Ministry of Human Resource Development06-June, 2005 17:32 IST
National Curriculam Framework for school education—2005 Backgrounder

Curriculum designing has a special place among the diverse responsibilities envisaged in the charter of NCERT. As an apex national agency of education reform, NCERT is expected to review the school curriculum as a routine activity, ensuring the highest standards of rigour and deliberative openness in the process.  The NPE, 1986 and the PoA 1992 assign a special role to NCERT in preparing and promoting a National Curriculum Framework.  The present exercise of reviewing the NCF was initiated following the statement made by the Hon’ble Minister for Human Resource Development in the Lok Sabha that NCERT should take up such a revision.  This was followed by a decision in the Executive Committee in its meeting in July 2004 to revise the national Curriculum Framework Subsequent to this meeting a letter from Education Secretary to the Director NCERT reiterated the necessity to review the National Curriculum Framework for School Education 2000 in the light of Learning without Burden (1993).

            Accordingly, NCERT set up the National Steering Committee under the chairpersonship of Prof. Yashpal.  The National Steering Committee has 35 members, including scholars from different discipline, principals and teachers, CBSE Chairman, representatives of well known NGOs and members of the NCERT faculty.  The National Steering Committee was responsible for preparing the revised National Curriculum Framework document.  The National Steering Committee had the benefit of the position papers prepared by the 21 National Focus Groups.

            The 21 National Focus Groups, also chaired by renowned scholars and practitioners, covered the following major areas:

a)         Areas of Curricular Concern

Teaching of Sciences

Teaching Mathematics

Teaching of Indian Languages

Teaching of English

Teaching of Social Sciences

Learning and Habitat

Art, Dance, Theatre and Music

b)         Areas for systemic reform

Aims of Education

Systemic Reform for Curricular Change

Curriculum, syllabus and Textbooks

Teacher education for Curriculum Renewal

Examination reforms

Early childhood education

Work and education

Educational technology

Heritage crafts

Health and physical education

c)         National Concerns

Problems of SC/ST children

Gender issues in the curriculum

Education for groups with special needs

Each National Focus Group has had several consultations in which they have interacted with other scholars and classroom practioners in different parts of the country.

In addition to the above NCERT has had consultations with (a)  Rural Teachers, (b) Education Secretaries and Directors of NCERTs, (c) principals of Delhi-based private schools and KVS Schools. Regional Seminars were also held at NCERTs Regional Institutes of Education in Ajmer, Bhopal, Bhuvaneshwar, Mysore and Shillong.  Advertisements were placed in 28 national and regional dailies to invite suggestions from parents and other concerned members of the public. More than 1500 responses were received.

The draft National Curriculum Document (NCF) has emerged from the wide ranging deliberations of the above groups.

The salient features of the revised NCF are as follows:

Chapter 1: Perspective

It provides the historical backdrop and the rationale for undertaking the revision of the National Curriculum Framework. It discusses curricular reform efforts since Independence drawing from Gandhiji’s vision of education as a means of raising the nation’s conscience towards injustice, violence and inequality entrenched in the social order. It refers to the recommendations of the National Commission on Secondary Education, 1952-53 (Mudaliar Commission) and the Education commission, 1964-66 (Kothari Commission) and traces and development of Curriculum Framework, 1975 as also the formulation  of the National Curriculum Framework, 1988, following the adoption of the National Policy on Education in 1986. It refers to the report entitled Learning without Burden (1993), which highlighted the problems of curriculum overload which made learning a source of stress for children during their formative years.  It refers to the National Curriculum Framework for School Education introduced in 2000.

            Chapter 1 reaffirms faith in the Constitutional vision of India as a secular egalitarian and pluralistic society founded on values of social justice and equality. It proposes four guiding principles for curriculum development, namely (a) connecting knowledge to life outside the school, (b) ensuring that learning shifts away from rote methods, 9c) enriching th curriculum so that it goes beyond textbooks, (d) making examinations more flexible. It addresses the challenge of quality in a system that seeks to reach every child the exclusive triangle of equality, quality and quantity.  This chapter looks at the social context of education and the hierarchies of caste, economic status and gender relations, cultural diversity as well as uneven development that characterize Indian Society, and deeply influence access to education and participation of children in schools. It cautions against the pressures to commodify  schools and the application of market related concepts  to schools and schools quality. Finally, it discusses educational aims as deriving from the Guiding Principles. Education should aim to build a commitment to democratic values of equality, justice, freedom, concern for others’ well being, secularism, respect for human dignity and rights. It should also aim at fostering independence of thought and action, sensitivity to others’ well being and feelings, learning to learn and unlearn, ability to work for developing a social temper and inculate aesthetic appreciation.

Chapter 2: Learning and Knowledge

 The Chapter focuses on the primacy of the learner. Child centred pedagogy means giving primacy to children’s experiences, their voices and their active participation. It discusses the nature of knowledge and the need for adults to change their perceptions of the child as a passive receiver of knowledge; rather the child can be an active participant in the construction of knowledge by encouraging children to ask questions, relate what they are learning in school to things happening outside, encouraging them to answer form their own experiences and in their own words rather than by memorizing. It recognizes the need for developing an enabling and non-threatening environment, since an environment of fear, discipline and stress is detrimental to learning. Healthy physical growth is the pre-condition for development and this requires that they benefit from nutrition, physical exercise and freedom from physical discomfort. Development of self identity through the adolescent years, particularly in the case of girls who are constrained by social conventions, is an important component. This chapter emphasizes that gender, caste, class, religion and minority status or disability should not constrain participation in the experiences provided in school. It pints out that the diagnostic criteria of ‘earning disabilities’ is not well established. It is, therefore, entirely possible that learning disabilities may arise from inadequate and insufficient instruction.

            This chapter also highlights the value of interaction—with the environment, nature, things, people—to enhance learning. Learning in school regretfully continues to be teacher-dominated and the teacher is seen as transmitting knowledge-knowledge of ten being confused with information.  It points out that interaction with peers, teachers and older and younger people can open up many rich learning possibilities. Learning tasks and experiences, therefore, need to be designed to ensure that children seek out knowledge from sites other than the textbooks—from their own experiences, from experiences at home, community, from the library. Heritage sites, therefore, assume great significance as sites of learning.  The approach  to planning lessons must therefore move away from the ‘Herbartian’ lesson plan to preparing plans, activities that challenge children to think and try out what they are learning.

Chapter 3: Curricular Areas, School Stages and Assessment

 It recommends significant changes in Language, Maths, Natural Science and Social Sciences with a view to reducing stress and making education more relevant to the present day and future needs of children.  In Language, it makes a renewed attempt to implement the three-language formula with emphasis on mother tongue as the medium of instruction. India is a multi-lingual country and curriculum should  promote multilingual proficiency in every child, including proficiency in English, which will become possible only if learning builds on a sound language pedagogy of the mother tongue.  It focuses on language as an integral part of every subject, since reading, writing, listening and speech contribute to a child’s progress in all curricular areas and therefore constitute the basic of learning.

            This chapter also focuses on Mathematics and enhancing the child’s ability to think and reason, visualize and handle abstractions and formulate and solve problems. It recommends that the teaching of Science should be recast to enable children to examine and analyze everybody experiences. Environment Education should become part of every subject. In Social Sciences it recognizes disciplinary markers with emphasis on integration of significant themes, such as water. It also recommends a paradigm shift to study social sciences from the perspective of marginalized groups. It recommends that gender justice and sensitivity to tribal and dalit issues and minority sensibilities should inform  all sectors of social science. The document draws attention to four other areas, namely Art education, Health and Physical Education, Work and Education and Education for Peace. Work should be recognized as a creator of new forms of knowledge and promote the values necessary for democratic order.  Work education must link up with heritage crafts, especially in craft zones which need to be mapped, so that this important source of cultural and economic wealth can be properly harnessed through linkage with education.

Chapter 4 : School and Classroom Environment

The Chapter talks about the need for nurturing an enabling environment by bringing about suitable changes in the school and classroom environment. It revisits traditional notions of discipline and discusses the need for providing space for parents and community. It also discusses curriculum sites and learning resources, including texts and books, libraries, education technology, tools and laboratories, etc.  This chapter addresses the need for plurality  of material, as also the need for teacher autonomy and professional independence.

Chapter 5: Systemic Reforms

It covers issues of quality and the need for academic planning for monitoring of quality. It reaffirms faith in Panchayati Raj and suggests the strengthening of Panchayati Raj Institutions through systematic activity mapping of functions appropriate at relevant levels of panchayats, while simultaneously ensuring appropriate financial autonomy on the basis of the funds-must-follow-functions principle. This chapter also looks at issues of academic planning and leadership at school level to improve quality.

            Teacher education for curriculum renewal focuses on developing the professional identity of the teacher as also in-service education and training of teachers.  Examination Reforms is an important component of this chapter to reduce psychological pressure, particularly on children in class X and XII.  The NCF, therefore, recommends changing the typology of questions so that reasoning and creative abilities replace rote learning as the basis of evaluation. Finally, it encourages innovation in ideas and practice through plurality of textbooks and use of technology and recommends partnerships between the school system and other civil society groups.

The revised National Curriculum Framework is being placed before the Executive Committee and the General Council of the NCERT today and  it will be placed before the  CABE tomorrow for discussion and approval.  Suggestions derived from deliberations will be presented to the National Steering Committee for incorporation.


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