National Curriculum Framework for School Education-NCFSE-2023

The steering committee, led by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan, featured a distinguished panel of members, including Fields medalist Manjul Bhargava, former National Book Trust chairperson Govind Prasad Sharma, Najma Akhtar, Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, Milind Kamble, founder Chairman of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Dhir Jhingran, founder director of the NGO Language and Learning Foundation, among other notable individuals.

The final National Curriculum Framework (NCF-2023) released by the NCERT introduces several changes for students in classes 11 and 12. According to this framework, students will now be required to study two languages, one of which must be of Indian origin. This recommendation is in line with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and aims to promote linguistic diversity and preserve Indian languages and literatures.

The languages for study will be chosen by students from a range of language and literature courses offered. This pool includes options like Sanskrit and other classical and modern Indian languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Pali, Persian, Prakrit, among others. Additionally, foreign languages like French, German, Japanese, and Korean will also be available as choices.

Previously, CBSE schools taught only one language to students in classes 11 and 12. The inclusion of another language as a mandatory subject will expand the curriculum. The framework’s intention behind this change is to ensure the vitality of these languages and literatures, particularly in states where they are traditionally well-taught and nurtured.

The NCF 2023 emphasizes that students should have the option to choose at least one Indian language as the medium of instruction up to Grade 12. CBSE schools have recently been directed to offer Indian languages as mediums of instruction.

The NCF 2023 endorses the draft’s recommendation to hold board examinations twice a year. This change is aimed at providing students with sufficient time and opportunities to perform well. The framework envisions a system where students can appear for board exams in subjects they have completed and feel prepared for. This approach aligns with the concept of on-demand examinations outlined in the NEP 2020.

In terms of the academic structure, the NCF 2023  proposes a semester system for classes 11 and 12. It advocates for a more integrated approach between arts, humanities, and sciences, rather than a strict separation. The long-term vision is for all education boards to adopt semester-based systems, allowing students to test in subjects as they complete them. This approach aims to reduce the content load assessed in a single examination.

The NCFSE 2023 introduces changes such as the requirement of studying two languages, offering Indian languages as mediums of instruction, conducting board exams twice a year, and promoting a more integrated and flexible approach to subjects and assessments. These changes are designed to align with the NEP 2020 and enhance the overall quality and flexibility of education for classes 11 and 12.


Highlights of National Curriculum Framework for School Education-NCFSE-2023  

The NCF-SE’s 2023 comprehensive nature ensures that it covers all stages of schooling. It sets clear learning standards and competencies, enabling teachers to foster critical thinking, creativity, and genuine understanding. The framework empowers educators, encourages engaging pedagogies, and emphasizes the importance of school culture and values.

Art Education, Physical Education & Well-being, Environmental Education, and Vocational Education are reinvigorated under the NCF-SE. Multilingualism, conceptual understanding in Mathematics, and capacities for scientific inquiry also receive renewed attention. The curriculum’s interdisciplinary approach encourages students to study the relationships between individuals, society, and the environment.

The National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCF-SE) is the curriculum framework for the 5+3+3+4 design of schooling as proposed by the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020). It also recommended the formulation of a new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCF-SE) to respond to this four-stage school design. The entire curriculum framework for all the four stages – Foundational Stage, Preparatory Stage, Middle Stage, and Secondary Stage – was released. Some of the key related points:

Comprehensive curriculum framework covering all 4 stages of schooling

The NCF-SE comprehensively covers all the four stages of schooling. The NCF-SE has articulated the learning standards to be achieved and the principles for selection of content, pedagogy, and assessments for achieving the learning standards.

Enable real improvement in practise of education in the country. 

The NCF-SE is designed to enable and help actual change in practise on the ground. The NCF-SE has made conscious and deliberate effort to communicate to all stakeholders in school education including Curriculum and Syllabus developers, so that it is useable in practical circumstances. Teachers and parent community can also comprehend the intention of the curricula that is developed on the basis of the NCF-SE.

Learning Standards with clear, specific, and rigorous flow-down.

It articulates specific learning standards for all school subjects that gives clear direction for action for all stakeholders in the school system, particularly Teachers. The Learning Standards have defined specific competencies to be achieved at the end of each stage for each school subject. There is a clear, specific, and rigorous flow-down of curricular logic from the broad aims of school education to specific curricular aims of each subject, resulting in curricular goals and competencies for a specific stage in that subject.

Development of Knowledge, Capacities, and Values.

The curriculum focuses on development of knowledge with genuine understanding, fundamental capacities such as critical thinking and creativity, and constitutional and human values.

Empowering teachers and schools.

The NCF-SE designed to enable and empower teachers and schools for the full flowering of their creativity and enhanced engagement.

Engaging and effective pedagogy.

It enables the entire range of age and context appropriate pedagogy, from play-based, activity-based, inquiry-based, dialogue based, and more. This would also use effective, widely available, and highly engaging teaching-learning-material, including textbooks.

Transforming assessment including exams.

Assessment and exams at all levels to be transformed, to enable genuine learning and reduce stress, including the Board exams.

Importance of School Culture.

School culture and practises are to be developed as an integral and important part of the curriculum. 

Rooted in India.

The curriculum is rooted in India and is informed by the wealth of Indian knowledge and thought on education. Contributions to the knowledge in various disciplines by Indians from the ancient to contemporary times have been integrated into the curricular goals of all school subjects.

Multidisciplinary education.

All children to go through multidisciplinary education to develop an integrated and holistic perspective and learning.

Equity and inclusion.

The NCF-SE is informed by principles to ensure equity and inclusion in all its aspects, from content and pedagogy, to, school culture and practises.

Renewed emphasis on Art, and, Physical Education & Well-being.

The school subjects of Art Education and Physical Education & Well-being are given a renewed emphasis in the curriculum by defining specific learning standards to be achieved and recommended time allocation in the school timetables. Art Education encompasses both visual arts and performing arts and has equal emphasis on making, thinking about, and appreciating artwork. Physical Education and Well-being gives emphasis to sports, mind-body wellness through practices like Yoga, and ideas on incorporating traditional Indian games and sports into the curriculum.

Environmental Education.

Responding to the triple challenge of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, and the criticality of environmental awareness and sustainability in today’s world, Environmental Education is given due emphasis across all stages of schooling culminating in a separate area of study in the Secondary Stage.

Vocational Education.

The NEP 2020 has made strong recommendations for Vocational Education to be an integral part of school education and the NCF-SE has included specific learning standards, content, pedagogy, and assessments for Vocational Education for all stages of schooling. The curriculum proposes engagement in the three different forms of work – work with life forms (agriculture, animal husbandry), work with materials and machines, and work in human services.

Multilingualism and Indian Languages.

The NCF-SE has given the necessary emphasis on multilingualism and on learning languages native to India. Given the rich multilingual heritage of India, it expects all students to be proficient in at least three languages, at least two of which are native to India. It expects students to achieve a “literary level” of linguistic capacity in at least one of these Indian languages.

Conceptual understanding and procedural fluency in Mathematics.

The school subject of Mathematics & Computational Thinking has emphasis on conceptual understanding along with procedural fluency – with a goal to appreciate the beauty and universality of mathematics and reduce fear of the subject. Higher order curricular goals such as problem solving, mathematical thinking, coding, and communication are given due importance.

Capacities for Scientific Inquiry.

Science Education emphasises the development of capacities for scientific inquiry along with acquiring knowledge of fundamental theories, laws, and conceptual structures of science in disciplines such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Earth Science.

Interdisciplinary understanding of Social Science through themes.

The social science curriculum expects students to systematically study human societies and explore the relationships between individuals, society, the natural environment, social institutions, and organizations. This is to be studied through themes in an interdisciplinary manner in the Middle Stage and developing disciplinary depth in the Secondary Stage.

Flexibility and Choice in Secondary Stage.

The Secondary Stage has been significantly redesigned to offer more flexibility and choice for students. There are no hard separations between academic and vocational subjects, or between science, social science, art, and physical education. Students can choose interesting combinations of subjects for receiving their school-leaving certificates.

Interdisciplinary Areas of Study. 

Interdisciplinary Areas of Study has been introduced as a separate subject of study in the Secondary Stage. In this subject, students develop the ability to reason about contemporary challenges using knowledge from multiple disciplines including moral and ethical concerns. They are expected to use these abilities to understand and respond effectively to the concerns of environmental degradation that include climate change and biodiversity loss.


Key Points of National Curriculum Framework for School Education NCF – 2023

Comprehensive Coverage and Learning Standards:

NCF-SE covers all stages of schooling.

Defines clear learning standards and competencies for critical thinking, creativity, and understanding.

Empowerment of Educators and Engaging Pedagogies:

Empowers teachers through engaging pedagogies.

Highlights significance of school culture and values.

Revitalized Education Areas:

Reinforces Art Education, Physical Education & Well-being, Environmental Education, and Vocational Education.

Renews focus on multidisciplinary learning, conceptual math understanding, and scientific inquiry capacity.

Aligned with NEP 2020:

Developed for 5+3+3+4 schooling structure as proposed in NEP 2020.

Fulfills NEP’s call for a comprehensive NCF-SE.

Holistic Student Development:

Aims to develop well-rounded, ethical, creative, and adaptable individuals.

Prepares students for higher education and gainful employment.

Teacher and School Empowerment:

Designed to empower teachers and schools, promoting creativity and engagement.

Varied Pedagogical Approaches:

Advocates diverse pedagogical methods such as play-based, inquiry-based, and dialogue-based.

Utilizes engaging teaching-learning materials, including textbooks.

Transformed Assessment and Exams:

Shifts assessment focus from facts to genuine learning and competencies.

Introduces stress-reducing changes to exam formats, including Board exams.

Cultural Integration and Multilingualism:

Rooted in Indian knowledge and thought, integrating contributions across disciplines.

Emphasizes multilingualism and proficiency in at least three languages.

Environmental Awareness and Sustainability:

Addresses climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution through Environmental Education.

Inculcates environmental awareness and sustainability values.

Vocational Education and Multidisciplinary Learning:

Integrates Vocational Education across schooling stages.

Promotes multidisciplinary learning for holistic perspectives.

Mathematics and Scientific Inquiry:

Enhances Mathematics with conceptual understanding and procedural fluency.

Develops capacities for scientific inquiry in Science Education.

Interdisciplinary Learning and Flexibility:

Encourages interdisciplinary understanding of Social Sciences.

Offers flexibility and choice in the Secondary Stage for subject combinations.

Interdisciplinary Areas of Study:

Introduces separate study subject for interdisciplinary exploration.

Enables reasoning on contemporary challenges using multiple disciplines.


The NCF-SE is organised into five parts.

  • Part A articulates the broad aims of school education, and the desirable values and dispositions, capacities and skills, and knowledge that are required for achieving these aims. It also lays down the principles and approaches for content selection, pedagogy, and assessment and gives the rationale and design principles for the four stages of schooling.
  • Part B focuses on some of the important cross-cutting themes of NCF-SE, viz., rootedness in India, education for values, learning and caring about the environment, inclusive education, guidance and counselling, and use of educational technology.
  • Part C has separate chapters for each school subject. Each of these chapters have Learning Standards defined for all the relevant stages of schooling along with specific guidelines for content selection, pedagogy, and assessments appropriate for that subject. The part also has a chapter on the Foundational Stage and one on design and range of subjects in Grades 11 and 12.
  • Part D handles school culture and processes that enable a positive learning environment and inculcate desirable values and dispositions.
  • The last part, Part E, outlines the requirements for an overall ecosystem of schooling that would enable the achievement of the aims of the NCF-SE. This includes aspects of teacher capacities and service conditions, physical infrastructure requirements, and the role of the community and family.