A summary of the New Educational Policy as it applies to schools.

A Guide to the provisions of the New Educational Policy (NEP) as they relate to SCHOOLS

This note has been prepared as a public service to school educators and those interested in education. The challenge was to review almost 200 pages of the NEP as is addresses education in schools and boil it down into a few pages.             

This article needs to be updated. Please post your corrections or comments so that we can incorporate them in our revised article.

Read the complete NEP & comment at; https://innovate.mygov.in/new-education-policy-2019/
The proposed vision: 
"NEP envisions an India centered education system that contributes directly to transforming our nation sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society, by providing high quality education to all."

Prakash Javadekar, (the Union Minister for Human Resource Development in the last government*1) in his introduction to the NEP draft reminds us that "half of India's population is under 26 years of age" and that by 2020, India is expected to be the youngest country worldwide."

Goals: Dr Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, former head of the Indian Space Research Organization, chaired the body that drafted the New Educational Policy. Says he in the preamble to the policy document, "our dream is a meritorious knowledge society." He and his committee based their work on the guiding goals of 
- Equity            
- Affordability &           
- Accountability

Twenty year planning window to support India’s future economy: Dr Kasturingan, former Rajya Sabha MP and Planning Commission Member, and his fellow committee members were and are aware that the education policy set in place will need to ramp up to serve the needs of the world's third biggest economy, (by 2032). They understand that if they are not successful in improving the quality of education, India will not be able to rise to the challenges ahead.

There is a common feeling that while India has improved educational access we have not kept up with educational quality. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE 2009) entitles every child aged six to fourteen years to adequate education in a neighborhood school. We are also reminded of the 86th Constitutional amendment enshrining education as a "Right.*2 The NEP has also suggested changes to the RTE Act first by extending it to younger children and then to ensure that the Act focuses more on outcomes than inputs.

 Further the NEP recommends that Early Childhood Care & Education be extended and made part of the RTE 2009 for children from four to six years old as well . The “narrow time lag between the generation of new knowledge and its application (especially in the fields of science and technology) necessitates periodic renewal.” The need to improve quality fast is a national urgency as “the demographic dividend (of 50 percent below the age of 26) is only expected to last for a little over twenty years.”

School Education: Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE): The drafters of the New Economic Policy 2019 recognized that "85% of a child's brain development, happens prior to age six" and that Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) was vital. They remind us that there is proven correlation between exposure to pre-school education and retention rates. They also aver that the nation will receive the highest return on Educational investment at the ECCE stage (as much as ten times the money invested.)

Teaching framework for pre-primary education needs to be developed by NCERT: A 2017 study conducted by Ambedkar University Delhi found that a “significant proportion of children in India who completed pre-primary education, public or private, did not have the needed school readiness competencies when they joined Primary School. Hence the NEP begins by focusing on “developing an excellent curricular and pedagogical framework by the National Council of Educational Research & Training (NCERT) in accordance with the NEP’s guidelines.

Focus on Anganwadis: The NEP therefore proposes a significant expansion and strengthening of facilities for early childhood education. It says “Anganwadis must aim to become outstanding educational centers with a strong nutritional and health component.” Research shows that adding a nutritious breakfast can improve the quality of the study time that follows.

There is also a move to colocate Anganwadis with primary schools and co-locating pre-schools with Primary Schools. “All Anganwadis or pre-primary schools will be linked physically or pedagogically to a primary school in the area.” Anganwadis are currently being managed by the Ministry of Women & Child Development. They are to be shifted to the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Preventing Early School Enrollment Among the Poor: Sadly, Dr Kasturirangan in his Preamble points out that poorer families tend to enroll their children early in Grade 1 thereby making it harder for them to compete with their better prepared and more mature peers. In 2016-17, over 70 lakh children were enrolled before they were six years old. 

Role of minority groups: In a nod to minorities and the schools managed by these communities, Kasturirangan says that "Education in India was only enriched through the mixing of ideas from the very first invasions till the arrival of the British." The NEP also seeks to help upgrade the capabilities of religious schools like Madrasas and modernize their curriculums while retaining their traditions.

Educational Stages, recognized by the NEP draft: New curriculum for (5+3+3+4)

Foundational Stage: Pre-school, KG, Grades 1& 2: Ages 0 to 3 to 8 (involving parents as well as teachers). Also an educational framework for 3 to 8 year olds with special emphasis on developing language skills where appropriate.

Children must "have access to a curriculum that is multifaceted, multi-level, play based, activities based and discovery based curriculum." The report recognizes the progress Anganwadis have made for this group but with limited Educational programming and inadequate funding."

The Preparatory Phase: Grades 3,4 and 5: Ages 9, 10 & 11
Suggests a few text books and a more structured curriculum leading to foundational literacy and numeracy as a National Mission in Grade 5 and beyond by 2025. If children are given a solid foundation in literacy and numeracy with logical thinking, problem solving and creativity too then “all other future lifelong learning will become that much easier.” A remedial instructional aides program has been recommended that allows locals (especially women) help children who have fallen behind.

Middle School: Grades 6, 7 & 8: Ages 12, 13 & 14: 
Here we have more subject teaching, abstract learning leading to the secondary phase. Experiential learning within each subject to be emphasized and relationships between various subjects explored.

Secondary Education: This is for grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 or ages  15, 16, 17 & 18: These last four years will facilitate multi-disciplinary studies with appropriate exit options besides preparing for undergraduate studies including an early introduction to the Arts.

Each year of the secondary stage will be divided into two semesters for a total of eight semesters. Each student would be required to select and take five to six subjects each semester with some essential common subjects for all. This gives children the chance to specialize in what interests them. “A system of modular Board Examinations, restructured to test only core concepts, principles, critical thinking” in each subject.” “The notion of junior college will be eliminated.”

“All stages will heavily incorporate Indian and local traditions,” The plan is to “move the education towards real understanding and learning to learn.”  away from rote learning. The focus will be on reducing curriculum content to enhance an “analysis based form of learning.” There will be no hard separation of arts and science streams as well as vocational and academic streams so that all children have the opportunity to develop multiple capacities. “Vocational courses will include in depth exposure to agriculture, electronics, local trades and crafts etc.”

Desired outcomes: The focus should be "learning to be lifelong learners."
" Today, liberal education integrates the humanities with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)." The outcomes sought include critical/ higher order thinking, deeper learning, mastery of content, problem solving, teamwork and communication skills.

Language: At least initially, education in the local language is recommended but two other languages must be introduced early to take advantage of early language adaptation skills.Sign language will be standardized for children with hearing impairment. Classical languages like Sanskrit and Tamil and regional writers as well as indigenous ideas are to be given more exposure.

The power structure of English: The authors of the policy recognize that knowledge of English is often used by elite sub groups to exclude others. They point out that major industrialised nations like Germany and Japan focus on their native languages successfully.**

Art: Children should be encouraged to take up at least one art even if they are studying science. Interaction with local artists will be encouraged.

Oral Communication: Students must have the opportunity to regularly speak before their peers.

Physical Fitness: Mind and Body wellness to be included..

Digital literacy: Appropriate learning outcomes to be developed in consultation with the authorities.

Development of ethical principles and constitutional values.

Knowledge of India: Indian literature and traditions provide new insights on India’s contributions to global thought and development. One example is the Pythagorean theorem which was first described by Baudhayana (around 2,000 BCE). Indian and tribal knowledge to be included.

Current Affairs will be included in school curriculums along with lessons on Ethics, Community issues and so on.

The National Curriculum Framework (NCF 2005 to be made more flexible and local): States will frame there on curricula basing it on the NCF. NCERT textbooks will be revised to contain only the essential core material in each subject.” The State Council for Educational Research (SCERT) will (be invigorated so as to) serve as the apex body on all academic  matters, including curriculum, textbooks, standards for teacher recruitment, assessment and learning standards for all stages of school education.

School Accreditations: The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SWAAF) for each state. All schools must self-accredit every three years with details published publicly. Once in five years school accreditations will be audited. All relevant information about all schools must be in the public domain so that parents can make informed choices.

Oversight of private schools will also be needed.Existing schools will also need to be accredited. They will be required to report their annual audited financial statements. The financial disclosure standards will be the same as in not for profit (Section 8) entities.

Supporting students with singular interests: The plan is to engage students with special interests in Grade 6 or upwards in extracurricular  groups such as “Math Circles.”

Examinations: The relative inflexibility of examinations and entrance tests puts a lot of pressure on children and gives rise to a coaching industry that gives unfair advantages to those that can afford coaching. Board examinations should be provided in a range of subjects and test core capacities. Board exams in each subject may replace the school final examinations. 

To improve educational planning all students will take State Census Examinations in Grades 3, 5 and 8 in addition to the Board examinations in Grades 10 and 12. The Grade 3 examination in particular would test basic literacy, numeracy and other foundational skills. “The Boards of Assessment will completely reform and improve the examination system- they will have no role in setting curricula or creating textbooks.”

Testing: An autonomous National Testing Agency that will conduct entrance examinations for admissions and fellowships to higher educational institutions will be strengthened. The institutions will set their own admissions criteria but will be encouraged to use the tests as well. All examinations and tests must offer multiple (at least two) opportunities to take them.

Translations: An Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI) will be established to promote all Indian languages.

Special Education Zones will be offered to relatively remote regions that need help. A gender inclusion fund will focus on supporting quality and equitable education for all girls. This would be particularly helpful in regions that are largely populated by disadvantaged populations such as Tribals or members of a backward class.Having teachers from the same community and who speak the same language would be helpful. The NEP also seeks to reach out and engage/educate children from urban poor families who have migrated to cities in search of work.

Other Groups: Transgender children, children with special needs (the goal is to try and educate them with regular children). This includes providing for physical access with ramps etc. Where unavoidable home based education will be provided for children with profound disabilities. Parents and caregivers will need to be trained. Differently-abled students will be provided scholarships on a more liberal scale.

Teachers/ training: For better outcomes our planners feel that Teacher education needs to be taken more seriously and moved into a multi-disciplinary university format. At the foundational stage, teachers need to be trained in identifying and supporting children who learn at different speeds. Teachers need to be assisted with peer tutors (with older children helping) as well as volunteers. A Teacher to Student of no more than 1: 30 is being stipulated. Periodic assessment and skill development of teachers is necessary,

Teacher motivation is vital as well as strategies to identify the students that are likely to make the best teachers. We also need to incentivize teachers to work in short fall areas and increase the prestige associated with being a teacher.

In fact allowing for the inter-connectedness of various phases along with multiple exit and entry options. This would include re-integrating children who have dropped out for various reasons.

Transport & Security: Bicycles can be provided to older children, organized walking groups (with or without paid walking escorts), local parents can be paid to assume transportation duties in addition to rickshaws, buses and vans where appropriate.

Expanding the role of research and launching the National Research Foundation: After the undergraduate degree, the NEP envisages three routes to the Masters degree. One year, two years and the integrated five year degree. The plan is to increase the role of research. 

The NEP proposes a new National Research Foundation (NRF) that funds research within the Educational system. The hope is that the NRF will " bring in cohesion between the various interdisciplinary endeavours." It is hoped that "the NRF will catalyze research at universities through an institutionalized mentoring approach that also allows for corporate funding.*3

National Education Commission and beefing up the NIEA: There is a proposal to create another bureaucracy known as the Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA) or National Education Commission to provide oversight of the education system. The plan is to have it report to the PM. The NEP also recommends that the National Institute of Educational Planning & Administration (NIEPA) be strengthened so that all the data gathering, analysis and dissemination can be consolidated under  new Central Educational Statistics Division (CESD) as an autonomous body within the NIEPA

Elements Recommended That May Support Transformation of the Education System:

  1. Introduction of Higher Education Complexes as catalysts for collaboration. These will allow for economies of scale and provide a wider array of administrative options. [These school complexes will however need to build-in relatively inaccessible areas requiring greater transportation costs. Perhaps virtual school complexes that administratively connect various entities will make sense in some cases.]

2.            Bringing together the curricular, administrative and financial elements of a school complex (single entity) with the complete autonomy needed (accountability norms can be put in place) for management efficiency. This includes setting up an Independent State School Regulatory Authority “to handle all aspects of school regulation including the oversight of the system and the implementation of accreditation.

3.            Incorporating interdisciplinary and research oriented cultures more prominently.

4.            Minimally regulating institutions through autonomous agencies that provide educational services, accreditation, funding, and standard setting so as to reduce conflicts of interest and the concentration of power. This will also involve a “change in role for the Directorate of School Education.” Transforming it over two to three years “from a regulator cum operator of schools to only an (effective) operator of schools.

5.            Designing systems that help root out corruption and improve transparency of regulation.

6.            Accreditation will be the method used to meeting standards of the School Quality Assessment.” This approach provides for autonomy with accountability.

Dr Kasturirangan and his committee have done a phenomenal job in producing the NEP. This article addresses only the school component of it. In his preamble  the Chairman of the NEP Committee also quotes Jaques Delours who chaired the International Commission on Education. He said, "Learning is based on four pillars: "Learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be."  

As we review this New Educational Policy let us approach it constructively examining its implications and making suggestions if any. Unfortunately there is in this writer's view a lack of clarity of the purpose of education, which ideally should be the pursuit of happiness in the larger sense. If that were clear then we would be less concerned with the creation of a meritocracy 

To quote Dr Kasturirangan who in turn quotes Swami Vivekananda, "Education is not the amount of information we put in your brain that runs riot in-there, undigested all your life. We must have man making, life building, character making assimilation of ideas." 

To read the complete NEP and comment visit; https://innovate.mygov.in/new-education-policy-2019/

The Committee for Draft National Education Policy:

  • K. Kasturirangan, Chairman: Former Chairman ISRO, Ex- Member of Rajya Sabha
  • Vasudha Kamat, Member: Former Vice Chancellor, SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai

  • Manjul Bhargava. Member: Professor of Mathematics, Princeton University, USA
  • Ram Shankar Kureel, Member: Former Vice Chancellor of B S Ambedkar University of Social Sciences, Madhya Pradesh

  • T V Kattimani, Member:  Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh

  • Krishna Mohan Tripathy, Member: Director of Education (Secondary) and Former Chairperson of Uttar Pradesh High School & Intermediate Examination Board, Allahabad.

  • Mazhar Asif, Member: Professor, Center for Persian & Central Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

  • M. K Sridhar, Member: Former Member Secretary, Karnataka Knowledge Commission.

  • Shakila T Shamsu, Secretary: OSD (NEP), Dept of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, New Delhi
Two other members, K J Alphons and Rajendra Pratap Gupta, left in 2017.


*1. The current HRD Minister is Dr Ramesh Pokkhri Nishank, former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand. Dr Nishank is a prolific author in Hindi who has written 44 books in Hindi, some of which have been translated into Hindi. There is controversy about the two PhDs the Minister has received from an unrecognized Sri Lankan University. Dr Nishank is a keen advocate of Astrology and believes that ancient Indians could build nuclear bombs and transplant severed animal heads (as in Lord Ganesh) onto humans.

*2. The 86th amendment (RTE) Act of 2002 inserted Article 21A in the Constitution envisaging free and compulsory education for children aged 6 to 14 as a fundamental right. 

*3. Requiring students to apply for funding from a centrally controlled NRF has been criticized in some quarters as inserting corporate interests into academic research and also enforcing an external control on what kinds of research are funded.

** Editorial comment: The advent of the Internet and multinational multimedia has increased the importance of English. Also the tendency for the highest paying jobs to be abroad should give us cause for pause. We certainly need to better include and promote vernacular speakers but being able to speak English fluently offers global advantages. Hence an education in English will continue to offer great value. It may be better if we offer both language models with some schools using the local language and others offering instruction exclusively in English.

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