Educational Policy is an underlying affair of governance for all nations across the world. The perpetuity of education starts from history, continues to the present, and provides knowledge and foresight about the future. It is imperative to know the background of education to experience the present and envisage the future. Educational Policy is a set of guidelines that govern the educational system and sets a roadmap for educational development.
Post Independence, the constitution-makers had a notable focus on the future of education in India. They set the responsibility of education both in the hands of central and the state governments, by keeping education both in Union and State lists. Early in 1950, when the constitution was adopted, the framers of the constitution realized the potential of education as the nation was to be a democratic republic and hence would be dependent on well-educated citizens. Few years after independence, individual commissions were formed to review our education policy, such as The University Education Commission(1948), The Secondary Education Commission(1952), and the University Grants Commission( 1956). Under the chairmanship of DS Kothari, the Kothari Commission was formed in 1966, made specific recommendations such as Hindi being declared as the national language, the Three language formula, and that education shall be made compulsory for the children between the ages of 6 and 14. Moreover, it recommended that a total of 6% of the nation’s GDP must be dedicated to education, which is still not done in 2020. All of these recommendations were a part of the National Policy of Education presented in 1968 by the Union.
In 1986, a new education policy was enforced. Firstly, it was renamed from the Ministry of Education (MoE) to the Ministry of Human Resource Development(MoHRD). It majorly focused on educating all the sectors of society with significant emphasis on Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Schedule Castes (SCs), and Schedule Tribes (STs). It also focused on the development of new colleges, the recruitment of teachers from deprived sectors of society, and the introduction of adult education. Acharya Rammurti’s commission (1992) was formed to look over the on-ground implementation of the education policy enforced in 1986. The Commission made recommendations that shed light on strengthening the quality of education that was being provided.
In 2015, the Central government set up a committee headed by Late Shri T.S.R. Subramanian to observe the need for reforms and propose a new education policy. In 2019, the committee submitted its draft under the chairmanship of Shri K.Kasturirangan, which was later given the nod by the Cabinet and was called the “New Education Policy” (NEP 2020). The NEP is expected to overhaul the Indian education space completely.
The NEP, as defined by the Centre, is egalitarian in nature, which will lead to a vibrant knowledge society. It seeks to instill such skills, values, and dispositions in an individual that would ensure sustainable development, global well-being and would form a global citizen.
The NEP is aimed to instill the principles of equity, inclusion, and community participation, among others. It focuses on the ideas of critical thinking, creativity, respect for diversity, and the unique capabilities of individuals. It tries to build a comprehensive, innovative, and wholesome space for education in India.
It is expected to fulfill the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Quality Education, which requires students to be in school till the completion of Secondary Education. In addition to this, it also aims to achieve resource sharing by utilising a school complex over a larger geographical area and for other activities as well.
The most reformative aspect of the NEP is the new pedagogical and curricular structure, which has been changed to a well-defined 5+3+3+4, in place of the vaguer 10+2 from earlier. The broken-down structure will define the different sets of skills that the education for a student aims to instill. The proposed 5+3+3+4 system includes the Foundational stage (5) -- consisting of activity-based learning, the Preparatory Stage (3) -- for activity-based and interactive classroom learning, the Middle Stage -- for experiential learning in the sciences, mathematics, arts, social sciences, and humanities, and lastly, the Secondary Stage of multidisciplinary study for higher critical thinking, and freedom to choose subjects.
With a change in the curricular structure, also comes a welcome change in the curriculum. The government plans to promote skill-based and minimize rote based learning, more commonly known as “ratta-fication” among the youth. It is said to be achieved by a reduction in the curriculum and an increase in critical thinking.
With exam reform next on the list following the curriculum reduction, the NEP seems like music to a student’s ears. It talks about making Board Exams “easier,” however, one must not mistake to take it for granted. Exams will now look to test core capacity and competencies and will check the conceptual understanding of students. Moreover, it does away with annual examinations and has proposed board examinations in modular form for Grades 3,5,8,10 and 12. In conjunction with “easier” exams, beginning with Mathematics, all subjects will be available at two levels of difficulty.
As for the results of said examinations, a student’s report card will no longer be just marks based, but will now be a holistic progress card. It will contain a more comprehensive breakdown of measuring progress, to measure curricular and co-curricular aspects alongside personal development.
The NEP suggests that the medium of instruction up till Class 5 and preferably up to Class 8 and beyond, should be the mother tongue. This is incongruent with the currently popular English medium school system, which is said to have been a strength of the Indian education system and the Indian workforce.
In one of the most exciting aspects for students, the NEP will provide students with greater freedom in choosing their subjects. The rigid boundaries between Arts and Sciences, curricular and extra-curricular subjects or vocational and academic streams have been removed. It aims to give equal importance to all subjects alike.
Coming to the NEP’s proposal for resource sharing, it suggests pairing schools by twinning one government school with one private school each, across the country. It also says that the school complexes are to be used to offer adult education courses after school hours.
For the economically and socially disadvantaged, special education zones will be set up in addition to a gender inclusion fund. Breakfast will also be added to the mid-day meal programme in government schools; however, better funding and resources should follow all that is announced.
The Indian school system has long suffered from the issue of insufficient teachers and low recruitment rates of trained teachers. The NEP has taken a step toward making teacher recruitment transparent by setting up the common National Professional Standards for Teachers. Moreover, it has made it compulsory for all teachers to have a minimum degree qualification of a 4-year integrated B.Ed course by 2030.
Last but not least, the scope of the Right to Education has been increased from between 6-14 years of age to 3-18 years of age. The new Right to Education emphasizes pre-primary education and high school teaching. However, it may add to the load of the already overburdened anganwadis for pre-primary education as they are already underfunded, understaffed, and in unfavorable conditions in some instances.
From school education onto higher education, the most notable aspect of the NEP’s higher education policy is its aim for all higher education institutes to become multidisciplinary institutions by 2040. Even the very prestigious IITs will become multidisciplinary institutions, opening doors for students pursuing humanities.
Multidisciplinary institutions have been defined as institutions that will offer undergraduate and graduate programmes, with high-quality teaching, research, and community engagement. It also aims at setting up at least one sizable multi-disciplinary institution in or near every single district by 2030.
Another major reform comes in the form of undergraduate degree courses of either three or four-year duration, with multiple entries and exit options. A certificate shall be given after completing one year in a discipline or field, including vocational and professional subjects. A diploma for completing two years of study will be provided, or a Bachelor’s degree after completing the three-year programme. The four-year multidisciplinary Bachelor’s programme, however, shall be the preferred option.
An Academic Bank of Credits shall also be established, which would digitally store the academic credits earned. For those who wish to leave the course in the middle, their credits will be transferable through the Academic Bank of Credits.
The National Testing Agency formed in 2017, will offer a high-quality common aptitude test for higher studies, will now also provide tests for common subjects in the sciences, humanities, languages, commerce, and vocational subjects at the university level. It might finally bring a much-awaited entrance test system to the University of Delhi to standardize the admission process that has so far been based on merit, that is, the class 12 board results.
Considering the reforms in school education, like increasing the age band for the right to education to 3 -18 years of age and introducing multi-disciplinary education, are changes that were needed in the current system to ensure all-round growth of a student. On the other hand, the introduction of the ideas of the three language formula, and mother tongue as a medium of education is hardly acceptable. Various states in India don’t support this proposal. Recently, the Chief Minister of a southern state of India said that “ We will never allow Three language formula in our state.” With such rifts between the Centre and the State, it will be extremely complex to implement this proposal. Introduction of Coding from grade 6 has also faced opposition as coding is a skill that can be acquired later in life while pursuing higher studies. What contradicts the said vision of the NEP is the lack of focus on teaching the basics of social sciences. The government should have applied more emphasis on teaching the fundamental concept of social sciences as it may lead to better development of the upcoming generation concerning open society, instead of teaching coding, which may lead to a generation that would be more employable. Citizens need to be aware of their rights and duty which is obtained by adding civics and polity in the curriculum, not by learning to code and being more employable and showing a lack of awareness in rights and duties. Moreover, schools lack the infrastructure that is necessary to offer the quality of extracurricular activities and provide multidisciplinary subjects that the NEP envisions.
One of the most crucial drawbacks of NEP 2020 lies in the fact that the policy focuses on the point that most of the education that will be provided will use the means of the internet. While the government focuses on the internet as a medium of instruction, this is no hidden secret that network connectivity in India is not up to the mark. Only top tier cities in India are compatible with high-speed internet services. Some parts of India lack internet connectivity due to lack of infrastructure, while some areas suffer from bans/ restricted internet services. Thus, using the internet as a means of education implies that this policy tends towards being discriminative to the sections who suffer from lack of internet or suffer from resources to use the internet.
As discussed, NEP will lead to some significant changes in the educational sector. Some of the changes will unanimously be accepted, while some may have problems being implemented due to the inherited cultural issues. It would not be wrong to say that the positives supersede its negatives, and so we may look forward to the future with the hope of better education in the years to come.
(Kumar Kartikeya is an aspiring lawyer with a keen interest in the Constitution, Law and Public Policies, and Vedant Khare is a student of Commerce at the University of Delhi, who aspires to work in the field of consultancy and investment banking. Views expressed are personal.)