The National Curriculum Framework and School Education: Some insights

Divya Sharma

NEP 2020 has presented a new horizon to the Indian education system. A totally revamped curricular and pedagogical structure of 5+3+3+4 proposed by NEP 2020 has put policymakers and curriculum designers across India to work. The best minds of India have rolled out two major frameworks to realize the vision of NEP 2020.

The National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage (NCF-FS) released in October 2022 has proposed an integrated approach to Early Childhood Care and Education for children between the ages of 3 and 8. It has also proposed pathways for achieving foundational literacy and numeracy by adopting age-appropriate strategies and defining play as the core curricular approach for curriculum transaction.

The recent pre-draft release of the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCF-SE) on April 6, 2023 has put forth yet another comprehensive document in the public domain for discussion and comments. It is enormous, elaborate, and has commented on each and every perspective of school education. It has put forth many restructuring suggestions with recommendations to embrace contemporary approaches to pedagogy and assessment.

The draft entails exhaustive recommendations for all the three stages of school education – preparatory, middle, and secondary – along with the intricacies involved. This article presents a brief overview of the pedagogical and assessment process proposed in NCF-SE and the subsequent challenges that may arise during its implementation.

Play pedagogy and self-paced evaluation for preparatory stage
The preparatory stage curriculum includes grades 3, 4, and 5. The proposed curricular areas of language, mathematics, arts, physical education, and the world around us are almost similar to what already exists. The proposed pedagogies for this stage are activity based and discovery-based learning. These pedagogies will be supported with self-paced individual work and homework. The prevailing competency-based syllabus prescribes activity-based learning and teachers are equipped to handle this change, but they may need to acquire competencies to deal with the self-paced instructions. The proposed assessment process for the preparatory stage is observation and formal written examination in the form of summative and formative assessments. The teachers will be evaluating students as per their competencies and this does not show a major shift from the existing structure of evaluation. A comprehensive summative assessment at the end of the preparatory stage is proposed to evaluate the readiness of the preparatory stage students to enter the middle stage. This is a major shift from what exists now since in the present system evaluation pattern is institutional and it only tests achievement for the given class and not the readiness level for the next stage. This summative assessment may require a ground level planning to ensure conduct of valid and reliable examination. This appears to be a strong recommendation looking at the declining achievement levels of the students and their poor performance in international examinations.

Exploratory and inquiry-based pedagogy with comprehensive assessment for middle stage
The middle stage comprises grades 6, 7, and 8. The sciences and social sciences will now be added in the curriculum along with other subjects. The proposed pedagogy for this stage includes direct instruction with ample opportunities for exploration and inquiry. NCF-SE has proposed a formal and unambiguous assessment process in the form of written examination for the middle stage. The regular summative assessments are to be taken at appropriate intervals like at the end of each unit, each term, and year. The format for written examination can be in the form of multiple-choice questions, short answer, and long answer. A comprehensive summative assessment at the end of the middle stage is proposed that can measure not only the competencies acquired but also indicate interest in specific curricular areas that students may have demonstrated. There is no major deviation in the curriculum structure, transaction, and evaluation during the middle years. A major shift is observed in the summative assessments, which aim to measure interest and competencies. Teachers will be required to gear themselves to develop and train in evidence-based pedagogies and ensure accumulation of ample evidences during the course of teaching.

Student based self-assessment monitoring for secondary stage
The secondary stage includes grades 9, 10, 11, and 12. NCF-SE proposes three broad curricular areas of science, social science, and humanities for grades 9 and 10 and eight curricular areas (humanities, mathematics and computing, vocational education, physical education, arts education, social science, science, and interdisciplinary areas). Students will have to select two essential courses (a total of 16 courses) from each curricular area for a grade 10 certification. These courses are expected to give the necessary understanding and capacities to the students. The same set of eight curricular areas will continue to be offered for grades 11 and 12 but here the choice-based courses will be designed based on the disciplines within the curricular areas to ensure deeper engagement. This phase will be divided into semesters and students will be required to complete 16 choice-based courses in each semester. The students will also be required to choose disciplines from at least three curricular areas and a total of 16 courses in each semester.

No.Curricular AreaDisciplines
1HumanitiesLanguage, Literature, Philosophy
2Social ScienceHistory, Geography, Political Science, Psychology, Economics, Sociology
3SciencePhysics, Chemistry, Biology
4Mathematics & ComputingMathematics, Computer Science, Business Mathematics
5ArtsMusic, Dance, Theatre, Sculpture, Painting, Film appreciation, Scriptwriting, Set design
6Vocational educationAligned to National Skill Qualification Framework
7SportsCourse on specific sports/games/yoga
8Inter-disciplinary AreasCommerce, Sustainability and Climate Change (Environmental Education), Health (Public community health), Media and Journalism, Family and Community Science, Knowledge of India, Indian Knowledge System, Legal Studies etc.

A comprehensive classroom assessment to record students’ learning against competencies is recommended. A student based self-assessment monitoring system supported with feedback has been proposed to measure learning trajectory. The role of the feedback system will be to adjust, adopt, and decide strategies for learning. This recommendation will require detailed guidelines and specifications for competencies and outcomes. Summative assessment will include formative examination including case-based questions, simulations, and essay-type questions for assessment of acquired competencies. Two board examinations a year and other tests have been retained. The purpose of the board examination will be to assess the achievement of competencies and to allow the students to choose from the options available for higher education and livelihood opportunities.

A shift from memory-based assessment to competency-based assessment
NEP 2020 proposed a shift from memory-based assessments to competency-based assessments that will evaluate higher order skills such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity. NCF-SE proposes a new examination system which will focus not only on the level of acquisition of competency but also conduct a comprehensive evaluation for vertical movement from one grade to another. A disconnect between the curriculum development body and examination body is recommended. This recommendation might require extensive preparations and adequate arrangements for developing and designing fair, reliable, and valid testing instruments for students across the nation. The board examination is proposed twice a year and students will be free to write examinations in courses they are ready in. It is recommended to develop a comprehensive test bank through which tests can be developed using suitable software.

A lot of detailed work and planning at the grassroots level will be necessary to realize the recommendations of NEP 2020. Some of the recommendations will require further brainstorming for fine-tuning and alignment with the available resources in schools. The competencies of teachers in schools will be required to be enhanced not only in training rooms but also in the classrooms.

Finally, the question that arises is whether the education fraternity is ready to take what is being offered. The implementation of these recommendations will require elaborate preparations and extensive provisions right from the national level to the institutional level. The implementing bodies and agencies involved in making specific arrangements, preparations, and provisions have to work with detailed planning and minute precision to open the road to implementation of national curriculum framework in its true essence.

National Curriculum Framework for School Education 2023, National Steering Committee for National Curriculum Framework, NCERT (Pre-Draft released on April 6, 2023)

The author works at Indian Institute of Teacher Education, IITE, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. She can be reached at

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