NCERT – Understanding NCERT’s Evolution and New Role as a Deemed-to-be-University! 

NCERT – The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has been granted the deemed-to-be university status. The Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan made an announcement on September 1, 2023, on the 63rd Foundation Day of the NCERT.  

The deemed-to-be university status is on the lines of Indian Institute of Science. This development follows the NCERT’s appeal to the Ministry and the University Grants Commission (UGC), India’s higher education regulatory body, to grant it central university status. 

The University Grants Commission (UGC) Act provides for the central government to declare any institution other than a university the status of institution deemed to be university. The first set of regulations was notified in 2010 in this regard. It was subsequently revised in 2016 and 2019.

Until now, NCERT has provided graduate and post-graduate teacher-training and capacity-building programs through its seven regional centres, the Regional Institutes of Education (RIE).

These programs were offered in collaboration with local universities. These RIEs had certain limitations, as they depended on approvals from the affiliated universities to introduce new courses.

However, this deemed-to-be university status will allow the NCERT to confer its own graduate, post-graduate, and doctoral degrees, granting it greater autonomy in overseeing its academic programs.

There are around 170 deemed institutions in the country presently. Among other criteria that have been changed are as under:

  • Increase in faculty strength from 100 to 150
  • Increase in corpus fund for private institutions from 10 crore to 25 crore
  • Creation of an executive councils like central universities in these universities

Newly acquired status gives NCERT added authority to determine course structures, set course fees, appoint faculty members, and conduct examinations, among other aspects.

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As a research university, it will have the opportunity to establish academic partnerships with leading national and international universities worldwide.

NCERT will now be developing educational material in all 22 languages with the help of software like Anuvadini and Bhashini.

There is a proposal for setting up Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence labs in all seven regional centres of NCERT. Multinational IT company Hewlett Packard is assisting NCERT in this endeavour.

This article shares in-depth information about the NCERT, its history, functions, evolution and other essential aspects.

Here’s a look into the historical context of the education system during British colonial rule in India.

NCERT – Education System During British Colonial Rule in India

During British colonial rule in India, the education system was primarily designed to serve the interests of the colonial administration. 

The following key features can characterise the academic framework in British India:

  • British Control: The British colonial authorities controlled and directed the education system to meet their administrative needs. Education was seen as a means for producing a class of Indians who could serve as clerks, interpreters, and other functionaries in the colonial bureaucracy.
  • English as the Medium of Instruction: English was promoted as the medium of instruction in schools and colleges. This was intended to facilitate training a class of Indians who could assist the British in administrative and economic activities.
  • Limited Access: Education was primarily accessible to the elite, and there was limited access to education for the masses, especially in rural areas. The colonial authorities were not focused on providing widespread elementary education.
  • Curriculum and Content: The curriculum was Eurocentric and often disconnected from India’s cultural and social realities. It emphasised Western literature, science, and history, with limited attention to Indian languages, culture, and history.
  • Role of Missionaries: Christian missionaries played a significant role in establishing schools and colleges in India. They were responsible for the spread of Western education, and Christian missions founded many prominent educational institutions.
  • Limited Vocational Training: The colonial education system did not prioritise development of vocational or practical skills, which was necessary for the Indian workforce. Instead, it emphasised a traditional academic curriculum.
  • Exclusion of Women: Education for women was often neglected, and there were limited opportunities for girls and women to receive formal education.
  • Role of Universities: Several universities such as the University of Calcutta, the University of Bombay, and the University of Madras were established to provide higher education. However, their primary focus was on producing a class of professionals who could serve the British administration.
  • Political Resistance: Despite the limitations of the education system, it also became a focal point for Indian political resistance. Many nationalist leaders saw education as a tool for social and political change and advocated for education reform.

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Pre-NCERT Education System in India Post-Independence

Before the establishment of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the education framework in India was primarily managed by different education departments at the state and regional levels. 

There was a lack of a centralised and standardised approach to education, and each state had its own curriculum, textbooks, and educational practices. This decentralised system resulted in significant variations in the quality of education across different regions of the country.

Key features of the education framework before the NCERT came into being, included the following:

  • State-Centric: Education policies, curricula, and textbooks were predominantly determined at the state level, leading to variations in content and quality.
  • Limited Standardisation: The lack of a national curriculum and standardised textbooks meant that students in different states studied different subjects and content, making it challenging for students who moved from one state to another.
  • Varied Educational Practices: Teaching methods and pedagogical approaches varied widely from state-to-state, resulting in differences in the quality of education delivery.
  • Limited Research and Innovation: There was lack of a centralised body dedicated to educational research and innovation. Educational research and the development of teaching materials were limited.
  • Limited Teacher Training: Pre-service and in-service teacher training programs were not standardised, and the quality of teacher education varied.
  • Lack of Uniformity: The absence of uniformity in the education system impeded the pursuit of a consistent and standardised educational experience for all students nationwide.

The establishment of NCERT in the year 1961 aimed to address these challenges by providing a centralised authority for educational research, curriculum development, and teacher training. 

NCERT played a crucial role in standardising textbooks, developing a national curriculum framework, conducting research in education, and promoting innovative teaching practices. 

It aimed to bring uniformity and quality to the education system in India, making education more accessible and equitable for all students.

NCERT – A Brief Introduction

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) began its journey as a registered society under the Registration of Societies Act (Act XXI of 1860) on June 6, 1961. 

The establishment of the Council was declared by the Ministry of Education, Government of India in its resolution of July 27, 1961. It formally began its work on September 1, 1961. The Council was set up by the government to assist and advise the Central and State Governments on policies and programmes for qualitative improvement in school education. 

The NCERT came into existence after merger of seven institutions established in the initial decade after independence on the need to develop a holistic view of education in the country: 

  • The Central Institute of Education (1947)
  • The Central Bureau of Textbook Research (1954)
  • The Central Bureau of Educational and Vocational Guidance (1954)
  • The Directorate of Extension Programmes for Secondary Education (1958)
  • The National Institute of Basic Education (1956)
  • The National Fundamental at Education Central (1956)
  • The National Institute of Audio-Visual Education  (1959)

Vision and Mission

  • It aims to undertake aid, promote and coordinate researches in areas related to school education. 
  • Preparing and publishing model textbooks, supplementary material, newsletters, journals and other related Iiterature.
  • Organising pre-service and in-service training of teachers.
  • Developing and disseminating innovative educational techniques and practices. 
  • Collaboration and networking with state educational departments, universities, NGOs and other educational institutions.
  • To act as a clearing house for ideas and information in matters related to school education.
  • To act as a nodal agency for achieving goals of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan.

As per the recommendations of the Education Commission (1964–66), the inaugural national policy statement on education was issued in 1968. This policy endorsed adoption of a standardised school education system nationwide, consisting of 10 years of general education followed by two years of specialised schooling.

  • In 1963, the NCERT played a pivotal role in establishing the National Science Talent Search Scheme (NTSS) in order to identify and nurture talented students in India, offering them scholarships. 
  • In 1976, a significant transformation occurred in the NTSS with the introduction of the 10+2+3 education pattern. 
    • Consequently, the program was rebranded as the National Talent Search Scheme, and the NTSE examination began to include students from Class 10 to 12. 
    • Currently, the NTSE exam is exclusively conducted for 10th-grade students in India. It comprises two phases, the Mental Ability Test and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), each carrying a weightage of 100 marks.
    • Furthermore, NCERT serves as an implementing body for cultural exchange programs in school education with other countries. It also engages with international organisations, hosts foreign delegations, and offers training opportunities to educational professionals from developing nations.

NCERT operates through various constituent units located in different regions of India. These are as follows:

  • National Institute of Education (NIE), New Delhi.
  • Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET), New Delhi.
  • Pandit Sundarlal Sharma Central Institute of Vocational Education (PSSCIVE), Bhopal.
  • Regional Institute of Education (RIE), Ajmer.
  • Regional Institute of Education (RIE), Bhopal.
  • Regional Institute of Education (RIE), Bhubaneswar.
  • Regional Institute of Education (RIE), Mysore.
  • North-East Regional Institute of Education (NERIE), Shillong.

These units collectively contribute to the mission of NCERT and work toward enhancing the quality of education in India and promoting educational collaboration on an international scale.

Other sites and applications maintained by the NCERT are mentioned below:

  • ePathshala
  • Diksha
  • Nishtha
  • NCERT Text Book
  • ICT Curriculum
  • Accessibility in School Curriculum

ePathshala

  • The Digital India campaign has played a pivotal role in advancing the widespread utilisation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in education. 
  • One noteworthy initiative is ePathshala, a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Education (MoE), the Government of India, and the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). 
  • ePathshala has been created to effectively present and distribute a comprehensive array of educational electronic resources, encompassing textbooks, audio-visual content, periodicals, and other digital materials.
  • The ePathshala Mobile app has been meticulously designed to align with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Number 4, which emphasises attainment of equitable, high-quality, inclusive education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. 
  • Furthermore, this initiative seeks to bridge the digital divide, ensuring that education is accessible and beneficial to individuals from all walks of life.

Diksha

  • The Diksha platform serves as a comprehensive resource hub, providing teachers, students, and parents with interactive and pertinent learning materials closely aligned with the official school curriculum. 
  • The platform offers valuable tools for educators such as lesson plans, worksheets, and engaging activities, facilitating enjoyable and effective classroom experiences. Students benefit from the venue by gaining a deeper understanding of concepts, revisiting lessons, and engaging in practice exercises to reinforce their learning. 
  • Moreover, parents can stay informed about classroom activities and assist their children in clarifying doubts, even outside regular school hours.

Nishtha

  • The Department of School Education and Literacy initiated a National Mission in 2019-20, aiming to enhance learning outcomes at the elementary level. 
  • This mission introduced an Integrated Teacher Training Program known as Nishtha (National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement) under the centrally sponsored scheme of Samagra Shiksha.
  • Nishtha has been designed as a capacity-building initiative for “Improving Quality of School Education through Integrated Teacher Training”. 
  • Its primary objective is to enhance the competencies of elementary school teachers and principals. Notably, Nishtha stands as the world’s most extensive teacher training program of its kind.
  • The primary goal of this extensive training program is to inspire and equip educators to promote critical thinking skills among their students. This pioneering initiative comprises standardised training modules developed at the national level, accessible to educators across all states and union territories.

NCERT Textbooks

  • NCERT textbooks are educational materials produced by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). 
  • These textbooks are widely used in schools across India, especially in the central and state educational systems. 
  • NCERT’s online service provides convenient access to its textbooks, encompassing subjects from Class 1 to 12, available in Hindi, English, and Urdu. 
  • Users can download entire textbooks or individual chapters, subject to compliance with the terms of use outlined in the Copyright Notice. 

Students can download the NCERT books by clicking on this link.

Here are some key features and information about NCERT textbooks:

  • Standardised Curriculum: NCERT textbooks are designed to align with the curriculum prescribed by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and many state education boards. They cover mathematics, science, social studies, languages, and more, catering to students from primary (Class I) to higher secondary (Class 12) levels.
  • Quality Content: NCERT textbooks are known for their exceptional content quality. Experts in the respective subjects write these books. It undergoes a rigorous review process to ensure accuracy and clarity.
  • Clear and Simple Language: The language used in NCERT textbooks is easy to understand, making it accessible to a wide range of students, including those whose first language may not be English.
  • Conceptual Clarity: These textbooks focus on building a solid conceptual foundation. They encourage students to understand concepts thoroughly rather than rote memorization. It promotes a deeper understanding of the subjects.
  • Additional Resources: NCERT textbooks often contain supplementary materials such as practice questions, examples, illustrations, and exercises. These resources help students apply what they’ve learned in order to reinforce their understanding.
  • Universal Availability: NCERT textbooks are affordable and widely available across the country. They are published and distributed by NCERT, making them accessible to students from various socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Alignment with Educational Policies: These textbooks are aligned with the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) and other educational policies of India to ensure consistency.
  • Teacher Support: NCERT textbooks benefit students and serve as valuable resources for teachers, helping them plan lessons and teaching strategies effectively.
  • Updated Content: NCERT regularly revises its textbooks to incorporate changes in educational policies and advancements in knowledge. This ensures that the content remains relevant and up-to-date.
  • Supplementary Materials: Besides textbooks, NCERT also publishes supplementary materials like exemplar problems, laboratory manuals, teacher guides, and digital resources to aid the teaching and learning process further.

New NCERT Textbooks in Nearly Two Decades

  • In line with the National Education Policy 2020 and the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) released in August 2022, India’s Ministry of Education (MoE) is set to introduce updated textbooks for all school levels for the 2024-25 academic year, marking a significant overhaul after nearly two decades. 
  • Currently, the NCF covers Pre-school to Class 2. Textbooks for Class 1 to  2 were released in July 2023. 
  • The new textbooks, developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), will be available in 22 languages. It is aligned with the multilingual education approach advocated by the NEP 2020.
  • The NCF emphasises a five-step learning process called “Panchaadi” for foundational education. Panchaadi comprises the following learning processes:
    • Aditi (Introduction of a Topic)
    • Bodh (Conceptual understanding)
    • Abhyas (Practice)
    • Prayog (Application)
    • Prasar (Expansion) 
  • Private publishers have claimed that their textbooks for Class 1 and 2 are aligned with NCF 2022, but these publications are currently under review by the NCERT. 
  • The MoE aims to promote critical thinking, problem-solving, social and emotional development, and vocational education through the revised curriculum. 
  • NCERT textbooks are expected to serve as the base for teaching, allowing flexibility for curriculum adjustments.

NCERT – ICT Curriculum

  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT) curriculum is a structured plan that focuses on teaching students various aspects of information technology, computer science, and digital literacy. 
  • It is designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills to effectively use and apply technology in various aspects of their lives, including education, career, and daily activities. 
  • ICT curricula can vary significantly depending on the educational level (primary, secondary, or higher education) and the specific goals of the program or institution. 
  • Such curricula aim to empower students with digital skills and knowledge that are increasingly essential in today’s technology-driven world, whether for academic success, career development, or participation in the digital society.
  • The National Policy on ICT in school education aims to prepare youth for active participation in a knowledge-based society, fostering socioeconomic development and global competitiveness. 
  • The National Curriculum Framework emphasises that technology should not merely be used to disseminate information but should promote two-way interactivity, making technology a tool for education. 
  • The current ICT curriculum aligns with these goals, considering rapid technological changes and the realities of Indian school systems. It seeks to empower teachers and students to use technology creatively and for problem-solving.
  • It acknowledges the dynamic nature of ICT, focusing on core educational purposes and a broad exposure to technologies. 
  • The teacher curriculum fast-tracks educators to become proficient ICT users, accommodating varying levels of exposure and promoting access to emerging technologies.
  • The curricula prioritise Free and Open Source software, emphasising the need for internet connectivity to leverage online resources. Teachers are encouraged to create and share e-content. This promotes collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Objectives of Curriculum for Teachers

  • Main objectives emphasis application of ICT tools, softwares and digital resources effectively
  • Integration of ICT tools and methodologies into teaching, learning and evaluation and make classrooms more inclusive
  • To acquire, organise and create digital resources
  • Motivate participation in networking of teachers
  • Evaluation and selection of resources
  • Ensuring safe, ethical and legal ways of using ICT

Objectives of Curriculum for Students

  • Development of skills in digital literacy 
  • Access various tools and applications for learning
  • Operate a variety of hardware and software
  • Use the ICT facility with care
  • Creation of variety of digital resources
  • Ensuring safe, ethical and legal ways of using ICT

NCERT Initiatives for Inclusive and Accessible Education

The NCERT has undertaken several initiatives to promote inclusive and accessible education, addressing the needs of diverse learners, including those with disabilities. It is in alignment with the National Education Policy 2020. These initiatives include:

  • ePathshala: A mobile app and portal providing free access to NCERT books and eContents in multiple languages, serving students, teachers, and parents.
  • PRASHAST: A disability screening checklist for schools, facilitating early screening and certification of children with disabilities.
  • Barkhaa: A graded reading series to enhance early reading skills for children in Class 1 and 2.
  • Teaching Learning Resources in Indian Sign Language: Development of resources in Indian Sign Language (ISL) to promote inclusion of students with hearing impairments.
  • Accessibility Concerns in NCERT Textbooks: Inclusion and accessibility are integrated into NCERT textbooks enhancing usability.
  • Audio Books: Textbooks in audio format to improve accessibility for children with visual impairments.
  • Priya – The Accessibility Warrior: A comic book that raises awareness about accessibility issues.
  • Bhasha Sangam: It is an initiative to promote communication in Indian languages and Indian Sign Language (ISL), fostering cultural understanding and language inclusion.
  • Teachers’ Support Material on Inclusive Education: Providing handbooks to teachers on guidelines for inclusive classrooms.
  • MANODARPAN:  Counselling sessions for mental well-being.
  • Diksha: A digital platform for knowledge sharing and continuous professional development.
  • SWAYAM MOOCs: Free online courses designed to bridge the digital divide and provide quality education.
  • Nishtha: A teacher training program to improve learning outcomes at the elementary level.
  • Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality: The e-Pathshala AR app for interactive learning experiences.
  • Tactile Map Book: Embossed maps for visually impaired students to understand physical and environmental representations of India.

These initiatives collectively aim to ensure that education is accessible and inclusive. It accommodates the diverse needs of learners and promotes equitable learning opportunities.

NCERT – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is NCERT, and what is its role in education in India?

Ans: The acronym NCERT stands for ‘National Council of Educational Research and Training’. It is an apex decision-making body for school education. It plays a pivotal role in shaping and improving the quality of education in India by developing educational materials, curricula, and educational policies etc.

Q: What is a deemed-to-be university?

Ans:  The University Grants Commission (UGC) Act provides for the central government to declare any institution other than a university the status of institution deemed to be university. The first set of regulations was notified in 2010 in this regard. It was subsequently revised in 2016 and 2019.

NCERT on acquiring a deemed-to-be university or a research university status will offer opportunities for global collaborations and contributions to the global educational landscape. This deemed-to-be university status will allow the NCERT to confer its own graduate, post-graduate, and doctoral degrees, granting it greater autonomy in overseeing its academic programs. There are around 170 deemed institutions in the country presently.

Q: How does NCERT develop and update educational materials?

Ans: NCERT develops and updates educational materials through extensive research, curriculum design, and collaboration with experts. It regularly reviews and revises textbooks and resources to meet changing educational needs.

Q: What are the key initiatives and programs led by NCERT?

Ans: NCERT leads various initiatives, including teacher training, curriculum development, educational research, and creating textbooks and supplementary learning materials.

Q: How can teachers and students access NCERT textbooks and resources?

Ans: NCERT textbooks and resources are easily accessible through NCERT’s official website, educational bookstores, schools, and digital platforms. They are also distributed to schools across India.

Q: What is the significance of NCERT textbooks? 

Ans: NCERT textbooks are highly regarded for their high quality and standardised content. They serve as a foundation for the Indian education system. It provides uniformity and reliability in teaching materials.

Q: How does NCERT contribute to curriculum development and reform?

Ans: NCERT actively participates in curriculum development and reform by conducting research, offering expert guidance. It provides recommendations to improve the overall curriculum framework in India.

Q: What are the different subjects covered by NCERT textbooks?

Ans: NCERT textbooks cover various subjects. These include mathematics, science, social studies, languages, arts, and vocational subjects, catering to students from various backgrounds.

Q: How does NCERT promote inclusive education and diversity?

Ans: NCERT promotes inclusive education by creating textbooks with a regard for diverse cultures, languages, and abilities. It ensures that educational materials are accessible to all students.

Q: Does NCERT provide any digital or online resources?

Ans: Yes, NCERT offers digital and online resources, including e-textbooks, interactive learning apps, and educational websites. This enhances accessibility and promotes engagements of students in a digital learning environment.

Q: What is the role of NCERT in aligning with the National Education Policy (NEP)?

Ans: NCERT plays a critical role in aligning with the National Education Policy (NEP) by actively contributing to implemention of NEP recommendations, such as curriculum revisions, teacher training, and educational reforms.

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