New Education Policy in India

New Education Policy 2020: In 2020, the Union Cabinet approved a new National Education Policy (NEP) recommending comprehensive changes in school and higher education. We will present you some of the effects the National Education Policy will have on India’s students.

But first we need to know

What does NEP do?

The NEP is a holistic system for guiding the growth of education in the country. The need for a strategy was first felt in 1964 when Congressman Siddheshwar Prasad blamed the government of the time for a lack of direction and ideology for education. The same year, the 17-member Education Commission, led by then UGC President D S Kothari, was set up to formulate a national and organized policy on education. On the ground of the Commission’s recommendations, the Parliament enacted the first policy on education in 1968.

Typically, a new NEP arrives every few decades. To date, India has had three. The first came in 1968 and the second in 1986, under Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi; the NEP of 1986 was amended in 1992, when P V Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister. The third is the NEP published in 2020 under Narendra Modi’s Prime Ministership.

NEP 2020 Highlights

The NEP suggests drastic reforms, including the expansion of Indian higher education to international institutions, the dismantling of the UGC and the All India Technical Education Council (AICTE), the implementation of a four-year multidisciplinary undergraduate curriculum with various exit opportunities, and the discontinuation of the Master of Philosophy program.

In school education, the proposal emphasizes on rethinking the curriculum, “easier” board tests, reducing the syllabus to maintain “core essentials” and concentrating on “experiential learning and critical thinking.”

Amid the major change from the 1986 policy, which advocated for a 10+2 school education system, the current “5+3+3+4” NEP structures referring to age groups 3-8 years (foundational stage), 8-11 (preparatory), 11-14 (intermediate), and 14-18 years (secondary). This takes early childhood education (also known as pre-school education for children between the ages of 3 and 5) to formal education. The mid-day meal program will also be expanded to pre-school students. The NEP notes that children should be taught in their mother tongue or native language before class 5.

The proposal further recommends that all institutions providing single streams be phased out and that all universities and colleges should aim to become multidisciplinary by 2040.

How will the NEP reforms be implemented?

The NEP offers only a broad path and is not compulsory to implement. Since education is a concurrent topic (both the Center and the State Governments will pass legislations upon this), the suggested changes can only be enforced collaboratively by the Center and the States. This is not going to happen overnight. The new government has set a deadline of 2040 for the adoption of the entire program. Sufficient funding is also essential; the NEP of 1968 was hamstrung by a lack of funds.

The Government plans to set up, on a case-by-case basis, committees with representatives of relevant ministries at both central and state level to formulate action plans for each part of the NEP. The proposals would list the steps to be taken by a range of agencies, including the HRD Ministry of Education, State Departments of Education, School Boards, NCERT, the Central Advisory Board of Education and the National Testing Body, among others. Planning will be accompanied by an annual joint review of results towards the goals set.

What does the emphasis on mother tongue or regional language mean for English-taught schools?

This emphasis is not new: most government schools in the country are still doing this. As for private schools, they are unlikely to be requested to shift their language of instruction. According to the The Indian Express: A senior ministry official clarified that the provision on mother tongue as medium of instruction was not compulsory for states. “Education is a concurrent subject. Which is why the policy clearly states that kids will be taught in their mother tongue or regional language ‘wherever possible’,” the officer said.

How is the government preparing to open higher education to foreign institutions?

The paper notes that universities from within the top 100 in the world will be able to set up campuses in India. Although the criteria for determining the top 100 are not specified, the incumbent government may use the ‘QS World University Rankings’ as it has depended on them in the past while selecting universities for the ‘Institute of Eminence’ status. However, none of this will begin until the HRD Ministry passes a new legislation that provides specifics of how international universities can work in India.

The involvement of international universities in India is currently limited to engaging in joint twinning programs, exchanging faculty with collaborating institutions and providing distance learning. About 650 international higher education institutions have such deals in India.

The four-year multidisciplinary bachelor program and how it will work

Intriguingly, this proposal emerges six years after Delhi University had been forced to cancel such a four-year undergraduate program at the behest of the new government. In the four-year curriculum proposed in the new NEP, students will graduate after one year with a certificate, two years with a diploma and three years with a bachelor’s degree.

“Four-year bachelor’s programmes generally include a certain amount of research work and the student will get deeper knowledge in the subject he or she decides to major in. After four years, a BA student should be able to enter a research degree programme directly depending on how well he or she has performed… However, master’s degree programmes will continue to function as they do, following which student may choose to carry on for a PhD programme,” said scientist and former UGC chairman V S Chauhan.

When will be the NEP implemented?

All schools are to be standardized by 2025 and all higher education institutions are to become multidisciplinary by 2040. But state educators and school officials believe that could take even longer.

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