The vantage point of all the major contemporary discussions, government policies and
academic research on education reforms in India has been that the entire education system in
India is in a state of crisis. It is in this context that this particular article wants to look at all the
commotion around the New Education Policy 2020 which has seemingly found a positive
appeal amongst the public and at the same time, has garnered a strong opposition from the
academia. For a scholar of educational studies, government policy documents of any country
are always a delight to read in terms of the eloquent language used and the far-reaching visions
they promote. When the draft for the New Education Policy was released in 2019, almost 500
pages long document, inviting suggestions and recommendations from people from all walks
of life, it had already raised concerns among the academia and the civil society. However, now
that the NEP 2020 has been made public, it is almost being posited as a magic wand that will
make all the existing problems simply go away. These are some of my key concerns on reading
through the National Education Policy 2020 document.
1. The NEP 2020 document is a remarkably shorter version of the Draft with just 66 pages
and gives us a clear and concrete set of educational reforms to be initiated in the country
whose benefits ought to be reaped by the year 2030-40. It introduces itself as the ‘first
education policy of the 21st century’ with eloquent reference to the ‘rich heritage of
ancient and eternal Indian knowledge and thought’ as a ‘guiding light for this Policy’.
This reference appears in almost all the pages throughout the document pertaining to
reforms in every sector of the education system without any clarifications regarding the
assumptions and who decided ‘what is Indian’.
2. The restructuring of the extant school structure of India has been a major selling point
in the media which seeks to integrate everything from Early Childhood Care and
Education (ECCE) to foundational literacy and numeracy up to class 12 at the national
level. However, the changes mentioned in para 4.2 regarding the course restructuring
is more or less similar to existing structure albeit a few years decreased in terms of
being introduced to an advanced state of learning. The word multidisciplinary which is
already an existing feature of the educational policy frameworks being followed in the
country has been reemphasized which somehow has been confused and interpreted as
‘interdisciplinary’ by many people.
3. The policy promotes heavily about multilingualism and the three language formula to
be implemented, preferably up to class 8 and for making high investments on preparing
bi-lingual textbooks as well as adept teachers to promote Indian languages. However,
the document conveniently misses about the problems of transitioning from vernacular
mediums. It doesn’t talk about how are the students to adopt to English for higher
studies, which already is a largely prevalent problem among students from marginal
and rural backgrounds in the country. One can also foresee the larger concerns of
language chauvinism and its political implications.
4. The document talks a lot about students being given flexibility and choice of subjects
to study, skills to pursue and so on. However, while going through the documents,
phrases such as ‘every student in the country will participate’, or ‘every student will
take a course’ or ‘all PhD entrants’ in so and so activity, ‘all students will be taught’
repeatedly appears throughout the different passages in the document which makes one
wonder about the disciplinary actions to be enforced when such directives are not met.
Further, the notion of surveillance and authority is implicit in the document with
multiple references to ‘carefully tracking students’ (para 3.3) for quality control and
assessment along with forming of databases for higher education with the National
Testing Agency as well as the setting up of a digital Academic Bank of Credit (ABC).
While the policy elaborates it is for the benefit of the students and reducing logistical
problems, one can only think of how intrusively any tracking mechanism works and
how much will privacy costs.
5. The shift towards a more progressively objective-based and centralised pattern of
assessment is being discussed in the document with selective emphasis on overtaking
the effect of coaching classes and rote learning (para 4.36). However, it seems selfcontradictory because the emphasis on objective patterns of entrance exams which
actually requires rote learning and continuous practice more than any creative exercise
of the mind is primarily the reason behind the growth of coaching industry in the
country. Subjective or descriptive type of examinations at least allows for a scope of
developing one’s personal critical thinking to develop myriad solutions to the same
question, is completely being pushed aside even in case of higher education for the sake
of promoting the National Testing Agency (NTA) as the sole controller for entry into
any university in the country (para 4.42).
6. The overarching concern of the document seems to be to ensure equitable and inclusive
education and learning for all, yet there is no direct mention of reservation and the term
socio-economically disadvantaged groups (SDEGs) has been very carefully used. The
overall onus of execution of inclusive education at the school level is pushed onto the
teachers while at the higher education, it is the administration who is to be the
regulatory body. The concept of academic freedom and intellectual autonomy of the
teacher educators is vaguely mentioned as subject to the administrative mechanisms
but doesn’t gets promoted as essential for educational progress.
7. The policy talks about drawing explicit rules for governance, regulation and
accreditation of both schools and higher education institutions to curb
commercialisation of education. At the same time, it is also talking about promoting
private/philanthropic education in the country which is self-contradictory, and
throughout the document there is no clear mention of criteria of what or who comes
under ‘private/philanthropic category’. Further the notion of financial assistance and
institutional autonomy is carefully shielded under the notion of a ‘light but tight’
regulation by a single ‘regulator’ for higher education.
8. The document envisages the creation of too many National bodies: A National Book
Policy; a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy; a National Higher
Education Regulatory Council (NHERC); a National Committee for the Integration of
Vocational Education (NCIVE); a National Research Foundation (NRF); a National
Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education
(NCPFECCE) and so on. One can only ponder about the level of bureaucratic control
we are yet to see in the coming years.
These are only some of the more simpler and surface-level concerns and questions I wish to
raise about the NEP 2020, each of these requires further detailed analysis. What I wish to point
out is that that educational policies since independence have always tried to give the best
possible solutions to the stated problems and is guided by the political motivations of the
government of the time. However, mere envisioning of a particular vision cannot guarantee
that its practical application is possible.
(Nayani Sharma is a research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University)