The story so far: The Union Cabinet approved a new National Education Policy on July 29, after a 34-year gap. The National Education Policy, 2020 is meant to provide an overarching vision and comprehensive framework for both school and higher education across the country. The new NEP, approved by the Cabinet, has not been presented in Parliament. It is the first to be formulated by a Bharatiya Janata Party government and the first in the 21st century. It is only a policy, not a law; implementation of its proposals depends on further regulations by both States and the Centre as education is a concurrent subject.
What are some of the key proposals?
The NEP proposes to change the school curricular structure from the current 10+2 (Class 1-10 of general education followed by two years of higher secondary school with specialised subjects) with a 5+3+3+4 structure, bringing children from ages 3 to 5 years within the formal education system for the first time, and ensuring curricular continuity in the last four years. A mission for foundational literacy and numeracy, free breakfasts being added to free lunches in government schools, vocational education along with internships from Class 6, and proposed redesign of the board examinations are some other major initiatives for school education.
National Education Policy 2020 | KVs unlikely to change medium of instruction
For higher education, a new umbrella regulator has been proposed with separate verticals for regulation, standard setting, accreditation and funding. It will absorb arts and science, technical and teacher education into its fold, replacing several existing regulatory bodies, and also ensure a level playing field for public and private players. Top foreign universities will be allowed to set up campuses in India. For students, the biggest change may be the introduction of four-year undergraduate degrees, with options for entry and exit at various stages, a credit transfer system, and the abolition of the M Phil programme.
What is the timeline for implementation?
The policy is meant to transform the education system by 2040. Some proposals will be implemented immediately, starting with the change in the name of the Ministry of Human Resource Development into the Ministry of Education. “There are over 100 action points from the Policy. Implementation will be done in phases, based on time, region and types of institutions with Institutes of Eminence (IoEs) and Central Universities taking the lead,” said Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare. For instance, four-year undergraduate degrees with multiple entry-exit options will be introduced in the 20 IoEs from the 2020-21 academic year, while others continue with the existing three-year degree courses. Existing M.Phil students can continue until they complete their degree, although new admissions for the programme will not be accepted.
The National Testing Agency will introduce a pilot version of the common entrance test by December 2020, which will be used for admission to all IoEs and central universities in 2021. Some Indian Institutes of Technology are working on developing the technical structure of the Academic Credit Bank, which will also be established by December, and become applicable to all new students joining central universities next year.
National Education Policy 2020 | States will decide on medium of instruction, says Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank
The National Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission which is to be implemented by 2025 will be launched by the end of this year, said Mr. Khare. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) will introduce the curricular framework for the new school structure, including early childhood care, by the next academic year.
Where do the difficulties lie?
Some of the proposals require legal changes. The draft Higher Education Commission of India Bill has been languishing in the Ministry for over a year, but is likely to be published for feedback by September. The proposal for a Board of Governors for universities may also require amendments of the Central and State Universities Acts. A Cabinet note has already been moved to set up the National Research Foundation as a trust under the government, but in order to make it a fully autonomous body, an Act may be required.
Others require funding. Free breakfasts can only be considered in the next academic year if a budget allocation is made to cover it. The process of converting affiliated colleges into degree granting autonomous institutions and then further into fully fledged universities is estimated to take at least 15 years, as the Centre will have to provide financial assistance for this purpose.
Editorial | A long road: On National Education Policy 2020
The Ministry feels that an increase in government funding of education to 6% of GDP will be sufficient to cover the financial implications of the NEP. However, such an increase in funding has been proposed but not achieved for the last half-century, point out experts. The proposal to make the mother tongue the medium of instruction till Class 5, which has stirred up the fiercest debates, is dependent on State governments, according to the Education Minister, who would not even confirm that the policy will be implemented by centrally-run schools.