In a historic move, the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) on 29th July. In addition to this, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has been renamed as Ministry of Education.
The New Education Policy 2020 is the third ever education policy of India. Earlier education policies that were introduced in India were under the rule of PM Indira Gandhi in 1968 and PM Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. Few minor changes were made in 2002 in the educational policy but the structure of the education system more or less remained the same as per the 1986 education policy.
NEP 2020 is advocating for large scale, transformational reforms in both school and higher education sectors. The policy is built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability as per the government release. It is said to be aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The objective of the New Education Policy 2020 is to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, suited to 21st century needs. It is aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student in the country.
Following are the important Highlights of the New Education Policy 2020.
Increased Spending on Education
In order to come at par with the education spending across the world and following the recommendations by the Kothari commission 1964, the policy has assured that the Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.
Universal Access at all levels of school education
NEP 2020 stresses upon establishing universal access to school education at all levels- preschool to secondary. In order to achieve this rather challenging feat, the policy proposes to strengthen infrastructure support, install innovative education centres to bring back dropouts into the mainstream, monitor the learning levels of students efficiently and facilitate multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes. In addition to this, the policy recommends that an association of counsellors or well-trained social workers with schools may help students gain extra exposure, as well as help, maintain their mental wellbeing. The policy has also recommended 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 to ensure holistic development of Indian population. About 2 crores of out of school children will be brought back into the mainstream under NEP 2020.
Early Childhood Care & Education
Understanding the importance of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), NEP 2020 has proposed that 10+2 structure of school curricula should be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively. This will bring the hitherto uncovered age group of 3-6 years under the school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for the development of mental faculties of a child. The new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/pre-schooling.
To ensure that the children between ages 3-8 are exposed to the appropriate syllabus, NCERT has been asked to develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE). ECCE will be delivered through a significantly expanded and strengthened system of institutions including Anganwadis and pre-schools that will have teachers and Anganwadi workers trained in the ECCE pedagogy and curriculum.
Reforms in the school curriculum and the methods of teaching
The school curriculum, as well as teaching methods, will aim for the holistic development of learners by equipping them with the key 21st-century skills. This would entail a reduction in curricular content to enhance essential learning and critical thinking and a greater focus on experiential learning. Students will have increased flexibility and choice of subjects. There will be no rigid separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams.
In addition to this, vocational education will start in schools from the 6th grade and will include internships. For this, a new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be developed by the NCERT.
Multilingualism and Significance of Languages
Studies have shown that understanding of concepts occur better if young children are taught in their mother tongue. Taking this into cognisance, the policy has emphasized that mother tongue/local language/regional language must be the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond. NEP 2020 has also provided for Sanskrit to be offered at all levels of school and higher education as an option for students, including in the three-language formula. In addition to this, other classical languages and literature of India will also be available as options for students.
However, taking into account the opposition of imposition of Hindi by the South Indian states in the Draft Education Policy 2019, the NEP 2020 has clarified that no language will be imposed on any student.
In order to promote the use of Indian languages, the policy has said that students will be facilitated to participate in a fun project/activity on ‘The Languages of India’, sometime in Grades 6-8, such as, under the ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ initiative. Several foreign languages will also be offered at the secondary level. Moreover, as per the policy, Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardized across the country, and National and State curriculum materials will be developed, for use by students with hearing impairment.
The examinations in Indian education has always promoted rote-learning by students. While students manage to get good marks in this manner but they seldom learn things to apply in their practical lives. NEP 2020 envisages a shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment, which is more competency-based, promotes learning and development, and tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity.
As per the New Education Policy 2020, all students will take school examinations 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.
Equitable and Inclusive Education
NEP 2020 aims to ensure that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of the circumstances of birth or background. In order to achieve this, special emphasis will be given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities and disabilities. This includes setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups.
According to the policy, children with disabilities will be enabled to fully 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. Every state/district will be encouraged to establish “Bal Bhavans” as a special daytime boarding school, to participate in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities.
Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path
Quality teachers have been lacking in the Indian education system. In an attempt to remedy that, the policy has said that teachers will be recruited through robust, transparent processes. 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.
For Higher Education, the policy envisages broad-based, multi-disciplinary, holistic Under Graduate education with flexible curricula, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education and multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification.
In addition to this, for the benefit of the students and to avoid duplication of their efforts, the policy has said that an Academic Bank of Credit is to be established for digitally storing academic credits earned from different HEIs so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned.
In order to facilitate this, the higher education institutions will be transformed into large, well resourced, vibrant multidisciplinary institutions providing high-quality teaching, research, and community engagement. The definition of the university will allow a spectrum of institutions that range from research-intensive Universities to Teaching-intensive Universities and Autonomous degree-granting Colleges.
A National Mission for Mentoring will be established, with a large pool of outstanding senior/retired faculty – including those with the ability to teach in Indian languages – who would be willing to provide short and long-term mentoring/professional support to university/college teachers.
Financial support for students
According to ensure that students from all strata are able to benefit from NEP 2020, the policy has clarified that efforts will be made to incentivize the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs. The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships. Complimenting these initiatives, private HEIs will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of free ships and scholarships to their students.
Open and Distance Learning
The strategy of the provision of Open and Distance Learning is to increase the enrolment of students in higher education programs. To achieve this, measures such as online courses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, credit-based recognition of MOOCs, etc., will be taken to ensure it is at par with the highest quality in-class programmes.
Online Education and Digital Education:
COVID-19 Pandemic has emphasised the role of e-learning and online education across the world. A comprehensive set of recommendations for promoting online education in order to ensure preparedness with alternative modes of quality education whenever and wherever traditional and in-person modes of education are not possible has been covered in NEP 2020. To facilitate this, a dedicated unit for the purpose of orchestrating the building of digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be created in the MHRD to look after the e-education needs of both school and higher education.
Introducing Technology in education
Using technology to impart education is necessary at this time in order to stay updated with the evolving time where people are relying on technology more than ever. To ensure that the students of India are not lacking in this skill, and are comfortable with the use of technology, the policy has said that appropriate integration of technology into all levels of education will be done to improve classroom processes. This will also support teacher professional development, enhance educational access for disadvantaged groups and streamline educational planning, administration and management. To implement this, an autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration.
Promotion of Indian languages
To ensure the preservation, growth, and vibrancy of all Indian languages, NEP has recommended setting an Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI), National Institute (or Institutes) for Pali, Persian and Prakrit, strengthening of Sanskrit and all language departments in HEIs, and use mother tongue/local language as a medium of instruction in more HEI programmes.
According to the policy, all professional education will be an integral 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.
India after a gap of 34 years has finally come up with the policy that has the potential to transform the education scenario. The country is finally gearing up to face tomorrow equipped with the best of human resources and determination to lead the world with knowledge, wisdom and humility.