new National Education Policy (NEP)

Kasturirangan committee

renaming of the HRD Ministry to Ministry of Education.

“no language will be imposed on any State”“The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and of course the students themselves, so long as at least two of the three languages are native to India,” the policy says.

The provision on allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India has been introduced.

“ancient Indian knowledge” has been included in the policy, the document states “these elements will be incorporated in an accurate and scientific manner throughout the school curriculum wherever relevant”

Akhil Bhartiya Itihas Sankalan Yojna

Akhil Bhartiya Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh


What are its implications for the majority of those covered under the acronym SEDGs (Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups) in the text?

Absent in the document, as far as I could see, is any mention of the term “caste”, apart from a fleeting reference to Scheduled Castes. Also absent is any mention of reservation in academic institutions, whether for students, teachers, or other employees.

Reservation, necessary but not sufficient, is the bare minimum required in terms of affirmative action in the highly differentiated socio-economic milieu in which we exist. The silence of the document on this issue is troubling, to say the least.

the passing reference to educational institutions in tribal areas, designated as ashramshalas (NEP 1.8) and envisaged as part of the Early Childhood Children Education programme. This is particularly crucial as the document visualises increased “benign” privatisation of education, attempting to distinguish this from commercialisation. In a situation of growing privatisation and the near collapse of public institutions of higher education, how these policies will be implemented is a matter of concern.

multi-disciplinarity — an apparently attractive and flexible proposition, allowing learners to experiment with a variety of options. We learn (NEP 11.7) that “Departments in Languages, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Indology, Art, Dance, Theatre, Education, Mathematics, Statistics, Pure and Applied Sciences, Sociology, Economics, Sports, and other such subjects needed for a multidisciplinary, stimulating Indian education and environment will be established and strengthened at HEIs across the country.” 

 it is worth flagging what is missed out — fields of studies such as Women’s Studies or Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Dalit Studies, Studies of Discrimination and Exclusion, Environmental Studies and Development Studies, all of which have developed over the last three or four decades. Many of these have engaged with multi-disciplinarity/inter-disciplinarity in exciting and disturbing ways, bringing to the fore issues of diversity, difference and identity.

For instance, the selection of vocational subjects in middle school is described as a fun choice. At the same time, it is to be exercised “as decided by States and local communities and as mapped by local skilling needs” (NEP 4.8).National Testing Agency (NEP 4.38) which, we learn “will serve as a premier, expert, autonomous testing organisation to conduct entrance examinations… in higher educational institutions.” This is expected to be a means of “drastically reducing the burden on students, universities and colleges, and the entire education system.” That instead of an overarching centralised agency, an innovative educational policy would attempt to create space for context-specific and diverse modes of evaluation for different fields of learning is a possibility that remains unexplored.

HEIs will now be run by a Board of Governors (NEP 19.2), backed by legislative changes where required. Further centralisation is envisaged through the setting up of “the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA)… to regulate in a ‘light but tight’ and facilitative manner, meaning that a few important matters — particularly financial probity, good governance, and full online and offline public disclosure of all finances, procedures, faculty/staff, courses, and educational outcomes — will be very effectively regulated, while leaving the rest to the judgment of the HEIs (NEP 20.4).”

the policy explicitly facilitates the presence of foreign universities within higher education. these universities are held up as ideals to be emulated. So “MERUs (Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities) will be set up and will aim to reach the global status of, e.g., the Ivy League Universities in the US.” (NEP 11.10)

while an assortment of values are identified as constitutional, including “knowledge and practice of human and constitutional values (such as patriotism, sacrifice, non-violence, truth, honesty, peace, righteous conduct, forgiveness, tolerance, mercy, sympathy, helpfulness, cleanliness, courtesy, integrity, pluralism, responsibility, justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity)” (NEP 4.23), and there is an occasional mention of fundamental duties, one searches in vain for any allusion to fundamental rights. Are these to be erased from the memories of future generations?


The New Education Policy, for the most part, provides a forward-looking framework for transforming Indian education.

The emphasis in the document on critical thinking and free inquiry is entirely well placed. But it is difficult to read those words in a context, where as we speak, universities are being intimidated into political and cultural conformity. A free education system cannot flourish without a free society; reason cannot be sovereign in the face of identity politics. So the work of ensuring that freedom and critical thinking are not mere words in a power point, constrained by realities of power, will be doubly harder.

So fears of the document come from the context rather than the text. The text itself is for the most part admirable. It does an artful job of navigating several thickets. On the language issue, it is nicely ambiguous. It prefers the long-standing recommendation of primary education in the mother tongue, but does not categorically recommend curbing language choice for English. On the basic architecture of delivery, the document has an agnosticism on the issue of public versus private education both in school and higher education.

The reductive dishonesty of some past curriculum should not be replaced by the new dishonesty of pride.The most promising parts of the documents are on school education: The focus on early child development, learning outcomes, different forms of assessment, holistic education, and, most importantly, recognising the centrality of teacher and teacher education. This part of the document will get the least attention but is the most important. The document recognises that “the very highest priority of the education system will be to achieve universal foundational numeracy and literacy.”

 The suggestions for school education are ambitious, centred on the students, cater to their pedagogical diversity, and take on board the world of knowledge as it is now emerging. The document drops the word multidisciplinary a bit too much, without explicating what it means. One way of thinking about this is not in terms of multiple subjects. It is reorienting education from disciplinary content to modes of inquiry that allow students to access a wide variety of disciplines.The document talks about flexibility, choice, experimentation. In higher education, the document recognises that there is a diversity of pedagogical needs. Students might need different exit options. But it is unclear if the document is recommending that the diploma or early exit options all be made available within a single institution, or different institutions offer different kinds of degrees. If it is a mandated option within single institutions, this will be a disaster, since structuring a curriculum for a classroom that has both one-year diploma students and four-year degree students takes away from the identity of the institution. 

A healthy education system will comprise of a diversity of institutions, not a forced multi-disciplinarity. Students should have a choice for different kinds of institutions. The policy risks creating a new kind of institutional isomorphism mandated from the Centre.

The document rightly emphasises that focus needs to shift from exams to learning. But it contradicts itself. Exams are neurotic experiences because of competition; the consequences of a slight slip in performance are huge in terms of opportunities. So the answer to the exam conundrum lies in the structure of opportunity. This will require a less unequal society both in terms of access to quality institutions, and income differentials consequent upon access to those institutions. India is far from that condition. Exams are also necessary because in a low trust system people want objective measures of commensuration. So the document reinstates exams back into the picture by recommending a national aptitude test. But the idea that this will reduce coaching is wishful thinking, as all the evidence from the US and China is showing.


Advocating forward-thinking and cogent reform, NEP 2020 is an amalgamation of need-based policy, cutting-edge research and best practices, paving the way for New IndiaIn fact, the document, iterated over the last few years, is an ode to the ideals of public policy, factoring in voices of every stakeholder — from experts to teachers and the common man. It is informed by insights from 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across the country.the agenda for systemic reform has gained ground in recent years through initiatives such as the NITI Aayog’s School Education Quality Index (SEQI), the Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital in Education (SATH-E) and even the Aspirational Districts programme.NEP will drive transformational change in alignment with the system’s need to focus holistically on the critical tenets of access, equity, infrastructure, governance and learning. Advocating forward-thinking and cogent reform, NEP 2020 is an amalgamation of need-based policy, cutting-edge research and best practices, paving the way for New India.

First, with an extensive focus on universalising access from early childhood to higher education, integrating over two crore out-of-school children, and concerted efforts directed at socio-economically disadvantaged groups, the policy ensures last-mile delivery, embodying “antyodaya”. Second, through a convergence of efforts and erasing traditional silos in workflows, early childhood care and education will be delivered through a new curriculum as well as a play- and activity-based pedagogy. Along with a dedicated national mission for foundational literacy and numeracy, NEP 2020 will be significant for bolstering the most critical phases of learning, building a strong foundation for education.

Third, NEP marks a departure from archaic practices and pedagogy. The dismantling of the rigid distinction between curricular, extra-curricular and co-curricular subjects in school, and the provision of multiple entry and exit options in higher education gives much-needed flexibility to students to hone their skills and interests. Revamped curriculum, adult education, lifelong learning and the vision to ensure that half our learners have exposure to at least one vocational skill in the next five years is characteristic of the shift from rote to applied learning. Through a skill gap analysis, practise-based curriculum and internships with local vocational experts, NEP 2020’s “Lok Vidya”, echoes the Prime Minister’s clarion call of being “Vocal for Local”.

NITI Aayog’s mandate to facilitate evidence-based policy, there is a strong belief in the fact that what can’t be measured can’t be improved. Till date, India lacks a comprehensive system for regular, credible and comparable assessments of learning outcomes. It is heartening to see the establishment of a National Assessment Centre called PARAKH (National Centre for Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic development) coming to fruition. Continuous tracking of learning, flexible board exams, conceptual assessments and AI-enabled data systems will be critical to orienting the entire organisation around outcomes (as opposed to the traditional excessive focus on inputs), providing a systems-health check, as well as steering the right reform and requisite course-corrections.

Fifth, teacher education is reimagined with a comprehensive curricular framework, multidisciplinary programmes and stringent action against substandard institutions. Driven by SEQI’s vision for teacher adequacy and transparent systems for merit-based selection and deployment, online systems for teacher transfers and planning will ensure that the right teachers are in the right institutes.

Sixth, the creation of an academic credit bank, the impetus to research, graded autonomy, internationalisation and the development of special economic zones are vital to rebranding India as the higher education destination. Further, multilingual education and efforts to enhance the knowledge of India could restore the country’s educational heritage from the glory days of Takshashila and Nalanda — creating a system that’s modern yet rooted.

Seventh, NEP marks an overhaul of the governance architecture from one based on overregulation and complex and disparate norms to a simplified and cogent structure. School complexes and clusters will bring about efficient resourcing of delivery structures, common standards and norms will boost the quality of institutes across all levels, a single regulatory body for higher education will serve as a template for minimal, essential regulation and maximum, effective governance. Outcomes-focused accreditation will be critical to leapfrogging India’s journey towards quality education — the fourth goal of sustainable development.NEP 2020 is a step in the right direction, signalling the “new normal” in education with its focus on critical thinking, experiential learning, interactive classrooms, integrated pedagogy and competency-based education. Inclusive digital education features as a crosscutting component throughout all reform areas, powering India’s journey towards the fourth industrial revolution.


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