Recently, the Union Cabinet cleared a new National Education Policy (NEP) proposing sweeping changes in school and higher education. An NEP is a comprehensive framework to guide the development of education in the country.
- The need for a policy was first felt in 1964 when Congress MP Siddheshwar Prasad criticised the then government for lacking a vision and philosophy for education. The same year, a 17-member Education Commission, headed by then UGC Chairperson D S Kothari, was constituted to draft a national and coordinated policy on education. Based on the suggestions of this Commission, Parliament passed the first education policy in 1968.
- A new NEP usually comes along every few decades. India has had three to date. The first came in 1968 and the second in 1986, under Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi respectively; the NEP of 1986 was revised in 1992 when P V Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister. The third is the NEP released Wednesday under the Prime Ministership of Narendra Modi.
- The NEP proposes sweeping changes including opening up of Indian higher education to foreign universities, dismantling of the UGC and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), introduction of a four-year multidisciplinary undergraduate programme with multiple exit options, and discontinuation of the M Phil programme.
- In school education, the policy focuses on overhauling the curriculum, “easier” Board exams, a reduction in the syllabus to retain “core essentials” and thrust on “experiential learning and critical thinking”.
- In a significant shift from the 1986 policy, which pushed for a 10+2 structure of school education, the new NEP pitches for a “5+3+3+4” design corresponding to the age groups 3-8 years (foundational stage), 8-11 (preparatory), 11-14 (middle), and 14-18 (secondary).
- This brings early childhood education (also known as pre-school education for children of ages 3 to 5) under the ambit of formal schooling. The mid-day meal programme will be extended to pre-school children. The NEP says students until Class 5 should be taught in their mother tongue or regional language.
- The policy also proposes phasing out of all institutions offering single streams and that all universities and colleges must aim to become multidisciplinary by 2040.
Procedure of Implementation
- The NEP only provides a broad direction and is not mandatory to follow. Since education is a concurrent subject (both the Centre and the state governments can make laws on it), the reforms proposed can only be implemented collaboratively by the Centre and the states. This will not happen immediately.
- The incumbent government has set a target of 2040 to implement the entire policy. Sufficient funding is also crucial; the 1968 NEP was hamstrung by a shortage of funds.
- The government plans to set up subject-wise committees with members from relevant ministries at both the central and state levels to develop implementation plans for each aspect of the NEP.
- The plans will list out actions to be taken by multiple bodies, including the HRD Ministry, state Education Departments, school Boards, NCERT, Central Advisory Board of Education and National Testing Agency, among others. Planning will be followed by a yearly joint review of progress against targets set.
Is mother tongue/regional language mandatory ?
No, the provision on mother tongue as medium of instruction was not compulsory for states. “Education is a concurrent subject. Which is why the policy clearly states that kids will be taught in their mother tongue or regional language ‘wherever possible.
Campuses of Foreign Universities
The document states universities from among the top 100 in the world will be able to set up campuses in India. While it doesn’t elaborate the parameters to define the top 100, the incumbent government may use the ‘QS World University Rankings’ as it has relied on these in the past while selecting universities for the ‘Institute of Eminence’ status. However, none of this can start unless the HRD Ministry brings in a new law that includes details of how foreign universities will operate in India.
Reference: The Indian Express