The National Policy on Education (NPE) is a policy formulated by the Government of India to promote and regulate education in India. The policy covers elementary education to higher education in both rural and urban India. The first NPE was promulgated by the Government of India by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1968, the second by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986, and the third by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2020.
The National Education Policy (NEP) was approved by the Union Cabinet of India on July 28th, 2020. After a gap of 34 years, the Indian government consolidated feedback from 2.5 lakh village-level stakeholders to two national parliamentary level committees, over more than 50 months of consultations and workshops. However, the extent to which the policy has incorporated recommendations remains unknown.
In the midst of multiple op-eds and commentaries about the NEP, this article attempts to analyse the policy from the lens of practitioners. In particular, we examine nine key chapters of the ‘school education’ section from our experience over the last five years of having seen the policy life-cycle through formulation, implementation, and (lack of) evaluation in Maharashtra.
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 focuses on key reforms in higher education that prepare the next generation to thrive and compete in the new digital age, says Dr. Indrajit Bhattacharya, Director, National Accreditation Board for Education and Training (NABET), Quality Council of India & Dr. Manish Kumar Jindal,CEO, National Accreditation Board for Education and Training, Quality Council of India to Elets News Network (ENN).
The NEP 2020 calls for key reforms in both school and higher education that prepare the next generation to thrive and compete in the new digital age. Thus, there is much emphasis upon multidisciplinarity, digital literacy, written communication, problem-solving, logical reasoning, and vocational exposure in the document.
Since the country’s independence in 1947, the Indian government sponsored a variety of programmes to address the problems of illiteracy in both rural and urban India. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India’s first Minister of Education, envisaged strong central government control over education throughout the country, with a uniform educational system. The Union government established the University Education Commission (1948–1949), the Secondary Education Commission (1952–1953), University Grants Commission and the Kothari Commission (1964–66) to develop proposals to modernise India’s education system. The Resolution on Scientific Policy was adopted by the government of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. The Nehru government sponsored the development of high-quality scientific education institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology. In 1961, the Union government formed the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) as an autonomous organisation that would advise both the Union and state governments on formulating and implementing education policies.
The NEP 2020 was conceived to raise the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) from the current 26 percent to 50 percent by 2030 in the higher education space. It aims at building the overall personality of students by strengthening infrastructure for open and distance learning, online education and increasing the use of technology in education.
- It proposes a 4-year multi-disciplinary bachelor’s degree in an undergraduate programme with multiple exit options. These will include professional and vocational areas and will be implemented as follows:
- A certificate after completing 1 year of study
- A diploma after completing 2 years of study
- A Bachelor’s degree after completion of a 3-year programme
- A 4-year multidisciplinary Bachelor’s degree (the preferred option)
- MPhil (Masters of Philosophy) courses are to be discontinued to align degree education with how it is in Western models.
- A Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up to regulate higher education. The council’s goal will be to increase gross enrollment ratio. The HECI will have 4 verticals:
- National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC), to regulate higher education, including teacher education, while excluding medical and legal education.
- National Accreditation Council (NAC), a “meta-accrediting body”.
- Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC), for funding and financing of universities and colleges. This will replace the existing National Council for Teacher Education, All India Council for Technical Education and the University Grants Commission.
- General Education Council (GEC), to frame “graduate attributes”, namely the learning outcomes expected. It will also be responsible in framing a National Higher Education Qualification Framework (NHEQF). The National Council for Teacher Education will come under the GEC, as a professional standard setting body (PSSB).
- Other PSSBs will include professional councils such as Veterinary Council of India, Council of Architecture, Indian Council of Agricultural Research and National Council for Vocational Education and Training.
- The National Testing Agency will now be given the additional responsibility of conducting entrance examinations for admissions to universities across the country, in addition to the JEE Main and NEET.
- The policy proposes that higher education institutes like the IITs make changes with regard to the diversity of learning.
- The policy proposes to internationalize education in India. Foreign universities can now set up campuses in India.
- The fees of both private and public universities will be fixed.
Education and Skilling in Cyber Security
As per the Global Risk Report 2021 of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2021, ‘Cyber Security Failure’ ranks 4th most critical threat to the world. As education and learning have already moved to cyberspace due to the ongoing pandemic, it has become utmost important to protect the privacy and security of each individual. Thus, as adoption of digitisation takes centre stage, it is extremely important to make our networks and cyberspace secure. In this current scenario, it becomes pertinent that capacity building for ‘Cyber Security Resilience’ is given prime importance and is included in higher education curriculum irrespective of stream of learning.
The National Education Technology Forum (NETF)
The NETF envisaged to be established under NEP 2020 is a step in the right direction. The hosting of Quality Ed-Tech tools in all the dimensions of teaching-learning delivery would enable institutions of learning to adapt quickly. The emphasis needs to be towards hosting indigenous Ed-Tech tools on “open-source development platforms” with built-in cyber security resilience to ensure ‘privacy & security’ besides adherence to cyber security standards, adoption of firewalls and Intrusion Detection System (IDS) from external threats and vulnerabilities. This will secure the ‘personal privacy of individual students.
Under NEP 2020, numerous new educational institutes, bodies and concepts have been given legislative permission to be formed. These include:
- National Education Commission, headed by the Prime Minister of India Academic Bank of Credit, a digital storage of credits earned to help resume education by utilising credits for further education
- National Research Foundation, to improve research and innovation
- Special Education Zones, to focus on the education of underrepresented group in disadvantaged regions.
- Gender Inclusion Fund, for assisting the nation in the education of female and transgender children.
The policy proposes new language institutions such as the Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation and the National Institute/ Institutes for Pali, Persian and Prakrit. Other bodies proposed include the National Mission for Mentoring, National Book Promotion Policy, National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy.