The new National Education Policy approved by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday will introduce four-year undergraduate degrees with multiple entry and exit options, abolish the M.Phil. degree, and establish a common higher education regulator with fee fixation for both private and public institutions. It also envisions universalisation of early childhood education from ages 3 to 6 by 2030, a new school curriculum with coding and vocational studies from Class 6, and a child’s mother tongue being used as the medium of instruction till Class 5.
This is the first new education policy in 34 years, and was a poll promise of the BJP in 2014. A panel headed by former ISRO chief K. Kasturirangan submitted a draft in December 2018, which was made public and opened for feedback after the Lok Sabha election in May 2019.
Language issues caused the most outrage at that time, as the original draft called for mandatory teaching of Hindi to all school students. That clause was dropped and the final policy document makes it clear that “there will be a greater flexibility in the three-language formula, and no language will be imposed on any State. The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and of course the students themselves, so long as at least two of the three languages are native to India. Sanskrit will be offered as an option at all levels of school and higher education,” said the policy, adding that other classical languages will also be available, possibly as online modules, while foreign languages will be offered at the secondary level.
“Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/ mother tongue/ local language/ regional language ... This will be followed by both public and private schools,” said the policy.
Senior officials said that as education was a concurrent subject, with most States having their own school boards, State governments would have to be brought on board for actual implementation of this decision.
A new curricular framework is to be introduced, including the pre-school and anganwadi years. A National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy will ensure basic skills at the Class 3 level by 2025. Students will begin classes on coding as well as vocational activities from Class 6 onwards. Indian knowledge systems, including tribal and indigenous knowledge, will be incorporated into the curriculum in an accurate and scientific manner, said the policy.
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Easier exams, no cramming
Class 10 and 12 board examinations will be made easier, to test core competencies rather than memorised facts, with all students allowed to take the exam twice. Future redesigns could include modular or semester-wise board exams, exams at different levels of difficulty or separate exams for objective and descriptive type questions.
School governance is set to change, with a new accreditation framework and an independent authority to regulate both public and private schools.
A common higher education regulator is also on the cards, to oversee the entire sector except for legal and medical education. In fact, a Higher Education Commission of India Bill for such a regulator has been in draft stage for over a year now. A broad framework will be set up to regulate fee fixation for private players as well.
Undergraduate education is to become more holistic and multi-disciplinary, with four year Bachelors with Research degrees set to become the norm, although students who drop out at earlier stages will receive lesser qualifications as well. An Academic Bank of Credit will be set up to make it easier to transfer between institutions. The M.Phil degree is being scrapped.
The college affiliation system is being phased out over the next 15 years, so that every college develops into either an autonomous degree-granting institution, or a constituent college of a university.
There is a new focus on technology in education in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the policy recommends expansion of digital offerings for both schools and universities.