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English rendering of PM’s address at Conclave on “School Education in 21st Century” under NEP 2020

Namaskar!

My cabinet colleagues, the country’s Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank ji, Sanjay Dhotre ji, chairman of the drafting committee of the National Education Policy Dr. Kasturirangan ji, esteemed members of his team, scholars, principals, teachers, ladies and gentlemen from all the states participating in this special conference. Today, we all are becoming part of a moment that is laying the foundation for building the future of our country. This is a moment in which the seeds of the new era have been sown. The National Education Policy is going to give a new direction to 21st century India.

Friends, every domain of the world has changed in the last three decades. Every system has changed. In these three decades, there is hardly any aspect of our life which has remained the same. But the path on which the society moves towards the future, our education system, it was still running under the old pattern.  It was as necessary to change the old education system as it is necessary to replace a damaged blackboard.  Like every school has a pin-up board. You pin up all the necessary papers, necessary school orders, children’s paintings, etc. on it.  The board gets filled up after some time. You have to make changes to put new paintings of the new children of the new class on that pin-up board.

The new National Education Policy is also a powerful means of meeting the new aspirations and new requirements of a New India. It is the outcome of the hard work of the last four-five years. People from all walks of life, every discipline and language, have worked on it day and night.  But, this is not over. In fact, the real work has just started. Now, we have to implement the new National Education Policy in a very effective manner. And all of us will do it together. I know, many of you are having several questions in your mind after the announcement of the National Education Policy. What is this education policy? How is it different? What changes will it herald in the system of the schools and colleges? What is there for a teacher in this education policy? What is there for a student? And most importantly, what needs to be done for its successful implementation and how? These questions are legitimate and necessary also. And therefore, we have all gathered here in this programme so that we can discuss it and make a way forward. I am told that yesterday, all of you discussed these things for hours in a very detailed way.

Teachers should prepare learning material according to themselves, children should create their own toy museums, there should be a community library at school to connect with parents, there should be a multilingual dictionary with pictures and there should be kitchen gardens in schools. Many of such topics have been discussed and new ideas given. I am happy that our principals and teachers are enthusiastically participating in this campaign to implement the National Education Policy.

A few days ago, the Ministry of Education had also sought suggestions from teachers across the country on the Mygov portal for implementation of the National Education Policy. More than 15 lakh suggestions have been received within a week. These suggestions will help in implementing the National Education Policy in a more effective manner. The Ministry of Education is organizing a number of programmes to create more awareness in this regard.

Friends, the younger generation and young energy have a big role to play in the rapid development of any country. But the foundation of that younger generation starts from childhood. The life of the future depends largely on childhood. Children’s education, the environment they get, determines to a large extent, how they will become as a person in the future, what will be their personality. Therefore, the National Education Policy has placed a lot of emphasis on children’s education. During pre-school, the child takes the first step to come out of the care of his parents and the relaxed home environment. This is the first stage when children begin to realize their senses, their skills in a much better way. This requires schools and teachers who can provide children the environment of fun learning, playful learning, activity-based learning and discovery-based learning.

I know, you may be thinking how all this will happen during Corona? This is more about the approach than the idea. And, in any case, the conditions due to the Corona will not always be the same. As children progress in classes, they should develop a spirit to learn more; children’s minds, their brain should start thinking scientifically and logically. It is very important that they should develop mathematical thinking and scientific temperament. And mathematical thinking does not mean that children solve only mathematics problems, but it is a way of thinking. These are the ways we have to teach them. The approach should be to understand every issue, the aspects of life mathematically and logically, so that the brain can analyse in different perspectives. This approach, the development of mind and brain is very important, and, therefore, the National Education Policy has given a lot of attention to its modalities. Many among you, many principals, may be thinking that we already do it in our school.  But there are still many schools where it does not happen. It is also necessary to have a common perception. This is also a major reason why I am talking to you today in so much detail, and precisely.

Friends, the 5+3+3+4 system has been very carefully introduced in the National Education Policy in place of the old 10+2. The Early Childhood Care and Education has been included in it as a foundation. Today, we find that the pre-school playful education is confined to private schools in cities. It will now reach the villages, the houses of the poor, the rich, the villages, the cities. This will be available to children everywhere. The focus on fundamental education is the most important aspect of this policy. Under the National Education Policy, the development of Foundational Literacy and Numeracy will be taken up as a national mission. Knowledge of elementary language, knowledge of numbers, development of the ability to read and understand general articles in children, this is very essential. Before a child reads to learn in future, it is important that he learns to read in the beginning. This development journey from Learn To Read to Read To Learn will be completed through Foundational Literacy and Numeracy.

Friends, we have to ensure that the child can easily read 30 to 35 words in a minute when he passes the third grade. You call it Oral Reading Fluency. If we are able to shape and teach the child and bring him up to this level, the student will be more able to understand the content of the rest of the subjects in the future. I give you one suggestion for this. These small children who are here..they will also have their 25-30 friends in the class. You tell him to utter the names of his friends whom he knows. Then you tell him to utter names as quickly as he can. Then you tell him to name them quickly and make them stand as well. You see how many types of talent will start developing in him and it will also increase his confidence level. Later, he can be asked to write down the names of his friends … then you ask him whose names he would like to tell … he can be asked to write the names by showing their photographs.  To learn by recognizing his friends… this is called the learning process. This will also reduce the burden on students in higher classes and on the teachers as well. Also, the children will be able to understand basic mathematics, like counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division very easily. All this will be possible only when the teaching goes out of the four walls of the books and classes and connects with the real world, with our lives, with the surroundings.

An example of how the children can learn from the surroundings, the real world, can be seen in a story of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.  It is said that Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagarji was not taught English till he was eight years old. Once he was going to Kolkata (then Calcutta) with his father, he saw the roadside milestones in English. He asked his father what was written on them. His father told him that it is the counting in english to tell the distance to Kolkata.   This answer further increased curiosity in the mind of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. He kept on asking his father, and his father kept telling him about the counting on the milestones. And by the time, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar reached Kolkata, he learnt the counting in English. 1,2,3,4…7,8,9,10 … This is the study out of curiosity, the power to learn and teach through curiosity.

Friends, when education is linked to the surroundings, it leaves an impact on the entire life of the student and the entire society as well. Look at Japan. Shinrin-Yoku is prevalent there. Shinrin means forest and Yoku means to take bath, i.e., forest bathing.  There students are taken to forests, where there are many trees and plants, or to the places where the children can feel nature in a natural way, so that they can listen, see, touch, taste and smell the trees, plants and flowers. This not only connects the children with nature and the environment, but also promotes their development in a holistic way.  The children enjoy it and learn so many things simultaneously. I remember, when I was Chief Minister of Gujarat, we ran a programme. We told the schools to tell their students to find out the oldest tree in their village. So, they had to go everywhere, had to see all the trees near their villages, and had to ask their teachers. Then a consensus arrived for the oldest tree. Later, the students wrote songs, essays on the importance of the tree when they returned to school. But in the process, they had to see many trees to find out the oldest tree. They learnt so many things, and I can say that this experiment was very successful.  On the one hand, the children got the information about the environment, and simultaneously they also got the opportunity to get a lot of information about their village.

We will have to promote similar easy and new practices. Our experiments should be the guiding principle of the New Age learning — Engage, Explore, Experience, Express, and Excel. That is, students should engage in activities, events and projects according to their interests. They should explore it accordingly. He should learn these activities, events and projects from his own experience and with different perspectives. It can be their personal experience and collaborative experience as well. Then the children should learn to express themselves in a very constructive manner. This is a way to excel when all these things are combined. For example, we can take the children to hills, historical places, farms and safe manufacturing units.

Now see, when you are teaching about railway engines in the classroom, also try to take the students to the nearest railway station in the village, show the kids how the engine looks like; sometimes take them to the bus station too. Just show them how it is. They start learning by observing. I know, many principals and teachers must be thinking that they do the same in their schools or colleges. I believe that many teachers are very innovative and put in all their efforts. But this does not happen everywhere. And because of this many students are deprived of practical knowledge. The more we spread these good practices, the more our fellow teachers will get a chance to learn. The more experiences are shared by teachers, the more will the students benefit from it.

Friends,

Every region across the country has something special to offer. Every region has some popular traditional art, handicraft and product. Like the sarees of Bhagalpur in Bihar; the silk from Bhagalpur is famous all over the country. The students should visit those looms, handlooms and observe how these clothes are made! The students should be encouraged to ask questions about the work they are doing there. You can teach them the questions that they must ask in the looms. Then later ask them what they had asked and what was the answer that they received? This is learning. When a child asks the specifics – where do you bring the thread from? How did the thread get that colour?  Where does the shine on the saree come from? The child will start asking on his own. You see, he will get to learn a lot.

Such skilled people could also be invited to schools. You can organize an exhibition or workshop there. Suppose the people who make pottery in the village are invited one day; the children of the school would ask questions. You will see how comfortably the child would learn. The curiosity of the students, the information will also be enhanced, and will also increase the interest in learning. There are so many professions which require deep skills, but we do not give importance to them. Sometimes we belittle them. If students watch them, then a kind of emotional connection will develop towards them. They will understand their skills, will also start respecting them.

Probably many of these children grow up to join such industries, probably they become big industrialists. When it comes down to sensitizing children… now children come to school in auto-rickshaws. Have you ever asked the children- What is the name of that auto-rickshaw driver who brings them every day?  Where is his house? Did the child ever celebrate his birthday?  Did he ever go to his house? Did the auto-rickshaw wala meet his parents? Then instruct the children to ask their auto rickshaw drivers 10 questions. Later, the child should narrate those details about his rickshaw driver in class. This exercise will help children develop sensitivity towards the auto-rickshaw drivers. Otherwise, those children don’t know anything about the auto-rickshaw driver. They just feel as the father is paying money to the auto-rickshaw driver, he takes them. It never occurs to him that the auto-rickshaw driver is making his life. The auto rickshaw wala is contributing something to make his life, this feeling shall develop.

In the same way, if someone chooses another profession like engineering, then too it will remain in the back of his mind to look for innovations to improve such professions. Similarly, the children must be taken to Hospitals, Fire Stations or any other place as a part of learning. children should be taken to different places, they should be shown different places. They will get to know about the types of doctors…Who is a dentist? What is an eye hospital like? They will get to see the instruments…what machine is used for checking eyes. He will become curious, he will learn.

Friends,

he National Education Policy has been formulated in such a way so as to reduce the syllabus and focus on fundamental things. A National Curriculum Framework will be developed to make learning integrated, interdisciplinary, fun based with complete experience. It has also been decided that in 2022, when we celebrate 75 years of independence, our students will move towards a new future with this new curriculum. It will also be forward looking, future ready and a scientific-based curriculum. Suggestions will be taken from everyone for the same and everyone’s recommendations and modern education systems will be included in it.

Friends,

The future is going to be quite different from our present-day world today. We can see and feel its requirements right now. In such a scenario, we have to equip our students with the skills of the 21st century. What will these 21St Century Skills be? These will be – Critical Thinking -Creativity -Collaboration -Curiosity and Communication. Our students must understand the sustainable future, sustainable science and think in that direction. This is the need of the hour! It is very important. Therefore, students should learn coding early in life, understand Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, Data Science and Robotics. We have to ensure all of this.

 

Friends,

The previous education policy had also tied up options for our students. For example, a student who opted for Science could not study Arts or Commerce. For those with Arts-Commerce, it was assumed that they have opted for History, Geography, Accounts because they are poor in Science. But in reality, can all the work be done with the knowledge of only one field? In reality all subjects are related to each other. Every learning is inter-related. Students opt for one subject, but later they feel that they could do better in some other field. But the present system does not provide an opportunity for change or to connect with new possibilities. This has also been a major reason for the dropout of many students. Therefore, with the National Education Policy students are given freedom to choose any subject. I see this as a major improvement. Now our youth will not have to fit in any one of the brackets of Science, Humanity or Commerce. Every student of the country and his talents will now receive every opportunity.

Friends,

National education policy also addresses another very major problem. There are very experienced and knowledgeable people present here, you must have felt that in our country, instead of learning driven education, marks and marks-sheet driven education dominates. Children also learn when they are playing, talking to the family, or going outside with you. But often parents do not ask the children what they have learned. But they too would ask about the marks. How much did you score in the test? Can a test or a mark-sheet be a parameter for children’s learning and mental development? Today, the truth is that the marksheet has become a mental pressure sheet and the family’s prestige sheet. Removing this stress from education is one of the main objectives of the National Education Policy.

The examination should be such, that it does not put unnecessary pressure on the students. And the attempt is not to evaluate the students only through an examination, but to evaluate various aspects of the development of the students by self-assessment and Peer-to-Peer assessment. Therefore, under the National Education Policy, emphasis has been laid on Holistic report card instead of  a mark-sheet. Holistic report card will be a wide sheet of unique potential, aptitude, attitude, talent, skills, efficiency, competency and possibilities of students. A new National Assessment Center “Parakh” will also be established for the overall improvement of the evaluation system.

Friends,

Since the introduction of the National Education Policy, there has been a very strong discussion regarding the language of instruction/teaching for children? What changes are being made? Here, we need to understand it scientifically that language is the medium of education, language is not complete education. Some people who are stuck solely in bookish knowledge forget this difference. Therefore, in whatever language a child can learn easily, the same should be the language of instruction. It is important to pay attention to the fact that when we are teaching a child, is he able to understand what we are saying? How easily and comfortably is he able to grasp it? Is all the energy of the child spent only on understanding the language rather than the subject? Realizing all these things, early education is imparted to the children in the mother tongue in most countries.

Many of you would know that all of the countries with top ranking in 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment- PISA, such as Estonia, Ireland, Finland, Japan, South Korea, Poland, impart primary education in their respective mother tongues.  It is natural that the learning will be faster in the language that the children listen to at home. Otherwise when children hear something in another language, they first translate it in their own language and then understand it. This creates a great confusion in the child’s mind, it is very stressful. It has one more aspect. In our country, especially in rural areas, when the medium of instruction in school is different from the mother tongue, most of the parents are unable to connect with the childrens’ education. In such a situation, learning for children is not an easy process. Instead, the education becomes a duty of the school. A line is drawn between the parents and the school.

Therefore, under the National Education Policy, as far as possible, the local language, mother tongue, is stated as the medium of instruction for education up to at least grade five. I see that some people are confused about it. There is no restriction on learning or teaching languages other than mother tongue in the National Education Policy. It would be good if the children can read and learn all the foreign languages that are helpful on the international platform along with English. But at the same time, all Indian languages should also be promoted, so that our youth can get acquainted with the language of different states of the country and their culture. Every region will have a strong relationship with one another.

Friends,

You all.. the teachers of the country, are the pioneers of this journey of National Education. Whether it is learning in a new way, or a new exam through ‘Parakh’, the teachers have to lead the students on this new journey. Because, no matter how advanced the plane is, it is flown by a Pilot. Therefore, all the teachers also have to learn a lot of new things, as well as unlearn a lot of old things. This is our collective responsibility that when we complete 75 years of independence in 2022, every student of India shall study as per the guidelines laid down under National Education Policy. I call upon all the teachers, administrators, voluntary organizations and parents to cooperate in this national mission. I am confident that with the support of all the teachers, the country will be able to implement the National Education Policy successfully.

Before concluding, I would like to appeal through the teachers, that in the era of Corona, you also repeatedly tell others about the rules that are to be followed – be it social distancing, using masks or face cover, taking care of the elderly and the family, or cleanliness. We all have to lead this battle against the pandemic. And teachers can do it very easily. They can convey these messages easily to every household. And when a teacher speaks, the student listens with greater confidence. If you go and tell a student that the Prime Minister had said this, he would definitely question the statement but if you say that the teacher has said this, then I can certainly say with confidence that the student would never question it. He would go and spread the word of his teacher. This faith, this trust is engraved in the child’s mind. This is your greatest strength and power. And several generations associated with this field have worked extremely hard and passed it on in inheritance. And when you have inherited something, then your responsibility too increases immensely.

I am sure, the teachers of my country will carry this forward as a mission, for the bright future of India and will do it diligently. Every child of the country is ready to accept your education, follow your ideals and reflect upon your intentions. He is ready to work hard day and night. Once the teacher says it, he is ready to accept everything. I think parents, teachers and government organizations, everyone will have to work together. I am sure, since 5th of September, people from all walks of life, are constantly working to carry forward this ongoing  festival of knowledge. This effort will bring good results.. bring good results ahead of the time. And this will be achieved due to the spirit of collective duty.

With this belief, once again, thank you very much. I wish you all the very best. And I always bow down to the teachers. Today, by bowing to all of you through the virtual medium also, I conclude my speech.

Thanks a lot !!!

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