The new National Education Policy (NEP) has been approved by the Indian cabinet. Additionally, the cabinet also favoured a proposition to retitle the Ministry of Human Resource Development as the Ministry of Education. While the policy stipulates numerous transformations and structural modifications, these restructurings have kindled countrywide debates.
A national education policy is a comprehensive framework to steer the progress of education in the country. It refers to the guidelines and ideologies that regulate the operating of the educational system.
Education is a tool, which places a person on the track of an intellectual, progressive, moral and virtuous course of life. In India, people have started to understand and appreciate the importance of education and the country’s literacy rate has increased. The Indian education system is globally famous for its enormousness and for imparting gainful academic knowledge. The sector has gained more recognition ever since the Indian government permitted 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the education sector in 2002. However, in India, there is a wide gap between policy proposals and enactment due to social and political compressions and administrative lapses. Policies have also often been prejudiced by contemporary political agendas.
Even though the incumbent education policy played an imperative role in the development of education since pre-independence days, a brand-new chapter in educational policy began with India becoming independent. Since 1947, the Indian government has introduced a variety of measures to quicken the growth of education in both rural and urban India. After India adopted the Constitution, education became the accountability of both the central and state governments. Considering commendations of the Kothari Commission, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had announced the first ‘National Policy on Education’ in 1968. The policy upheld the need for radical restructuring of the education sector for cultural and economic progress. The government led by Rajiv Gandhi introduced a new educational policy in 1986. The policy highlighted the need for equal educational opportunities for all Indian citizens by eliminating inequalities present in the educational segment. In 1992, the P.V. Narasimha Rao government modified this policy. In 2005, the government of Manmohan Singh again adopted a new policy based on the ‘Common Minimum Programme’ of the United Progressive Alliance.
A thirty-four-year-old educational policy has been replaced by the Modi government in 2020. The new policy has stipulated many amendments and reforms. Two committees namely, the TSR Subramanian Committee and the K Kasturirangan Committee have formulated the final draft after nearly five years.
Key components of the policy
As per the National Education Policy 2020, education will be mandatory for children between the age of 3 and 18 years. Keeping the intellectual developmental phases of the child in mind, this structure has been divided into early childhood, school years, and the secondary stage. Early childhood education will comprise three years of pre-school or anganwadi education and two years of primary education i.e. classes 1 and 2. Education from class 3 to 5 will be included in the preparatory or foundational stage of school years with an emphasis on experiential learning. Education from class 6 to class 8 will be part of the middle stage of school years with an emphasis on analytical learning intents. Vocational education will begin in schools from class 6 and will include internships. Education from class 9 to 12 will be included in the secondary stage with an emphasis on analytical learning and elasticity in subject selection. This stage will have two divisions – a section compromising of class 9 to 10 and another section compromising of class 11 to 12. Although it is not compulsory, the policy endorses the mother tongue as the mode of teaching.
According to the new policy, the undergraduate degree will either be of three or four-year duration. Manifold exit options will be provided during this period. Certification will be ensured by the colleges after successful conclusion of one year in any stream or discipline or field (including vocational and professional courses), a diploma will be awarded after two years of study and a Bachelors’ degree will be conferred after the three-year course. With an intention of digitally storing academic credits earned from higher educational institutions by the students and helping them to resume their education from where they left, the government will set up an Academic Bank of Credit. To strengthen the research and invention throughout all academic disciplines, a National Research Foundation will also be established.
The new education policy targets to augment the Gross Enrollment Ratio in higher education from 26.3% to 50% within 15 years. To support this objective, there is a proposal of adding around 35 million new seats to higher education establishments.
Colleges will be treated as ‘deemed to be university’ and graded independence will be given to them to confer degrees. This will erase the affiliation or association with universities. The new policy has suggested a limit on fees charged by the private higher educational entities. College entrance exams will be conducted twice every year by the National Testing Agency. MPhil programmes would be stopped, concreting the way for students with postgraduate degrees to get into doctoral programmes. The policy intends to open up the Indian higher education to foreign educational institutions. Established global universities will be assisted to enter India and popular Indian establishments will be fortified to go universal. Phasing out of all organisations proffering solo streams is also on the agenda and the policy suggests that all educational institutions must target to become multidisciplinary within the next 20 years.
The policy intensely focuses on Indian languages, knowledge systems, culture and values. Additionally, technology also gets extra attention. The policy also entails the formation of a National Education Technology Forum to ensure digitisation of schools.
Students will be permitted to take board exams on two occasions during any given academic year, one the main examination and one optional examination for improvement.
Extensive examination of the policy reveals that the policy only offers a direction and is not compulsory. It is a policy, not a law. Education is a concurrent subject and various reforms propositioned can only be executed conjointly by the both central and the state governments. Presence of huge disarray between these two governments does not allow smooth implementation of the policy.
The new policy has not been presented in the Parliament. For any policy to be a national vision, it should be discussed and adopted by the Parliament. Otherwise the policy runs the risk of being upended by a forthcoming government. Very importantly, the new policy is completely silent on students of parents with transferable jobs. By promoting regional and local languages, the policy keeps English on a back seat. This is not a welcome move because the language gives us a global advantage.
The policy document is keen on inviting topmost foreign educational organisations and allowing them to operate in India. However, the mechanism of defining or selecting the best institutions is absent in the policy. Furthermore, whether global universities show interest in entering India is a big question. In 2013, approximately twenty foreign universities including Yale, Cambridge, Bristol, Stanford had shown no interest in operating in the Indian market. Moreover, participation of foreign universities in India is restricted.
Even though the government has fixed a deadline of 2040 to execute the complete policy, the requirement of funds is very crucial. Sizeable investments will be required. The Ministry of Education is of the opinion that an increase in government funding of education to 6% of GDP will be sufficient to wrap the financial needs of the policy. However, history shows that no government managed to spend so much on education. Public spending on education in India has not exceeded 3.1% of the GDP in the last six years and was the lowest at 2.4% of the GDP in 2015-16.