New policy to modernise school education in India

The new policy aims for universalization of education from preschool to secondary level with 100 per cent gross enrolment ratio in school education by 2030

July 29, 2020

The 10+2 school curricula will be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years, respectively

The policy has emphasized mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5, preferably till Grade 8

All students will take examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8, conducted by the appropriate authority. Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued

The school curricula and pedagogy will aim for the holistic development of learners by equipping them with the key 21st-century skills and knowledge

The Government of India on July 29 introduced the National Education Policy 2020, a major feat that aims to drive large scale, transformational reforms in school education. This represents the nation’s first education policy of the 21st century and replaces the National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986. The policy has been designed to help India empower its rich human resource on the way to developing an inclusive and sustainable society/economy. Built on the pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability, and Accountability, this policy is aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The policy aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school education more holistic, flexible, and multidisciplinary, suited to 21st century needs.

The key features for School Education under the Policy includes: 

Universal Access to School Education

The NEP 2020 emphasizes on ensuring universal access to school education at all levels — preschool to secondary. Infrastructure support, innovative education centres to bringing back dropouts into the mainstream, tracking of students and their learning levels, an association of counselors or well-trained social workers with schools, open learning for classes 3,5 and 8 through NIOS and State Open Schools, secondary education programs equivalent to Grades 10 and 12, vocational courses, adult literacy, and life-enrichment programs are some of the proposed ways for achieving this. About 20 million out of school children will be brought back into the mainstream under The NEP 2020.

Early Childhood Care and Education

With an emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), the 10+2 structure of school curricula is to be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively. This will bring the hitherto uncovered age group of 3-6 years under the school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for the development of mental faculties of a child. The new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/pre-schooling. NCERT will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8.

Focus on Foundational Literacy, Numeracy

Recognizing Foundational Literacy and Numeracy as an urgent and necessary prerequisite to learning, The NEP 2020 calls for setting up of a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD). States will prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners by grade 3 by 2025. A National Book Promotion Policy is to be formulated.

The NEP 2020 is the most comprehensive and futuristic policy document in Indian educational history.

Reforms in school curricula, pedagogy

The school curricula and pedagogy will aim for the holistic development of learners by equipping them with the key 21st-century skills, reduction in curricular content to enhance essential learning and critical thinking, and a greater focus on experiential learning. Students will have increased flexibility and choice of subjects. There will be no rigid separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extracurricular activities, between vocational and academic streams. Vocational education will start in schools from the 6th grade and will include internships. A new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be developed by the NCERT.

Focus on Multilingualism

The policy has emphasized mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond. Sanskrit to be offered at all levels of school and higher education as an option for students, including in the three-language formula. Other classical languages and literature of India also to be available as options. No language will be imposed on any student. Several foreign languages will also be offered at the secondary level. Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardized across the country, and National and State curriculum materials developed for use by students with hearing impairment.

Assessment Reforms

The NEP 2020 envisages a shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessments, which is more competency-based, promotes learning and development, and tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity. All students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8, which will be conducted by the appropriate authority. Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued, but redesigned with holistic development as the aim. A new National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development), will be set up as a standard-setting body.

Equitable, Inclusive Education

The NEP 2020 aims to ensure that no child loses any opportunity to excel because of the circumstances of birth or background. Special emphasis will be given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs), which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities, and disabilities. This includes setting up of a Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups. Children with disabilities will be enabled to fully participate in the regular schooling process from the foundational stage to higher education, with the support of educators with cross-disability training, resource centres, etc. Every state/district will be encouraged to establish “Bal Bhavans” as a special daytime boarding school, to participate in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities.

Robust Teacher Recruitment

Teachers will be recruited through robust, transparent processes. Promotions will be merit-based, with a mechanism for multi-source periodic performance appraisals and available progression paths to becoming educational administrators or teacher educators. A common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers, and expert organizations from across levels and regions.

Standard-setting and Accreditation

The NEP 2020 envisages a clear, separate systems for policymaking, regulation, operations, and academic matters. States/UTs will set up an independent State School Standards Authority (SSSA). Transparent public self-disclosure of all basic regulatory information, as laid down by the SSSA, will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability. The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) through consultations with all stakeholders.

The NEP 2020 is the most comprehensive and futuristic policy document in Indian educational history. It does not recognise any barrier in bringing quality and outcome-based education to everyone. It now includes children during their most formative years, which is 3-5 years, for their care and education. Critical thinking, experiential and application-based learning, flexibility in learning, focus on life skills, multidisciplinary, and continuous review are some of the salient features of this policy. Bringing back 20 million out-of-school and dropout children and universalisation of school education from 3 years onwards reflect on the Government’s commitment to the philosophy of “No one to be left behind.”

For more on the policy, please click here.