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National Education Policy 2020; What it is and What it Holds in Store for the Education Sector

On July 30th, The Union Cabinet took the step of renaming the HRD Ministry as the Education Ministry and along with it also proposed the National Education Policy 2020. 

A student studies on a blackboard

The policy was first formed in 1986 and then updated in 1992. After a period of 28 years, the country is yet to see another drastic change in its education pattern and structure.

The NEP proposes major changes for both schooling level education and higher level education. On paper, the primary aim of the reform is to focus on developing a more holistic, participatory and less rigorous academic structure. 

The current schooling system of 10﹢2 would be done away with, and the new system would be divided into a 5﹢3﹢3﹢4 format. The first five years would be the foundational stage followed by the next three being the preparatory stage. This would be followed by the middle school stage and the final four years of secondary stage. 

Another major reform is the language policy that is to be introduced. The medium of instruction until class 5 would be the “mother tongue or the local/regional language”, the final policy aims at giving the freedom to states, regions and students to choose three languages to be learned in total. However, two out of the three languages need to be native Indian Languages. This move has gathered a lot of criticism, one of the reasons being the high inter-state migration which takes place due to work opportunities. Due to this a lot of children often don't grow up in their native regions and hence the policy might result in pressure on the students due to the fact that they will have to learn multiple languages. Opposition against this also comes from the state of Tamil Nadu, where the two language formula has been in place up till now. Points of concern being raised by political parties of the state include the back door entry of Hindi into the state and the unnecessary pressure on students.

At the secondary level, the practice of differentiated streams would be discarded, students will be given the choice to choose their subjects across all three disciplines as per their preferences. Board exams for classes 10th and 12th would be held twice a year, giving students a chance to improve their scores. The NEP also proposes that a system of annual, semester or modular board exams could be developed to test lesser material, and can be held immediately after the corresponding course is taught in school. This is so that the pressure from exams is distributed evenly and less is intense.

Other reforms at schooling level involve introduction of peer evaluation, coding from grade 6 and vocational training courses, with the primary focus now shifting to analytical and critical thinking in the academic course.

NEP is also bringing about changes to education at the college and university level. the proposed idea is to introduce a single gateway wherein the National Testing Agency (NTA) would conduct a common entry exam for entries to colleges and universities across the country. As stated in the draft it will allow “most universities to use these common entrance exams – rather than having hundreds of universities each devising their own entrance exams, thereby drastically reducing the burden on students, universities and colleges.”

Another aim is to bring in foreign education into the country by allowing global universities to operate in India and at the same time to encourage top performing Indian universities to set up campuses in other countries. While as lucrative as this might sound as an idea, this also means that higher education would become expensive and unaffordable, adding to the existing class divide. There also seems to be an attempt to remove and dilute reservations through the backdoor with this move, which is a highly criticized and opposed move.

The undergraduate degrees would be of either three or four years wherein multiple exit options would be given. Along with that, the current system does not allow transfer of credits from one institute to another, the proposed plan will be giving that option hence allowing students to change institutes if desired. Graduate level, Masters level and Doctorate courses would be research based and the current M.Phil programmes would be scrapped, as a part of the plan.

While the policy seems to be promising and reforming on paper, it comes with a lot of drawbacks. Imposition of language, privatization of education and dilution of specific university criteria and back door reduction of reservations being a few. The country is set to see a reform of this level after a very major time gap and the entire outcome of it solely depends on the implementation of it. The Union Government has set a target of 2040 to implement the entire policy, starting with the reforms from as early as 2021.

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