Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” – Albert Einstein

Education is a key driver of economic and social progress, and most nations adopt a clearly defined and forward-looking education policy that takes into account their traditions and culture. India’s need to revamp its education system was dictated by the evolving needs of the country in the 21st century. Research and innovation emerged as the key areas where development will enable India to become a knowledge powerhouse.

After considering the suggestions of the Committee for the Draft National Education Policy, headed by eminent scientist and former ISRO chief Dr. K. Kasturirangan, the new National Education Policy (NEP) was introduced on 29th July 2020, replacing the 34-year-old National Education Policy from 1986, to bring reforms in the school system and higher education. The government also changed the name of the ministry responsible from Ministry of Human Resources and Development to Ministry of Education.

The new National Education Policy has come at the appropriate time and has a laudable goal. But setting down a policy on paper and actually enacting it successfully are two different things. The success of the new National Education Policy implementation depends to a large extent on how well the government, schools, and universities can bridge current gaps to meet the goals set out in the policy.

NEP has proposed several positive, sweeping changes to India’s existing education system. Before discussing how these changes impact schools, let’s first explore some of the proposals set forth by NEP:

Introduction of 5+3+3+4 study culture

A 5+3+3+4 system is proposed to replace the existing 10+2 system.

  • The first 5 years of education for children ages 3-8 includes 3 years of pre-school studies followed by classes 1 and 2. The focus will be on activity-based learning.
  • The following 3 years of education for children ages 8-11 includes classes 3 to 5. This is the preparatory stage, when children will begin learning distinct subjects like science, mathematics, arts, etc.
  • The next 3 years of education for children ages 11-14 includes classes 6 to 8. Courses will be subject-based and focus on developing skills.
  • The final 4 years (secondary education) for children ages 14-18 includes the 9th-12th standard. Students will select subjects according to their skills and interests and will focus on those areas intensively.

Promoting regional/local language

Education up to class 5 or 8 will be conducted either in the mother tongue or the regional language. Sanskrit will be offered as a 3rd optional subject. Students can opt for other foreign languages at the secondary stage.

Assessment reforms

Regular and formative assessments will replace summative evaluation, a competency-based system that will aid students’ development and learning skills. The emphasis will be on analytical, critical, and conceptual thinking.

The competent authority will conduct exams for classes 3, 5, and 8. Board exams will be held for 10th and 12th standard students. A standard-setting body, Performance, Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development (PARAKH), will be formed to administer these exams.

Changes in the process of teacher recruitment

The National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) will develop an educational framework. It will do this in consultation with the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT). Teachers will require a minimum B.Ed. Degree to teach in any institution.

Teachers’ promotion will be based on merit, and selection will be transparent. NCTE, in deliberation with NCERT, SCERT, teachers, and expert organizations, will create Common National Professional Standards which will be used to evaluate teacher performance.

A single regulator for all levels of school education

Except for medical and legal education, a single comprehensive coordinating body for all higher education called the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be established, which will have four independent departments:

  • The National Council for the Regulation of Higher Education for regulation
  • The General Council of Education for standardization
  • The Council for Higher Education Grants for funding
  • The National Accreditation Council for accreditation

HECI will operate online, and institutions not following the prescribed standards will be penalized.

Equitable and inclusive education

The education policy will help create equity by emphasizing socially and economically disadvantaged groups through:

  • a Gender Inclusion Fund
  • special education zones for disadvantaged sections or regions
  • appointment of specialized teachers to instruct disabled students
  • disabled students will participate in regular schooling and training, supported by appropriate accommodations and technology
  • “Bal Bhavans”: states/districts will be advised to set up day-boarding schools for participation in extra activities that will be career and play related

Modifications in school curriculum and pedagogy

The proposed changes to develop more well-rounded students include:

  • skill development in critical areas
  • emphasis on the enhancement of practical, experimental, and critical thinking
  • reduction of previous curriculum content
  • the flexibility of subject choice
  • no discrimination between streams of science, commerce, and maths
  • equal importance is given to co-curricular activities, vocational activities, and academic streams
  • opportunity for internships from class 6 onwards for vocational programs
  • National Curricular Framework for School Education to be created by NCERT

Another change introduced by the NEP is the development of a National Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) by NCERT to develop the school curriculum for children up to 8 years of age. Anganwadi and pre-school education will focus on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), and teachers will be trained in ECCE pedagogy and programming. The ECCE will be collectively administered by Ministries of Human Resource Development (HRD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), Women and Child Development (WCD).

Education for all

The NEP envisions education access for all, from pre-school levels through to higher education. The core concepts of literacy and numeracy will be emphasized, emphasizing extra-curricular and professional streams in schools.

The NEP will adopt the following measures:

  • student learning levels will be assessed
  • innovative education centres to re-engage students who have left school
  • infrastructure support to the schools
  • trained counsellors and social workers will be introduced in schools
  • formal and non-formal modes of education will allow for greater adaptability
  • NIOS (National Institute of Open Learning) will provide open learning and public schools to grades 3, 5, and 8
  • introduction to vocational courses offered in schools
  • development of digital infrastructure to support e-learning

National Entrance Test

Central Universities Common Entrance Test (CUCET), a single university entrance exam, will be conducted by the National Testing Agency so that students do not have to take multiple exams for university admission. It will reduce the burden on students, universities, colleges, and the education system as a whole.

Other significant proposals made in the New National Education Policy

Knowledge of India

A study of ancient India’s contribution to modern India including tribal, indigenous, and traditional ways of learning.

Physical and mental health and well-being of students

Some of the measures proposed include reducing the weight of school bags, periodic health check-ups, healthy meals, and making counselling and social work services available to students.

Internationalization of education

India will promote itself as a global study hub by providing excellent education at affordable prices. Well-performing Indian universities will be able to set up campuses outside India. Equally, foreign universities will be permitted to operate in India.

Funded boarding

For economically disadvantaged students, especially girls, who have to travel long distances to school free and safe boarding facilities will be provided.

Roadblocks to New National Education Policy Implementation

The NEP, which is likely to be implemented beginning in the 2022-23 academic year, faces the challenge of addressing multiple crises facing India’s education system coupled with uncertainty about the new direction of education moving forward. Some potential roadblocks include:

  • There are challenges in rewriting the entire school curriculum, including subjects such as artificial intelligence (AI) and financial literacy.
  • With the introduction of mother-tongue instruction, error-free translation into multiple languages is a significant task.
  • An Academic Bank of Credit has been proposed to facilitate multiple entries and exit options for students in higher education. Its implementation will be a challenge.
  • There will be challenges in implementing the various social objectives of the NEP – especially those involving providing all-inclusive vocational training to students of grade 6 and bringing school dropouts back into the education system.
  • Changing the attitude of teachers and helping them adapt to the new system of recruitment and promotion.
  • Implementing the policy at a national level and assessing states’ preparedness will be a huge undertaking. Per the AISHE 2019 report, India’s higher education sector consists of 3.74 crore students in nearly 1,000 universities, 39,931 colleges, and 10,725 stand-alone institutions. This does not capture schools that provide only elementary and middle school education or the total number of teachers in the system. This assessment will involve an investigation at the state, district, sub-district, and even block levels.
  • NEP drafting committee chairman Dr. K. Kasturirangan himself believes that “India’s education system is underfunded, heavily bureaucratized, and lacks the capacity for innovation and scale-up.”
  • A new education regulator, HECI, has to be set up, replacing existing regulatory bodies, mainly the UGC (University Grants Commission), AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education), and National Council for Teachers Education.

Benefits of NEP

  • Promotes learning outside of the four walls of a classroom and encourages students to incorporate real-world knowledge and experience.
  • Facilitates a shift from book learning to real and holistic learning that equips individuals with 21st-century skills.
  • Transforms the higher education system from information-centric to new knowledge and innovation-centric.
  • More focus on e-learning, helping students upgrade skills.
  • Multiple entry/exit points from the system make it accessible to more students.
  • Integrates vocational and academic courses, resulting in industry-ready professionals.
  • Multidisciplinary course options are available to the students in classes 9 to 12.
  • Universalization of education; making education a basic right and providing free education to children aged 3-18 at government-run establishments.
  • Option to learn to code in school.
  • Consistent quality in higher education.

Disadvantages of NEP

Enforcement of languages

Introducing the mother tongue in primary classes is a challenge given the geographical and cultural diversity of India – there are 22 major languages and thousands of dialects.

Late introduction to English

Private school students will be introduced to English at a much earlier age than public school students, potentially widening the gap between public and private schools.

Focus on digital learning

Only about 30% of Indians can afford smartphones and even fewer have access to a computer. Remote and socioeconomically disadvantaged students will be deprived of digital learning due to a lack of resources.

Lack of commitment from students

Multiple entry/exit points may encourage students not to complete their education, leading to a high drop-out rate.

How will the NEP 2020 impact schools?

The success of NEP 2020 will depend on how quickly schools adopt and implement it. There may be some implementation challenges:

  • Schools need to shift from the old 10+2 structure to the new 5+3+3+4 structure and teachers need to be trained in the new system. Parents will also have to be made aware of and familiarized with this change.
  • Schools need to review their curriculum and narrow it to include core knowledge only with a focus on practical, application-based learning. Teachers need to add activities that include experiential learning and creative and critical thinking skills. Greater importance will be placed on literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Schools need to promote multilingualism. Routines in the classroom need to be adapted with respect to NEP: moving away from rote learning to conceptual understanding, shifting from syllabus completion to defining learning goals, and integrating subjects, streams, and technology to create a holistic learning experience for students.
  • Changes in assessment need to be undertaken to holistically review students. Vocational subjects need to be introduced to facilitate hands-on learning.

Final thoughts

The drafting committee of NEP 2020 has made an impressive attempt to create a policy that incorporates diverse viewpoints, global best practices in education, field experiences, and stakeholder feedback. The National Education Policy 2020 is a positive note amidst the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The NEP 2020 is visionary, progressive, practical, and comprehensive. It has a broad scope encompassing early childhood through higher education and both professional and vocational training. The policy advocates skill-based learning, which is essential for students in the 21st century, keeping in mind the importance of critical thinking abilities, communication skills, analytical skills, and emotional intelligence. This new policy will facilitate the holistic development of a child. Rather than expecting students to perform on exams and memorize content without conceptual understanding, this new policy will emphasize leadership, empathy, innovation, collaboration, resilience, creativity, and personality development, enabling students to be future-ready.

This aspirational plan lays out the steps for an all-inclusive education system that makes learners industry-ready. The motivations behind the introduction of NEP are noble, but only time will tell if the implementation is successful in achieving the stated goals.

If you are a student wondering how NEP implementation could affect your education and career path, reach out to LaunchMyCareer. Our online counsellors are available to talk through options with you and help you choose a path that aligns with your interests and future goals.