The goal of the Indian federal government's initiative to ensure that every Grade 3 child has foundational literacy and numeracy within five years, that was rolled out on 5 July, has been pushed back by two years.
The National Education Policy, unveiled in 2020, had set the target of National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN Bharat) as 2025. The goal has now been delayed given that COVID-19 has already disrupted two academic years.
The programme's vision is to create a positive environment to ensure universal acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy, so that every child achieves the desired learning competencies in reading, writing, and arithmetic by the end of Grade 3, by 2026-27, an official statement from the Education Ministry said.
Launch of 'National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy' under National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy #NIPUNBharat @DrRPNishank @DselEduMinistry @AICTE_INDIA @PIBHRD @niostwit @KVS_HQ @cbseindia29 https://t.co/6waFYW1qOX— Sanjay Dhotre (@SanjayDhotreMP) July 5, 2021
Foundational literacy and numeracy is among the series of the measures taken to implement the National Education Policy 2020. A five-tier implementation mechanism is being set up within the country at the national, state, district, block, and school levels for the purpose.
NIPUN is likely to focus on setting goals and accountability of state governments besides providing guidelines for teacher training, assessment, and the creation of printed resources.
#NIPUNBharat, a National Mission on Foundational Literacy & Numeracy, will ensure that every child has an equal opportunity for success & improve their life outcomes. Equipping children with the basic foundational skills is the only way we can fight learning poverty in India. pic.twitter.com/MzHN1edJbn— Sanjay Dhotre (@SanjayDhotreMP) July 5, 2021
Rukmani Banerji, CEO of the Pratham Education Foundation, that provided feedback on the federal government's draft plan of the project, said that it requires a "mindset change".
"As of now the goal has been mainly to enroll children in school and ensuring they complete studies until Grade 10. The NIPUN mission specifies statewide learning goals to ensure that students are acquiring the necessary building blocks".
Pratham's Annual Status of Education Report found in 2018 that less than 30% of Class 3 students could read at Class 2 level or do double digit subtraction. It was suggested that bringing about "a changed mindset would require changes in curriculum, teacher training, assessment, and messaging to parents such as comprehensive report cards".
The closure of schools during the pandemic has vastly disrupted the education of children, especially those in the younger age group, who were unable to receive a proper introduction into the education system due to the schools being shuttered.
"Most of the five years old have got no background to school nor do they have real time experience in learning. They have begun their education in an online mode which is not as effective as learning in classes with peers", Ratika Arora, a primary class teacher in the Union Territory of Chandigarh told Sputnik.
Given that schools, especially for children below 8 years of age, are likely to remain closed at least until the next academic session, experts have suggested that when schools reopen there be a focus on school readiness activities rather than going straignt to a traditional curriculum.