August 22, 2021: The Union Cabinet of India approved the New Education Policy 2020 and proposed sweeping changes in school and higher education. Here in this article, we list the key points.
What the New Education Policy 2020 is all about?
The New Education Policy 2020 is a comprehensive framework to guide the development of education in the country. The urgent need for constructing and drafting up a policy was first felt in 1964 when Congress MP Siddheshwar Prasad criticised the then government for lacking a vision and philosophy for education.
As a result it was in that Sam year that a 17-member Education Commission, headed by then UGC Chairperson D S Kothari, was constituted to draft a national and coordinated policy on education.
Based on the suggestions of this Commission, Parliament passed the first education policy in 1968.
This National Education Policy (NEP) amends with the need of the times and this usually takes place every few decades. India has had three to date.
The first came in 1968 and the second in 1986, under Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi respectively; the NEP of 1986 was revised in 1992 when P V Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister. The third is the NEP released Wednesday under the Prime Ministership of Narendra Modi.
What is the need of the New Education Policy 2020?
The new education policy 2020 proposes a magnanimous wave in Indian education, including opening up of Indian higher education to foreign universities, dismantling of the UGC and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), introduction of a four-year multidisciplinary undergraduate programme with multiple exit options, and discontinuation of the M Phil programme.
In school education, the policy focuses on overhauling the curriculum, “easier” board exams, a reduction in the syllabus to retain “core essentials” and thrust on “experiential learning and critical thinking”.
Marking a significant shift from the 1986 policy, which pushed for 10+2 structure of school education, the new NEP pitches for a “5+3+3+4” design corresponding to the age groups 3-8 years (foundational stage), 8-11 (preparatory), 11-14 (middle), and 14-18 (secondary). This brings early childhood education (also known as pre-school education for children of ages 3 to 5) under the ambit of formal schooling. The mid-day meal programme will be extended to pre-school children. The NEP says students until Class 5 should be taught in their mother tongue or regional language.
In addition to these, the policy schemes to phasing out of all institutions offering single streams and that all universities and colleges must aim to become multidisciplinary by 2040.
How well are the reforms backed by implementation ideas?
It is a given that the NEP only provides a broad disciplinary direction and is not mandatory to follow. Since education is a concurrent subject (both the Centre and the state governments can make laws on it), the reforms proposed can only be implemented collaboratively by the Centre and the states. And this joint approval takes time. The incumbent government has set a target of 2040 to implement the entire policy. Sufficient funding is also crucial; the 1968 NEP was paralysed by a shortage of funds.
Under the new education policy of 2020, the government plans to set up subject-wise committees with members from relevant ministries at both the central and state levels to develop implementation plans for each aspect of the NEP. These plans will carry out the direction for actions to be taken by multiple bodies, including the HRD Ministry, state Education Departments, school Boards, NCERT, Central Advisory Board of Education and National Testing Agency, among others. Planning will be followed by a yearly joint review of progress against targets set.
What does the point on the emphasis of mother tongue/regional language mean for English-medium schools?
This focus is not novel: A majority of government schools in India are doing this already. With an exception of private schools, which are unlikely to be asked to change their medium of instruction. This was supported by a senior ministry official who gave an official statement to media 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.
Vision of policy
People in transferable jobs or children of multilingual parents, does the policy take them in its vision? There are no specific instructions laid down by the NEP on children of parents with transferable jobs, but acknowledges children living in multilingual families: “Teachers will be encouraged to use a bilingual approach, including bilingual teaching-learning materials, with those students whose home language may be different from the medium of instruction.”
The government’s plans to open up higher education to foreign players:
The newly drafted up NEP states that universities from among the top 100 in the world will be allowed to set up campuses in India. Not entering deep into the criteria for the top 100 universities list, the incumbent government may use the ‘QS World University Rankings’ as it has relied on these in the past while selecting universities for the ‘Institute of Eminence’ status. All of these provisions shall however remain static unless the HRD Ministry brings in a new law that includes details of how foreign universities will operate in India.
These new regulations still do not ensure that the best universities abroad will indeed set up campuses in India. In 2013, at the time the UPA-II was trying to push a similar Bill, The Indian Express had reported that the top 20 global universities, including Yale, Cambridge, MIT and Stanford, University of Edinburgh and Bristol, had shown no interest in entering the Indian market.
Participation of foreign universities in India is currently limited to them entering into collaborative twinning programmes, sharing faculty with partnering institutions and offering distance education. Over 650 foreign education providers have such arrangements in India.
The NEP 2020 design for the four-year multidisciplinary bachelor’s programme:
It’s a fact that this was a result of force! Interestingly, this pitch, comes six years after Delhi University was forced to scrap such a four-year undergraduate programme at the incumbent government’s behest. Under the four-year programme brought forth in the new NEP, students can exit after one year with a certificate, after two years with a diploma, and after 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.
The decision of doing away with the M Phil programme and its impact:
Nullifying all its effects on the higher education trajectory, Chauhan stated, “In normal course, after a master’s degree a student can register for a PhD programme. This is the current practice almost all over the world. In most universities, including those in the UK (Oxford, Cambridge and others), M Phil was a middle research degree between a master’s and a PhD. Those who have entered MPhil, more often than not ended their studies with a PhD degree. MPhil degrees have slowly been phased out in favour of a direct PhD programme.”
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Whether the multiple disciplines will dilute the character of single-stream institutions, such as IITs or not!
The wave of change is already in motion as far as the IIT are concerned. IIT-Delhi has a humanities department and set up a public policy department recently. IIT-Kharagpur has a School of Medical Science and Technology. Asked about multiple disciplines, IIT-Delhi director V Ramgopal Rao said, “Some of the best universities in the US such as MIT have very strong humanities departments. Take the case of a civil engineer. Knowing how to build a dam is not going to solve a problem. He needs to know the environmental and social impact of building the dam. Many engineers are also becoming entrepreneurs. Should they not know something about economics? A lot more factors go into anything related to engineering today.”