New Education Policy: Modernizing Education System

4 mins read

Tasneem Kabir

Thirty four years into the old education policy have lapsed. Two committees and two long years after its inception, the Union cabinet has tabled the finalized New Education Policy which intends to bring changes of a fundamental nature to the Indian education system. This is in tune with the constitution, given that Part IV of the Indian constitution holds provisions for ensuring education of an equitable and accessible character. Further, the Union has so legislated as the 42nd Amendment moved education from being a subject under the state list to being one under the concurrent list, in order to ensure some sort of nationally streamlined standardization of the Indian curriculum.

The need for the New Economic Policy has been acute, given that since the previous policy of 1986, the Indian Economy has liberalised, the population numbers have soared and we now have a sizable and ambitious middle class. In addition, technological advancements have rendered entire paradigms obsolete, and the liberal nature of the economy has resulted in the education being market-ized into a money-churning enterprise. As an example, the mushrooming of business-minded educational institutions has created a category of the “educated unemployed” in our country. Bearing all this in time, the release of the NEP is a welcome step.

Coming to the contents of the policy, the foremost step is the change in nomenclature of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to the Ministry of Education. This move seems to imply that the Ministry’s focus now is to be concentrated on the part of Human Resource Management that has to do with education. Cognizant of the fact that 85% of a child’s cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of 6, the present school set-up of 10+2 is to be replaced with a new 5+3+3+4 structure. This is to ensure a strong stress on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). Further, various NGOs have released independent reports showing that the majority of students currently in elementary school have not attained basic foundational literacy (the ability to read and comprehend basic texts) and numeracy (basic calculation). Hence, the primal thrust of the new set-up will ensure universal foundational literacy and numeracy in primary schools of the nation by 2025. To this effect, there stands proposed the establishment of the National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

As for the school curriculum itself, the choice of subjects is widened to ensure no rigid separation between the different disciplines/streams of the Sciences, Humanities and Commerce to ensure better exposure. Further, it is to be worked upon that at least till Grade 5, the medium of instruction is to be the mother tongue. The NEP accepts the three-language formula but ensures greater flexibility in it to see that no language is enforced upon a particular State. As for the NCERT, the formulation of a new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be undertaken by it. Interestingly, the progress card for school-based assessment will be completely redesigned to make it a holistic, 360-degree, multidimensional report that reflects the uniqueness of each candidate and when it comes to board exams, they are to be retained for Grades 10 and 12 but the need to take  coaching classes should be eliminated. The Board exams will be further reformed such that they focus on testing primary and core capacities rather than memorized facts. The policy proposes to set up PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) as a national assessment center, as a standard-setting body under MHRD for all recognized school boards of India.

Moving on to higher education, the issues with the Indian scenario include the fragmented nature of the higher education network, strict separation of disciplines, curbs on institutional autonomy and poor governance and management of higher education institutions. In a bid to plug these gaps, the main thrust of this policy is to end the fragmentation of higher education by transforming higher education institutions into large multidisciplinary universities, colleges and clusters, each of which will aim to have at least 3,000 students. To attain this goal, the envisioned deadline is 2040. The undergraduate degree itself will be of duration of 3 or 4 years, complete with multiple exit options at various stages of the degree with appropriate certifications. As for post-graduate degrees, higher education institutes will enjoy the flexibility to offer different designs of Master’s programs.

The NEP brings forth the government’s move to set up the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) as a single umbrella body for the entire higher education (excluding medical and legal education) ecosystem. This is to ensure streamlining and efficiency of the higher education network. In addition, the making of quality higher education opportunities available to all individuals in a nation ridden with inequalities like India warrants action. For this purpose, additional actions that are specific to higher education shall be adopted by all Governments and Higher Education Institutes: earmarking appropriate funds for the education of socio-economically disadvantaged groups (SEDGs), enhance gender balance in admissions to Higher Education Institutes to incorporate females and transgender individuals, as well as enhance access by establishing high-quality Higher Education Institutes in upcoming districts and Special Education Zones.

In summary, it can be said that the New Education Policy appears to be a forward-looking proposal and seems to address most issues that plague the Indian education system today. However, one issue that multiple critics have expressed concern over its non-addressal in the NEP is the digitization of education. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that in times when human-to-human interaction heralds’ death and disease, the only way to ensure continuity of education is to take it online. To this effect, it may be possible to augment the education system by ringing it under the purview of the now functional BharatNet scheme to include digital infrastructure for public and private schools throughout the country. Other than that, the NEP comes as a piece of largely-good news at a time when the nation could really use a healing touch. More power to the nation!

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