The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 of the Government of India, unveiled as a policy initiative to reform India's rigid education system, has left many questions unanswered. For instance, when would these provisions kick in, how would a proposed change in the medium of instruction till class 5 work and how would a more interdisciplinary educational system change exams, teaching and admissions.
The NEP was approved and introduced yesterday by the Union Cabinet, and it is the first NEP in 34 years. It aims to reduce the role of of rote-learning and the rigidity between streams, allows picking of subjects across streams, and injects more flexibility into India's education system, in an attempt to address some long pending concerns.
While the government has shared a roadmap for the final execution of the policy -- that it aims to fulfil all the provisions in the decade of 2030 - 2040 -- questions around the nuts and bolts of yesterday's presentation still remain.
We looked at what we know and do not know from the new NEP that directly affects you.
1. Will the language of instruction change in my institution?
The NEP makes a push for regional/local languages and mother tongues to be a medium of instruction in education.
Hedging its words, the policy document states, "Wherever possible, the medium of instruction until at least Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond, will be the home language/mother-tongue/local language. Thereafter, the home/local language shall continue to be taught as a language wherever possible. This will be followed by both public and private schools."
It also calls for high quality textbooks in local languages and a bilingual medium of instruction of instruction in case textbooks cannot be localised.
Education is a concurrent subject: both the states and the centre are permitted to legislate on it. Both these levels of government are also stakeholders in education, with schools being affiliated to central boards such as the CBSE and ICSE, or their respectively state boards. The central or state governments may also aid educational institutions.
While the policy clearly states that it would be followed in both public and private schools, it still remains to be seen if these language changes would apply across boards, central/state affiliations and aided or unaided status. It also remains to be seen how the demand for local language textbooks and teachers would be met.
Medium of instruction and language in education is a sensitive issue. Last year, the government faced a strong backlash from Tamil Nadu over a draft version of this NEP, that the government of Tamil Nadu claimed imposed Hindi on the state.
2. Will my exams get easier from next year?
In an attempt to prevent rote-learning, the NEP has emphasised lowering the stakes board exams has in an individual's academic career. Further, to discourage tuition and the commercialisation of education, the NEP recommends reducing school education to core concepts - if one attends school regularly, it would be straightforward to take the exams. Further, students would get two chances at board exams to improve their scores.
With the COVID-19 pandemic putting academic schedules in a limbo, it is still to be seen when these changes take effect. The government expects the recommendations outlined in the NEP to take full effect in the decade from 2030 - 2040.
3. What happens to my existing MPhil degree?
In an attempt to rationalise higher education credentials, the NEP recommends the following:
- A three year Bachelor's degree, that would be followed by a two-year Master's
- A four year Bachelor's degree with a research component, that would be followed by a one-year Master's
- A five-year integrated Bachelor's and Master's degree
The NEP has scrapped the MPhil (Master's in Philosophy) degree, that is a stepping stone towards a PhD. The NEP recommends that a PhD can be obtained right after a Master's, or a four-year Bachelor's program with research.
There is more clarity needed on the recognition of existing MPhil degrees, and if existing MPhil holders will receive credits towards a future doctorate program.
4. How will interdisciplinary subject selection affect studies?
The NEP attempts to blur the lines between disciplines, namely sciences, commerce and arts.
While the NEP advocates cross-discipline studies -- for instance a sciences student can now study music or literature in college and in school -- it is still to be seen on how schools and colleges implement these policies through admissions, schedules and the availability of teachers.
5. Will the government increase spending on education?
Financial constraints to education has been addressed as a part of financial inclusion norms within the NEP. The government aims to increase spending on education to 6% of GDP, a figure that currently stands at around 4.5%, according to the report. Education should also be 10% of all public (central and state) expenditure over the next 10 years, states the report.
The NEP also wants to address the growing expenses of private education by mandating scholarship an aid in private higher education.
"No student will be deprived of higher education because of financial inability. The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to ensure that all students who require financial support to attend a public HEI [Higher Education Institute] will receive it, covering stipends, boarding, and lodging, and not just waivers of tuition fees", says the paper.
"Private HEIs will offer scholarships ranging from 100% to 25% for at least half of their students", its adds.
6. What are the changes to teaching qualifications?
By 2030, the minimum teaching qualifications would be a 4-year B.Ed.
For those having a Bachelor's degree in a specialised stream, a 2-year B.Ed would be offered. Alternatively, an 'adapted' 1-year B.Ed could also be offered to holders of a 4-year Bachelor's or a Master's in a particular field who would like to teach in that field. Such specialised B.Ed degrees, however, can be offered by institutes who offer such 4-year B.Ed degrees
The NEP can be found here (triggers download).