The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) is a significant document which provides a roadmap for the education of children in India, which includes multiple educative approaches and learning teaching material for different stages of school education. The framework emphasizes the importance of including values and their “rootedness” in India, including content, language learning, academic approaches, philosophical basis, aims and, an epistemic approach. This policy update gives an overview of the contents of the NCF throughout the years since it was first established in 1975.
There were several changes brought about in the curriculum over the years and the National Education Policy, 2020 brought about drastic changes as a result of which NCF 2022 was formulated. The overarching objective of this NCF is to help in positively transforming the school education system of India as envisioned in NEP 2020, through corresponding positive changes in the curriculum including pedagogy. How the state would achieve the ideals of the NCF 2022 is for us to see in the forthcoming years.
The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) formulated the NCF. The NCF was introduced in 1975 and revised in 2005, intending to provide a flexible framework that allows teachers and schools to select and plan the experiences they believe children should have. The major recommendations of NCF-2005 regarding elementary education can be summarized as follows:
i) Reducing the curriculum load based on insights provided in ‘Learning Without Burden.’
ii) Ensuring a quality education for all children.
iii) Creating an inclusive classroom environment that caters to the needs of all students.
iv) Promoting learner engagement to foster knowledge construction and creativity.
v) Encouraging active learning through experiential methods.
vi) Incorporating local knowledge and children’s experiences into textbooks and teaching practices.
vii) Highlighting the importance of language skills and implementing the three-language formula, giving significance to children’s home language(s) or mother tongue(s) as the primary medium of instruction, including tribal languages. English should be taught alongside other Indian languages.
viii) Ensuring every child has access to quality Mathematics education.
ix) Engaging students in science teaching that nurtures their curiosity and creativity, especially regarding environmental issues.
x) Infusing environmental awareness throughout the entire school curriculum.
xi) Shifting the focus of social science content from rote memorization of facts to conceptual understanding, fostering independent thinking and critical reflection on social issues.
xii) Promoting ‘peace-oriented’ values in all subjects through relevant activities.
xiv) Recognizing the importance of health and physical education for holistic learner development.
xv) Emphasizing the pursuit of environmental education.
The National Education Policy, 2020, brought about a drastic change in the Indian education system. A lot of changes were brought about in the NCF as well. Therefore the government came up with a revised version of NCF in 2022. According to NEP, 2020 the following four NCFs will be developed: National Curriculum Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCFECCE); National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFSE); National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE); and National Curriculum Framework for Adult Education (NCFAE).
In this regard, a comprehensive strategy has been worked out jointly by the Ministry of Education (MoE) and NCERT. As per this strategy, at the State level- all states/UTs will first prepare their State Curriculum Frameworks (SCFs) passing through the process of district-level consultations, mobile app surveys and development of position papers by the State Focus Groups in 25 areas/themes identified as per the NEP, 2020 including ECCE, Teacher Education and Adult Education.
These draft SCFs will provide inputs to the development of NCFs. States/UTs and Autonomous organizations working under MoE, all will attempt this process to provide inputs for the NCFs. Recommendations of NEP, 2020 will be kept in view during the whole process. The NCF 2023 came with almost similar recommendations as NEP 2020 with slight changes.
The evaluation of the NCF’s performance up to 2023 can be summarized as follows:
i) The development of the NCF involved a collaborative and extensive process led by the National Steering Committee (NSC), the Ministry of Education, and the NCERT. This inclusive process capitalized on the diverse educational landscape of the country. It began with the establishment of State Focus Groups by States and Union Territories (UTs), comprising over 4000 experts.
These groups generated Position Papers on 25 themes relevant to the NCF, resulting in the submission of more than 500 papers from 32 States and UTs. Simultaneously, 25 National Focus Groups with a national perspective also contributed Position Papers on the same themes. Furthermore, District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) from across the country submitted over 1550 District Consultation Reports (DCR).
ii) A mobile survey was conducted to gather input from teachers and educationists, with 1,31,000 participants sharing their views.
iii) Consultation meetings were organized with various Ministries of the Government of India to comprehend their vision and the role of education in realizing it. NGOs and other on-the-ground institutions shared their experiences and suggestions.
iv) Seminars were held in universities to gather input from scholars regarding their expectations of school education. Open consultations were also conducted with different groups, including teachers, parents, and students.
v) The Digital Survey for National Curriculum (DiSaNC) was launched, featuring 100 questions across various categories, to obtain input from Indian citizens. So far, over 10 lakh interested citizens, including parents and students, have contributed their insights.
vi) The NSC devised a well-structured process to analyze and synthesize all the received inputs, leading to the development of the NCF. This NCF is the result of an inclusive process involving teachers, parents, relevant government departments at the state level, administrators, schools, NGOs working in education and related fields, educationists, scholars from various disciplines, and other citizens of India.
The NCF has aimed to create a widespread impact on school education through the following strategies. It is goal-directed. The entire approach is driven by the curricular goals which are derived from the aims; these tie everything together and are center stage. NCF is practice enabled. It attempts to convert and distill matters to practice which is where education happens or doesn’t. It is also educationally valid i.e., it is based on sound research, experience, and accumulated knowledge in India and across the world. The NCF also improves the engagement of the students. Education must be made interesting and exciting for both the children and teachers. NCF is Improvement driven.
It seeks to change things on the ground within practical constraints and limitations and keep moving forward. More interestingly, NCF embraces diversity. India’s diversity in all its forms must not only be addressed but should also become a resource for learning. It also contains mutually reinforcing elements: All dimensions mentioned above are mutually reinforcing; as are the curricular goals, content, pedagogy, school culture and practices, assessment and evaluation.
With the coming in of the new curriculum the educational system needs several changes. However the NCERT’s attempt to bring in changes in the syllabus has not been acceptable by everyone positively. There arose many disagreements among teachers as well regarding the dropping off many important topics from the curriculum.
The NCF puts forth several recommendations that aim to improve the education system. Firstly, it suggests eliminating examinations until class 2. Instead, assessments should be based on observation and analysis of the artifacts produced in the child’s learning environment. However, implementing this vision poses challenges, particularly in government schools located in remote areas with limited resources and an imbalanced student-teacher ratio.
Additionally, the effective use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in teaching becomes impractical due to economic constraints faced by a significant number of students from impoverished backgrounds in remote regions. Moreover, the lack of internet connectivity further hinders the integration of multimedia and ICT, which are valuable tools for interactive learning experiences.
To ensure equitable and high-quality education, it is desirable to establish a common school system that guarantees consistent standards across different regions. The presence of students from diverse backgrounds studying together can enhance the overall learning experience and enrich the school environment.
To reduce stress and promote success in examinations, the NCF suggests shifting the focus from content-based testing to the development of problem-solving skills and a deeper understanding of concepts. This shift in assessment methods would foster a more holistic approach to education.
At the National level, NCERT will survey MyGov Portal and get feedback from diverse stakeholders on the issues related to curriculum implementation. NCERT will also conduct 2-3 district-level consultations in each of the states/UTs for collecting feedback from the grassroots level. Analyzing inputs received from the district-level consultations, and state and national-level surveys on the MyGov portal, National Focus Groups will prepare 25 position papers in the identified areas.
Drawing insights from these position papers and draft SCFs, four NCFs will be prepared. The whole process will be done using a paperless approach including consultations and preparation of reports at all levels using a Tech platform specially designed for the purpose. Given this, a comprehensive Tech Platform will be developed by the NCERT and NIC, MoE. On this platform, all the states/UTs will be provided with e-templates for consultations, surveys, position papers, etc., and will continuously be supported by the nodal officers nominated at the central level.
jStates will also nominate their nodal officers for the smooth and speedy flow of this process. Draft NCFs will be translated into 22 languages given in the VIII schedule of the Constitution and shared with the states/UTs for their comments. Taking care of their comments, the NCFs will be given final shape and will be placed before the Ministry of Education for the approval processes. After approval, the documents will be disseminated to states/UTs for revising the draft SCFs and also for the implementation of NCFs. Given the vast population and retarded procedural aspects of policy-making it is a matter of time to see whether the NCF has become a reality or is still a far-fetched dream.
1) National Curriculum Framework for Foundation Stage, 2022 https://ncf.ncert.gov.in/#/web/about?tab=ncf
2) National Curriculum Framework, 2023 for School Education.
3) Sanjay Sharma; TOI Education; NCF 2023, No exam for classes up to 2, introduction of semesters for class 12 recommended. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/education/news/ncf-2023-no-exam-for-cla uses-up-to-2-introduction-of-semester-for-class-12-recommended/articleshow /99372622.cms
4) Nayana Sharma; Alterations brought in by the National Education Policy through the National Curriculum Framework. https://www.impriindia.com/insights/national-education-policy/
Acknowledgement: Author would like to thank Vaishali, Mehak, Zubiya and Ronak for their kind comments and suggestions to improve the article.
Aishwarya Dutta is a Research Intern at IMPRI.