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The National Education Policy, 2020- The Legal Structure

Looking at the Indian historical context with regard to the educational policies, the Indian Governments give out a new policy every few decades. We have had 2 policies, the 1st and 2nd Education policies were issued in 1968 and 1986 respectively and the latest and the 3rd Educational Policy (‘NEP’) has been cleared by the Union Cabinet on July 29, 2020. The fundamental purpose and aim of the NEP is the focus on developing a good human being capable of thinking and acting rationally along with the capability of “possessing compassion and empathy, courage and resilience, scientific temper and creative imagination, with sound ethical moorings and values.”

The NEP is essentially revising and revamping almost all aspects of the Indian educational structure along with its regulation and governance. The NEP is aimed at creating a system that is in harmony with century and the core Indian values.

It is extremely important to note that the NEP is only a policy, not a law. The implementation of the policy involves amendments in the present laws. Further, since education falls under the concurrent list, both the centre and the state will have to make the amendments.

Noteworthy alterations and proposals in the NEP are:

  1. The NEP proposes to do-away with the 10+2 curriculum structure and introduces a new 5+3+3+4 curriculum structure including children from the age of 3 years, i.e., pre-school or kindergarten has been included into the new curriculum. Therefore, the NEP structure is divided as age groups 3-8 years (foundational stage) include kindergarten and classes 1 and 2; age groups 8-11 (preparatory) include classes 3 – 5; age groups 11-14 (middle) include classes 6 – 8; and finally age groups 14-18 (secondary) including classes 9 – 12.
  2. Focus has been laid on the use of students’ mother tongue as the teaching language. The new NEP does not diverge from the three-language formula and mandates that no language will be imposed on anyone but focuses on language of teaching to be the mother tongue or regional language wherever possible.
  3. The new NEP acknowledges the negative effects of the present assessment system and hence aims at redesigning the board examination structure. Accordingly, NEP encourages the holistic development of students by allowing them to choose the subjects depending on their individualized interests. The future board examinations are being envisioned to be easier, as they will be testing the core competencies rather than the children’s’ capabilities of memorising the syllabus.
  4. The thick bold lines between the science, commerce and humanities streams is being erased. The schools will be flexible in the sense that students will be allowed to pick and choose the subjects they wish to study.
  5. The horizons of learning are being attempted to widened by giving equal importance to curricular and extra-curricular education by emphasizing on vocational education. This vocational education is proposed to start from Class 6 by introducing the internships in the area of interest of the students.
  6. The NEP proposes to abolish University Grant Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and National Counsel for Teacher Education (NCTE) and introduces the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). This commission will be the umbrella body for higher education except for medical and legal education. HECI will be set to have 4 verticals that will accountable as follows:
    1. Regulation – National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for;
    2. Standard Setting – General Education Council (GEC)
    3. Funding – Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC); and
    4. Accreditation – National Accreditation Council (NAC).

The NEP further proposes an interesting undergraduate programme of 4 years with an option to exit at the end of any year with an appropriate certificate. Therefore, students exiting after 1 year will be given a certificate, after two years will be given a diploma, and after three years a bachelor’s degree. All courses at undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD level are being aimed to be interdisciplinary in nature and M. Phil courses are being proposed to be slowly phased out.

The new NPE is remarkably interesting as it takes a steep turn from the current and Indian education system. Although it is taking into consideration many aspects, the policy has certain drawbacks. One of the many is the choice of teaching language as mother tongue or regional language. Though the intention seems to be good, NEP ignores the fact that schools have children whose parents have a transferable job. If the policy is translated into a law in the future, the difficulty these children will face unimaginable.

Further, the policy time and again uses the phrase “method of instruction” giving an extremely negative connotation to the education system. The new NEP, as it claims, is a more holistic in nature and is attempting to make education easier and more friendly for all, phrases like “method of instruction” are still being used instead of phrases like “language of teaching”.

Another important aspect to consider is the time is implementation. The process of amendments in law, conversions of affiliate colleges into degree granting institutes and universities is a very lengthy process. The policy aims at transforming the education system by 2040 with certain proposals which will be implemented immediately, and the rest will be done in phases.

India needs to consider the present economic situation and other contributing factors while implementing the present policy. The Ministry is considering a 6% increased funding as adequate to meet the financial aspects of implementation of NEP, but time will only tell now.

If you are interested to read the National Education Policy document for yourself, the link is attached: https://www.mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/NEP_Final_English.pdf

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