On July 29, 2020, Union Cabinet approved the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which is the first education policy of the 21st century and has replaced the 34 year old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986. The foundational pillars of this educational policy are Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability and align to the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The policy aims to transform India into an energetic knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, suited to 21st century needs and aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student.
The new policy is drafted on the recommendations made by a panel headed by former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief Mr K Kasturirangan, who had submitted the draft of the new policy to Human Resource Development Minister Mr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ in May 2019. Over two lakh suggestions and objections were received to the draft policy by the Ministry. Union Cabinet also approved changing the name of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to Ministry of Education.
NEP 2020 focuses on guarantying universal access to school education at all levels, from pre-school to secondary. The Government will provide infrastructure support and develop innovation centres to bring back dropouts into the mainstream. It will also keep a track of students and their learning levels, facilitate multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes, setting up an association of counsellors or well-trained social workers with schools, open learning for classes 3, 5 and 8 through NIOS and State Open Schools, secondary education programs equivalent to Grades 10 and 12, vocational courses, adult literacy and life-enrichment programs.
Early Childhood Care and Education with new Curricular and Pedagogical Structure
The 10+2 structure of school curriculum will be replaced by 5+3+3+4 structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years, respectively. The stage of 3-6 years is recognised globally as crucial years for the development of the mental facilities of a child. This policy will bring the age group under the school curriculum. Thus, the new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi or pre-schooling.
National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8. This will be delivered through the strengthened system of institutions including Anganwadis and pre-schools that will have teachers and Anganwadi workers trained in the ECCE pedagogy and curriculum. Ministries of HRD, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs will jointly conduct the planning and implementation of the scheme.
Attaining Foundational Literacy and Numeracy
MHRD will set up National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy for achieving universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners from grade 3 to higher level by 2025.
Reforms in school curricula and pedagogy
There will be changes in school curricula and pedagogy to enhance essential learning and critical thinking and increase focus on experiential learning. More flexibility and choice of subjects will be provided to students. The rigid gaps will be reduced between arts and sciences, curricular and extra-curricular activities, and vocational and academic streams.
Students will be introduced with vocational education from 6th grade and will also have 10 days of internship programmes in the curriculum.
NCERT will develop a new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education (NCFSE) 2020-21.
Multilingualism and the power of language
Under NEP 2020, mother tongue languages and regional languages are given importance as a medium of instruction, at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond. No language will be imposed on the students. Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardized across the country and National and State curriculum materials will be developed accordingly for use by students with hearing impairment as well as with ISL.
The assessment will be more focused on learning and development and will test higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity. School examinations will be held in Grades 3, 5 and 8, which will be conducted by the appropriate authority. Class 10 and 12 boards exams will continue but will be re-designed with holistic development as the aim.
A new standard body, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) will be set up as National Assessment Centre.
Equitable and Inclusive Education
The policy gives important attention to Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs), which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities, and disabilities. There will be a Gender Inclusion Fund and Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups. Children with disabilities will be able to participate in the regular schooling process from the foundational stage to higher education, with support of educators with cross-disability training, resource centres, accommodations, assistive devices, appropriate technology-based tools and other support mechanisms tailored to suit their needs. Bal Bhavans will be set up in every district as a special daytime boarding to participate in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities.
Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path
In the recruitment of teachers, a robust and transparent process will be used, and promotions will be merit-based, with a mechanism for multi-source periodic performance appraisals and available progression paths to becoming educational administrators or teacher educators. National Council for Teacher Education will develop National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) by 2022.
Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education
Every state and Union Territory (UT) will set up an independent State School Standards Authority (SSSA). This will focus on clear, separate systems for policymaking, regulation, operations, and academic matters. School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) will be developed in consolations with all stakeholders.
Increase Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) to 50 per cent by 2035
The policy has set a target to increase GER in higher education including vocational education from 26.3 per cent in 2018 to 50 per cent by 2035. Higher education institutions (HEIs) will be given 3.5 crore new seats.
Holistic Multidisciplinary Education
The policy focus on undergraduate education with flexible curricula, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education and multiple entries and exit points with appropriate certification.
The degree can be of three or four years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period. For example, a certificate will be given after one-year, Advanced Diploma after two years, Bachelor’s Degree after three years and Bachelor’s with Research after four years. An Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) will be established for digitally storing academic credits earned from different HEIs so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned.
There will be a common entrance exam conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) for admission to universities and higher education institutions.
Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs) will be set up as models of best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country.
M Phil will be discontinued under new policy.
There will be a single overarching umbrella body for the entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education - Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). It will have four independent verticals - National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation, General Education Council (GEC) for standard-setting, Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding and National Accreditation Council (NAC) for accreditation.
Rationalised Institutional Architecture
HEIs will be developed into large, well resourced, vibrant multidisciplinary institutions offering high-quality teaching, research, and community engagement. University will allow a range of institutions that range from Research-intensive Universities to Teaching-intensive Universities and Autonomous degree-granting Colleges.
NCTE will develop a National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, in consultation with NCERT. The minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a four-year integrated B.Ed degree by 2030.
Financial support for students
The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs. Private HEIs will be encouraged to increase the number of scholarships to their students.
Open and Distance Learning
This will help in increasing GER by taking measures such as online courses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, credit-based recognition of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), etc.
Online Education and Digital Education
MHRD will develop a dedicated unit to build digital infrastructure, digital content, and capacity building to help both school and higher education.
Technology in education
National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) will be formed to offer a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology, to improve learning, assessment, planning, and administration. Virtual labs will be created to enhance the learning experience.
Promotion of Indian languages
The policy plans on setting up an Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI) and National Institute (or Institutes) for Pali, Persian, and Prakrit, which will play a vital role in strengthening Sanskrit and all language departments in HEIs.
Internationalization of education will be made possible through both institutional collaborations and student and faculty mobility and allowing entry of top world ranked Universities to open campuses in India.
All professional education will be an important part of the higher education system. Stand-alone technical universities, health science universities, legal and agricultural universities, etc., will aim to become multi-disciplinary institutions.
Both Centre and State Governments will work together to increase public investment in the education sector to reach 6 per cent of the GDP at the earliest.
It is expected that the changes in the NEP 2020 will reduce regulatory hassles and promote autonomy. The Policy also tries to bring a systemic change in the sector than an incremental one and underlines several new rules that will benefit students, education providers and the labour market.