Centre announces National Education Policy 2020

Union ministers Ramesh Pokhriyal and Prakash Javadekar during a news conference in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Structural changes, cleared by cabinet, to replace the previous programme announced in 1986 and modified in 1992

An extra year of preschool and undergraduate programmes, skill education from Class VI and the option of learning Sanskrit “at all levels of school” are features of the National Education Policy 2020 announced by the Centre on Wednesday.

It introduces one-year master’s courses, abolishes the MPhil programme, affords university students a wider choice in choosing their subject combinations, and allows them to do parts of their courses from different universities.

The new policy has received clearance from the cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after six years of consultations and will replace the previous policy that was announced in 1986 and modified in 1992.

Several educationists, however, said the proposed structural changes left untouched the real problem of Indian education — a lack of quality in the absence of infrastructure and enough teachers.

School education secretary Anita Karwal and higher education secretary Amit Khare provided presentations after human resource development minister Ramesh Pokhriyal and information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar announced the policy at a news conference.

Karwal said that under the new policy, the first five years of a child’s education — including the three years of preschool — will be known as the “Foundation Stage”, for which the NCERT would develop the curriculum and recommend the methods of teaching.

Outlining the long-term objectives of the policy, Karwal said the school curricula would over the years include more of skill training and prune the academic content.

The rigid separation between the arts and the sciences would dissolve, with Class XI-XII students allowed a combination of subjects from multiple streams. Students will be allowed to choose for their board exams an extra-curricular subject such as dancing, or a vocational subject such as carpentry.

R. Govinda, former vice-chancellor of the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, a think tank, said the proposed reforms involved too much “hype” over structure and nomenclature and ignored the ground reality.

“What is required is not structural change. The policy should have addressed the existing problems that affect the quality of education at schools,” he said.

“For example, 20 per cent of government schools are small schools with no facilities and often with a single teacher. The teachers invariably lack proper training. Class V pupils fail to read even Class II text. The policy should have addressed these issues more effectively.”

Govinda was sceptical about the implementation of the policy of vocational education from Class VI --- with “internships” whose details remain unclear.

He said this was a laudable goal but cautioned that a similar recommendation by the Secondary Education Commission of 1952 had remained unimplemented.

Mother tongue

 Karwal said that children in vernacular schools would till Class V -- and preferably till Class VIII and beyond --- be allowed to learn in their mother tongue if they spoke a local language different from the state’s dominant language.

C.B. Sharma, former chairperson of the National Institute of Open Schooling and professor of education at Ignou, welcomed the idea.

“In Bihar, children who speak Magahi at home are taught in Hindi at school since Hindi is the dominant language of the state. Now such students will be able to study in Magahi,” he said.

The new policy says that Sanskrit and other classical languages would be offered as an option “at all levels of school”. Sanskrit is now offered from Class VI.

“Several foreign languages will also be offered at the secondary level (Class IX and above),” the policy says.


Children may now be held back in their classes for a year if they fail their school exams in Classes III, V and VIII. Currently, the RTE Act provides for such retention only in Classes V and VIII.

Board exams for Classes X and XII will continue. Karwal said that in future, board exams may be held twice a year. Students may be allowed to choose different versions of the same subject --- easier and harder -- to study and take their exams in, based on their aptitude and career goals.

‘Flexible’ campuses

Flexible curricula in higher education will allow undergraduate students to look beyond fixed “streams” while choosing their subjects. The four-year undergraduate courses will offer flexible exit options at the end of the first, second and third years, and allow dropouts to rejoin at the stage from where they had left off.

An Academic Bank of Credit will be set up to digitally store the academic credits students earn from different institutions.

“A student can pursue a part of the course from another university and deposit the credits earned into his account. It will help him get exposure to other universities,” a University Grants Commission official said.

A Higher Education Commission of India will subsume the current regulators like the UGC, All India Council of Technical Education and the National Council for Teacher Education. The HECI will frame regulations for, provide funds to, and accredit institutions.

The human resource development ministry will revert to being called education ministry, revoking the name change effected in 1986 when Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister.

Furqan Qamar, former vice-chancellor of the Himachal Pradesh Central University, was left unimpressed by the government’s preference for the “American-centric four-year (undergraduate) system”.

“The net result will be an increase in the enrolment ratio (proportion of people aged 18 to 23 who have enrolled in higher education) since the students will continue on the rolls for an extra year. This will also reduce temporarily the unemployment burden,” he said, dripping irony.

The Modi government had earlier forced Delhi University to drop the four-year undergraduate programmes it had started in 2013.

Qamar, however, supported the proposed abolition of the MPhil programme, saying it had failed in its objective of orienting scholars to go on and pursue research at PhD level with confidence.

End of affiliations

Khare, the higher education secretary, said the policy’s long-term objectives included ending the practice of colleges getting affiliated to universities, which he said compromised the quality of learning.

He said that every college would in future develop into an autonomous degree-granting institution or into a constituent college of a university.

The policy also intends to increase the “use of technology” in education but does not explicitly mention online education.

3-year preschool, flexible undergrad years

Highlights of the new education policy

School education

  • Three years of preschool, instead of two years, followed by the usual 12 years of schooling. (Several states already have three years of preschool though most states have two. The duration varies between states because the currently followed National Education Policy of 1986 does not prescribe the duration of preschool)
  • Vocational education (such as carpentry) to start from Class VI, and “with internships”, rather than Class VIII
  • Up to Class V, at least, children in vernacular-medium schools will be taught in their mother tongue/regional language instead of the dominant language of the state. For instance, Magahi children living in areas dominated by their community in Bihar will be taught in the Magahi language instead of Hindi. (This does not apply to English-medium schools)
  • A student’s progress card will contain her self-evaluation, feedback from peers and the teacher’s assessment instead of only the teacher’s assessment

Higher education

  • The duration of general-stream undergraduate courses will be four years, with the option to exit with a certificate at the end of the first year, a diploma at the end of the second, a bachelor’s degree at the end of the third and a bachelor’s research degree at the end of the fourth
  • Flexibility in the curriculum. For instance, a physics student can choose history as a pass subject rather than chemistry or mathematics
  • Students dropping out in the middle of a programme can rejoin the course later and resume from where they had left off
  • MA and MSc courses will last just one year for those with four-year graduate degrees, and two years for those with three-year degrees
  • MPhil will be abolished.
  • A Higher Education Commission of India will be set up as a single, overarching body for the whole of higher education, excluding medical, dental and legal education

Ministry name

  • The ministry of human resource development will revert to its earlier name of education ministry

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