New National Education Policy (NEP) 2020: Analysis

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The Union Cabinet approved a new national education policy recently after a big gap of 34 years. After long deliberations and two committees since 2014, the union cabinet has finalized a comprehensive policy that strives to direct the education system in India in the 21st century. With an aim to make India a knowledge superpower, the policy proposes some fundamental changes within the education system.


This topic of “New National Education Policy (NEP) 2020: Analysis” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

What is the importance of education in Indian traditions and the legal-constitutional framework?

  • Education is fundamental for achieving full human potential, developing an equitable and just society, and promoting national development.
  • The pursuit of knowledge (Jnan), wisdom (Pragya), and truth (Satya) was always considered in Indian thought and philosophy as the highest human goal.
  • World-class institutions of ancient India such as Takshashila, Nalanda, Vikramshila, Vallabhi, set the highest standards of multidisciplinary teaching and research and hosted scholars and students from across backgrounds and countries.
  • The leaders of the freedom struggle also thought of education as an important aspect of nation-building. Especially Mahatma Gandhi thought of education as a process of realization of the best in man- body, soul, and spirit. He put forth the idea of “Buniyaadi Shiksha”.
  • Post-independence modern India also focused on education through various commissions such as the Radhakrishnan Commission, Kothari Commission, etc.
  • Part IV of the Indian constitution, article 45 and 39(f) have provision for state-funded education with equitable and accessible character.
  • The 42nd amendment to the constitution moved education from state list to concurrent list-making way for overall standardization on the national level.
  • The 86th amendment made the right to education an enforceable fundamental right (Article 21A).
  • Subsequently, the Right to Education Act, 2009 provides for universal education to all children between ages 6 and 14.
  • Education has been one of the foundational sectors in the national developmental planning.

What is the need for a new education policy?

  • More than three decades have passed since the last education policy was released. The new education policy, 1986, and its modifications in 1992 were suited to its times and serves as a guiding light to the current policy.
  • But after these policies and especially since 1992, monumental changes have taken place in society, economy, country, and world. In this context, our education system needs to gear itself for the 21st century.
  • Since the last education policy, India has liberalized its economy, population has witnessed a massive growth of 65%, there is a sizable aspirational middle class.
  • There is a paradigm shift in every sector globally, largely taken over by massive developments in technology. Experts feel that most of the education given in schools and colleges and skills acquired worldwide today will not be useful in the next 30 odd years. That is the scale and speed of evolution we are going through.
  • While this is what the future looks like, our education system remains plagued by age-old problems of lack of reach, quality, and professionalism.
  • Though we have increased literacy rates significantly, the “Buniyaadi Shiksha” of Gandhi’s dreams is far from a reality.
  • The successive reports of ASER pictures a sorry state of affairs in the education system. The poor learning outcomes, gaps between textbook teaching and real-life vocations, huge imbalance in rural-urban, private-public educational sectors.
  • The issues in pedagogy have been highlighted time and again which focuses on rote learning, excessive, and sometimes lethal, competition of marks and ranks.
  • The marketization of the education sector is one of the phenomena after liberalization. The illogical growth of educational institutional creating imbalances in the number of graduates and requirement in respective fields have created a category of “educated unemployed” in our country. This can be seen through the examples of the growth of engineering and management colleges and the condition of the majority of graduates from these colleges.
  • There is also an issue of implementation of educational schemes like universal education as the school dropout rates continue to remain high.
  • This can be attributed to the perception of the non-utility of formal education and the inability to connect and utilize it to real-life existential problems.
  • The curricula in various education act isolated silos of particular disciplines creating one-dimensional literates. The lack of interdisciplinary approach as adopted in some of the developed countries is a major cause of concern for experts.
  • On the backdrop of such issues comes the New Education Policy-2020. We analyze here the salient features of the new policy in the wake of the above issues.

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What are the salient features of New Education Policy-2020?

  • The final policy is based on the draft report submitted by Dr. K. Kasturirangan committee which was constituted by the Ministry of HRD in 2017.
  • Apart from accepting the report, the cabinet also approved a change in name of Ministry of HRD to Education Ministry.
  • The New Education Policy deals with School education and higher education comprehensively and provides key targets and fundamental overhaul of the education system. The important points of the policy are as follows:

School Education

  • Recognizing that over 85% of a child’s cumulative brain development occurs prior to the age of 6, to ensure healthy brain development and growth, the current form of 10+2 structure will be transformed to new 5+3+3+4 structure, with a strong base of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) from age 3.

  • A National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) will be developed by NCERT in two parts (0-3 and 3-8)
  • various reports indicate that a large proportion of students currently in elementary school have not attained foundational literacy and numeracy (the ability to read and comprehend basic text and basic calculation).
  • So, the Priority of the education system will be to achieve universal foundational literacy and numeracy in primary school by 2025.
  • To achieve this goal, there is a proposal to set up a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) on priority.
  • Accordingly, all State/UT governments will immediately prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy by 2025
  • The policy aims that a pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) of under 30:1 will be ensured at the level of each school (25:1 for socio-economically backward areas).
  • Recognizing that morning hours after a nutritious breakfast can be particularly productive for the study of cognitively more demanding subjects, a simple but energizing breakfast in addition to midday meals will be provided.
  • Where the Gross Enrolment ratio (GER) for Grades 6-8 is 90.9%, for Grades 9-10 and 11-12 it is only 79.3% and 56.5%, respectively – indicating a significant amount of drop out after Grade 5 and even more after Grade 8.
  • The policy prioritizes bringing these children back into the educational fold, intending to achieve 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio in preschool to secondary level by 2030.
  • Curriculum will be reduced to its core essentials for each subject for encouraging critical thinking and inquiry-based, discovery-based, and analysis-based learning.
  • There is a provision for vocational training along with internships during school.
  • Holistic development and a wide choice of subjects and with no hard separation among different subjects and disciplines will be the hallmark of the new system of curriculum.
  • Wherever possible, until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, the medium of instruction will be mother tongue (local language/regional language).
  • The policy accepts three-language formula, however, there will be a greater flexibility in the three-language formula, and no language will be imposed on any State.
  • The formulation of a new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School
    Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be undertaken by the NCERT.
  • The progress card for school-based assessment will be completely redesigned to make it a holistic, 360-degree, multidimensional report that reflects the uniqueness of each learner.
  • While continuing board exams for grades 10 and 12, the policy suggests that the need for undertaking coaching classes should be eliminated.
  • Board exams will be reformed so that they test primarily core capacities/competencies rather than memorization capacity.
  • The policy proposes to set up PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development), a national assessment center, as a standard-setting body under MHRD for all recognized school boards of India.

Higher Education

  • Higher education plays an extremely important role in promoting human as well as societal wellbeing and in developing India as envisioned in its Constitution. It contributes towards sustainable livelihoods and economic As India moves towards becoming a knowledge economy and society, more and more young Indians are likely to aspire for higher education.
  • Given the 21st century requirements, quality higher education must aim to develop good, thoughtful, well-rounded, and creative individuals.
  • Policy highlights some of the major problems of higher education such as:
  1. a severely fragmented higher educational ecosystem;
  2. a rigid separation of disciplines, with early specialization and streaming of students into
    narrow areas of study;
  3. limited teacher and institutional autonomy;
  4. inadequate mechanisms for merit-based career management and progression of faculty and institutional leaders
  5. suboptimal governance and leadership of HEIs
  6. low standards of undergraduate education due to large affiliating universities.

for higher education sector policy envisages following actions

  • The main thrust of this policy regarding higher education is to end the fragmentation of higher education by transforming higher education institutions into large multidisciplinary universities, colleges, and HEI clusters/Knowledge Hubs, each of which will aim to have 3,000 or more students
  • Policy suggests that by 2040, all higher education institutions shall aim to become multidisciplinary institutions.
  • Colleges will be encouraged, mentored, supported, and incentivized to gradually attain the minimum benchmarks required for each level of accreditation. It is envisaged that every college would develop into either an autonomous degree-granting College, or a constituent college of a university over a period of time.
  • The undergraduate degree will be of 3 or 4-year duration, with multiple exit options within this period, with appropriate certifications.
  • An Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) shall be established to digitally store the academic credits earned from various recognized HEIs so that the degrees from an HEI can be awarded taking into account credits earned
  • HEIs will have the flexibility to offer different designs of Master’s programs
  • Undertaking a Ph.D. shall require either a Master’s degree or a 4-year Bachelor’s degree with Research. The Phil. program shall be discontinued.
  • Entry into quality higher education can open a vast array of possibilities that can lift both
    individuals as well as communities out of the cycles of disadvantage. For this reason, making quality higher education opportunities available to all individuals must be among the highest priorities
  • For this purpose, additional actions that are specific to higher education shall be adopted by all Governments and HEIs:
  1. Earmarking appropriate funds for the education of socio-economically disadvantaged group (SEDGs)
  2. Enhance gender balance in admissions to HEIs (including transgenders)
  3. Enhance access by establishing high-quality HEIs in aspirational districts and Special
    Education Zones.
  • According to the Justice J. S. Verma Commission (2012), a majority of Teacher training institutes are not even attempting serious teacher To do away this, the Regulatory System shall be empowered to take stringent action against substandard and dysfunctional teacher education institutions.
  • The 4-year integrated B.Ed. offered by such multidisciplinary HEIs will, by 2030, become the minimal degree qualification for school teachers.
  • The policy targets Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education to be increased to 50% (current 26.3%) by 2035.
  • The National Research Foundation will be created for fostering research culture and building research capacity in higher education.
  • The policy reiterates the government’s move to set up the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI)as a single umbrella body for the entire higher education (excluding medical and legal education).
  • HECI will be having four independent parts:
  1. National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC),
  2. General Education Council (GEC),
  3. Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC),
  4. National Accreditation Council (NAC).
  • Public and private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards
  • Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years with an aim to develop them into either an autonomous or a constituent college of a university.

Other changes

  • Policy proposes a National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) to provide a platform for thefree exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration.
  • an outstanding adult education curriculum framework will be developed by a new and
    well-supported constituent body of the NCERT along with necessary infrastructure that enables lifelong learning.
  • A fee cap will be provided for private education institutions of higher learning.
  • It also paves the way for foreign universities to set up campuses in India, and also top Indian educational institutions will be encouraged to go global.
  • Centre to set up a ‘Gender ­Inclusion Fund’ to build the country’s capacity to provide equitable quality education to all girls and transgender students.
  • Special education zones will be set up for socio-economically disadvantaged groups which are broadly categorized on gender identities (transgender included), socio-economic identities (SC, ST, OBC, minorities), and geographical identities.
  • It also reiterates aim to increase the public investment in the Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest (from current levels of 4.6%)

What is the significance of the new education policy?

  • The educational policy has recognized the importance of formative years along with necessary learning conditions like nutrition and expert teachers.
  • A very important and potentially game-changing policy initiative is the inclusion of vocational courses in the school curriculum. This will help in encouraging disadvantaged sections who see no value in education to send their kids to school.
  • It has expanded the ambit of universal education from 6-14 years to 3-18 years which is a welcome step.
  • One of the major points of conflict on the medium of instruction has been dealt with and there is a categorical support for three-language formula and suggestion of teaching in mother tongue/local language for at least 5th class.
  • This is a significant policy suggestion when the Indian education system is moving away from excessive English-medium orientation. There is an increasing neglect of local languages and mother tongue and illogical and unscientific hysteria towards English medium schools.
  • The higher education regulatory system is set to change for good by eliminating the concentration of functions in UGC.
  • The higher education sector through this policy gets an encouragement for multi-disciplinary nature through suggestions to do away with silos mentality when it comes to disciplines. This will create an all-around and enriched personality by interacting with a variety of subjects.
  • There is a good amount of discussion in the policy on Socio-economically backward areas and people. The transgender community’s needs have been recognized in the policy.
  • The policy proposes opening up to more foreign universities and likewise encourages more top-class Indian universities to go global. This is a welcome step as it will create healthy competition in the Indian higher education system, save important forex reserves as a huge number of students opt to go abroad for higher education.
  • So, in all, this policy tries to achieve a rare balance of quantity and quality in the educational sector while trying to propel it to a higher level of excellence It strives to prepare the Indian education system for the challenges of 21st-century building on past experiences and policies.

What are the issues with the new education policy?

  • Some of the proposals face legal challenges. Like the draft bill for Higher Education Commission of India has been pending with the Ministry and unlikely to be published for feedback soon.
  • Though the policy aims to break the coaching class culture and ensuing monopoly of English medium schools, in reality, to implement this will require sufficient political will. Experts feel this to be a difficult task.
  • The same is the case with teachers training institutions where a Education. The low-quality institutions are run largely for-profit motives without sufficient care for the needs of teachers training
  • One of the most important neglected points is the policy of no exams till the 7th or 8th standard. This policy has been heavily criticized for impacting learning outcomes in the absence of exams at the school level.
  • The free breakfast scheme proposed though a sound move, will increase the fiscal burden and add on to already inefficient mid-day meal scheme that has seen irregularities and corruption over the years.
  • The suggestion to spend 6% of the GDP on education is there since the Kothari Commission but consecutive governments have failed to achieve the target that was set long ago.
  • Given the low tax-GDP ratio and current slowdown condition, the implementation expenditure of 6% GDP in the education sector seems difficult. Especially when in the coming years, healthcare and defense sectors are set to demand more expenditure.
  • As discussed earlier, there is a mismatch in the skill imparted in educational institutions and jobs available. This important issue has been largely ignored in the policy. Especially, there is insufficient discussion on new-age technologies like Artificial Intelligence, cyber security, etc when these fields are set to dominate world knowledge and job space.
  • The majority of experts feel that though policy speaks of encouraging reason and critical thinking, campus activities, the real actions on the ground differ as can be seen from attacks on campuses and critical thinkers in the last few years.

Way Forward

  • The Policy looks strong ad forward-looking on paper. The officials have said that the policy has been finalized after long and extensive deliberations across the stakeholder sectors. This is a welcome step.
  • What needs to be done now according to experts from various fields that there is a need for a comprehensive roadmap of implementation as previous policies also promised things that were not fulfilled.
  • The school-level reforms touch most of the aspects. Care should be taken that in the quest of making exams easier, we don’t create a numerical surge in passed students without any real term knowledge base. The current system of giving high marks in 10 and 10+2 level exams have been criticized by many educational experts.
  • The policy of a multi-disciplinary approach in higher education is welcome but a foolproof framework needs to be created so that the core interests and preferred knowledge streams are not neglected.
  • As Education is in the concurrent list, there remains a huge task of consensus-building among states. The cooperative federalism approach is most conducive to critical fields like education.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that there is a need to build huge digital capacities to digitize the education sec The lack of online teaching facilities is hampering the education and there is a fear of washing away of this academic year.
  • The BharatNet scheme may be extended to include digital infrastructure for public and private schools throughout the nation.
  • The vocational training program for school children needs synergy between the ministries of HRD, skill development, and labor.


The New Education Policy-2020 represents aspirations to become a knowledge powerhouse of the world inculcating the best of the global educational experiments. The global education development agenda reflected in the Goal 4 (SDG4) of the 2030 Agenda for
Sustainable Development, adopted by India in 2015 – seeks to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030. The Education policy is a step in the right direction given it is implemented throughout the long period it targets.

Practice Question for Mains

Critically analyze the New Education Policy-2020 in the light of challenges to the education system in India. (250 words)

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Neelima Misal

Read the analysis and found it useful

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