India’s new National Education Policy of 2020 came into effect on 29 July 2020. This policy goes over and talks about the future of India’s education system, its current shortcomings and aims to cover a thorough plan to improve and bring some much-needed change. The “National Policy on Education” has been an old series of projects in India, starting back in 1948, right after Independence.
The original, first National Policy on Education (or NPE) was created in 1968 by Indira Gandhi. NPE focuses on making education more equal among different social classes and economic divides. Another significant change that 1968’s NPE brought was a “three-language formula” where the students would learn English, Hindi, and their state’s language. In addition, Sanskrit was also incorporated as an optional language to preserve the roots of Indian languages.
The second NPE came about in 1986, under former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Once again, it focused on reducing inequality in education, but this time concerning sex discrimination with significant emphasis on girl child education, which was an idea that many Indian parents were prone to dismissing.
Also included were the marginalized groups such as scheduled tribes and castes. Some significant changes to address this were adult education, increased scholarships, preferential hiring towards SC/ST teachers, incentivizing school for low-income families, and a more child-centred rather than result-oriented approach overall. Another notable addition to the higher education options in India was the creation of the IGNOU open university.
IGNOU made some significant actions and amendments to the 1986 NPE, and some consider it a new 1992 NPE. However, these changes were very controversial, including a common nationwide entrance exam for admission to India’s technical and highly professional universities (JEE, NEET, AIEEE, etc.). While this does reduce a lot of strain from having to give different entrance examinations for various universities and colleges, it brings a whole host of other problems, including the fact that there is no recourse except to re-take these exams if you didn’t get a good percentile.
The 2020 policy, however, brings a lot of interesting points to the table. The first and simplest goal is to increase state expenditure for education from 3% to 6%. Also meaningful is the address of language, with the removal of imposition of any language over the students. However, the government did clarify that these changes to how language is to be taught were meant to be a guideline and not a to-the-letter set of instructions.
The most notable change that 2020’s NEP proposes is replacing the 10+2 structure with a 5+3+3+4 academic design. It breaks these down into officially labeled foundational (5), preparatory (3), middle (3), and secondary (4) stages. Respectively going from activity-based learning in ‘5’ to introducing simple subjects in ‘3’ to more abstract and complex concepts in the subsequent ‘3,’ finishing with multidisciplinary studies and introducing depth and critical thinking in the final ‘4.’
It proposes examinations only held in classes 2, 5, and 8 instead of every academic year. In addition, CBSE’s (Central Board for Secondary Education) exams for classes 10 and 12 will revoke under a new body called “PARAKH.” The most significant alterations to the current system are that the exams will now be conducted twice a year with two attempts and will divide into objective and descriptive parts. Furthermore, students will now be allowed to choose interdisciplinary studies instead of being locked into one group, and parakh will rework report cards to focus more on the students and less on their marks. In addition, the Midday Meal Scheme will now include breakfasts, and parakh will now recommend schools to have designated counsellors and social workers. Also, the school will now introduce coding and computer-based classes from 6th grade.
As for higher education, the 2020 NEP plans to create a 4-year multidisciplinary degree course with specific certifications and proof-of-work initiatives and yearly marks. A higher education council will be made, and several institutes like the IITs will introduce some significant reworks to their learning programs.
Furthermore, foreign universities will be authorized to establish themselves in India, and the fees of private and public universities will be a hard-capped fixed amount. The M. Phil degree will be discontinued, and teachers will be required to have a 4-year Bachelor of Education degree, with specific guidelines and standards enforced by the NCTE.