India is a country with the largest youth population in the world. According the
United Nations Population Division, India has the world’s highest number of 10
to 24-year-olds, with 242 million-despite having a smaller population than
China1. Such a large number of young people highlights the importance of
imparting good education to these young minds for not just improving their
lives, but also to develop the country as a whole.
Education is the key to
bringing about the changes this country desperately needs- be it the changes in
terms of social development, poverty eradication or gender equality, or the
developments in technological sphere and financial literacy- education is the
one area to rely upon. Therefore, it is immensely important to understand how
significant a role good education is going to play not only in the lives of the
youth, but also in the future of this country.
India, being a poverty-stricken
developing country, needs a robust mechanism to boost the educational levels of
its people and at the same time, provide the youth with enough job opportunities
that they won’t have to go to other developed countries looking for them. For
achieving this, our country’s education policy has a very consequential role to
play. It is the education policy of any country that shapes its young minds and
provides them with the skills to survive and grow in this increasingly
competitive world. If the education policy is not in tune with the changing and
technology driven world we live in today, it is going to hamper individual as
well as national growth and development.
Today, as a nation with young and
bright minds, we require an education system that makes people more skillful and
trains them in areas that are becoming increasingly important like- Artificial
Intelligence, Coding and App development, Environment Protection and its related
laws, Robotics etc. To enhance expertise in these areas, a new, modern day,
state-of-the-art education policy is needed that caters to modern needs and
problems. This is exactly what India is trying to achieve with its newly
introduced National Education Policy, 2020, also known as NEP, 2020.
The first education policy of India- i.e. National Education Policy, 1968 was
based on the recommendations of Kothari Commission and made education compulsory
for all children up to the age of 14 years. This policy was updated next in 1986
with the National Education Policy, 1986 which was modified in 1992 and
introduced exams like JEE and AIEEE. Now, it is after 34 years that the policy
of 1986 is being replaced by the new National Education Policy, 2020. The long
period of 34 years has seen a lot of changes in the Indian society and its
requirements and thus highlights the need for this new policy.
This article aims to critically evaluate this new policy, while weighing both-
its pros and cons.
National Education Policy, 2020: A Critical Evaluation
The National Education Policy, 2o2o, also known as NEP 2020, is India’s third
education policy, was approved by the Union Cabinet of India in July, 2020 and
is in line with India’s vision for a new and enhanced education system that is
more comprehensive and targets the growing young population of India. It is
based on the recommendations of the committee led by Dr. K. Kasturirangan. This
policy aims to bring about reforms in both- schools and colleges and hopes to
make India a global knowledge superpower
. Apart from introducing many changes
in the system, this policy has also renamed the Ministry of Human Resource
Development to Ministry of Education.
Some salient features of the new education policy are as follows:
- The government aims to achieve a Gross Enrolment Ratio (GRE) of 50% in
higher education by 2035 and 100% in primary and secondary education by
2030- Though the goal itself is laudable, it remains a cause of concern and
many doubts linger with respect to the said target as the current figures
show Indian GRE in higher education at 26.3%2 and that for secondary
education at 73.79%3. These figures are worrisome and make one wonder about
how realistic they are. Besides this, it is also important to acknowledge
that many students drop out from schools either due to gender disparity or
financial issues. These issues are more evident in some particular states
like Bihar. This goal of high GRE does not take into account these issues.
- The policy proposes to increase the ambit of Right to Education to
include children in the age group of 3-18 years from the current age group
of 6-14 years- Again, the goal is laudable, if achieved. But here too, we
see issues like students from more humble backgrounds being unable to get
access to private schools. Private schools are often reluctant to accept
children from poor families or even disabled children even though 25% seats
are reserved for such children in these schools. It remains unclear as to
how the government plans to encourage private schools to accept such
children and what incentives it intends to provide to these schools, if any.
- NEP also states that wherever possible, students will be taught in their
mother tongue/regional language till Class 5- The move is based on the idea
drawn from various studies that show that young children understand things best
when they study them in their mother tongue. However, this move is bound to
create more problems as a single school has many students speaking many
different mother tongues and this new policy will create problems in imparting
education at the lower level itself. Besides, Supreme Court in a case4 held the
imposition of mother tongue as a medium of instruction in schools as
unconstitutional, going against Article 19 (1)(a). Also, this policy totally
disregards children whose parents have transferable jobs.
- The government aims to increase public investment in the education
sector to 6% of the GDP from the current 4.6%- Most of the developed
countries in the world spend somewhere around 6% of their GDPs on education.
These nations include- Norway (6.5%), New Zealand (6.4%), United Kingdom
(6.2%), USA (6%) etc.5 But when it comes to India, the first question that
comes to mind is- How India plans to invest so much in education especially
amidst the great economic crisis that our nation is facing due to the
COVID-19 pandemic? Where is the government planning to get all this money
from? Will the central government be able to fund this investment or will
the states bear the burden? Answers to these questions remain unclear and
unless they become clear, it is quite early to say how effective this
decision will prove to be.
- NEP will establish a National Research Foundation (NRF) to promote a
strong research culture and build the research capacity among Indian students-
Research abilities is a prerequisite in any field or career. Modern education
relies heavily on the research abilities of students that enhances their
knowledge and skills. Promoting a strong research culture is thus an important
requirement in India. However, India’s spending in terms of percentage of GDP
has been stagnant at 0.6 to 0.7% in the last 20 years and is much lower than
other nations like- US, China, South Korea etc.6 India has 216.2 researchers per
1 million inhabitants as against 1200 in China and 4300 in the US, according to
the report released by The Brookings India. Such figures point towards overly
- The center has decided to continue with the three-language formula,
initially proposed in 1968, in NEP, 2020 as well- In the draft NEP released in
2019, it was suggested that teaching and learning Hindi will be mandatory in
non-Hindi speaking states out of the three languages to be taught in schools.
But this clause was dropped after protests by some states like Tamil Nadu. Now,
the choice of the three languages is left to the states and students but it is
necessary that at least two out of these three languages are native to India.
Despite the removal of the previous clause, there continues to be a fear among
non-Hindi speaking states about imposition of Hindi on them.
- The emphasis on the setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund and Special
Education Zones to promote access to education to disadvantaged groups- This
move was long overdue. Access to education in India is extremely unequal. It
is not gender inclusive and we see a lot of disparities in access to
education in terms of gender and financial status. This move by the
government is aimed at solving this problem which is one of the greatest
setbacks in Indian education system. However, it remains to be seen how
effectively the government is able to implement this policy as one of the
greatest problems in India is implementation of laws and policies.
- The policy will replace the 10+2 structure with the new 5+3+3+4
structure- The 10+2 structure followed the system of 10 years of primary and
2 years of secondary education. This system will now be replaced by the new
5+3+3+4 structure which will involve 5 years of foundational stage, 3 years
of preparatory stage, 3 years of middle stage and 4 years of secondary
education. This structure will also involve more flexibility in a student’s
choice of subjects and the clear distinction between streams- science,
commerce and arts/humanities- will be done away with. This is a good move as
it will stop the three streams from getting pitted against one another and
students will get a larger number of choices in subjects.
- NEP has also brought changes in teacher hiring policy and has set up
national professional standards for teachers- By 2030, the minimum qualification
required for teachers will be a four-year B.Ed. Course. Also, interviews will
become an integral aspect for hiring teachers. Specifying minimum qualification
and making interviews necessary for hiring is a great move to ensure that
educational standards are maintained and are not compromised in any way. It was
found in the data7 compiled by National University of Educational Planning and
Administration (NUEPA), Delhi, that 48.87% of school teachers in Karnataka were
not even graduates. This shows the poor condition of the teaching staff in
Indian schools. This new policy will hopefully bring about a positive change in
- NEP will set up national level bodies like National Higher Education
Regulatory Council (NHERC), National Accreditation Council (NAC), National
Educational Technology Forum (NETF), Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC)
The aim behind setting up these bodies is laudatory but setting up of
these bodies suggests more centralization of education in India. The need of the
hour is to allow more decentralization or at least consider the inputs of
different states in the area of education as per their needs as India, being a
diverse country, has differences in the needs of the people of different states.
This fact has not been taken into consideration while framing this policy.
There are many other areas in which the government needs to clarify details like
the reason behind phasing out of affiliation of colleges in the next 15 years
and what benefits it will bring or the reason for the discontinuation of M. Phil
courses. These and many other such questions need to be clarified before we
accept this policy as a harbinger of change in the Indian educational system.
Modern day education is far from being all about rote-learning. It is much more
than that. Education in today’s time encompasses both knowledge and skills.
Thus, the emphasis on vocational education under NEP, 2020 is a praise-worthy
move. This policy is therefore expected to create many new avenues for
The vision of this new National Education Policy, 2020 is commendable but we
should not forget the fact that simply envisioning a policy on paper and
actually implementing it in a large country like India are two different things
and as a nation, India has always faced the problem of implementation of its
Excessive privatization of education, a strong bureaucratic control
and large-scale corruption, digital divide, lack of infrastructure and overall
mismanagement in education are only some of the many issues currently
confronting India. Unless these issues are addressed and resolved, any real
positive change in the education system seems like a distant dream.
Submitted By: Kanishka Kansal
- World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision Population Database of UN
- As per All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2018-19
- World Bank collection of Development Indicators, 2019
- State of Karnataka & Anr. v. Associated Management of Primary and
Secondary Schools and Ors.
- As per National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) quoting OECD,
Online Education Database
- Economic Survey of India 2017-18
- District Information System for Education (DISE), NUEPA, Delhi 2015-16
- Institution- Manipal University Jaipur