“All the wealth of the world can not help one little Indian village if people are not taught to help themselves. Our work should be mainly educational, both moral and intellectual.” – Swami Vivekananda.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay introduced English education in India in 19th Century. Driven by the need and structure of colonial economy, the purpose of that educational system was to produce Babus who could think with the Englishman’s mind and act as a bridge between the colonial masters and the Indian subjects. Though after Independence, the country embarked on a major exercise of sharing up its educational infrastructure with the establishment of universities and research centers, the framework of colonial educational system was not tinkered with. This put in a place an educational system which was not in tune with the consciousness of a resurgent nation trying to create a place for itself in the community of nations.2 India has made educational policies in the year 1968, 1986 (educational policy of 1986 was later modified in 1992) and now the National Educational Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), approved by the Union Cabinet on 29th July 2020, is truly the first public policy document in the post- independent India. The NEP 2020 is the first attempt in modern India to re-look at the educational system that we inherited from our colonial masters.
Main Features of the National Education Policy: 2020
The policy places a welcome emphasis on a holistic, learner centered, flexible system that seek to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society. It rightfully balances the rootedness and pride in India as well as acceptance of the best ideas and practices in the world of learning from across the globe. The new policy aims for universalisation of education from pre-school to secondary level with 100 percent Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030 and aims to raise GER in higher education to 50 percent by 2025.
I. The Policy expands the scope of foundational education, increasing the school-going years from 3 to 18 instead of the prevalent 6 to 14. This will enable more holistic development of children in the formative age group of 3-6 years.
II. NEP 2020 will bring two crore out of school children back into the main stream.
III. A much discussed stipulation in the NEP stresses that the medium of instruction until at least fifth grade (preferably eight grade) will be in a regional language that is recognised as being native to India. This a welcome step, as mother tongue plays a highly critical role in the overall development of the child. Mother tongue, which a child hears from the moment he or she is born, provides personal identity, connects with culture and is crucial cognitive development.
IV. The 10+2 structure of school children curricula is to be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8,8-11,11-14, and 14-18 years respectively. It will include 12 years of schooling and three years of Anganwadi and pre-schooling.
V. 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 eight.
VI. NEP 2020 calls for setting up of a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by the Education Ministry. States will prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners by grade 3 by 2025.
VII. A National Book Promotion Policy is to be formulated.
VIII. All students will take school educations in Grades 3,5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority. Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued, but redesigned with holistic development as the aim.
IX. A new National Assessment Center, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development), will be set up as a standard-setting body.
X. NEP emphasises on setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups.
XI. Every state/district will be encountered to establish “Bal Bhavans” as special daytime boarding school, to participate in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities. Free school infrastructure can be used as Samajik Chetna Kendras.
XII. A common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teachers Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERTs), teachers and expert organisations from across levels and regions.
XIII. State/Union Territories will set up independent State School Standards Authority (SSSA). The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) through all stakeholders.
XIV. NEP 2020 aims to increase the Gross Enrollment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3 per cent in 2018 to 50 percent by 2035 and aim to add 3.5 crore new seats to higher education institution.
XV. An Academic Bank of Credit is to be established for digitally storing academic credits earned from different Higher Education Institutions so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned.
XVI. Public and private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards. XVII. The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education.
XVIII. Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in fifteen (15) years and a stage-wise mechanism is to be established for granting graded autonomy with NCERT.
XIX. A comprehensive set of recommendation for promoting online education consequent to the rise in epidemics and pandemics in order to ensure preparedness with alternative modes of quality education whenever and wherever traditional modes of education are not possible has been covered.
XX. NEP recommends setting an Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI), National Institute for Pali, Persian and Prakrit, strengthening of Sanskrit and all languages department in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and use mother tongue/local language as a medium of instruction in more HEI programmes.
XXI. Internationalisation of education will be facilitated through both institutional collaborations, and student and faculty mobility and allowing entry of top world ranked universities to open campuses in India.
XXII. Policy aims to achieve 100 per cent youth and adult literacy.
XXIII. The Center and the States will work together to increase the public investment in Education sector to reach 6 per cent of the GDP at the earliest.
Challenges and Suggestions for Proper Implementation of National Education Policy: 2020
Teacher Skilling: Teaching is one of the low-paid professions in India with and average teacher earning around 200,000 per year.4 Given these constraints, experimental learning, and concept oriented teaching, versus the currently prevalent printed content-oriented teaching will be tough. Until the structural constraint in teacher remuneration is not corrected in the education system, the NEP implementation in the spirit and the form will stay challenged.
Legal Issues: The policy has been criticised due to the legal complexities surrounding the applicability of two operative policies namely The Right To Education Act, 2009 and the New Education Policy, 2020. Certain provisions such as the age of starting schooling will need to be deliberated upon, in order to resolve any conundrum between statute and the recently introduced policy in longer run.
Role of UGC and AICTE: The contours of NEP is expected to revise the regulatory avatar of the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) being set up with a wide role in Indian higher education. The HECI is likely to have four verticals under its umbrella, including: a) National Higher Education Regulatory Council, intended to be a single point regulator for the higher education sector; b) Higher Education Grants Council, which will be tasked with carrying out funding and financing of higher education; c) National Accreditation Council, which will deal with accreditation of institutions; and d) General Education Council, the final vertical, is expected to have a more academic based-role, as it will frame expected learning outcomes for higher education programmes. Foreign universities coming into the country will also fall under the purview of this framework. While the Universities Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education have played a major role in this direction until now, questions pertaining to the role of the UGC and AICTE remain unanswered under the new policy.
Schooling in Local Language: A system that promotes meritocracy, equal opportunity and equity is good, but there lies a gap between theory and practice. In addition to this, the NEP elucidates the need of homeschooling and multi-language learning whereby until 5th grade and in exceptional circumstances, no later than 8th grade, the mode of education shall be in mother tongue/local language of the student. Despite the all-encompassing facade of the new policy, its success shall be put through a sceptical lens with rising concerns for students during higher education and their professional journeys. It is problematic in the light of the right of the people to move from one state to another since the inter-state movement shall result in the change of the local language and the mode of education. Regional language along with English language would be a good idea as the English language is a window to the world and every child from foundation should be focused to learn English.
This NEP was long overdue, it has commendable vision but its potency will depend on whether it is able to effectively integrate with the government’s other policy initiatives- Digital India, Skill India and the New Industrial Policy to name a few in order to effect a coherent structural configuration. States and the Union Government have to work together to make the change happen in the classrooms. If implemented well, this policy is the way forward to make India a thriving knowledge hub. While NEP aims to increase public investment in education from current 3.1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), we must have a time frame for this to be implemented. I hope that all stakeholders will lend their whole hearted support in the effective implementation of the policy.