An Overview of National Education Policy 2020

New Delhi, September 13, 2023 – In any country, the quality of the educational ecosystem determines innovation, economic growth, social justice, and equity to a large extent. National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is the culmination of the process.

Education is essential for developing human capital and creating an unbiased society.  By human capital we refer to the skills, knowledge, experience, and abilities possessed by individuals that enable them to contribute to the economic productivity and growth of a country, organisation, or society as a whole.

Former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi brought about the first education policy in 1968 followed by the second education policy in 1986 in the tenure of the Rajiv Gandhi government. The government of Narasimha Rao made significant changes to this policy in 1992.

After 34 years, the Government of India (GOI) announced the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, with the goal of transforming India’s education ecosystem. In 2019, a committee chaired by Dr. K.K. Kasturirangan drafted the NEP 2020. The Central Government approved the National Education Policy 2020 in July 2020.

The NEP’s relevance and necessity can be understood by the fact that it is India’s first education policy in the twenty-first century and the country’s third policy since independence in 1947.

The NEP 2020 is coined as a major step toward making India a global knowledge centre. It provides a comprehensive framework for improving the Indian education system. This policy also seeks to align the Indian education system with the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030.

Before we take a closer look at the NEP 2020, let’s look into the historical perspective of the evolution of the Indian education system.

After Independence, the major concern of the GOI has been to evolve its own indigenous system of education and break away from the British legacy. There were several initiatives taken by the GOI in this regard to develop guidelines and provide directions to the Indian education system. They are as under:

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  • University Education Commission (1948–1949)
  • Secondary Education Commission (1952–1953)
  • Education Commission (1964–66)
  • National Policy on Education (NPE-1968)
  • National Policy on Education (NPE-1986)
  • Program of Action (1992)
  • National Policy for ICT 

In 2019, India released a draft of a new policy on Education addressed the concerns and recommendations of these Commissions from time to time.

EDUCATIONAL POLICIES IN INDIA

We know that education lays the foundation stone for all kinds of development. Improvement in the education system after independence was one of the major concerns of the GOI. To address these concerns, several initiatives have been taken, and forming policies are one amongst them. On the recommendations of the education commission (1964-66),  the first education policy in India was rolled out in 1968. The National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986 was subsequently declared and after a long gap. The NPE, 1986 was followed by its Program of Action (1992) which provided the road map for its implementation. The draft of the National Education Policy has been brought out by the Government of India in 2019.

First National Policy of Education (1968)

The Education Commission (1964-66), popularly known as Kothari Commission, was the first comprehensive commission on education which covered all the levels of education from primary to higher education. In order to realise the recommendations of the Kothari commission, the first National Policy on Education was rolled out in the year 1968. The Kothari Commission recommended  radical reconstruction of education for the socio-cultural and economic development of the country. It underscored the powerful role of education in character building, moral development as well as developing a sense of common citizenship and national integration.

Major Recommendations

Free and Compulsory Education

The NPE (1968) recommended on requirements of strenuous efforts in order to fulfill the Constitutional mandate of free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14 years. It suggested reducing wastage and stagnation in schools. The recommendation was made to ensure that every child who is enrolled in schools successfully completes the prescribed course.

Emoluments, Status and Education of Teachers

The NPE (1968) recognised the significant role of teachers in quality improvement of education for national development. It focused on the improvement in status and service conditions of teachers. The policy recommended academic freedom of teachers to pursue and publish independent researches and to express their views about significant national and international issues. 

Development of languages

The policy recommended increased use of regional language for educational and cultural development and outlined three language formula. Study of a modern Indian language, preferably a southern one along with Hindi and English. It called for promotion of Hindi as a link language and augmenting facilities for teaching of Sanskrit language. 

Equal Educational Opportunity

The NPE (1968) stressed on the need for making serious efforts to provide equal educational opportunity for all irrespective of religion, abilities, gender, class and caste. The policy focused on bridging the gap between educational facilities for rural and urban, male and female. It suggested establishing a Common School System for promoting social cohesion and national integration.

Talent Identification

The NPE (1968) emphasised identification of talents in different walks at the earliest and providing opportunities to realise its development to the fullest.

Work-Experience and National Service

 The policy recognised the need for closer relationship between school and community, and recommended that  work experience, community service and national service should be made an integral part of the education system. 

Science Education and Research

The policy recommended that science, education and research should be given a high priority. This is vital to the acceleration of national economic growth. Science and mathematics should become an integral part of general education in the entire school life.

Agriculture and Industrial Education

The policy emphasised special efforts for the development of education for agriculture and industry. It called for establishing at least one agricultural university in each state. Practical exposure is crucial to students for technical education in order to ensure technical manpower needs of the country.

Spread of Literacy and Adult Education

The NPE (1968) stressed on mass illiteracy by actively involving teachers and students in literacy campaigns. It should be made as part of the Social and National Service Program.

Games and Sports

The policy stressed on improving physical fitness and sportsmanship aspects of the students that can be improved by more participation in games, sports and physical education programs.

The Educational Structure

The NPE (1968) suggested a uniform educational structure. It recommended adoption of the 10+2+3 pattern with a goal to gradual increase in investment in education by increasing expenditure of 6 percent of the national income. This policy guided education in India for almost 20 years. Thus it has been observed that the NPE (1968) marked a significant step in the Post Independence Indian history of education as it was the first policy with an important objective to promote national progress and integration. 

National Policy on Education (1986)

The National Policy on Education (1986) was another attempt to address the emerging needs of the education system. The policy considered that ‘education is a unique investment’ in the present and future.

Major Recommendations

National System of Education

The NPE 1986 suggested a National System of Education. The National System envisaged a common educational structure i.e. 10+2+3 on the lines of recommendations of NPE 1968. The National System of Education should be based on a National Curricular Framework (NCF) comprising some common core along with some flexible components.

Early Childhood Care and Education

The policy gave prime importance to education and care of young children, the first generation learners. It recommended an Early Childhood Care and Education program for children that should be integrated with Integrated Child Development service, Balwadis, Pre-Primary schools of the State government and Municipalities, Day-care centres.

Elementary Education and Operation Blackboard

National Policy of Education, 1986 gave a new thrust to three aspects of elementary education which are as under:

  • Universal enrolment
  • Universal retention of children up to 14 years of age
  • Substantial improvement in the quality of education

The policy underscored the need for a child-centred and activity-based process of learning and total exclusion of corporal punishment.

Education of the Specially-abled

The policy gave due importance to the education of children with special-abilities including others commonly found in the normal children. It stressed on the measures for establishing Special schools with hostel facilities at district headquarters for the severely differentially-abled children.

Other Major Recommendations

  • Focus on Non-Formal Education (NFE) program through voluntary agencies and Panchayati Raj institutions. 
  • Establishing school systems in the unserved areas with special facilities for the children with talents and high achievers such as pace-setting residential schools, Navodaya Vidyalayas, for children with special talent with reservation for the rural areas, SCs and STs.
  • Vocationalisation of education through vocational courses to cover 10 percent of higher secondary students by 1995 and 25 percent by 2000.
  • Encouraging the establishment of autonomous departments and autonomous colleges according to UGC directives.
  • Focus on systematic assessment of Teachers’ performance with special emphasis on research facilities in universities for interdisciplinary research.
  • De-linking of degrees from jobs and establishment of National Evaluation Organization for conducting tests on a voluntary basis to determine the suitability of candidates for specific jobs.
  • Establishing rural universities and institutions based on Gandhian basic education.
  • Strengthening of Technical Manpower Information System and setting up of appropriate formal and non-formal Programs of technical education

Program of Action (1992)

In 1989, the government of India formed a committee under the chairmanship of Acharya Ramamurthy to review the effectiveness of National Policy on Education 1986. Before considering the suggestions of the Ramamurthy Committee, the Government appointed another committee to look into the recommendations of Rammurti committee along with some modifications in NPE 1986. Shri Janardhan Reddy was the chairperson of this committee and submitted its report in Jan 1992 that is known as ‘Program of Action 1992’.

Major Changes

Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)

To achieve the goals of the ECCE programs, the NPE 1992 proposed a coordinated functioning of government and non-government agencies. To improve the quality of early childhood education, Anganwadi workers were given special training (via training centres).

Universalisation of Elementary Education – UEE

Many new ideas and revised plans were proposed. They were similar to “non-formal education” for students who were unable to attend full-time schools. In addition, it focused on ten (educationally backward) states, with responsibility split 50:50 between the federal and state governments.

Secondary Education

Under the Plan of Action (POA) 1992, additional opportunities for secondary education were expanded. By reorganising the Boards of Secondary Education, POA 1992 increased their autonomy. This action plan also included a visionary idea to improve students’ digital literacy and technological skills.

Quality of Education through Navodaya Vidyalayas

The POA of 1992 emphasised the establishment of Navodaya Vidyalayas not just in the remote areas but throughout the country. These schools were designed to assist high-achieving students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. This proposal resulted in an improvement in the quality of schooling for the masses.

Education for women

Women’s education was also prioritised in this Program of action. It proposed additional development programs and aimed to improve their legal literacy (awareness about their rights). Its goal was to run gender and poverty sensitisation programs in order to address issues such as gender disparity. Teachers were to receive training on the topic of women empowerment. It also envisioned the establishment of new study centres for women through institutions and women’s organisations.

Adult Education and Micro-Planning

Under the Non-Formal Education initiatives, suggestions were made to improve educational opportunities for adults. Innovative programs such as distance education and open school systems were proposed to achieve this goal for female students living in remote, rural, and urban areas. Educational micro-planning was suggested for tribal students. A special emphasis was also placed on the education of adult illiterate women.

Education for Students With Special-abilities

The committee recommended some critical steps for the 12.59 million specially-abled children at that time. To meet the needs of special students, teacher education was to be reoriented toward inclusive classrooms. The importance of reorienting non-formal and adult education programs was also emphasised.

NATIONAL CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK, 2005

The most recent document, The National Curriculum Framework, was published in 2005 by the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT). It was proposed as a new route for the teaching and learning process. The goal was to shift the emphasis from teacher-led instructions to student-led active learning. 

  • This framework was used to create more effective teaching programs.
  • This framework transformed boring learning methods into active learning and knowledge construction. 
  • It provided students with more opportunities through hands-on learning.
  • A new concept for breaking free from textbook culture was introduced. The structure made it more student-centred.
  • It emphasised conceptual understanding through direct experiences integrated into daily life.
  • A learning system was envisioned in which learning became interesting and permanent. This curriculum framework also criticised social conventions like gender biases.

THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION ACT 2009

The Right to Education Act was passed on August 4, 2009. It went into effect on April 1, 2010. This gave every child between the ages of 6 and 14 the right to free and compulsory education.

  • This act established education as a fundamental right. The introduction of the concept of “free and compulsory” education removed financial barriers.
  • The government was now in charge of a child’s education under this Act to ensure a child’s admission, completion of elementary education, and proper attendance.

To summarise, this act aimed to integrate all children in this age group into the mainstream schooling system. As a result, RTE 2009 became a watershed moment in the history of the Indian educational system. 

National Education Policy, 2020

With the overall development of the country in mind, the Indian government decided to change India’s educational policy after 34 years. To develop a new education policy, the Central Government drafted the National Education Policy 2019 in 2017, under the chairmanship of the Kasturirangan committee. In India, the Central Government approved the National Education Policy 2020 in July 2020.

Indian education structure and management was guided by the New Education Policy, 1986 for  almost 34 years. In 2015 India adopted the global education development agenda that was reflected in the Goal 4 (SDG4) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This seeks to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030.

Keeping these developments in mind, a committee was set up to start discussion and prepare a draft report on education policy under the chairmanship of Mr. T.S.R. Subramanian in 2015. When the draft was made available in the public domain, a lot of issues emerged leading to the setting up of  a new committee under the chairmanship of Dr. K. Kasturirangan in June, 2017.

The Kasturirangan committee considered all the suggestions or objections raised and prepared a draft policy, which was made public again on May 31, 2019.

NEP – Vision

National Education Policy, 2020 envisions the National Education Policy as an education system rooted in Indian ethos that contributes directly to transforming India, that is Bharat, sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society, by providing high-quality education to all, and thereby making India a global knowledge superpower.

Goals of NEP 2020

  1. Innovative Education Centers: The policy encourages the establishment of innovative education centres to provide high-quality education to all students, particularly those from low-income families. 
  2. Good Infrastructure Support: To ensure an optimal learning environment for students, the NEP 2020 emphasises the provision of good infrastructure support, including well-equipped classrooms and laboratories. 
  3. Tracking Student Progress: The policy prioritises tracking student progress based on learning levels to ensure that all students achieve basic literacy and numeracy skills by grade level. 
  4. Multiple Modes of Learning: The NEP 2020 advocates for a multi-modal, flexible approach to learning that includes both formal and informal modes of education. 
  5. Experienced Faculty Members: The policy encourages the hiring of experienced and well-trained faculty members in order to provide students with high-quality teaching and learning experiences. 
  6. Trained Counsellors: The NEP 2020 also emphasises the importance of trained counsellors in schools to provide students with emotional and mental health support. 
  7. Open Learning: Students in classes 3, 5, and 8 have the option of participating in open learning through State Open Schools, NIOS, and vocational courses under the policy. This is intended to bring nearly 2 million out-of-school children back into the classroom.

NEP – The Structure and ECCE

The 10+2 schooling structure has been replaced by 5+3+3+4 (covering age groups from 3 years to 18 years). This incorporates early childhood care and education into the overall structure. Earlier, children aged 3 to 6 years were excluded from this structure (class 1 starts at 6 years old). It proposes developing a framework (the National Early Childhood Care and Education Curricular and Pedagogical Framework) based on ECCE research and industry best practices.

NEP – Universal Access to Education

The enrolment and retention of students at the primary levels have improved significantly as a result of the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan and the Right to Education Act. The policy, however, emphasises an area of opportunity for the upper grades, where the gross enrollment rate for classes 6–8 and 9–10 was only 90.90 percent and 79.3 percent, respectively. 

In grades 11–12, the figure falls even lower to 56.5 percent. The policy emphasises the importance of retaining students in the upper grades. It also seeks to provide opportunities for high-quality learning (including vocational education) from preschool to grade 12. 

NEP 2020 has devised two plans to accomplish this. The first step is to provide schools with the necessary infrastructure and teaching assistance. and reopen public schools for quality education. The second strategy is to keep track of students’ learning levels. The policy recommends that social workers and counsellors collaborate closely with students and parents to ensure student retention. In addition, the policy includes a system of incentives for the same purpose. This will be done after the infrastructure and participation have been established.

The policy also encourages non-formal education options such as homeschooling, NIOS, and other alternatives (such as digital education, etc.).

Four Stages of NEP 2020

Foundation Stage

The New Educational Policy includes the foundation stage for children aged 3 to 8 years. The foundation stage will last five years. 3 years of pre-school education will be held in Anganwadi and class 1, 2, and 3 will be held in school education where language skills and ability levels of the children will be tested and their development will be prioritised.

Preparatory Stage

This stage will last for three years for children aged 8 to 11 years. Special emphasis will be placed on improving students’ numerical skills. At the same time, all children will receive instructions in the regional language. In addition, the children will be taught science, art, maths, and other subjects through experiments.

Middle Stage

The duration of this stage is set at three years. The children from 6th to 8th grade have been included in this stage, and the curriculum will be taught by subjects, with coding beginning with 6th grade students. At the same time, all children will have the opportunity to take vocational tests and internships, with the goal of making them eligible for employment only during their school years. 

Secondary Stage

This stage lasts for four years. It includes  grades 9 to 12. The topics will be thoroughly studied in this course. Students can choose their subjects according to their interests, rather than within a specific stream. Students can study science, the arts, or commerce at the same time.

NEP – Major Recommendations  

  • Ensuring Universal Access at all levels of schooling from pre-primary school to Grade 12
  • Ensuring quality early childhood care and education for all children between 3-6 years
  • New Curricular and Pedagogical Structure (5+3+3+4) shall include the following stages:
    • Foundational
    • Preparatory
    • Middle
    • Secondary
  • No hard separations between these as follows:
    • Arts and Sciences
    • Curricular and Extracurricular activities
    • Vocational and Academic streams
  • Establishment of National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy
  • Emphasis on promotion of multilingualism and Indian languages
  • Medium of instruction in home language/mother tongue/local language/regional language until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond 
  • Assessment reforms- Board Exams on up to two occasions during any given school year, one main examination and one for improvement, if required
  • Setting up of a new National Assessment Centre, Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development  (PARAKH) 
  • Special emphasis given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups(SEDGs) for equitable and inclusive education 
  • Creation of a separate Gender Inclusion fund and Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups
  • Robust and transparent processes for recruitment of teachers and merit-based performance
  • Ensuring availability of all resources through school complexes and clusters
  • Setting up of State School Standards Authority (SSSA)
  • Exposure of vocational education in school and higher education system
  • Increasing Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education to 50%
  • Holistic Multidisciplinary Education with multiple entry/exit options
  • National Testing Agency (NTA) to offer Common Entrance Exam for Admission to Higher Education Institutions
  • Establishment of Academic Bank of Credit (ABC)
  • Setting up of MultidisciplinaryEducation and Research Universities (MERUs)
  • Setting up of National Research Foundation (NRF)
  • ‘Light but Tight’ regulation
  • Single overarching umbrella body for promotion of higher education sector including teacher education and excluding medical and legal education for the following:
    • Higher Education Commission of India (HECI)-with independent bodies for standard setting-the General Education Council
    • For funding-Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC)
    • For accreditation- National Accreditation Council (NAC);
    • For regulation- National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC)
  • Expansion of open and distance learning targeted to increase GER
  • Internationalisation of Education
  • Teacher Education – 4-year integrated stage-specific, subject- specific Bachelor of Education
  • Establishing a National Mission for Mentoring
  • Creation of an autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration. Appropriate integration of technology into all levels of education
  • Achieving 100% youth and adult literacy. 
  • Multiple mechanisms with checks and balances to combat and stop the commercialisation of higher education
  • Similar standards of audit and disclosure as a ‘not for profit’ entity for all education institutions 
  •  The Centre and the States to work together to increase the public investment in Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest
  • Strengthening of the Central Advisory Board of Education to ensure coordination to bring overall focus on quality education.
  • Ministry of Education to bring the focus back on education and learning, it may be desirable to re-designate MHRD as the Ministry of Education (MOE)

NEP – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020?

Ans: The NEP 2020 is a comprehensive framework aimed at transforming India’s education system. It is significant as it marks India’s first education policy in the 21st century. It aims to align the country’s education system with global Sustainable Development Goals, promoting innovation, economic growth, and social justice.

Q: Who chaired the committee that drafted the NEP 2020?

Ans: Dr. K.K. Kasturirangan chaired the committee that drafted the NEP 2020.

Q: What are the major goals of the NEP 2020?

Ans: The goals of NEP 2020 include establishing innovative education centres, ensuring good infrastructure support, tracking student progress, promoting multiple modes of learning, hiring experienced faculty, providing trained counsellors, and offering open learning options for students.

Q: How did the NEP 2020 change the structure of the Indian education system?

Ans: The NEP 2020 replaced the 10+2 structure with 5+3+3+4, integrating early childhood care and education (ECCE). It introduced foundation, preparatory, middle, and secondary stages, enhancing the overall educational experience.

Q: What steps did NEP 2020 take to address disparities in the education system?

Ans: NEP 2020 aimed to retain mainstream students and improve learning quality. It proposed infrastructure development, close tracking of student progress, and incentives for retention. It also encouraged non-formal education options.

Q: What is the emphasis on local languages and mother tongues in NEP 2020?

Ans: NEP 2020 emphasises home language instruction until class 5, providing high-quality textbooks in native languages to bridge gaps between spoken language and teaching medium. It also promotes multilingualism.

Q: How does NEP 2020 address physical education and skill development?

Ans: NEP 2020 integrates skill development with education, offering training in subjects like yoga, music, sports, and more from an early age.

Q: What measures did NEP 2020 propose for teacher recruitment and training?

Ans: NEP 2020 focuses on developing teachers’ technical know-how through online training modules and transparent teacher transfer processes. It aims to improve Teacher Eligibility Tests (TETs) for a more efficient hiring process.

Q: How does NEP 2020 address the digital divide in education?

Ans: NEP 2020 expands online learning platforms and promotes the use of mass media for students lacking digital resources. It aims to bridge the digital divide in education.

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