India’s National Education Policy 2020 — History, Highlights, and Findings!

On July 29, 2020, the Cabinet Government of India approved the new National Education Policy (commonly referred as ‘NEP’) in India. This is a policy change in the world’s largest democratic, that’s happening almost after 34 years! Let’s dive deep.

Headnote for the readers:

If you work on non-education sector, and wish to know only the highlights of the policies, then scroll down till you see ‘Highlights of NEP’

If you’re an existing or an aspiring educator, and someone from the education sector —who wants to know the historical context of the policy and what’s done so far, start reading from here.

History of the National Educational Policy

India is a vast country with a population of ~130 crores currently, having historical origins connecting back to the Indus valley civilization, we have a very huge history with Education. Last year, I had an opportunity to speak about the History of Indian Education briefly starting from Gurukula — you can check out the video.

Post-independence, India has seen major policy shifts especially on three specific years, the information about policy shifts and their highlights are as follows.

(a) First National Education Policy on Education (1968)

The Govt. led by, Smt. Indira Gandhi introduced the first national educaiton policy based on the recommendations from Kothari commission. The policy had the following highlights.

i. Three language formula in secondary education — English, Hindi & the regional language

ii. Recommendation to spend 6% of national income on Education

iii. Compulsory education for all children up to 14 years of age, following the Constitution of India

(b) National Education Policy 1986

This policy was introduced by Govt. led by Shri. Rajiv Gandhi and it’s highlights are,

i. Equal opportunity was the focus especially for women, Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST)

ii. Child-centered approach approach in primary education

iii. Operation blackboard to improve the primary school education

(c) National Education Policy 1992 (Modification)

This was the modified version of the policy in 1986 — it was led by the Govt. of P. V. Narasimha Rao, some the significant highlights were,

i. The objective of universal enrolment and retention of children

ii. Reducing Rural-urban disparities

iii. Common entrance examination for admission to technical and professional courses across the country

Notable Exceptions

While all these highlights were planned at a policy level, there were different approaches when it comes to execution especially with following points

i. Common entrance examination — 2001 resolution stated three examination schemes (JEE, AIEEE & State Level Entrance Examinations). Later JEE & AIEEE were merged in 2013

ii. Three language system — the policy was executed across India except the two states — Tamil Nadu & Tripura and a Union Territory – Puducherry

Where do we stand?

i. The expenditure on Education from India’s % in GDP has varied over the years. Here are some statistics.

Source: UNESCO
Source: Business Standard

ii. Literacy Rate — During Independence, India’s literacy rate was 12% (in a parallel world, the United States of America had a literacy rate of 97.3% according to this report in year 1947).

By 2018, India improved its literacy rate to 74% (the age group of 15–24 years have a literacy of 91.66% which is quite good improvement).

Source: UNESCO

iii. Unemployment — These are numbers before the COVID pandemic, I’m sure they would have changed in 2020, unemployment being a global crisis right now.

The National Education Policy 2020

The Origin

The 2014 Lok Sabha election manifesto of the national party BJP had the reformed education policy as an aspect — once they won the election — in 2015, they formed a committee under the Cabinet Secretary T. S. R. Subramanian to formulate the new National Education Policy.

The committee submitted a report to the Ministry of Human Resources and Development, which was released as a draft in 2019 for the public.

The draft after incorporating the suggestions from the states and the public, is being approved by the Cabinet led by the Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi on 29 July 2020.

The full draft of the final education policy is available here. (Source: Times Now News)

Highlights of NEP

Now, let’s get to this — so what’s in store for the students, educators and the general public from this New National Education Policy 2020!

Quoting from the NDTV blog (Source)— there are high chances that you might have already seen them on your Social Media channels and groups among your friends and family.

School Education In NEP 2020

The NEP proposes to universalise early childhood care and education (ECCE) for children ages 3 to 6 by 2030 and also achieve 100% gross enrolment ratio in school education over the same period. Apart from the focus on ECCE, there is also emphasis on measuring learning outcomes and assessments. These are the main elements proposed for school education:

  • States and Union Territories will have to “group or rationalise” schools into “school complexes” by 2025
  • National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age 8
  • New curricular and pedagogical framework of 5+3+3+4 years with a strong base of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) from age 3.
  • Medium of instruction in mother tongue or local language regional language at least upto Class 5. English to be optional up to Class 8.
  • “School exams” in Classes 3, 5 and 8 and board exams in Classes 10 and 12
  • Reduction in curriculum to core concepts
  • A National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) to be set up as a standard-setting body for all recognized school boards.
  • Bagless days in schools
  • Gender-Inclusion Fund’ to provide equitable quality education for all girls as well as transgender students.
  • Board exams to test knowledge application, to include ‘modular exams’.
  • Vocational programmes to be introduced from Class 6

Higher Education In NEP 2020

  • Achieve 50% gross enrolment ratio by 2035
  • Three categories of universities: research-intensive, teaching intensive and autonomous degree-granting Colleges
  • Phasing out the system of ‘affiliated colleges’ over a period of 15 years through a system of “graded autonomy”
  • Undergraduate degree programmes will last three or four years with multiple exit options
  • Exit options include: Certificate after completing one year in a discipline, diploma after 2 years, Bachelor’s degree after a 3-year programme and 4-year Multidisciplinary Bachelor’s programme.
  • Major and minor system in degrees allowing students the option of multidisciplinary choices. For instance, Physics with Fashion Design
  • Credit transfer will be enabled through academic credit backs
  • Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs) will be set up
  • Internationalization of education –allow entry of foreign universities, student and faculty mobility
  • More faculty and institutional autonomy
  • Governance of Higher Education Institution (HEIs) by independent boards having academic and administrative autonomy
  • Fee fixation for private and public universities
  • All HEIs to be multidisciplinary by 2040
  • Professional education to be an integral part of the higher education system
  • A single regulator, Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), will regulate with the same norms for every type of institution, private and public.
  • Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI) to be established.
  • Efforts to preserve and promote all Indian languages including classical, tribal and endangered languages will be undertaken
  • Establishment of a National Research Foundation (NRF)
  • National institutes for Pali, Persian and Prakrit will be set up.

In addition to this, I will be summing up some of the interesting things that I found out from the policy in the upcoming points. Sharing only the findings, not any conclusions, because (quoting from the policy document).

Any policy is only as good as its implementation.

#1 The words ‘Global’ & ‘Technology’

One of the interesting findings for me was the word ‘Global’ which was repeated 19 times in different contexts (global institutions, global knowledge, global technology, etc.) including the vision statement.

This National Education Policy aims at building a global best education system rooted in Indian ethos, and aligned with the principles enunciated above, thereby transforming India into a global knowledge superpower.

On the other hand, the word ‘technology’ was being used 43 times at different places in the document.

#2 Reimagining Vocational Education

This is something that easily took my attention.Quoting from the point 16 of the document (about the problem)

The 12th Five-Year Plan (2012–2017) estimated that only a very small percentage of the Indian workforce in the age group of 19–24 (less than 5%) received formal vocational education; this may be compared to other countries such as the USA where the number is 52%, Germany 75%, and South Korea as high as 96%. These numbers only underline the urgency of the need to hasten the spread of vocational education in India. Some of the reasons for this include the fact that vocational education has in the past focused largely on dropouts (Grade 8 and upwards) and on Grades 11–12.

And one of the proposed solutions is,

The development of vocational capacities will go hand-in-hand with development of ‘academic’ or other capacities. Vocational education will be integrated in the educational offerings of all secondary schools in a phased manner over the next decade. Towards this, secondary schools will collaborate with ITIs, polytechnics, local industry etc. Higher education institutions will offer vocational education either on their own or in partnership with industry. The B.Voc. degrees introduced in 2013 will continue to exist, but vocational courses will also be available to students enrolled in all other Bachelor’s degree programmes, including the 4-year holistic Bachelor’s programmes. HEIs will also be allowed to conduct short-term certificate courses in various skills including soft skills. ‘Lok Vidya,’ knowledge developed in India, will be made accessible to students through integration into vocational education courses.

This will be quite interesting, when we see in execution.

#3 Aspiration to lead the cutting-edge

This is a point you will really like, especially if you have atechnical background. Quoting from the document,

India must take the lead in preparing professionals in cutting-edge areas that are fast gaining prominence, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), 3-D machining, big data analysis and machine learning among others in technical education, genomic studies, biotechnology, nanotechnology, neuroscience and so on in the sciences. These topics, and many others like them, must be woven into undergraduate education at the earliest.

Hoping to see an engineering curriculum that’s relevant and up-to-date which produces technical professionals ready for the job, right after graduation.

#4 Boards exams & Olympiads

This is the point on Board exams.

The existing system of entrance examinations shall be reformed to eliminate the need for undertaking coaching for ‘cracking’ the examination. To reverse these harmful effects of the current assessment system, Board exams will encourage holistic development; students will be able to choose many of the subjects in which they take Board exams, depending on their individualised interests. Board exams will also be made ‘easier’, in the sense that they will test primarily core capacities rather than months of coaching and memorisation; any student who has been regularly attending and making a basic effort in a school class will be able to pass 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.

This is the point on Olympiads.

Olympiads and competitions in various subjects will be strengthened across the country, with clear coordination and progression from school to local to state to national levels, with the necessary funding to ensure that all students may participate at all levels for which they qualify. Efforts will be made to make available Olympiads in rural areas and in regional languages to ensure widespread participation. Public and private universities, including premier institutions like the IITs and NITs, would be encouraged to use results from Regional, National, and International Olympiads, as well as results from and work in regional and national topic-based programmes, as part of the criteria for admissions into their undergraduate programmes.

#5 Languages

There was so much focus on the regional languages on this policy document. Quoting something that really stood out.

It is well-understood that young children learn and grasp non-trivial concepts more quickly in their home language/mother tongue. Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/mother-tongue/local language. Thereafter, the home/local language shall continue to be taught as a language wherever possible. This will be followed by both public and private schools. High-quality textbooks, including in science, will be made available in home languages. In cases where home-language textbook material is not available, the language of the transaction between teachers and students will still remain the home language wherever possible. Teachers will be encouraged to use a bilingual approach, including bilingual teaching-learning materials, with those students whose home language may be different from the medium of instruction. All languages will be taught with high quality; a language does not need to be the medium of instruction for it to be learned well.

The twitter handle of the Ministry of Human Resources and Development (which is now renamed into ‘Ministry of Education’ as per the policy) are posting so many interesting facts about the policy. You can check them out here —

What are your views of the NEP 2020? Keep me posted in the comments.

Additional Read: The happiest country’s education system! #Bhutan

Up next: The best education system of the world! #Finland (Launching soon!)

Follow the EduRise Blog.


Aravindhan Anbazhagan


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