Decoding NCF: Understanding the National Curriculum Framework

April 10, 2024 | By: Extramarks

What is NCF national curriculum framework?

The role of education is to prepare a child for life in the real world. Even though it is said that change is the only constant, the world takes a large leap every few years. Internet, technological advances, and the pandemic recently caused the world to take that leap. As the world adapts and evolves to the new, the education system must reflect it. An outdated and generic curriculum fails to serve this purpose.

The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) provides a standard structure applicable across India that can be used as a ready reckoner by schools and education boards to design syllabi, teaching objectives, textbooks, and lesson plans.

What is the National Curriculum Framework?

The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) is a detailed document developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in keeping with the National Education Policy (NEP). The Ministry of Education sets down the goals and objectives for the education system through the NEP. The NCF is a document that outlines the approach to realise this vision. Additionally, The NCERT has the job of reviewing the NCF at regular intervals to ensure it is updated and in line with the NEP. 

What is National Education Policy 2020?

Announced in July 2020, the National Education Policy emphasises the need for the Indian education system to align with the modern-day requirements of the 21st century. With the focus on integrating fundamentals of the Indian educational system with new-age learning, it stresses the importance of developing critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity in the students. It builds on the need for interdisciplinary application of concepts to understand and solve problems instead of rote learning and memorisation. It further advocates utilising technology and learning through play or projects to enhance individual skill development and value cultivation. 

Another big way that NEP 2020 differs from its predecessors is the shift from the past 10+2 model to a 5+3+3+4 structure. The 10+2 model covered classes 1 – 12 for students aged 6-18, while the new 5+3+3+4 structure covers pre-school or kindergarten to class 12 for students aged 3-18. This brings the preparatory years of early childhood also into the fold under the purview of NCF and sets a uniform code for concept building. 

Both NEP 2020 and NCF 2023 work in tandem to enrich the student experience and provide them with an equitable and quality education that assists them in value creation and skill development.

The common question that arises here is: Are NEP 2020 and NCF 2023 the same? The simple answer is No. NEP 2020 sets the agenda for a progressive education system in India, while NCF 2023 provides the roadmap to execute this mission.

History of National Curriculum Framework   

The National Curriculum Framework is not a new concept. The first NCF was released in 1975 in line with the National Education Policy and subsequently with different updations in 1988, 2000 and 2005 before its current, updated, revised version in 2023.

Additionally, separate guidelines for early childhood education and care were released in 2014, and those for teacher training and education in 1988, 1998, and 2009.

In its recent release, the NCF 2023 includes a framework for all four aspects of education, namely

  1. National Curriculum Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCFECCE)
  2. National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFSE)
  3. National Curriculum Framework for Adult Education (NCFAE)
  4. National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE)

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Why National Curriculum Framework?

Every vision needs a roadmap that can translate it into ground reality. It is only when the vision can be realised does it stands to achieve its goals. The NCF 2023 plays a pivotal role in implementing the education system envisioned by the NEP 2020, one that prepares students for the 21st century. 

NCF 2023 outlines and defines the goals and ways to achieve those goals. It informs the education boards, schools and teachers on

  • Objectives of learning: The age-appropriate aim of education for each stage.
  • Key areas of learning: Aspects covered include languages, values, subjects, skills, etc.
  • Standards of learning: Targeted outcome.
  • Teaching-learning methods: The modes of instruction—play, project based learning, classroom teaching, etc.; teaching material such as supplementary reading, worksheets, etc.; and the use of technology.
  • Standards for content: Learning targets and what needs to be included in lesson plans.
  • Evaluation and assessments: How will the students be assessed – projects, exams, ideas presented, class participation, etc.
  • Teacher training and education: Ensuring teacher skill updation and preparedness with tools outlined to be used.
  • Other areas: Other components of education such as community work, local partnerships, sports and arts programs, etc.

The key areas of emphasis in the NCF 2023 are foundational learning, critical thinking, learning based on experience, interdisciplinary learning, multilingual education, skill development, vocational learning, and creativity. It stresses a learner-centric, technology-aided, inclusive, and flexible approach to education.

What are the Objectives of NCF 2023? 

What are the objectives of NCF 2023?

Listed below are the key objectives based on which the NCF 2023 lays down the curriculum guidelines:

  • Modernising The Indian Education System: Striking a balance between the traditional education system and concepts and real-world applicability is one of the main focuses of NCF 2023.
  • Changes to Curriculum: Developing a new curriculum that balances the knowledge rooted in Indian culture, arts and language with that of evolving technology and interdisciplinary understanding.
  • Targeting Realistic Changes: Giving a well-defined road map that helps all stakeholders transition from one system to another structure with little disruption.
  • Specifying Stakeholders Duties: Part of a good roadmap is to clearly define the part each stakeholder plays. The document identifies roles, responsibilities and timelines for different stakeholders during this transition.
  • Emphasis on Teachers: Teacher training, and access to the right tools remains the main focus for the NCF 2023. Teachers are the main link that will enable and help deliver this new approach.
  • Innovating for The Better: Keeping pace with changing times, education objectives are embracing innovative thinking and creativity by imparting not just academic concepts but also knowledge that becomes useable to students in different aspects of their lives. 

A glance at the key highlights of the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 

  1. The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2023 is developed based on the vision of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and aims to transform school education in India. 
  1. It addresses еducation needs of ages between 3 – 18 years and covеring diverse institutions across the country. The NCF adopts a holistic approach for the transformation of the curriculum through school еnvironmеnt, pеdagogy, and culturе to improve the overall learning еxpеriеncе for students. 
  1. The NCF lays down goals of education, grade structure, guiding principles, and еlеmеnts for dеvеloping curriculum, syllabus, assessment techniques and tеaching-lеarning materials by boards, schools and teachers.
  1. The NCF is developed keeping teachers at the centre of the desired change. It recognises their crucial role in implementing and executing NEP’s vision. It emphasises the importance of creating a supportive ecosystem, including adequate infrastructure, resources, and academic and administrativе functions for the implementation of the curriculum. It further highlights the role of parents and the community in nurturing students into well-rounded individuals.
  1. It is crafted to be in a way that is easily rеlatablе, usablе, and understandable by all practitionеrs of the еducation system, including school leaders, functionaries and tеachеrs. It adopts a presentation style and structure uniting real-life examples to illustrate various contexts making the document detailed, specific and easy to grasp and use.
  1. The NCF 2023 strikes a balance between being rooted in the Indian context at the same time provides universal applicability of education. It lays great stress on the nееd of a student-centred learning approach that promotes their holistic dеvеlopmеnt and prepares them for life after school. It also highlights the importance of an inclusive and flexible еducation system that addresses the diverse interests and specific needs of the students.
  1. Another big focus of NCF is to address the increasingly common fear of mathеmatics in students through interactive and innovative tеaching and assessing mеthods. Following the interdisciplinary theme, Mathеmatics will also be intеrconnеctеd with other subjеcts to build concepts and drive home its importance. India’s rich history in mathеmatics and sciеncе will also be brought into the curriculum.
  1. NCF gives the roadmap for the adoption of the 5+3+3+4 structure of school еducation, in line with NEP 2020 as opposed to the earlier 10+2 system.
    • Foundational Stagе – 5 years. Ages 3-8 years. Includes 3 years of prе-school / Anganwadi / kindergarten + 2 years of primary school in Gradеs 1 and 2.
    • Prеparatory Stagе – 3 years. Ages 8 – 11. Includes grades 3-5 of primary school.
    • Middlе Stagе – 3 years. Ages 11 – 14. Covers grades 6-8 of middle school.
    • Sеcondary Stagе – 4 years. Ages 14 – 18. Includes previously segregated secondary and senior secondary stages with grades 9-10 and 11-12.
  1. NCF lays down the progression in modes of learning and injury for each of the 4 stages in the 5+3+3+4 structure. Play and exploration for the foundational stage with a progressively increasing proportion of specialised methods introduced to develop a deeper understanding of subjects like mathematics, science, social science, arts, etc. Brain development and stages of the cognitive, emotional, and intellectual development of a child influence content selection, pedagogy and assessment methods. (Emphasising the role of natural learning, play-based learning aids perceptual and practical understanding of concepts. With age, students develop the power of observation, motor skills and learning through the analysis of information. Theoretical lessons would then add to the learning by deepening the specific understanding of the subject.)
  1.   An interdisciplinary approach has been laid down to teach social sciences for grades 6 – 8. Under this approach, subjects like history, geography, political science and economics will be covered in relation to a single event or theme. Where required related disciplines such as philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and psychology would also be included. The curriculum provides fair flexibility in choosing the themes and content with 20% weightage assigned to local content, 30% to regional, 30% to national and another 20% to global topics. Starting Class 9  the subjects will be taught as separate disciplines to enhance the depth of knowledge.
  1.   The NEP 2020 lays down a 3 language mandate for multilingual fluency stressing the cause of regional and Indian languages. The NCF 2023 introduces a third language requirement to be taught and learnt in schools. The students will now be required to pursue three languages with a different curriculum focus on literacy and proficiency levels for each language. The curriculum defines goals, learning outcomes and competencies for each language as per stages of education (Preparatory, Middle and Secondary). Besides developing writing, comprehension, and vocabulary proficiencies in the languages there is also an emphasis on appreciating the literary heritage of Indian languages. Classes 11 – 12 will pursue 2 languages, one of which must be taught in depth at the ‘literature level’ under the NCF 2023 guidelines.
    •   R1 – Language 1, usually the mother tongue, to be the mеdium of instruction to build reading and writing proficiency in students by grade 3.
    •   R2 – Language 2, any other language, including English with the aim of building reading and writing fluency in students by grade 6
    •   R3 – Language 3, any other language apart from R1 or R2 with the target of literacy by grade 9.
  1.   The NCF 2023 moves away from rote learning and memorisation emphasis of the broad exams. There is an attempt to reduce the pressure of a single chance of performance on the student at the same time improve the quality of assessment to test the high-level thinking skills of students. Curriculum design and assessment design will be bifurcated into specialised verticals with trained test development personnel ensuring quality assessment frameworks and high-quality questions for exam design. Other key changes around boards include
    •   Increased flexibility with the board exams being offered twice a year. The higher score of the two will automatically be selected as final.
    •   Board exam will test subject understanding and curriculum-defined competencies
    •   Subjects will be clubbed into 4 groups from class 6 onwards. The same 9 subjects with the addition of Environmental education covering public environment issues will be taught in the secondary stage for classes 9 – 10.
      • Group 1 – Languages
      • Group 2 – Art education / Physical education & well-being / Vocational Education
      • Group 3 – Social Sciences / Interdisciplinary area
      • Group 4 – Mathematics & computational thinking / Sciences
    • Class 10 board exams will test all ten subject areas. Subjects from group 2, due to their practical nature will be assessed through board-certified local assessments.
    • Class 11 – 12 students will have the flexibility to choose subjects based on the width and depth of their interest, without restriction of a stream. More subjects and specific topics will be made available through a semester system.
    • Class 12 board exams will test at least 2 languages and 4 exams in chosen subjects from at least 2 of the groups
  1.   A staggered timeline to realise the vision of NEP 2020 in regard to subject choices for classes 11 – 12 has been set by the NCF 2023.
    • At the rollout of the NCF 2023, schools and boards are mandated to cover two languages for learning and testing, one of which must be an Indian language.
    • At the rollout of NCF 2023, schools and boards will offer subjects from at least two of the three listed groups (groups 2,3 & 4) not including group 1 for languages. Within 5 years they will offer subjects across all 4 groups, and in 10 years they will offer ALL listed subjects across all 4 groups
    • In 10 years, all schools are mandated to shift to a single Secondary stage (class 9 – 12) offering choice and flexibility currently available to classes 11 – 12
    • With 10 years boards will also introduce certificate credits via smaller modular exams focusing immediate testing on completing a course

Strategies for Implementing National Curriculum Framework

The implementation of the extensive NCF 2023 rests on 4 key strategies:

  • Pedagogical Development: With detailed and defined objectives for each learning stage, the NCF has set a clear agenda for pedagogical development. The methods of the teaching-learning practice will need to be carefully studied, screened and applied as per the needs, objectives and syllabus of each of the 4 stages (Foundational, preparatory, middle and secondary)
  • Personalised Learning: In addition to pedagogical development, the emphasis on a student-centred learning approach necessitates the introduction of unconventional teaching-learning methods that help personalise education for each student taking into account their interests, strengths, pace, weak areas and styles of learning. The one-size-fits-all approach of traditional teaching has been done away with.
  • Optimisation Of Digital Technology: Digital technology and smart edtech has been one of the biggest game changers in the field of education. Leveraging technology optimally will make this transition an easy one. Smart edtech like Extramarks can assist teachers with customised pedagogical approaches in keeping with the revised curricula as well as provide tools for personalised learning, meaningful assessment design and much more.
  • Professional Development Of Teachers: Teachers have the most pivotal role in the implementation of NCF 2023. All the planning and execution rests on them to be delivered to the students. It goes without saying that boards and school leaders will need to provide teachers with robust infrastructure and support to deliver quality teaching. With changing curricula, the introduction of digital technology, and newer pedagogical methods teachers need to be both qualified and competent. The NCF 2023 covers this under the section of the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE). The core aim of NCFTE is the development and training of teachers to facilitate value-based instruction and meaningful classroom experiences for students.

Impact of NCF 

At the overarching level, the NCF 2023 is aimed at improving the quality of student learning, knowledge acquisition and applicability, as well as increasing equity and access to education, the  immediate impact of the NCF will be most visible through: 

  • Curriculum: The curriculum will see a revision across the board from pre-school levels to grade 12. With alterations in the objectives of education per stage, a renewed focus on languages and an interdisciplinary approach that drives a deeper understanding of concepts, the curriculum will see a marked shift from previous years.
  • Pedagogy: The emphasis on a student-centric learning approach, widespread adoption of digital technology and guided ratios of play and activity-based learning for each learning stage will drive a visible change in the pedagogy selection.
  • Assessment Practices: With a focus on deeper understanding over memorisation and a specialised assessment vertical trained to design quality assessments that test students on their knowledge and application will go beyond the current approach of reproduction of information. With a more holistic emphasis on problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity, assessments and the way they are marked will be an area of primary impact.

Comparing National Curriculum Framework 2023 With NCF 2005

With a total change in how the world functions in nearly two decades between the two NCFs (NCF 2005 & NCF 2023) their key differences lie in the use of technology, pedagogy, access to information and wider exposure of students. Hybrid methods that support a more holistic teaching-learning process and the fast-emerging unconventional learning methods that make education more about the student are key features of the NCF 2023.

While both the NCFs put the learner at the centre, NCF 2005 concerned itself more with creating the right conditions to enable knowledge among students and foster an independent view of the future. NCF 2023 attempts to keep the context of the past while guiding the skills for a developed future. The distinction is exemplified in a comparison of two lines from the two documents – “The NCF 2023 seeks to foster in students a true rootedness and pride in India with a forward-looking spirit to continuously improve as a nation”,  while NCF 2005 stated the need of an epistemological shift … to accommodate the multiple ways of imagining the Indian nation”

Relevance is established and maintained through the process of regular reviews, adaptations and updations. Education also benefits from this principle. Education can only move forward when you put the student, their well-being and their knowledge at the centre of it. The NCF 2023 might seem like a seismic shift in the Indian education system, but it is a step in the right direction. A well-defined goal with a detailed roadmap provides a great starting point to nurture and build the future decision-makers of our country.

Last Updated on May 13, 2024

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