A student’s perspective on the New Education Policy, 2020

When the New Education Policy, 2020, was announced by the government, my ears perked up. As a student in 12th grade, still being very much a part of the education system, I was curious to see what the government had envisioned for millions like me. After reading the document released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, I have made certain observations from the standpoint of a student.

The New Education Policy’s ideals, as encapsulated in the beginning of the document, include the “complete realization and liberation of the self”, re-establishment of teachers as “the most respected and essential members of our society”, and the provision of access to education for students from all backgrounds despite “inherent obstacles” . Overall, The NEP aims at “instilling knowledge of India and its varied social, cultural, and technological needs, its inimitable artistic, language, and knowledge traditions, and its strong ethics in India’s young people is considered critical for purposes of national pride, self-confidence, self-knowledge, cooperation, and integration”.

The policy itself tackles various aspects of the education system as a way to achieve its stated ideals. For example, the long-drawn effort of reducing dropout rates and increasing the GRE, or the Gross Enrollment Ratio, with respect to both school and college education, features in the policy. There are also some drastic changes that have been envisioned in the policy. For one, the change of the schooling structure from 10+2 to 5+3+3+4, consisting of 5 years of foundational schooling (ages 3 to 8), 3 years of preparatory school (ages 8 to 11), 3 years of middle school (ages 11 to 14), and finally 4 years of secondary school (ages 14 to 18). Certain issues, like teacher training and introduction of preschools, that have been widely discussed by educationists, also feature in the policy. Another noteworthy proposition is to teach students in the local language till at least the 5th grade, and preferably till the 8th grade.

I am drawn, however, quite selfishly, to the parts regarding higher education, and this is the segment that I’d like to extensively analyse in the article.

Restructuring of the Higher Education System

The NEP has proposed some significant changes with respect to higher education. First is the establishment of an HECI, or Higher Education Commision of India, which replaces the current regulatory bodies, the University Grants Commision (UGC), and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). With this, the HECI will be the sole regulatory authority of the entire higher education system. The HECI is further subdivided into multiple verticals to carry out various standalone functions. The primary vertical of the HECI is the National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC), which is in charge of regulating higher education in India, excluding medical and legal education. The second is the National Accreditation Council (NAC), which is given the responsibility of rating and accrediting colleges based on certain criteria, including good governance and basic norms. The Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC), the third body under HECI, is responsible for financing colleges and universities. The fourth body, the General Education Council (GEC), is in charge of framing the National Higher Education Qualification Framework (NHEQF). Overall, the HECI has been set up for, to quote the policy, “ “light but tight” regulation by a single regulator for higher education”.

The other important facet of the proposal is the complete restructuring of the higher education system through the introduction of a multidisciplinary undergraduate programme, with an option of either a three or four year duration, and multiple exit and entry points. This will bring a far greater level of flexibility within the higher education system.

The other important facet of the proposal is the complete restructuring of the higher education system through the introduction of a multidisciplinary undergraduate programme, with an option of either a three or four year duration, and multiple exit and entry points. This will bring a far greater level of flexibility within the higher education system.

Promising postulates of the NEP

There are a few things I felt that the policy did well in addressing. The first and foremost is the multidisciplinary undergraduate programme. There is an untapped repository of knowledge that students can hope to find by studying a combination of subjects. It will most definitely allow students to explore the world through the lens of multiple subjects, without the artificial constriction of streams. I myself have had the good fortune of choosing multidisciplinary subjects in 11th and 12th, and have greatly benefited from using the perspective I get from each of my subjects in viewing the world around me. A multidisciplinary education has provided me with a far greater scope, therefore, to take my learning beyond the classroom , and into the real world.

The second positive recommendation is the flexibility that the NEP will provide for choosing a three or four year programme, while also allowing some leeway to take gaps within one’s bachelor degree studies. The rigidity of the current system comes from the need to “teach” grown adults, who are old enough to vote and drive, rather than to facilitate their learning. This proposal allows students to have more control over their education, and removes the rigidity that currently prevails.

Reservations about the NEP

Firstly, I am quite skeptical about the power to control and administer the entire higher education system in India being in the hands of one institution, the HECI, whose autonomy is a subject of peculiar ambiguity. So many questions still remain unanswered-

Who is to regulate the regulatory body?

What rules are proposed to ensure its autonomy?

What are the metrics that will be used when the HECI decides the quality of a college in its ratings?

How does it ensure that the students’ intellectual freedom, as well as the right to free speech and expression, is maintained?

Does the HECI take action for every politically motivated incident in colleges, or does it allow student politics to thrive? If so, how will they ensure the freedom of students to remain political, is secured?

And, what in god’s name constitutes “light but tight regulation”?

Secondly, I find the document to be quite like a school project. As an avid writer of school projects, I should know! I say this because the policy uses large ideas, and builds castles in the clouds, but is not detail oriented. Given that the NEP aims to revamp our education system for the better, and will affect millions of lives and the future of our country, the dearth of enumerated specificities is alarming.

The portion of the NEP that talks about the implementation of the policy, “Part IV: Making It Happen” consists of two ‘whole’ pages. However, even these two pages fail to provide any particulars as to how the policy is going to be executed. For example, the policy aims to provide financial support to “various critical elements and components of education, such as ensuring universal access, learning resources, nutritional support, matters of student safety and well-being, adequate numbers of teachers and staff, teacher development, and support for all key initiatives towards equitable high-quality education for underprivileged and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.” However, nowhere does it mention how this will be done, what institutions are going to be involved, how access will be managed and ensured, what learning resources include, what all key initiatives are being taken towards providing high quality education to all that will require financial aid, and whether this is going to be financed by the 6% of our GDP that the policy claims the government will spend on education.

Specifically under the subheading “Implementation”, the policy writers add that the implementation will take place in consultation with concerned ministries and departments, and reiterate that it will take place with the spirit of the policy in mind. This, however, still does not clarify exactly how they plan to accomplish what they have envisaged in the policy.

I also find that the people involved in writing the policy soon forgot about one of the aims they mentioned in the introduction of the policy- enhancing our capabilities to compete with the world. While this noble ideal has been set by them, there is no real delineation of what they mean by making us capable of competing with the world. As an ambitious young girl, I aspire to be a part of a workforce that is driving inventive thought and is working towards solving the herculean problems that will be faced by my generation. I truly believe that our education system should enable us to aspire for our country something greater than being the “Backoffice of the world”. It takes a different kind of thought process, one that involves being intrinsically curious, to create inventions, and not innovations. The fundamental difference between the two is inventions are absolutely new ideas and discoveries of form and method, whereas innovations take inventions and adjust them to the needs arising in a specific context. Innovation is what we colloquially refer to as ‘jugaad’. We must, therefore, look at whether our education system is creating inventive individuals, or innovative ones.

Aspects the NEP has overlooked

There is one aspect that the policy does not address at all, and that is how it plans to ensure that the intellectual autonomy of students will be maintained within campuses. Apparently, for those involved in drafting the policy, there is no reason to address the issue of students being attacked for exercising their fundamental right to speech, and free expression within campuses. This is clearly because getting physically attacked on your campus by goons, while the police are watching, is most definitely not going to hamper your ability to benefit from, in the words of the policy-writers, “high-quality teaching-learning processes”. The policy aims to bring about a higher education system that is flexible, and is premised on the need for greater freedom, but at the same time, it overlooks the elements that threaten this very freedom. Hence, it’s quite curious as to why the policy makers didn’t feel the need to put together guidelines that would ensure the freedom to express oneself within one’s own campus, without getting physically or mentally harmed for it.

Another alarming observation is the scant mention of the state governments and their role in this new education system, especially with regard to higher education. As an item of the concurrent list, education is a shared responsibility between states and the centre. The blatant centralisation is quite alarming, for two reasons. Firstly, it can be viewed as a disregard for the quasi-federal nature of our country. What is on the concurrent list is a shared responsibility, and must continue to be so, because of the second reason, which is that centralisation can make the education system far more susceptible to control, especially of the political sort. The countries that have created educational institutions, which have become centers of excellence for quality education, have ensured these institutions remain separated from the state, with utmost freedom being allowed to the students and colleges to function. In order to create such institutions in our country, the congenial environment must be created, consisting of absolute decentralisation and absolute autonomy of varsities.


In conclusion, it is quite extraordinary to see the initiative taken by the government to transform the education system. The New Education Policy was marketed with the promise of landmark ideas. It is quite bold of the government to want to restructure the education system, with especially drastic changes in the higher education system.

However, how the government will manage to undertake these bold changes seems to be quite unimportant to those who have written this document. That is, unfortunately, not very surprising, seeing that implementation of policies may not be this government’s strong suit , as has been shown by the government’s mishandling of the landmark goods and services tax (GST) reforms. Secondly, the absolute power given to the HECI, with no clear guidelines, is distressing. This theme of centralisation, itself, is of concern, as there are no safety measures put in place to ensure that the independence of the higher education system will not be compromised by the single governing body. The indifference to the state governments’ role in the entire plan is also not particularly reassuring. Finally, the protection of the intellectual freedom and autonomy of colleges and the students has not been addressed by the policy at all. This adds to the alarm created by the general theme of centralisation. Thus, the New Education Policy is, to put it gently, an attempt at writing a policy, but not a particularly spectacular one.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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