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A second shot at boards, no MPhil, a blow to rote-learning — what Modi govt’s NEP brings

The new National Education Policy aims to make Indian education system more holistic and skill-oriented, and addresses a long-cited complaint that it encourages rote-learning.

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New Delhi: The new National Education Policy (NEP) announced by the Modi government Wednesday brings in multiple reforms that are expected to overhaul the Indian education system.

Science students in Class 11 and 12 can opt for an arts subject and vice versa, and there’s now a second shot at board exams that can be used to better scores. The MPhil has been done away with, which means a Master’s degree is all you need now to pursue a PhD. 

The four-year undergraduate programme is back and Indian higher education institutes will now have to be interdisciplinary by rule. The policy also changes the name of the Human Resource Development Ministry to Education Ministry.

It aims to make the Indian education system more holistic and skill-oriented, and addresses a long-cited complaint that it encourages rote-learning. 

Prepared on the basis of a draft submitted by a panel under former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief, K. Kasturirangan, the 200-page policy was approved by the Union Cabinet Wednesday. 

The policy has largely drawn a positive response, with experts on the ground praising its vision for a more well-rounded experience among students. 

Here are some of the highlights of the policy.

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School education

Perhaps the biggest highlight of the NEP is that government schools will now offer pre-school education, right from nursery and KG, which has so far only been offered by private institutes. 

The new school system will be a 5+3+3+4 formula instead of the current 10+2 followed across schools in India. Children from pre-school to classes 1 and 2 (3-8 years) will be a part of the foundational learning school, classes 3 to 5 (8-11 years) will be a part of preparatory school, classes 6 to 8 (11-14 years) will be in middle school, and 9 to 12 (14-18 years) in secondary school.

The curriculum will be designed according to the specific needs of different categories.

In classes 11 and 12, where students generally opt for either science, commerce or arts, they will have the option to choose subjects such as arts and crafts and vocational alongside the conventional ones. For example, a science student will be able to chose an arts subject.

The policy states there will be no hard separation among ‘curricular’, ‘extracurricular’, or ‘co-curricular’, or between ‘vocational’ and ‘academic’ streams, which suggests that extracurricular activities like sketching, painting etc may have a bearing on one’s report card.

Apart from this, the policy also aims at reducing the emphasis on board exams by making them “easier”. “Board exams will be redesigned to make them easier in the sense that they will test primarily core capacities/competencies rather than months of coaching and memorisation,” the policy states.

Students, the policy adds, will be allowed to take the exam on up to two occasions – one main exam and one for improvement, if desired.

The policy also advises the use of mother tongue/regional language/ local language as the medium of instruction until Class 5. This is something that some schools follow currently as well.

Talking about the three-language formula — a longstanding proposal that seeks to encourage students to learn more than one language or just their mother tongue — the policy says the freedom to choose the languages should be left to the state/student/region. It also says that at least two of the three languages should be Indian.

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Higher education

One of the main developments in higher education is the comeback of the four-year undergraduate program in colleges, which was first introduced in Delhi University by former Vice-Chancellor Dinesh Singh in 2013 but subsequently discontinued. 

In its new form, the four-year programme appears more structured. It allows colleges a choice between the current three-year undergraduate programmes and a four-year undergraduate programme. The NEP also offers multiple exit options to students.

Under the multiple-exit programme, students will have the option to leave college whenever they want — if a student completes one year, he or she will get a certificate, two years will get them a diploma, three years will get them a degree, and if a student pursues a four-year programme with research, he or she will be eligible for direct admissions for a PhD.

With this, the government has also done away with the MPhil. The minimum eligibility for a PhD will now either be a four-year programme with research, or Master’s after a three-year programme. 

The policy also proposes a credit bank, which will keep a record of students’ academic credits should they choose to return after dropping out. 

Another major change at the level of higher education is the focus on making universities multi-disciplinary. This means that an institution will have to teach arts, science, social science, basically everything under one roof. Single-stream institutions will fade out and, by 2040, all institutes will aim to become multidisciplinary, it states.

The NEP also does away with multiple regulators like the University Grants Commission (UGC), the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), and the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE). All these will now be replaced by a single regulator.

What the experts are saying

Experts have largely hailed the policy as “ positive”. 

“Most of these points highlighted in the New Education Policy 2020 are very good. Education should be in mother tongue or local language at least till class 5, after which it should be in English,” said Sridhar Rajagopalan, co-founder and chief learning officer of Educational Initiatives, an ed-tech company and a member of various state and central government committees on education.

“This approach has a lot of benefits. Pedagogical research has established beyond much doubt that children learn best if they learn in their mother tongue (or local language) in the primary classes. This does not mean that children should not learn English, it only means that English should not be the medium of instruction in the primary years.”

Anjela Taneja, campaign lead at the non-profit Oxfam India added that the “NEP comes with some positive provisions including the long-overdue focus on early childhood education, an increase in the ambition to universalise secondary education. and focus education in the mother tongue”. 

“It (the policy) again reiterates the almost half-a-decade-old commitment to investing 6 per cent of GDP to education. However, it would appear that the policy also brings with it a fundamental change in long-term rules of the game, towards creating education markets, and away from ensuring universalisation of education through democratic public schools,” she added. “One would have to read the full policy document to understand the fine print of what the policy has to offer.”

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  1. Bridge course BDS to MBBS should be implemented immediately in order to reduce the deficit of General practitioners. At the same time Dentists also will do general practitioners in the rural after completing bridge course. This proposal has been kept pending for many years. If it is implemented it is highly beneficial to our nation

  2. The NEP appears positive in many aspects. I would like to emphasise that the first 5 years of School should include value and ethics based teaching. No matter how educated a person might be, if he / she is lacking in basic ethics and values, then it is of no use. The initial years should focus on practical learning rather that book knowledge

    • Teaching if civic sense is very important. Aspects like following traffic rules, basic hygiene, swachch bharat etc should be included from the beginning. Children who inculcate these values will grow into good citizens.

  3. The NEP has had very little opposition / criticism.
    1. It is not easy to criticize an intellectual giant.
    2. What comes from someone who was at the fore front of navigating though the various sanctions, the red tape and in conditions where free flow of funds was not the strength has for a change been respected.
    3. The space program was ambitious, demanding innovative and research oriented work in unknown territory, time bound and had to be cost effective.
    We must consider ourselves lucky to have someone fulfilling the above to lead the time appropriate changes in the NEP

  4. I am very happy that the central government did not impose its parochial, ultraconservative, Brahmin & Hindi centric views. Not everything can be perfect but if implemented as mentioned in the policy including GDP expenditure, even I would be happy to join my children in government schools.
    There is only one major issue that the government has missed. What has it done to weed out corruption in educational institutions as well as exams? What action to eradicate mass copying? How are they going to change parents’ attitudes who encourage their children to cheat & lie?
    Without these 3 major efforts, whatever policy prepared will not work at all. Educational institutions can still give away degrees for money or harass examiners for marks & topper lists.

    • Malpractices like mass copying happens due to our obsession for marks/grades. The purpose of education should never be to score high marks, get a high paying job etc. These are the outcomes, which should happen. Our focus should be on the process itself – i.e LEARNING.

  5. Now the spotlights are on administration, for correct and whole implementation of such positive policies!!


    • Would you pull your kid out of school because your salary has gone down? Present and future are both important. There is no compulsion that we should focus on only one. Our children are not able to develop because they fall behind in primary school and never catch up. Why force everyone to learn advanced maths when they want to start a hotel, a beauty parlor or a cellphone repair business? Children waste too much time learning things they will never need in life (and what they dont understand). This policy is a good one. It will actually help young people to start their own business instead of depending on sarkari jobs and handouts.

  7. Mother tongue as medium of instruction at primary levels in schools is welcome
    But which is the mother tongue?
    Millions live and work in areas where their mother tongue and local language are different.
    How to address these?

    • Well your stars need to be regularly aligned more often to bless you with wisdom, for The Print is not known for bhakti/chamchagiri but put national interest at the forefront.

  8. CONGRATULATIONS FOR A SUPERB POLICY ON NEP. EXTREMELY FOCUSED, THE GOVERNMENT HAS SET ITS SIGHTS OF FUTURE INDIA IN THE MOULDING OF SUPER DUPER INDIVIDUALS OF MANY MILLIONS. In the whole process, it focuses knowledge-based recognition to many and opens avenues to choose their own career path even if they wish to discontinue for some reasons in the middle. Well-thought-out. Kudos to the committee and Mr. Kasthuri Rangan. Congratulations Modi Ji!

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