My title is: Issues related to Education | Analysis of National Education Policy 2020

National Education Policy 2020: How Does or Doesn’t NEP 2020 Solve the Basic Requirements of Our Current Education System?

2020-07-29 | 14 minutes

India is at a critical juncture in history, a crossroads of sorts where we’re on the brink of capitalizing on the demographic dividend of millions of youth, which, depending on the stewardship of our education system, could become an asset or a liability for the nation. 

The basic requirements of our current education system are of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability, and Accountability.  The stated vision of the National Education policy aims to contribute directly to transforming our nation sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society, and it proposes to do so by way of an India-centered education system, providing high-quality education to all.

Our current education system has certain requirements, at levels of designing of

  1. School Education
  2. Higher Education
  3. Technology, Vocational, and Adult Education
  4. Policy Regulation and Implementation

We begin with a description of the requirements, and how NEP 2020 addresses these.

1. School Education:

The current education system needs to enable access to early childhood education (which to some extent overlaps with healthcare needs). This area deserves special attention in the following ways:

  • Given that the foundations of cognitive learning are laid in the early years of a child’s brain development, and a poor start sets the pace for a widening gap in further years, it is of paramount importance to ensure this access and equity across all students.
  • Further, considering the economic conditions of lower socio-economic households, the inability to pay school fees regularly or the presence of constraints which cause a discontinuity in school education is a reality that needs to be recognized. Here, reintegrating dropouts back into the system is important.
  • Pedagogy needs to be re-designed to enable holistic development of all the learners, with emphasis shifted from rote learning to experiential learning, to make education engaging for young children.
  • The curriculum needs to include content which enables the development of social skills, as well as provide flexibility to students on choice of subjects they wish to specialize in.
  • The role of the teacher has long been sidelined, which needs to be given its due importance, with regards to attracting quality talent to the profession by way of continuous professional development, career growth and management, recognition and education, a work culture conducive to education and job satisfaction.
  • Further, the assessment system needs to be revamped to ensure student feedback and development, rather than passing judgment on students, damaging their self-esteem and stressing them with undue competitiveness.
  • Given the demographics of the country and the scale at which its population has grown, equitable and inclusive education is the need of the hour, for girl children across social classes, for children of economically backward families, for underrepresented or marginalized groups in education, as well as for children with special needs.

Enabling the right beginnings in early school education can go a long way in laying the foundation for future higher education.

Ultimately, effective regulation, accreditation, resourcing, governance, and administration of School education systems is a must to ensure that the policies planned are implemented effectively.

What can be done?

Pre-school level: The pre-school education system if centralized and standardized would be a marked improvement on the current ‘Anganwadi’ system.

Primary Level: Free and compulsory pre-school and primary education programs, with enrolment drives at the village level, and a curriculum inclusive of experiential learning and educative play is the need of the hour.

Secondary Level: The transition from Primary level to Secondary level schooling can be better managed and eased by way of assessment center evaluations of students by way of psychographic tests and counseling. Further, family counseling would prevent discontinuity in education as well as support re-integration of dropouts to join back by way of catch-up camps and vacation classes, helping maintain continuity in education.

Senior Secondary Level: Given that the Senior Secondary level is considered a milestone where the academic performance of students can determine their future career choices, it is understandable that students, as well as their families, are subjected to immense stress. If evaluation systems at this level are modified to make assessment more balanced and holistic, rather than focusing overtly on academic performance, it may ease the pressure on students as well as induce families to encourage their children in productive extracurricular activities such as sports or art which enhance their personalities.

To support students who require additional help to catch up with their academics, their faculty need to be incentivized as well as facilitated to provide extra classes or back-up sessions to these students, while in general actively discouraging the institutional faculty from teaching at private coaching centers.

Further, for students experiencing undue pressure and exam stress, suitable counselling and guidance channels need to be created, staffed by trained psychologists and counselors.

 The system ought to be upgraded to include best practices of international school education systems and then standardized to ensure equity in school education for children from all socioeconomic classes.   The physical infrastructure would be supervised through surveillance systems to ensure the security of children and proper administration of the facility.  

Suitable career paths and incentives designed for teaching in this system would attract talented faculty committed to the cause of school education. In addition to standard faculty, involving specialized personnel such as child psychologists, pediatric specialists, social workers, and family counselors would enable the holistic development of each child.  

Most importantly at the level of society, it is imperative for the NEP to ensure that the admission process to schools is made transparent and meritocratic, free from the evils of corruption by way of influence or donations, ultimately creating greater equity in access to school education at all levels.

How (if at all), does NEP 2020 address this?

The NEP is well-intended in its goals at this stage, yet in their propagation of the School Complex system to consolidate school education, it disappoints in several aspects such as access and equity.

 It fails to care for providing solutions to bridge the gap of access to quality education which exists between India’s rich and poor children. While the current education policy has stipulated a benchmark of quality that all schools ought to meet, with common minimum infrastructure and facility standards, and that primary schools be within a stipulated distance from children’s homes, the NEP 2020 proposes to do away with these minimum standards.

Schools all over India vary from primitive-looking sheds devoid of even lighting, electricity and sanitation, to ultra-modern technology-enabled international schools. In the absence of a standard or benchmark, the disparity in standards is only set to worsen.

While the NEP 2020 propagates “school complexes" (clusters of schools sharing joint resources) balanced with decentralized mechanisms for coordinating with faculty, the question of their administration is vague and appears to devolve to the senior-most teacher of the secondary school in the cluster, which loads the dice for the inequitable distribution of resources. The School Complex as a ‘one-size-fits-all' solution appears simplistic at best, fraught with loopholes and inefficiencies.

Moreover, no separate funding appears to have been earmarked towards realizing these plans, which is a glaring omission on the part of NEP.


2. Higher Education

India’s higher education system needs to be re-designed with a forward-looking long-term vision for the future, concerning restructuring and consolidation for undergraduate, graduate and professional education, with relevant skilling for career choices of the future.

The gap in skilled and suitable faculty needs to be addressed by giving central importance to the role of the teacher or lecturer, to ensure that suitable talent is attracted to the role, resulting in energized, engaged and capable faculty.

Further, it is a matter of introspection that a nation of a billion minds has a disproportionately low level of intellectual capital to its credit, by way of research and patents. It is the need of the hour to encourage research as a discipline, by way of integrating it into the curriculum, and facilitating beneficial linkages between the government, industry, academia and the research community.

While India has several reputed universities offering Liberal Arts, the system of straitjacketing students into choosing a major at the time of admission itself may constrain their career paths. Unlike graduate programs in international institutes where students can choose to opt for an undeclared major at the time of admission and select their subjects of specialization or their major closer towards their final year, it is difficult if not impossible to find the same flexibility being offered in Indian Education. If provided, it would enable students to chart their educational journey to include multiple subjects from various streams that they are truly passionate about learning.

What can be done?

  • Higher education needs to evolve to include diverse career paths for students, with choices in subjects on which they would like to be evaluated, basis counseling for their future career choices.
  • The evaluation systems need to grow beyond rote learning to assessment by practical demonstrations, tasks, and projects scheduled evenly through the academic year, as well as be flexible to accommodate the needs of students who may be unable to appear for exams on fixed dates.
  • The Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) being considered by some universities can be piloted and scaled up across select disciplines, to as many universities of higher education as possible.

How (if at all), does NEP 2020 address this?

The NEP 2020 outlines an ambitious vision to create world-class multidisciplinary higher education institutions across the country, aiming to increase the Gross Enrolment Rate to at least 50% by 2035.  Here, the emphasis ought to be not on creating quantitatively high numbers of institutions, but rather in ensuring qualitative excellence in the existing institutional infrastructure nationwide.

While NEP 2020 recognizes the importance of liberal arts as well as advises establishing five Indian Institutes of Liberal Arts offering four-year courses, the establishment of a CBC System and its implementation requires further effort.

Additionally, while NEP 2020 recommends National Institutes focusing on the study of modern and classical such as Pali, Prakrit, and Persian, it needs to recognize that in a diverse land such as India, where languages are a culturally and communally sensitive subject, it may be prudent to treat all languages equitably.

Channeling higher education into a goal in itself, rather than propagating a hyper-competitive culture where coaching classes proliferate and students are driven to stress levels even resulting in suicides, requires a paradigm shift where society does not view graduation as a means to create mere employees, but to foster leadership. Here, the NEP 2020 has a herculean task at hand.


3. Technology, Vocational, and Adult Education

Leveraging technology in education is a golden opportunity in four ways: The first and most important area is teacher preparation and their CPD. Teacher preparation may itself leverage technology (e.g. using online courses). A second important area where technology can be impactful is in the classroom processes of teaching, learning, and evaluation. Technology-based tools must be created in response to challenges in these areas, in a continuous process. The tools must be carefully evaluated to ensure that they address the challenges without creating additional new ones. The third area is the use of technology to improve access to education for disadvantaged groups, including differently-abled students, girls and women, and students living in remote areas. The fourth area is the planning, administration, and management of the entire education system.

Vocational Education needs to be streamlined and better managed at the level of Industrial Training Institutes which are being scaled up to proliferate nationwide. However, the quality of training at these institutes as well as their linkage in meeting the demand-supply gap in the skills they train in can be better managed by way of upgrading their curricula as well as providing opportunities by way of associations with e-commerce and service platforms such as Urban Clapp, etc.

Adult Education in India is currently being provided through government associations, NGOs and night schools that offer courses to those adults who were either deprived of education during their childhood or opt to pursue education after their working hours. The best way to de-stigmatize adult education is to validate the courses by diplomas from recognized authorities, to provide concrete linkages to better employment opportunities, and encourage enrolment by way of identifying and propagating success stories of suitable role models.

How (if at all), does NEP 2020 address this?

The NEP 2020 has outlined a comprehensive plan for Teacher centricity and faculty development, which should significantly improve the quality of talent pool attracted to the profession. However, the plan for leveraging technology in education leaves much to be desired in achieving its true potential. The importance of Vocational education has been well recognized, but the resources dedicated to it may not be adequate.


4. Policy Regulation and Implementation

A good education system is central to realizing the ambitious socio-economic development goals of new India. While education is also an extraordinarily complex field by its very nature and goals, India's vibrant diversity further compounds this complexity. In this context, there is a need to revisit the existing system of governance, its structures, and leadership mechanisms.

What can be done?

There is a serious need to bring in synergy and coordination between different ministries, departments, and agencies among others to make education policies work. This is more important in the context of the multiple linkages and the need to address the dynamic nature of the educational environment. For its successful implementation, there is a need for long-term vision, availability of expertise on a sustained basis, and concerted action from all concerned stakeholders, encompassing national, state, institutional and individual levels.

The current governance of education in this country falls far short of being able to achieve this goal.

How (if at all), does NEP 2020 address this?

While current spending on education in India is on the rise, at 4.6% of the national GDP in 2020, up from 3.8% of the GDP in 2014, it is advised by NITI Aayog that at least 6% of the GDP should be dedicated to education before 2022. However, an estimate indicates that even if the 6% allocation is made available in 2020 itself, it may not prove enough to successfully implement the recommendations at the intended scale.

The NEP 2020 policy's implementation is predicated on the assumption that the education budget would be almost doubled in the next 10 years through consistent decade-long plans and initiatives by both the Center and states.  However, since the revenue is decentralized to the states, it leaves the outcome unclear as to what would be done to ensure that resources that may be needed will be allocated.  The 2020 Budget has increased the education budget only by 13% this year. Pre-school and anganwadis get only 18% more which will fall short of the scale of up-gradation required. Of the higher education budget, 16.7% is allocated to the IITs and another 2.3% to the IISERs. The other designated institutes of excellence get around 1% collectively, the IIMs are allocated a little more, which leaves less than 80% of the budget for around 40,000 colleges and more than 500 public universities.

The sheer scale of changes expected, the compressed timeline, the absence of a strong mechanism for handholding the states on this journey and the high probability of inadequate budgets raises questions on the full implementation of this policy.


While India has historically witnessed years of impractical education policies which have not been well researched, correctly conceptualized or properly implemented, the NEP 2020 is recognizably a step in the right direction, by way of initiating an analysis of the dynamics operating at a macro level, and proposing solutions derived from some of the best practices of international education, as well as aiming to achieve synergies across different levels of the system.  It aims to address some select needs of all stakeholders, rather than limiting its approach to one stakeholder. Additionally, it brings the much-needed focus on the area of faculty career development and talent management, balancing the scale to represent the best interests of teachers as well as striving to maintain student-centricity in its overall approach.

The key risk in NEP 2020 is the gaps between its ideals and its implementation. However, if the government identifies and addresses the root causes of the implementation gaps and stays true to its principles of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability, and Accountability, then the outcome appears favorable.