NCERT is in the process of becoming the Institution of National Importance which will empower it to be more flexible and offer degree courses says Prof Parvin Sinclair, Director, National Council of Educational Research & Training (NCERT) in conversation with Mohd Ujaley
NCERT was established in 1961 in the backdrop of school system struggling to disengage from its elitist colonial past and create common programme which is universally accessible and reflect the pluralist character of India. How successful has NCERT been so far?
NCERT was formed in 1961 by merging seven bodies that already existed, so our agenda was determined largely by the objectives of those seven bodies. Initially, we were called the research and training body. Our job from the beginning was to look at all aspects of school education, from inside activity of classrooms to outside implications of it. So there have been four curriculum frameworks formed over the years as part of meeting these objectives.
Over the years we were supporting the Government in providing the universal education which was always there as Universalised elementary education scheme but without it being formalised or pushed through like in RTE. However, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and before that Diploma in Primary Education (DPE), we were all working towards this.
Jawaharlal Nehru vision was that everyone should have a scientific tempo. So accordingly all curricular were meant for bringing everybody to class room. However, we agree that ground realities are different. Since we are National Advisory Body under Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), the central body can only advice the State Government as education is the concurrent subject. So what we proposed can be taken with a complete spirit or partly or may be not at all by states, that is why the RTE came into being and you can see the great changes it has brought in the last three years. Moreover now under the act, everyone has to deliver, although we have not reached 100 percent access, but we are much nearer there than three years ago and a short way to go still in terms of access.
In terms of quality we are far short of that, yes we have put out curricular framework, suggested model test books, and have created model resources at the NCERT for the country, be it educational kits, the science kits, the mathematics kits and the CCE (Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation) package. I feel, we should probably have done it in 2006, what we have put out now and we have send it to every SCERT (The State Council Educational Research and Training) to take forward.
Some of the States s are not able to implement some of the provisions of RTE due to various reasonable reasons and they complain that the diversity of regions have not been taken into account? How do you look at it?
There is a lot of levy given in the RTE, it’s just a broad guideline for all the states, for example it says that you need a rap then the rap does not give you access to the differently abled students. A lot of things which are said are not happening and things that are not said are actually happening. It is just the spirit of it. You talk about playground, I say that share it with the nearby schools. Toilets and water are the basic needs of a school and if you are not providing it then how can you call it a school. If you are shoving people in to 2/5 area with just a black board and you call it a school and still you say do not shut it down. I believe these are slum schools which you are giving and you are saying that this is the way out then I don’t agree to it.
Creation of climate of acceptance and thinking differently for different sects of people is very important. Does that also get reflected in the NCERT vision?
The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 absolutely ensures that each individual level is going to each child which is given opportunity to grow based on her experience. That is what, it is about and that is why it is difficult to bring to the classroom because each has a different back ground. Curriculum is not about reading writing and assessment that is an old colonial view. It’s about growing as a person, how to care about others and bringing values to people, building the health mental as well as physical, allowing them to work on cultural and social front. Making people learn how to share with others and being included and including others. Be it a girl child or the boy child, they should get equal opportunities and should be confident about it and that is my NCF 2005 vision, so definitely diversity gets reflected in our vision.
How have been your focus in helping and assisting Madarsa and Maktab and other linguistic and religious minority intuitions in reforming their curriculum?
As I earlier mentioned, education is a concurrent subject, so role of state governments become very important in assisting Madarsa and Maktab and other linguistic and religious minority intuitions. We provide a curriculum and it depends on the Madarsa groups also to take it or not, but what we have found in our studies that the Madarsas are actually going beyond the religious text books and getting involved in modern education. The Madarsas are now teaching basics of computers and even English.
Most of us are talking about ICT to the extent that ICT itself has become a subject, however, it should be enabling students to learn other main stream subjects easily and effectively. What should be the role of ICT in your opinion?
Precisely, what you have mentioned that it should be enabler. ICT is not just power point presentation, it is beyond that. We have started a project called NROER (The National Repository of Open Education Resources) and the idea is to allow children to see from the repository of NROER. People can add to these resources which will be review before being put to NROER, so by that way teachers are enabled to create what is actually needed. That is what the role of ICT should be.
What are some of the works which you are doing at NCERT and what are your future plans?
At present we are in the process of becoming the Institution of National Importance which requires the Parliament clearance so we are in the process of getting that bill drafted. The reason for that there is so many plans that requires flexibility. NCERT is a club of eight big institutes like National Institute of Education, Central Institute of Education and Technology and apart from these we have five regional institute of education plus we have the Central Institute of Vocational Education so totally we are eight. NCERT is the council overarching body which looks after these institutes. So if this conglomerate becomes the intuition of national importance, you can imagine the kind of empowerment which all the regions will get. So this is one plan we are working on right and there are other areas also where we are focusing and hope to do bring good results.