From 10+2 to 5+3+3+4: What does NEP's big shift in school education mean?

India's new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is set to replace the 10+2 schooling system in India with a new 5+3+3+4 system. Here are what the different education stages mean and what experts have to say about it.

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National education system, nep 2020, 5+3+3+4, school education system, change in school education structure, different stages of school education, neo school education, pre school, foundation years
India's new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is set to replace the 10+2 schooling system in India with a new 5+3+3+4 system.

As India’s new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was approved on July 29, it is set to replace the 10+2 schooling system in India with a new 5+3+3+4 system.

But this doesn’t mean that the 10+2 system will become obsolete. The new schooling system only brings three years of kindergarten classes or playschools under the ambit of formal education.

Since the NEP 2020 also increases the span of the Right to Education Act and will now cover ages 3 to 18, it looks at organising the total school education period so that in the Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE) or pre-school level, there is more access, affordability, accountability and universalization, and all with better quality education.

As per the education system usually followed in urban settings today, children first join playschools and then move to schools where they carry out two years of kindergarten classes (KG classes) followed by 12 years of school education (classes 1 to 12).

This change from the 10+2 to the 5+3+3+4 system would help with a more seamless and inclusive transition from the pre-school ages right to the higher classes (9 to 12).

5+3+3+4 school system explained

As per the new school education system of 5+3+3+4 outlined in NEP 2020, children will spend 5 years in the Foundational stage, 3 years in the Preparatory stage, 3 years in the Middle stage, and 4 years in the Secondary stage.

The division of stages has been made in line with the kind of cognitive development stages that a child goes through early childhood, school years, and secondary stage.

Here is the age-wise breakdown of the different levels of the new school education system:

1. 5 years of Foundational stage:

For ages: 3 to 8

For classes: Anganwadi/pre-school, class 1, class 2

The foundational stage of education as per the national education policy will comprise 3 years or preschool or anganwadi education followed by two years of primary classes (classes 1 and 2).

This stage will focus on teaching in play-based or activity-based methods and on the development of language skills.

2. 3 years of Preparatory stage:

For ages: 8 to 11

For classes: 3 to 5

The focus in the preparatory stage will remain on language development and numeracy skills.

Here, the method of teaching and learning would be play and activity-based, and also include classroom interactions and the element of discovery.

3. 3 years of Middle stage:

For ages: 11 to 14

For classes: 6 to 8

As per NEP 2020, this stage of school education will focus on critical learning objectives, which is a big shift from the rote learning methods used in our education system for years.

This stage will work on experiential learning in the sciences, mathematics, arts, social sciences and humanities.

4. 4 years of Secondary stage:

For ages: 14 to 18

For classes: 9 to 12

This stage will cover two phases classes 9 and 10, and classes 11 and 12.

The main change in these classes is the shift to a multidisciplinary system where students will have access to a variety of subject combinations that they can choose as per their skills and interest areas instead of being strictly divided into Arts, Science and Commerce categories.

This stage will again push for greater critical thinking and flexibility in the thought process.

What experts have to say about NEP 2020’s 5+3+3+4 school system

Forms a strong base

India faces big problems when it comes to shifting students from anganwadis and playschools to formal schooling. A strong base in the foundational level is crucial for children to be able to keep learning as they grow older.

“The new initiative recognizes the importance of development as it includes the ages of 3 to 6 in formal education. Those are the very crucial ages for children to develop in,” says Aashi Sharma, Co-Founder, Director and Head of Growth, Edubull.

Without the necessary language and numerical skills, students will lack the basic needs to be able to teach themselves. Self-learning can get largely affected if the base of learning is shaky.

“Pedagogues and practitioners alike have agreed on the importance of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) in shaping a child’s future. So, including pre-primary within the ambit of NEP is probably the biggest win of the NEP,” says Kusum Mohapatra, President, Sampark Foundation.

“Looking at age three to eight as a single unit or continuum with a clear focus on building a strong foundational literacy and numeracy skill at the end of that will simplify and mainstream children’s education and development,” she adds.

Future-forward methods to help build character

Selecting subject combinations is a big deal and for young students, it is one of the first steps of legitimate choice in their career path.

“As per the new school system, they have completely gone away with the stream system and the students can choose their own subjects and formulate their own course packages,” says Edubull’s Aashi Sharma.

“I believe it is an excellent way for the education industry to look forward to making changes for future learners and they are adapting the policies in a way that is future-forward,” she adds.

She also lauded the importance given to skill development, vocational learning, and the introduction of internships from class 6 onwards all of which can build a student’s career path.

Cymatic CEO and Founder Kaushik Sharaf shares the same sentiment. “Inclusion of skill learning like coding is a major initiative to prepare everyone future-ready by acquiring 21st-century skills,” he says.

“The inclusion of vocational training with internship will provide them real-world exposure and will help them explore their interests,” he adds.

He notes yet another factor that could help students recognise different aspects of themselves -- the transformational shift of assessment from marks-based report card to a holistic evaluation.

“Semester based learning at secondary stage will ensure year-long learning rather than last-minute mugging up, while interdisciplinary subject specialisation will help in developing emotional intelligence, critical thinking and problem-solving skills of students,” he says.

Calls for better career counselling

Since the new schooling system brings in multidisciplinary education and selecting subjects in the middle stage itself, it calls for better career counselling facilities to help kids make the correct choices.

“The choice of preferred subjects as early as in middle school may probably push the onus of making a career decision on the family or the teacher, many of them not equipped to do so,” says Kusum Mohapatra.

“This is an area where specialised counselling and support for children will become quite important,” she says.

Need for better infrastructure

With the introduction of new vocations and subject combinations, the school infrastructure would need to be updated.

“For this to succeed, the support infrastructure has to improve rapidly. In a country like India, we will also need to keep an eye of gender perceptions while introducing vocations,” says Kusum Mohapatra.

Thus, the move from 10+2 system to the 5+3+3+4 system gives a lot of opportunities for not tjust the development of students but also highlights which areas schools should focus on to develop themselves.

Read: A reality check on NEP 2020: 6 major challenges in implementation

Read: India gets New Education Policy after 34 years: Bag-less Day, new board exam pattern among other changes

Read: What are education experts saying about the new National Education Policy?

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