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  • Akhil Angira

Implications of the National Education Policy 2020

You must be knowing how in the last few days, with the coronavirus pandemic still raging strong, the Modi-led BJP government undertook yet another and major policy change…

Yes, I am talking about the National Education Policy, 2020. 

Final Draft of National Education Policy 2020
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This move comes after 36 years (since the last change was made) in this sector. NEP 2020, follows the pathway shown by UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) under their SDGs (Sustainable development goals). The 17 SDGs are integrated — that is, the action in one area will affect outcomes in others. So the structure, implementation, outcomes, and flaws of NEP 2020 are essentially significant to explore and understand its multidimensional impacts.

The Forward Vision and Structure

The twentieth century, especially its last two decades, has served as a period of exceptionally intense change. The times are unprecedented. A brief review of what took place globally during this period indicated the rationale of why the Indian education system has been under such intense pressure to reform. Advanced communication and transportation technologies have been contributing to globally oriented, highly mobile, and extremely fast-paced societies. 

Economic developments have created a heretofore-unknown degree of individual, organisational, and international interdependence. India has been emerging as the leading economic and political power in the world. This condition, coupled with globalisation, has added various diplomatic, military, and humanitarian responsibilities for the nation and its citizens. 

In making its adjustments for the new world order, NEP is moving on two fronts simultaneously

First, the new world order requires everyone to be educated. Hence, issues of access and equality remain important. 

Second, it is no longer sufficient that individuals simply be exposed to just schooling of some sort, it is increasingly important that they end up really learning.

The NEP focuses and holds a great promise that is to instil among the learners a deep-rooted pride in being Indian, not only in thought, but also in spirit, intellect, and deeds, as well as to develop knowledge, skills, values, and dispositions that support responsible commitment to human rights, dedication to sustainable development and living, as well as a concern for global well-being, thereby reflecting a truly global citizen. 

Therefore, one must welcome the soul of NEP that says,

The purpose of the education system is to develop good human beings capable of rational thought and action, possessing compassion and empathy, courage and resilience, scientific temper and creative imagination, with sound ethical moorings and values.

Major Reforms and Implementation Challenges

The major reform the NEP proposes is a move from the 10+2 school policy to a 5+3+3+4 policy by including three years of pre-primary education into the schooling plan.

The first five years of flexible, multilevel, play/activity-based learning will accord “the highest priority to achieving Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by all students by Grade 3”. Moreover, neither the parents nor students are aware of integration phenomena to opt for a subject of an individual's choice. At least in the initial stages, this is not a kind of responsibility that should be left to the student or their parents alone, because they might, to reduce their workload, take up subjects which are not conducive to overall development and growth. We have to keep in mind that India is still a developing country, with huge regions living under abject poverty and illiteracy. It must be accepted that here's a huge vacuum of training and general awareness when it comes to creative learning.

The most contentious proposal is that “the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the mother tongue or regional language". A recent survey hints that the proportion of children studying in English almost doubled from 12% to 23% per cent between 2007-08 and 2017-18. Again, if we consider what the government has to say about globalisation and the need for all-round development of a student, this provision falls flat on its face. West Bengal, under the left government, had once implemented such a scheme to disastrous results, hampering the true growth of an entire generation. In a world where boundaries are becoming more and more obscure, and English is maintaining its position as the globally accepted language, changing the medium of instruction to respective mother tongues will be a lot more harmful than good.

The undergraduate degree will now either be of a three- or four-year duration, with multiple exit options within this period. The new policy aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education, including vocational education, from 26.3% in 2018 to 50% by 2035. For this, 35 million new seats will be added to higher education institutions.

The government will also set up a National Research Foundation (NRF) with the aim of catalysing and energising research and innovation across all academic disciplines, particularly at the university and college levels.

The New Education Policy (NEP) has correctly identified the quality problem as the key issue to address: 

  • Move from the affiliated college system to larger multi-disciplinary universities of a minimum size.

  • Combine professional schools with the liberal arts to provide multidisciplinary education.

  • Encourage the entry of foreign universities and attract foreign students to study in India. 


There is no doubt that these changes are welcome. But to have the result on quality we desire, it needs to be effectively implemented. This ‘implementation’ of schemes and policies and proper inspections of the same is an area that India has struggled with for a long time. It must be ensured that corruption, money and resource embezzlement are kept at minimum level and this will demand more state capacity than we usually illustrate. 

The NEP advocates “light but tight”. Instead of trying to regulate our way to quality, we should rely more fully on competition and autonomy to drive change. In professional education, when demand for seats exceeded supply, there was little incentive to improve quality. Supply now exceeds demand in India in many states, and institutes are finally starting to compete on faculty and facilities. All colleges should be free to add fields and seats at will, ignoring complaints from incumbent colleges that there is too much capacity. A few fine state universities can provide excellent quality control for more expensive private universities, which must either be better or make do with poorer quality students. The state should be generous in funding non-professional fields (such as the arts and social sciences) where markets do not adequately value skills. The IITs, IIMs, IISc, and our other public “institutions of national importance” should all be funded to become full-service universities — as it is easier to add fields than grow excellence. 

The NEP points in the right direction, but is weak on the “how” of comprehensively addressing our quality problem. It assumes a new, reformed, the regulator will be able to bring in quality — ignoring decades of experience to the contrary. Quality in an area of excellence must indeed be forced — but by competition, not regulation. And the competition must be accompanied with the complete freedom to do what it takes to compete.


Where will the funds come from?

The NEP makes no mention of how this change in the medium of instruction is to be funded. The initial investments in bilingual programmes are going to be very expensive. Includes the cost of developing new learning material and trained multilingual faculties. This is possibly one of the biggest drawbacks of the policy. It is extremely easy to say that these areas need improvement, or these aspects are not working, but to actually suggest ways of fixing it is the real deal. Without proper funding and financing, no policies can be properly implemented.


Expected Outcomes and Fundamental Flaws

President Kovind, spoke about the NEP on Saturday, Sept. 19, and said,

I am sure that the National Education Policy will be implemented in letter and spirit. It will be a milestone in the history of our country. It will not only strengthen the future of our youth but also set our country on course to becoming ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.

“A for _______” Your first thought must be an Apple. 

That's why foundation learning plays a vital role in one's life. It draws a long-lasting impression on your conscious and subconscious mind. Until or unless we teach or adopt the ideology of A for Atom, properly and fundamentally, no policies will work out for us. We must focus on basics and fundamentals so initial grooming will help an individual to develop. A child develops its understanding through sounds, images, structures, and colours. 

On the matter of public expenditure on education, the NEP reports two number sets — that it amounts to 4.43% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 10% of total public expenditure. (Point 26.1 of the NEP). Both numbers cannot be right as total public expenditure is only 26-27% of GDP. But besides this confusion about the numbers, the NEP does not present any proposal for achieving the long-standing goal of public expenditure on education getting to 6% of GDP. In fact, with the drive to prioritise expenditure on defence and internal security and the political pressures to expand direct benefit anti-poverty programs, public expenditure on education will continue to fall short of the 6% target.

How much of a constraint will this be? The percentage of the population falling in the school and college-going age-brackets is coming down and is expected to decline from 39% in 2011 to about 30% in 2031. 

Vacuum in rich teaching/teachers and FTP (Faculty Training Program) is the major issue in a country like India where we already have so many screening flaws in talent acquisition. The NEP holds a promising market to private companies, institutions, and organisations. 


But the enigma is, will the NEP and its half baked implementation process (in any case) help the last person/family/student waiting in the queue with challenged financials? 

Will it address the issues of poverty, and backwardness and help out the weakest children as much as the strongest? Or is this yet another attempt by this Government, to exclusively cater to the needs of the rich and upper middle classes? 

The biggest let-down from this Policy is the inadequacy of any proposal for the distillation of education from political control. The crispness of autonomy and flexibility is bounded and seems that there are hidden motives behind this phantasma. NEP therefore, all in all fails to provide the base grounds for an innovative education system for the future, which is beneficial for all, and takes overall growth and development into account, while considering the wide demographics of our diverse country.




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