By Radhika Zahedi
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 lays out an educational vision with a lot of promise for the future of education in India. One of the things it proposes is a new structure for school education in India, known as the 5+3+3+4 model. This new structure proposes that we replace the existing 10+2 structure that has been in place for several decades and in order to provide a more flexible and holistic approach to education. Let’s take a closer look at the 5+3+3+4 model, how it differs from the previous structure, and why it might be better for education in India in the future.
The 5 + 3 + 3 + 4 Model
The 5+3+3+4 model is a new structure for school education in India that is proposed in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
The “5” in the model refers to the foundational stage, which includes the first five years of schooling, from ages 3 to 8. The focus during this stage is on play and activity-based learning, with an emphasis on the development of cognitive and social-emotional skills. The first “3” in the model refers to the preparatory stage, which includes the next three years of schooling, from ages 8 to 11. The focus during this stage is on introduction to language, mathematics, science, social studies, and arts, with an emphasis on learning through inquiry and discovery. The next “3” in the model refers to the middle stage, which includes the next three years of schooling, from ages 11 to 14. The focus during this stage is on deepening the students’ understanding of core subjects, as well as expanding their learning to include additional languages, arts, and other elective subjects. The “4” in the model refers to the secondary stage, which includes the final four years of schooling, from ages 14 to 18. The focus during this stage is on providing students with a broad-based education that prepares them for higher education, as well as for vocational or technical education, if they choose to pursue that path. It is worth noting that the NEP 2020 states that this proposed change is purely pedagogical/ curricular and is not meant to have any implications for the physical infrastructure of schools.
Starting with Holistic and moving to Specialisation
One of the main advantages of this structure is that it suggests that the educational journey starts with a more holistic or trans-disciplinary approach to learning when students are younger, and then over the years progresses to a more specialised or disciplinary approach.
A holistic/trans-disciplinary approach in early education allows for a holistic and comprehensive understanding of a subject, as it integrates multiple disciplines and perspectives. This approach is especially beneficial for young children as it helps them to make connections between different areas of knowledge and develop critical thinking skills. As students’ progress through their education, a more disciplinary or specialised approach can then be adopted to build upon the foundations laid in the early years and deepen their understanding and expertise in a particular subject area. This approach allows for students to develop the skills and knowledge needed for specific careers or further education in that field.
Starting with Strong Foundations and moving to Better Choice
Strong Foundational learning leads to more equitable education, where all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential regardless of their background. The new model places a greater emphasis on key foundational skills like literacy and numeracy. Educational research has shown us that gaps in early basic literacy can result in an educational ‘Matthew Effect’ of sorts, that is- high achievers get better, and the low achievers get worse over time. This is because gaps foundational skills have a cumulative effect as work becomes more rigorous as students advance through school.
The NEP also emphasises the role of play and activity-based learning during the early years of schooling. Research has shown that play and activity-based learning can have a positive impact on the development of cognitive and social-emotional skills in young children.
By focusing on literacy, numeracy, play and activity-based learning during the foundational stage, the new education policy aims to provide children with a strong foundation for their future learning. The recently released NCF for Foundational Stage outlines this in a detailed manner.
Once students are empowered with strong foundational skills, they must also be given the opportunity to pursue learning at a deeper level based on their interests, strengths and long-term goals. One of the main differences between the 5+3+3+4 model and the previous 10+2 structure is that the new model focuses on providing a more flexible and holistic approach to education. The traditional 10+2 model of education often results in students being forced to make early decisions about their future careers, which can limit their options later on. The new education policy aims to address this issue by providing more flexibility in the structure of school education and allowing students to explore different options before making final decisions.
For both these reasons, educators are optimistic about the new structure proposed by NEP 2020. As with many great ideas, the true challenge is whether we can find impactful and viable ways to implement these recommendations.
The author of this article is school director, The Green Acres Academy. Views expressed are personal.