Monday, March 4, 2024

NEP and mental health

For a while now, School Education authorities of Nagaland have been continuously underscoring the need for the old system to adapt to the changing times and, more particularly, the visions of National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020. And gradually, we have seen the Nagaland Board of School Education (NBSE) revise old guidelines to align with the new roadmap. More recently, the NBSE announced revised question paper designs for all subjects for both Secondary and Higher Secondary levels. According to the Board, said steps to reform the examinations format was taken based on the NEP, which lays special emphasis on transforming assessment for optimising learning and developing the competency of the learner. It can be presumed that many more steps aligning with the visions of NEP will follow in the days to come. The NEP calls for creating a comprehensive, 360-degree, and holistic report for every student that reflects their progress and the individuality of each learner in the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains in great detail. It emphasises the holistic development of students, including their mental and emotional well-being. The policy recognises the importance of mental health in shaping the overall development of children and aims to integrate mental health education and support into the school system. The NEP also suggests giving teachers more freedom to select elements of pedagogy, allowing them to instruct students in the way they believe to be most effective. Teachers will also emphasise socio-emotional learning, which is vital to the overall development of every student. Additionally, it has addressed physical and mental health issues by promoting community involvement in the school system and well-trained social workers and counsellors. This is the coverage of mental health in India’s new education policy. And it assumes significance against the backdrop of reported escalating depression and suicide cases among the youths. Perhaps talking about mental health will not suffice until some dynamic on-ground measures are adopted too. Mental health has been the buzzword for a long time, especially during the COVID pandemic and the isolation that followed. The more people experienced the reality themselves, the more they could understand that mental health issues are indeed real. They are more deadly than physical ailments because of their subtle ways of destroying the will to live. The issue of mental health among children is a growing concern worldwide and we are no exception. Our children face a range of stressors, including academic pressure, social media, family conflicts and peer pressure, which can contribute to anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. The warning signs of a child’s declining mental health may also go ignored most of the time since talking about these issues can be tricky. At the same time, an average Naga is unequipped to deal with these situations. Adolescents may be subjected to severe parental pressure to perform well in school, embarrassment over sub-par academic or social achievement or peer bullying. They might live in dysfunctional families that foster feelings of instability and insecurity or they might experience parental abuse. Any of these factors is enough to drive a student into depression. Obviously, the School Education authorities of Nagaland are aware that the NEP recommends establishment of a comprehensive student support system that includes counsellors, special educators and other mental health professionals to cater to the needs of students. It also proposes the inclusion of mental health education in the curriculum, with a focus on creating awareness, reducing stigma and promoting positive mental health practices. It is a step towards addressing these issues by recognising the importance of mental health in the overall development of children and integrating mental health education and support into the school system. Therefore, it cannot be stressed enough that the policy is implemented effectively and adequate resources provided to support mental health initiatives in schools. In addition, it is essential to raise awareness among parents and teachers about the importance of mental health and to encourage them to take an active role in promoting positive mental health practices among children.