Narendra Modi-led Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 to bring “large-scale transformational reforms” in both school and higher education sectors, and also gave its nod to a proposal to rename the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) to Ministry of Education, reversing the Rajiv Gandhi government’s decision to change the ministry’s name in 1985.
A New Education Policy for the nation comes after a gap of 34 years. It will replace the previous policy, formulated during the Rajiv Gandhi regime in 1986. The policy recommendations will be implemented in phases.
Under the NEP, which stipulates for a complete overhaul of the existing education system in the country, formal education of children will start at the age of 3.
The current 10+2 structure of school curricula will be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 respectively, with integration of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) in formal schooling.
“This will bring the uncovered age group of 3-6 years under school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for development of mental faculties of a child. The new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/pre-schooling,” the school education secretary Anita Karwal said after the Cabinet meeting.
The national council of educational research and training (NCERT) will develop a national curricular and pedagogical framework for ECCE up to the age of 8. The ECCE will be delivered through “a significantly expanded” and strengthened system of institutions including Anganwadis and pre-schools that will have teachers and Anganwadi workers trained in the ECCE pedagogy and curriculum, the policy stipulates.
The planning and implementation of ECCE will be carried out jointly by the Ministries of Education, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs.
A national mission will be set up by the government to focus on the equipping children with foundational literacy and numeracy. The States will prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners by grade 3 by 2025.
While the children will be taught in their mother tongue or local language up to class 5, they will start learning how to code from class 6 with the NEP recommending for equipping the children with 21st century skills.
"Vocational education will also start in schools from class 6 which will include internships. There will be bag less day of 10 days for internship,”Karwal added.
The NCERT will formulate a new school curriculum and pedagogy for holistic development of students and to equip them “with the key 21st century skills”. There will be reduction in curricular content to enhance essential learning and critical thinking and greater focus on experiential learning. Students will have increased flexibility and choice of subjects.
“There will be no rigid separation between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams,” school education secretary said.
Changes will be brought in the current system of assessment of students’ performance with the NEP envisaging a shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment, which will be more competency-based, will promote learning and development, and test higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity.
“All students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority. Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued, but redesigned with holistic development as the aim,” the policy stipulates.
A National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development), will be set up as a standard-setting body.
The higher education system will also undergo major changes with the NEP stipulating for broad based, multi-disciplinary, holistic under graduate education with flexible curricula, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education and multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification.
MPhil courses will be discontinued and all other courses at undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD level will now be interdisciplinary.
Common entrance exams will be held for admission to universities and higher education institutions.
The undergraduate education will be of 3 or 4 years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period.
“For example, a student will get a certificate after 1 year, advanced diploma after 2 years, bachelor’s degree after 3 years and bachelor’s with research after 4 years,” Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare explained.
“Under the new education policy, it will be possible for a student to learn engineering and music both as all programmes will be multidisciplinary. There will be minor and major programmes.”
An ‘Academic Bank of Credit’ will be set up for digitally storing students’ academic credits earned from various higher education students so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned.
Multidisciplinary education and research universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, will be set up as models of best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country, Khare added.
A National Research Foundation (NRF) will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education.
Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body for the entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education.
“The HECI will have four independent verticals - National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation, General Education Council (GEC) for standard setting, Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding, and National Accreditation Council (NAC) for accreditation,” Khare said.
It will function through “faceless intervention” through technology and will have powers to penalise higher education institutions for not conforming to norms and standards. Public and private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards, he added.
The current system of university-affiliated colleges will be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism will be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges.
A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE) will be formulated by the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) in consultation with the NCERT.
By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated BEd degree.
A National Mission for Mentoring will be established, with a large pool of outstanding senior or retired faculty – including those with the ability to teach in Indian languages –, who would be willing to provide short and long-term mentoring/professional support to university/college teachers.
With the government aiming to increase the gross enrollement ratio (GER) in higher education to 50% by 2035, expansion of online and digital education will remain in the priority list of the higher education depart of the HRD ministry.
Open and distance learning education will be expanded to play a significant role in increasing the GER, the ministry said.
“The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest,” the higher education secretary said.
The government will allow entry of “top ranking” foreign universities to open their campuses in India.