National Education Policy 2020: An Overview
The National education policy or NEP is basically an inclusive framework to moderate the enhancement of the academic curriculum of the country. The entire education system of this nation ranging from elementary education to universities both in rural and urban India comes under the purview of this scheme.
The need for this policy was first felt in 1964 on the wake of criticism of the Govt by then Congress MP Siddheshwar Prasad for lacking a vision and philosophy for the education system. A 17-member Education Commission, headed by then UGC Chairperson D S Kothari, was constituted in that very year to draft a national and coordinated policy regarding education. Thus, Parliament passed the first education policy in 1968 emphasizing the recommendations provided by the Kothari Commission. Following that, The Rajiv Gandhi led govt in 1986 to introduce the 2nd National education policy. The NEP of 1986 was revised in 1992 by the Narsimha Rao Government. On 29th July 2020, the cabinet of the incumbent government approved a new National Education Policy with an aim to introduce several changes to the existing Indian education system.
Key Highlights From The Policy
A Sneak Peek into the Positives
Restructuring of the School Education System
The policy states that the current school education structure of 10+2 (covering children from the age of 6-18) will be discontinued and be replaced by a more fragmented 5+3+3+4 system which would work as follows-
- Three years of Anganwadi or preschool + two years in a primary school in grades 1-2 covering ages 3 to 8 years.
- The ‘preparatory stage’ covers ages 8 to 11 years or grades 3-5.
- The ‘middle stage’ covers ages 11 to 14 years or grades 6-8.
- The ‘secondary stage’ covers ages 14 to 18 years in two phases – grades 9-10 in the first and grades 11-12 in the second Phase.
This restructuring is a welcome change as it brings preschool under the shade of formal education for the first time thereby recognising the importance of good quality education and care during the formative years of a child.
Greater Focus On Vocational Education:
The Policy states that every child will learn at least one vocation and be exposed to several more. By 2025, at least 50% of learners through the school, and higher education system shall have exposure to vocational education. A 10-day bagless period sometimes during Grades 6-8 to intern with local vocational experts such as carpenters, gardeners, potters, artists, etc has also been mentioned in the policy.
This reform could go a long way in reducing the unemployment rate in our country because it ensures that at the very least every citizen has the basic skill sets required to earn a living. It could certainly bolster the chances of an Atmanirbhar Bharat and in the process make sure that such a future is realistic and not just another Election Slogan.
Redesign Of Board Exams And Curriculum Overhaul
The Board Exams may be conducted twice in a year to reduce the stress a student goes through. The Board Examination papers will be set in a way to test the basics of the students as this will pave way for critical thinking and do away with rote learning.
The policy states that the curriculum will be reduced to its core essentials to make way for a discovery-based and an analysis based learning.
Leaning Towards Multidisciplinary Learning
The policy provides greater flexibility to students in choosing the subjects. Rigid demarcation between arts & sciences, curricular & extracurricular subjects or vocational & academic streams will cease to exist. The NEP’s call to consolidate and transform all higher education institutions into multidisciplinary institutions is a welcome move.
This move could go a long way in creating a better learning atmosphere for the students because of the wholesome nature of multidisciplinary learning.
Multiple Entry And Exit Points In Higher Education
Under a multiple entries and exit system, degree students would be given a certificate after completing the first year, a diploma after the second, and a degree at the end of the programme. Academic credits would be saved in DigiLocker, which would enable students who drop-out to resume their programme without having to take fresh admission.
If one wishes to drop out of his bachelor's degree and join in another, he can transfer his credits stored in Digilocker till that point of time and need not start afresh.
This could be that breath of fresh air that the higher education system of India so desperately needed. If implemented well, it would result in the increase in the number of graduates that are actually happy with the career they are pursuing and the pressure of forcing oneself through a degree he/she is not interested in, only because of the degree would no longer stop the students from following their interest.
Globalisation Of Higher Education
The policy mentions that the top 100 universities from all over the world will be allowed to set up their campuses in India. Prior to this announcement, these universities were only limited to faculty/student exchange programmes and the like with their partner universities. Furthermore, the top institutions from our country will be allowed to go international too.
This could certainly enhance the efficiency and work output and also the economic factor related to travel would no longer be an issue.
What is left out of the Policy?
- The policy talks about the need to bring 'underrepresented groups' into school and focus on educationally lagging 'special education zones’. However, it misses a critical opportunity for addressing inequalities within the education system.
- It misses providing solutions to close the gap between India’s rich and poor children's access to quality education.
- It is silent on education related to emerging technological fields like artificial intelligence, cyberspace, nanotech, etc.
Challenges in implementation
- Keeping in mind the quality of infrastructure and teacher vacancies, expanding coverage under the Right to Education Act to include pre-school children should be introduced over a course of time and not immediately as this would wreck the education system which is already suffering from the effects of the pandemic.
- The draft policy is silent on the Institutions of Eminence and agencies like the Higher Education Funding Agency.
- Language issues have to be handled sensitively given their emotional overtones, as witnessed recently by the protests.
- Knowledge-Jobs Mismatch: There has always been a mismatch between the skills imparted and the jobs available. It has been one of the main challenges that have affected the Indian education system since Independence.
- The Requirement of Enormous Resources: Although an ambitious target of public spending at 6% of GDP has been set, mobilising financial resources will be a big challenge, given the low tax-to-GDP ratio and competing claims on the national treasury of healthcare, national security, and other key areas.
- Need for Cooperative Federalism: Since both the Centre and the state governments can make laws on Education, the reforms proposed can only be implemented collaboratively by the Centre and the states.
- Bridging Digital Divide: If technology is a force-multiplier, with unequal access, it can also expand the gap between the haves and have nots. Thus, the state needs to address the striking disparities in access to digital tools for the universalization of education.
- Interministerial Coordination: There is an emphasis on vocational training, but to make it effective, there has to be close coordination between the education, skills, and labour ministry.
NEP according to the top academicians
Creation of a National Research Fund with the involvement of all ministries will make our research impactful and visible to the society. This is the Morrill moment for HEIs in India,.
-said the Director of IIT Delhi- V. Ramgopal Rao.
India is home to the world’s largest K-12 population and the universalization of early school education, the push to improve gross enrolment ratio and a renewed focus on new life skills such as coding will help create a stronger pipeline of future leaders in India.
- said the Founder and CEO of Byju’s- Byju Raveendran.
According to Rekha Sethi, Director General, All India Management Association (AIMA),
The NEP will remove unnecessary complexity in delivery and regulation of higher education in the country and level the playing field for all students, irrespective of which college they go to — private or government. E-courses in regional languages is a great idea.
The new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is a revolutionary policy. It aims to make the education system holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, aligned with the needs of the 21st century. The intent of policy seems to be ideal in many ways, but it is the implementation where the key to success lies.