The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is a ground-breaking statement of public intent on the aims and objects of education in the 21st century and aims to address the many growing developmental imperatives of our country in a holistic manner.
The NEP 2020 covers a gap of 34 years after the National Policy of Education (NPE) 1986, and hence proposes the revision and revamping of all aspects of the education structure, including its regulation and governance, to create a new system that is aligned with the emerging trends in education as well as with the aspirational goals of 21st century education, including SDG 4, while building upon India’s traditions and value systems.
The highlights of the NEP include 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); no hard separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams; establishing National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy and emphasis on promoting multilingualism and Indian languages.
The NEP 2020 envisages that the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/ mother tongue/local language/regional language. As regards assessment reforms, the policy envisages Board exams on two occasions during any given school year, one main examination and one for improvement, if desired.
The NEP 2020 believes in equitable and inclusive education with special emphasis on socially and economically disadvantaged groups (SEDGs). To this end, it proposes 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) and exposure of vocational education in school and higher education system.
The emphasis is on ‘Light but Tight’ regulation through establishment of a single overarching umbrella body for promotion of higher education sector, including teacher education and excluding medical and legal education viz. Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) with independent bodies for standard-setting, General Education Council; Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC), National Accreditation Council (NAC) and National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC).
Further, there will be a thrust on the expansion of open and distance learning to increase gross enrolment ration (GER) and on internationalisation of education. Professional education will be an integral part of the higher education system. Stand-alone technical universities, health science universities, legal and agricultural universities, or institutions in these or other fields, will aim to become multi-disciplinary institutions.
The NEP 2020 has also proposed the 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 with the ultimate objective of appropriate integration of technology into all levels of education.
The other areas to be promoted through the policy include achieving 100 per cent youth and adult literacy and setting up of multiple mechanisms with checks and balances to combat and stop the commercialisation of higher education. All education institutions will be held to similar standards of audit and disclosure as a ‘not for profit’ entity. The Centre and the states will work together to increase the public investment in education to reach 6 pc of GDP at the earliest.
The policy also proposes to redesignate the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) as the Ministry of Education in order to bring the focus back on education and learning.