The National Policy on Education is basically a policy formulated by the Government of India to promote education among the people of India. Since Independence, India has witnessed four policies on education. The first Education Policy was introduced by the Congress Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi in 1968, while the Second Policy was brought about after 22 years by her son Sri Rajiv Gandhi in 1986, while the third and latest National Education Policy was interpolated by the present government led by Sri Narendra Modi in 2020. Though, between the second and the third, a partial modification of the 1986 national policy on education was made in 1992 during the Prime Ministership of P.V. Narasimha Rao. Thus we find that, the present one is the only education policy presented by a non-Congress Prime Minister after 34 years since his predecessor late Rajiv Gandhi presented the National Policy on Education in 1986.
Importance of the National Education policy
Education is the backbone of a nation, and a quality education is the foundation of sustainable development, and therefore of the Sustainable Development Goals. Out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals initiated by the United Nations in 2015, Goal No. 4 deals with education which seeks to ensure the completion of primary and secondary education by all boys and girls, and guaranteeing equal access to opportunities for access to quality technical and vocational education for everyone by 2030. Actually, the Goal No. 4 is such a weapon by which we can conquer the world and achieve all other 16 targets. Hence, it is the most significant target of the United Nations. Education being a force multiplier enables self-reliance, boosts economic growth by enhancing skills, and improves people’s lives by opening up opportunities for better livelihoods. A lot of changes have taken place in the world, and India is not an exception. Hence, to fulfill the requirements of the 21st century, a new national education policy was necessary. Moreover, to achieve the Goals of Sustainable Development by 2030, a new, comprehensive and target oriented education policy was very much needed.
Capacity or skill development is the demand of time. Also it is a necessary prerequisite for nation building. But what capabilities or capacities should we consider? The Human Development Report, 2019 cites Professor Amartya Sen who argues that “one must adjust in response to evolving social and economic conditions. For example, in India at the time of independence in 1947, it was reasonable to concentrate “on elementary education, basic health, […] and to not worry too much about whether everyone can effectively communicate across the country and beyond. Later, however—with the internet and its applications, as well as broader advances in information and communication technology— access to the internet and freedom of general communication became an important capability for all Indians.”
Every National Education Policy is the result of the demand of time. There is no doubt of the fact that our youngest members of society deserve the best possible start in life. The present National Education Policy-2020 aims to help students, teachers and other stakeholders understand better policy that can affect the quality of education and care to enhance child development, sustainable development, learning and well-being of every child. Now, let us examine the uniqueness of the National Education Policy, 2020 in a very succinct way.
Uniqueness of Indian National Education Policy-2020
Unlike the previous ones, the National Education Policy-2020 (henceforth NEP) is unique for its brief in size, but comprehensive nature. The entire NEP is divided into 4 parts comprising total 66 pages. Other than 3-page Introduction, the four parts of the NEP are: Part-I – School Education, Part –II – Higher Education, Part –III – Other key areas of focus, and Part-IV- Making it happen. In this article we will discuss only about the First Part that deals with the School Education. The NEP-2020 for the first time seeks to build character, and enable learners to be ethical, rational, compassionate, and caring, while at the same time prepare them for gainful and fulfilling employment. The ultimate aim of the NEP-2020 is to introduce such a modern and scientific system that would ensure an equitable access to the highest-quality education for all learners by 2040 regardless of school or economic background. It is to be remembered that, the entire school education system revolves around three main pillars such as: students, teachers, and guardians. Hence, we will divide our discussion in three major sections consisting of Students, Teachers, Guardians/ Parents, while the social benefit of the NEP-2020 will also be discussed in a brief way.
Students are the backbone of a nation and main pillar of the education edifice. Hence, the interest and benefit of the students hold the prime priority of any education policy, and the National Education Policy-2020 is not the exception. Let us examine how the NEP-2020 is going to benefit the students, who are the backbone of society and future helmsmen of the country.
- The National Education Policy brings about a Uniform academic session and the Academic Session will begin from September-October.
- The students have been learning for total 12 years from Class V to XII, but the NEP-2020 enhanced this to 15 years of total learning from Pre-Primary to Secondary Education.
- The children will learn great things in the Anganwadi/Pre Nursery/Balvatikas. The children in the Anganwadis will learn alphabets, languages, numbers, counting, colors, shapes, indoor and outdoor play, puzzles and logical thinking, problem-solving, drawing, painting and other visual art, craft, drama and puppetry, music and movement.
- Nutritional Food will be provided with Mid Day Meal. In addition of Mid Day Meal, nutritious food such as ground nuts/chana or local fruit will be distributed to the students in the breakfast.
- People-teacher ratio will be 30:1, in case of socio-economically disadvantaged students aims will be to make this ratio at 25:1..
- Class teaching will be through interactive method. Instead of lecture method, interactive method is always better. From now onwards, teaching and learning will be conducted in a more interactive manner. Classroom teaching will be more fun, creative, collaborative, and exploratory in nature.
- Students will be empowered through flexibility in course choices. There will be wide choices of subjects and courses year to year in secondary education. Moreover, it said that there will be no hard separation among ‘curricular’, ‘extracurricular ’, or‘ co-curricular’, among ‘arts’, ‘humanities’, and ‘sciences’, or between ‘vocational’ or‘ academic’ streams.
- Students will learn through mother language/tongue. The students will be able to learn their lessons through home language or mother tongue/local language or regional languages at least until Grade 5, but preferable till Grade 8 and beyond.
- Foreign languages will be taught in Schools. In addition to the classical and English languages, foreign languages such as Korean, Japanese, Thai, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian, will also be offered at the secondary level for students to learn about the cultures of the world and to enrich global knowledge and mobility accordingly to their own interest and aspirations.
- Learning opportunity of Indian values, skills and capacities. In addition to proficiency in languages, the students will learn various skills such as creativity and innovativeness; sense of aesthetics and art; oral and written communication; health and nutrition; physical education, fitness, wellness, and sports; collaboration and teamwork; problem solving and logical reasoning; vocational exposure and skills;digital literacy, coding, and computational thinking; ethical and moral reasoning; knowledge and practice of human and Constitutional values; gender sensitivity; Fundamental Duties; citizenship skills and values; knowledge of India etc.
- Emphasis will be given on Mathematics and Mathematical thinking. Mathematics and computational thinking will be given increased emphasis throughout the school years, starting with the foundational stage, through a variety of innovative methods, including the regular use of puzzles and games that make mathematical thinking more enjoyable and engaging.
- Vocational education starts from Class-VI. Every student will take a fun course during Grades 6 -8 which includes a survey and hands on experience of a sampling of vocational crafts such as carpentry, electric work, metal work, gardening, pottery making etc. as decided by states and local communities. The Human Development Report, 2019 gives much emphasis on capacity or skill development, which is the demand of time.
- 10 Days Bag-less Schools will be introduced. All students will participate in 10 days bag-less period sometime between grade 6-8 where they will intern with local vocation experts such as carpenters, gardeners, potters, artists etc. Similar internship opportunities to learn vocational subjects may be made available to students during grades 6-12.
- Mode of assessment of students is very student-friendly. Instead of present method of testing rote memorization skills through summative examinations, present method will be more regular and formative. It will be based on more competency based.
- Very flexible examination system has been provided through the National Education Policy- 2020. Board exams will also be made ‘easier’, in the sense that they will test primarily core capacities/competencies rather than months of coaching and memorization; any student who has been going to and making a basic effort in a school class will be able to pass and do well in the corresponding subject Board Exam without much additional effort. To further eliminate the ‘high stakes’ aspect of Board Exams, all students will be allowed to take Board Exams on up to two occasions during any given school year, one main examination and one for improvement, if desired.
- Another good step: Exam is easy, questions are easy. Boards may further formulate viable measures that will reduce exam pressures, and coaching culture. Board exams in certain subjects could be redesigned to have two parts–one part of an objective type with multiple-choice questions and the other of a descriptive type. School examinations will be held in Grades 3, 5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority. These examinations would test achievement of basic learning outcomes, through assessment of core concepts and knowledge from the national and local curricula, along with relevant higher-order skills and application of knowledge in real-life situations, rather than rote memorization.
- Olympiads and competitions in various subjects will be conducted across the country. Olympiads and competitions in various subjects will be conducted across the country, with clear coordination and progression from school to local to state to national levels, to ensure that all students may participate at all levels for which they qualify.
- Free boarding facilities will be built. Matching the standards of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas – in school locations where students come from far areas, and particularly for students who from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, Kendriya Vidyalaya will be set up in Educationally Backward Zones.
- Ensuring the inclusion and equal participation of children with disabilities will be done. Children with disabilities will be given the highest priority and endeavor will be taken to enable their full participation in the regular schooling process from the Foundational Stage to higher education.
- Libraries and laboratories will be strengthened. Libraries and laboratories will be strengthened and adequate reading materials like books, journals, etc., and other teaching –learning materials will be made available.
- Opening of NCC is encouraged. Under the aegis of the Ministry of Defence, State Governments may encourage opening NCC wings in their secondary and higher secondary schools, including those located in tribal dominated areas..
- All scholarships and other opportunities and schemes will be strengthened. All scholarships and other opportunities and schemes available to students from SEDGs will be coordinated and announced by a single agency and website to ensure that all students are aware of, and may apply in a simplified manner on such a ‘single window system’, as per eligibility.
- Health check up in schools will be made. Unlike the existing system of checking health of students once in a year, and that is also not in a personal and disciplined way, the NEP-2020 arranged for a periodic ‘health check-up’ of the overall system.
- Safety and rights of every student will be safeguarded. Careful attention must be paid to their safety and rights-particularly girl children-and the various difficult issues faced by adolescents, such as substance or drug abuse and forms of discrimination and harassment including violence, with clear, safe, and efficient mechanisms for reporting and for due process on any infractions against children’s /adolescents’ rights or safety.
After the students, the teachers are most important component of education system. But due to paucity of scope, only the cardinal features of NEP-2020 related to teachers will be discussed hereunder in a succinct manner.
1. Existing Anganwadi teachers will be trained and upgraded. The NEP-2020 points out that, all the existing teachers in Anganwadi/Pre primary section will be trained through systemically efforts in accordance with the curricular/pedagogical framework prepared by the NCERT. The teachers with 10+2 qualification will have to undertake 6 months certificate program in ECCE, while the teachers with lower educational qualification will be trained one year diploma course. The training can be taken by using DTH system or smart phones, so that no time is wasted and money is spent to the teachers, and no work of school is hampered.
2. Introduction of Incentives for teachers. Incentives will be provided to quality teachers who take up job in rural areas, especially in areas where shortage is acute of quality teachers. A key incentive for teachers in rural schools will be the provision of local housing near or on the school premises or increased housing allowances.
3. Excessive teacher’s transfer will be halted. At present teachers are being transferred haphazardly without supplying the subject teacher in place of the transferred one. There is charge of corruption in the transfer of teachers. Hence, the harmful practice of excessive teacher transfer will be halted for students to maintain continuity of their role models.
4. Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) will be strengthened. TET will be strengthened to inculcate better test material, both in terms of content and pedagogy. TETs will be extended to cover teachers across all stages (foundational, preparatory, middle and secondary) of school education.
5. Self improvement opportunity for teachers will be enhanced. Teachers will be given continuous opportunities for self-improvement and to learn the best innovations and advances in their profession. These will be offered in multiple modes including the form of local, regional, state, national and international workshops as well as online teacher development modules. Each Teacher including Principal/HM will be expected to participate in at least 50 hours of CPD opportunities every year for their own professional development.
6. Teachers will be recognized and incentivized. Teachers doing outstanding work must be recognized and promoted, and given salary raises, to incentivize all teachers to do their best work.
7. Career growth opportunity for teachers is ensured. Further, it will be ensured that career growth (in terms of tenure, promotions, salary increases, etc.) is available to teachers within a single school stage (i.e., Foundational, Preparatory, Middle, or Secondary), and that there is no career progression-related incentive to move from being teachers in early stages to later stages or vice versa (though such career moves across stages will be allowed, provided the teacher has the desire and qualifications for such a move).
8. Vertical mobility of teachers is possible now. There is a provision of vertical mobility of teachersbased on their merit; outstanding teachers with demonstrated leadership and management skills would be trained overtime to take on academic leadership positions in schools, school complexes, BRCs, CRCs, BITEs, DIETs as well as relevant government departments. These facilities were not there for teachers in anytime in India.
9. Exemption of teachers from non-teaching activities. The NEP-2020 seeks to improve the quality of teaching skills of teachers by keeping them away from non-teaching activities. The NEP -2020 highlights that, teachers will not be engaged any longer in work that is not directly related to teaching; in particular, teachers will not be involved in strenuous administrative tasks and more than a rationalized minimum time for mid-day meal related work, so that they may fully concentrate on their teaching-learning duties.
Parents and guardians
Parents or guardians will be much benefited from the National Education policy. In India middle class parents are bearing the brunt of private tuition fees. Also the middle-class parents are spending sleepless nights to manage exorbitant prices quoted by home tutors – the fees at times outstrip school fees. In West Bengal a study was conducted by State Council of Educational Research and Training with financial assistance from the School Education Department, Govt. of West which was an eye opener in relation to private tuition. It was found that 71% of the children in primary schools and 82-85% of the children in rural and urban areas of the state in upper primary levels take assistance of private tutors
Today’s Coaching Culture will be finished
The NEP -2020 considers that, the current nature of secondary school exams, including Board exams and entrance exams – and the resulting coaching culture of today – are doing much harm, especially at the secondary school level, replacing valuable time for true learning with excessive exam coaching and preparation. These exams also force students to learn a very narrow band of material in a single stream.
1. Present Anganwadi centers will be developed holistically. At present the Anganwadis are not equipped with trained teachers to impart world class teaching. Therefore, for universal access to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), all the Anganwadi Centres will be strengthened with high-quality infrastructure, play equipment, and well-trained Anganwadi workers/teachers. Every Anganwadi will have a well-ventilated, well-designed, child-friendly and well-constructed building with an enriched learning environment.
2. Provision for curtailing dropout rate of students. Drop out is general problem in Indian schools. Two things would be done to retain students – to provide sufficient and efficient infrastructure to have access to safe and engaging school education from pre-primary to class 12. Safe and practical conveyance,and hostels for girls will be set up. Secondly, alternative and innovative education centers will be set up with the help of civil society to ensure inclusion of the children of migrant laborers, and other drop out students in the mainstream education.
3. Adequate and safe infrastructure will be provided in all schools. The NEP-2020 seeks to provide adequate and safe infrastructure including working toilets, clean drinking water, clean and attractive spaces, electricity, computing, devices, internet, libraries, and sports and recreational resources to all schools to ensure that the teachers and students, including children of all genders with disabilities, receive safe, inclusive, and effective learning environment and are comfortable and inspired to teach and learn in their schools. In-service training will have inputs on safety, health and environment at work place in schools to ensure that all teachers are sensitized to these requirements.
4. School complex will be formed. State or Union Territories may introduce innovative formats, such as school complex, rationalization of schools for effective school governance, resource sharing and community building. Teachers at very small schools will not remain isolated any longer and may become part of or work with larger school complex communities, sharing best practices with each other and working collaboratively to ensure that all children are learning. School complex may share counselors, trained social workers, maintenance staff to further support teachers and help create an effective learning environment.
5. Empowerment of schools through the School Complex Management Committees. The School complex will conduct virtual classes, better student support, enrolment, attendance, and performance through the sharing of social workers and counsellors, and School Complex Management Committees (rather than simply School Management Committees) for more robust and improved governance, monitoring, oversight, innovations, and initiatives by local stakeholders.
6. The governance of schools is improved. The governance of schools will also improve and become far more efficient with school complexes /clusters. First, the DSE will devolve authority to the school complex /cluster, which will act as a semi-autonomous unit.
7. Twining / pairing of private and public schools will be done. To further enhance cooperation and positive synergy among schools, including between public and private schools, the twinning/ pairing of one public school with one private school will be adopted across the country, so that such paired schools may meet/ interact with each other, learn from each other, and also share resources, if possible. Best practices of private schools will be documented, shared, and institutionalized in public schools, and vice versa, where possible.
8. Existing Bal Bhavans will be strengthens. Every State will be encouraged to strengthen existing or establish “Bal Bhavans” where children of all ages can visit once a week (e.g., on weekends) or more often, as a special day time boarding school, to partake in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities. Such Bal Bhavans may be incorporated as a part of school complexes/ clusters if possible.
9. Schools to be point of celebration. The school should be a point of celebration and honor for the whole community. The dignity of the school as an institution should be restored and important dates, such as the foundation day of the school, will be celebrated along with the community and the list of important alumni may be displayed and honored.
10. Empowerment of schools through accreditation. The goal of the school education regulatory system must be to continually improve educational outcomes; it must not overly restrict schools, prevent innovation, or demoralize teachers, principals, and students. All in all, regulation must aim to empower schools and teachers with trust, enabling them to strive for excellence and perform at their very best, while ensuring the integrity of the system through the enforcement of complete transparency and full public disclosure of all finances, procedures, and educational outcomes.
11. Set up of State School Standards Authority (SSSA) for accreditation. An effective quality self-regulation or accreditation system will be instituted for all stages of education including pre-school education-private, public, and philanthropic-to ensure compliance with essential quality standards.
12. Self disclosure of all basic regulatory information in public domain to be initiated. Transparent public self-disclosure of all the basic regulatory information, as laid down by the SSSA, will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability. Technology will be employed suitably to ensure efficiency and transparency in all work of the SSSA.
13. Curricula and academic standards will be maintained by SCERT. In academic matters, including academic standards and curricula in the State will be led by the SCERT (with close consultation and collaboration with the NCERT), which will be reinvigorated as an institution.
14. Each stakeholder and participant will be accountable. Each role of the system will have explicitly articulated role expectations and rigorous assessment of their performance vis-à-vis these expectations. The assessment system will be objective and developmentally oriented, while ensuring accountability.
15. All schools – public and private will be assessed and accredited on the same criteria.
Public and private schools (except the schools that are managed /aided/ controlled by the Central government) will be assessed and accredited on the same criteria, benchmarks, and processes, emphasizing online and offline public disclosure and transparency, so as to ensure that public-spirited private schools are encouraged and not stifled in any way.
16. Periodic review for improvement of schools will be done. This review will aim to ensure that all students, particularly students from underprivileged and disadvantaged sections, shall have universal, free and compulsory access to high-quality and equitable schooling from early childhood care and education (age 3 onwards) through higher secondary education (i.e., until Grade12). Freedom will be given to the schools to adjust and loosen, leave suitable flexibility to make its own decisions based on local needs and constraints, while ensuring safety, security, and a pleasant and productive learning space.
Society, as a whole, will be the greatest beneficiary of the National Education Policy. The opportunities and scopes of the people in general will be enumerated hereunder succinctly.
1. Opportunities for new job will be widened to the aspiring youths. With a view to meeting the shortage of teachers for teaching to a large numbers of students in the coming days, a lot of (i) new teachers will be recruited, (ii) they will be trained, (iii) recruitment will be made from local people who are efficient with the local language, (iv) people-teacher ratio will be 30:1, in case of socio-economically disadvantaged students aims will be to make this ratio at 25:1.
2. Ensures participation of philanthropic organizations. The NEP-2020 welcomes the private philanthropic organizations to build schools. Also it encourages local variation on account of culture, geography, demographics, and to allow alternative models of education, little restrictions will be imposed by the government. Also public-philanthropic partnership will be encouraged.
3. New job opportunity for language teachers. There will be a major effort from both the Central and State governments to invest in large numbers of language teachers in all regional languages around the country, and, in particular, for all languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. States, especially States from different regions of India, may enter into bilateral agreements to hire teachers in large numbers from each other, to satisfy the three-language formula in their respective States, and also to encourage the study of Indian languages across the country. Even the foreign language teachers will be recruited on the basis of the demands of schools from more than six million Indian villages, and thousands of towns.
4. Both public and private school students will be given option to learn at two of classical languages. For the enrichment of the children, and for the preservation of these rich languages and their artistic treasures, all students in all schools, public or private, will have the option of learning at least two years of a classical language of India and its associated literature, through experiential and innovative approaches, including the integration of technology, in Grades 6-12, with the option to continue from the middle stage through the secondary stage and beyond.
5. Classical languages will be preserved for their richness. In the NEP-2020 it is stated that, Tamil, Telegu, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Pali, Prakrit and the other classicallanguages will be preserved for their richness. These languages will also be available in schools as options for students, possibly as online modules. It is necessary to know that at present there are total six languages that enjoy classical status such as Tamil (declared in 2004), Sanskrit (2005), Kannada (2008), Telugu (2008), Malayalam (2013), and Odia (2014).
6. Special focus will be given on educationally backward communities. Bridging these gaps in access, participation, and learning outcomes of children belonging to Scheduled Castes will continue to be one of the major goals. Also, the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) which have been identified on the basis of historically being socially and educationally backward also need special focus. The NEP focuses on special mechanisms that are needed to be made to ensure that children belonging to tribal communities receive the benefits of all the existing as well all new interventions.
7. Students of minorities and Special needs will be given preference. Minorities are relatively underrepresented in school and higher education. Therefore, the Policy acknowledges the importance of interventions to promote education of children belonging to all minority communities, children with special needs/Divyang, and particularly those communities that are educationally underrepresented.
8. All facilities will be maximized in the Special Education Zones (SEZs). Moreover, it is recommended that regions of the country with large populations from educationally-disadvantaged should be declared Special Education Zones (SEZs), where all the schemes and policies are implemented to the maximum through additional concerted efforts, in order to truly change their educational landscape.
9. Women and girls will be given priorities. The NEP-2020 recommends that the policies and schemes designed to students in Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) should be specially targeted to women and girls. Because women and girls have special role in society, and shaping the social mores.
10. Gender inclusive fund. In addition, the government of India will constitute a “Gender-Inclusion Fund” to build the nation’s capacity to provide equitable quality education for all girls as well as transgender students.
11. Provision of action against the sub standard teacher education institutions. Finally, in order to fully restore the integrity of the teacher education system, stringent action will be taken against substandard stand-alone Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs) running in the country, including shutting them down, if required. This is a very good step. The sprouting B. Ed. colleges are preparing teachers without proper faculty members and without proper curriculum and, they just take a huge amount of money from students and prepare some educated fools to teach the students and they are worsening the situation in existing situation.
From the above discussions, it comes to light that the present National Education Policy is a holistic approach to the society as a whole. The policy if implemented by all the states in toto, it will bring about a renaissance in the 21st century. India will not become a knowledge hub, it will be a country with educated, knowledgeable, wise and disciplined population by 2040. The achievement of Sustainable Development Goal No. 4 and other 16 Goals will be easier; the target of 5 trillion dollar economy will be a reality, and India’s largest youth community will be full of energy, innovativeness and zeal to invent something new in science, technology, aviation, communication and others. The day is not far.
- The National Education Policy and Secondary Education: A Revolutionary Step - September 13, 2020
- Socio-Political Impingement of COVID-19 on India - August 11, 2020