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HRD Minister Unveils New National Education Policy (NEP) 2020: How Will it Impact School and Higher Education in India?

Jul 30, 2020 2:52 PM 5 min read

The Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister, soon to be called the Education Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal yesterday released the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. Prepared on the basis of a draft submitted last year by an 11-member committee chaired by former ISRO Chairman K. Kasturirangan, the policy aims to overhaul India’s ginormous education system.

Given the expansive nature of the Policy - which comes over three decades after the last one was promulgated in 1986 by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi - we shall limit our discussion to some of its headline features, which we think would have the most bearing.

But before we get into the highlights of the new education policy, let’s look at some of the existing lacunae in our education system.



Identifying the Gaps in Indian Education System

First and foremost is the fact that most of what we study in schools and colleges is fact-based rote learning, which is rarely relevant to one’s life or even career, and is often unable to get one a good enough job.

Second, education system in India is extremely exam-centric. With students fetching record-high scores and colleges releasing sky-high cut-offs, many who are unable to sustain in this highly competitive ecosystem are left out.

India’s education system is also criticised for its highly insular nature, meaning, a Science student would be left with little or no knowledge of commerce or Arts subjects and vice-versa.


National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 Highlights

Moving on, we have a look at how the new Policy aims to address some of these glaring gaps. 

At the onset, the Policy document is divided into three segments - School Education, Higher Education and other key areas of focus.


HRD Minister Unveils New National Education Policy (NEP) 2020: How Will it Impact School and Higher Education in India?


School Education in India

1. The new policy aims for universalisation of education from pre-school to secondary level with 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio in school education by 2030 and aims to raise Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education to 50% by 2035.

This is perhaps the biggest highlight of the NEP - that even Government schools would now offer pre-school education, right from nursery and KG - something which has so far been limited to private institutes.


2. The 10+2 structure is to be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively, aimed at promoting better overall learning, development, and well-being.


3. To address the problem of rot learning, the curriculum content will be reduced in each subject to its core essentials, to make space for critical thinking and more holistic, inquiry-based, discovery-based, discussion-based, analysis-based and application-based learning.

Contemporary subjects such as Artificial Intelligence, Design Thinking, Organic Living will also be introduced to make the entire learning process more holistic, skill-oriented and practical.


4. All forms of assessment will shift from one that is summative and primarily tests rote memorisation skills to one that is more regular and formative, and is more competency-based.


5. Board exams will also be made “easier”, such that they will primarily test the core competencies of the students.

To further eliminate the "high stakes" aspect of Board Exams, all students will be allowed to take Board Exams twice during any given school year, one main examination and one for improvement, if desired.


6. Students will be given increased flexibility and choice of subjects to study, that is, a Science student will be able to choose an Arts subject and vice-versa.

The policy also states there will be no hard separation between ‘curricular’, ‘extracurricular’, or ‘co-curricular’, or between ‘vocational’ and ‘academic’ streams, which suggests that extracurricular activities like sketching, painting etc may have a bearing on one’s report card. Again, encouraging skill-based education.


7. Initiatives will be undertaken to bring children who have dropped out back to school and to prevent more children from dropping out.


HRD Minister Unveils New National Education Policy (NEP) 2020: How Will it Impact School and Higher Education in India?


Higher Education in India

1. Here, one of the main developments is the comeback of the four-year undergraduate program (FYUP), which was first introduced in Delhi University by former Vice-Chancellor Dinesh Singh in 2013 but subsequently discontinued.

However, this time around, the program appears more structured, allowing colleges a choice between the current three-year undergraduate programmes and a four-year undergraduate programme.

The policy also offers multiple exit options. If a student completes:

  • One year - he/she will be awarded a certificate
  • Two years - a diploma
  • Three years - a degree
  • Four years - eligible for direct admissions for a PhD

With this, the Government has also done away with the MPhil. The minimum eligibility for a PhD will now either be a four-year programme with research, or Master’s after a three-year programme.


2. The policy also proposes a credit bank, which will keep a record of students’ academic credits should they choose to return after dropping out.


3. Another commendable change is the focus on making universities multi-disciplinary. Single-stream institutions will fade out and, by 2040, all institutes will aim to become multidisciplinary, the policy states. This means that an institution will have to teach arts, science, social science, basically everything under one roof. 


4. All higher education will now be governed by a single authority.


Bottom Line

All noble intentions aside, the fact of the matter remains that training teachers and faculty to dispense such sophisticated and skill-based modes of teaching will be a gigantic task in itself.

Encouraging research and making existing institutions interdisciplinary will also call for a major overhaul.

While the policy reiterates the almost half-a-decade-old commitment to investing 6% of GDP to education vs the current c. 4.43%, how feasible would be the implementation of such an elaborate policy across the length and breadth of India, especially in rural areas where schools, colleges and other academic institutions lack even the basic infrastructure?


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