go to one school and another school the next. School is an organic system. There are many elements in the teacher-student bond. A system consisting of frustrated teachers who have no bonds with the students because they can come and go any time will adversely impact the academic atmosphere,” said Manoj. “Another issue is that since there is no security in this kind of system, it will be difficult to find the best people for the job. For teaching, we want to bring in the best people. Teaching jobs are generally regarded as secure. If you take this away, we will have to see how many young people will come forward to participate.”

Bihar, which appointed temporary teachers by the thousands since 2003 is reversing the policy now, announcing new teacher recruitment rules, benefits and an exam.

The question of quality can also come up. The NSQF and even the NCF tends to talk about courses that are immediately relevant in the market. Academics said that this might lead to a dilution in the quality of teaching force as the schools will take in teachers who might not have studied these specialisations.

“In Kerala, there is a course called agronomy which is being taught in the NSQF schools but these courses are taught by teachers who have studied agriculture not agronomy. So, the people who might be available at the time may not be experts in these fields,” said Manoj.

Indian knowledge system, ‘unscientific’ curriculum

One of the curricular areas that the NCF talks about also includes interdisciplinary studies which can have topics such as the Indian knowledge system. Educationists fear that this segment will serve as an avenue for introducing unscientific or outdated concepts.

“If you look at the introduction part of the curriculum it says “deeply-rooted in Indian traditions” in the introduction. That itself is questionable. What is this Indian knowledge system? What does it talk about? And this needs to be seen in the context of what is happening with the NCERT textbooks. Important topics such as Mughals, understanding of cold war, and more importantly the Darwin theory of evolution were dropped,” said Niranjanaradhya VP, development educationist and programme head of universalisation of equitable quality education programme at National Law School of India University (NLSIU).

ncf 2023, ncf 2022, school education news, national curriculum framework, new education policy, nep 2020National curriculum framework ignores the different school boards and their difference in qualityAlso Read| Board Result: This site aims to help students look beyond Classes 10, 12 exams, prevent suicides

“This is completely taking back the education system to mythology. This will create an education system that disempowers children in terms of reasoning and critical thinking, and their ability to use education as a tool for social transformation. The curriculum is reducing the Constitution and instituting Vedas, Puranas and Manusmriti in place of that,” said Niranjanaradhya.

Teachers also said that the scientific methods of creating curriculum and pedagogy are being ignored while pushing these courses.

“Here, anything is treated as a curriculum. When they talk about the Indian knowledge system they are making it clear that they are talking about the ancient Indian knowledge system that is said to have existed in Nalanda, Taxila. It will make the curriculum unscientific,” said Manoj.

Resource mobilisation

Crucially, the system will need more resources for the new curriculum framework to work.

Academics noted that policy documents, right from the Kothari Commission in the 1960s to the latest National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, have been talking about bringing changes to the education system but without acknowledging the ground reality in the country.

“This attractive option of transferring to this nonlinear system in a country like India, that has been teaching in a linear method for centuries, would require a large-scale resource mobilisation. This would mean more teachers, more classrooms, better infrastructure, more labs, etc,” said Manoj.

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“In the countries that have employed this nonlinear method, let’s take the US, the classrooms belong to the teachers and not to the students. The students come to the teachers’ classrooms. Here, we don’t have a concept of teachers having classrooms, here classrooms belong to the students,” said Manoj

“There, if a student is trying to learn physics with theatre, you will go to the theatre teachers’ classroom and there will be a theatre there. If the students then go to music, then they will find a music lab with instruments there, after that they go to study English in an English lab. Here, we are looking at schools without playgrounds, without drinking water, without buildings, and then talking of implementing these things,” he said.

Moreover, the framework ignores the difference between the various boards that are functioning in the country and the inequalities between them, academics said.

“The policy doesn’t recognise the inherent inequalities, discrimination and segregation in education. It fails to take note of the different boards existing in India including International Baccalaureate (IB), Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) , and the state boards. If we look at these boards, there is a large inequality in terms of infrastructure, faculty, and also the subjects studied,” said Niranjanaradhya.

“A child who is in IB, CBSE or CISCE maybe in a better position to use this choice when given the opportunity but what happens to students studying in rural schools? They will opt for some job oriented studies like carpentry. This will then create a system similar to the varna system where a limited number of children have access to good quality of education and the majority of children are denied it,” said Niranjanaradhya.

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