A is for apple, B for ball, C for curveball—because someone has to walk the cat that defined Indian school and college education since British colonialists seeded the subcontinent with the Western primer. But the cat comes as a default setting, no matter how much one tries to move it aside. That’s the case with education policies of the past; the cat among the pigeons. That also brings to context the revised national education policy (NEP), overhauled on PM Narendra Modi’s watch after 34 years. Will it keep pace with a hyperlooping century, where Windows and Androids shift shape with changing seasons? Time will tell, although history has seldom been kind to change.
Take the 1968 attempt for perspective, when Indira Gandhi’s government announced the first NEP that stressed the need for “a radical reconstruction” of the system to improve its quality, expand opportunities, provide free and compulsory education to all children up to 14, and focus on science/tech and “cultivation of moral values”. The user manual for this policy based on recommendations of the Kothari Commission—the aka for the more business-like Indian Education Commission (1964-66)—had all the to-dos that would touch the lives of every citizen, empower them to contribute towards “national progress and security”, promote “sense of common citizenship and culture”, and strengthen “national integration”. But the product didn’t sell. Education was a state subject constitutionally and the states didn’t buy the policy primarily because of their reservation towards a proposed uniform educational structure—the 10+2+3 system (ten years till matriculation, two years in pre-degree/higher secondary, and three years for college graduation).