National Education Policy approved by the Union Cabinet: 10 Key Takeaways

Published on July 29, 2020
By Lakshmi Iyer and Divya Sahni

The Union Cabinet has officially cleared the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020  to bring transformational change to the Indian education system after 34 long years.

The new policy aims to establish India as a global knowledge hub by imparting 21st century skills and multidisciplinary education, while continuing to be deeply-rooted in Indian values and ethos. The government plans to increase the Higher Education Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) to 50% in 2035 by kick-starting a series of reforms pertaining to the overall regulatory structure of Higher Education, enabling the use of technology and upgrading curricula, as per the latest skills and knowledge requirements.

In this article, we outline the 10 major takeaways from the press briefing conducted earlier today by members of the newly renamed ‘Ministry of Education’ (formerly known as the Ministry of Human Resource Development):

Higher Education

1) Holistic and Multidisciplinary Education

The policy envisages broad based, multidisciplinary and holistic undergraduate education with flexible curricula, creative combinations of subjects and integration of vocational education. Undergraduate education can be of 3 or 4 years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period.

Students will have the option to move in and out of their courses, without impacting the overall outcome of their education (whether that is certificate, diploma or degree). This will be enabled through a credit transfer system whereby students can store their credits in an ‘Academic Bank of Credits’ and rejoin their programmes after a break taken for professional purposes and sudden personal emergencies.

New Structure

Sannam View

That students will be able to enter and exit their chosen programme is in sync with what happens in advanced economies around the world and is particularly relevant in the COVID-19 impacted world where lifelong learning and stackable qualifications have become the order of the day.

2) Single Regulator for Higher Education (excluding medical and legal education)

As proposed in 2019 NEP Draft policy, the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body for the entire higher education system replacing previously stand-alone regulatory bodies such as the UGC and AICTE. HECI will have four independent verticals – National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation, General Education Council (GEC) for standard setting, Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding, and National Accreditation Council (NAC) for accreditation. Public and Private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards.

Sannam View

With over 40,000 colleges, it remains to be seen how granting autonomy over 15 years would evolve. There are some interesting case studies elsewhere of accrediting bodies that have emerged regionally within countries like the USA where there is a recognised college system. We should look at these models from now to ensure that this evolves into a system that puts the interests of the students at its heart.

3) Set up of National Research Foundation

The Ministry has embarked on an ambitious plan to bring all funding and mentoring research initiatives in the country under a single funder – the National Research Foundation (NRF). The foundation will foster a strong research culture and will build research capacity across higher education in india. During her budget speech on July 5, 2019, Union Finance Minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman mentioned setting up of the NRF to assimilate the research grants given out by different government ministries to one nodal foundation. The Draft NEP 2019 suggested that around USD 3 billion will be allocated annually as funding to the NRF.

Sannam View

The set up of the NRF has reconfirmed the government’s intention to draw engagement from the international research community through a “Research in India” focus. This would significantly enhance the value of “Make in India”, lead to locally owned leading edge and strategically valuable technology, and in turn would lead to massive positive social impact and create many new jobs in the Knowledge Economy.

4) Internationalisation of Education

In order to make India the next major knowledge hub of the world, the government will encourage Indian universities to build strong partnerships with International universities, including exchange and twinning programmes. Higher performing Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses in other countries. Similarly, selected universities, those from the top 100 universities in the world will be facilitated to operate in India. A legislative framework facilitating such entry will be put in place, and such universities will be given special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions of India.

The press briefing did not explicitly mention any provision for international universities to set up a physical presence in India (as mentioned in the NEP 2019 draft). Further details will be clarified once the policy is released by the Ministry.

Sannam View

The internationalisation of Indian institutions has assumed even more significance in these extraordinary times we are experiencing. Opening up our country for well established models that have been successful elsewhere will widen access to cutting edge curriculum and international exposure which will stand our students and academia in good stead.

5) Common Norms and fees for Public and Private HEIs

Currently, there are different norms for deemed, central and private standalone institutions. In order to maintain consistent quality, the norms for operation as well as fees will be the same for all institutions and will be governed by a broad regulatory framework.

Sannam View

We expect that there will be consternation in the private university sector about the Government wanting to step in and determine fees.

Primary and Secondary Education

6) Change in Pedagogical Structure

The current 10+2 system will be replaced by a new 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively. This will bring the uncovered age group of 3-6 years under school curriculum, which has been recognised globally as the crucial stage for development of mental faculties of a child.

7) No rigid separation between academic streams

In order to achieve a multidisciplinary basis of learning from the beginning, students will be allowed to choose different subjects in class 11 and 12, breaking away from the previous model of choosing one defined stream (Science, Commerce or Humanities) from class 11.

8) Board Examinations will be low stakes and based on Knowledge application

In an effort to move away from the traditional rote-learning exam success model, the policy will propel schools to test core concepts and application of knowledge in exams. In addition to this, the board examinations will be conducted in a modular format by allowing schools to phase out the final examination into more than one exam during the year. This is done to remove the significantly large pressure on students to score high marks in the final year board examinations.

9) Curriculum to integrate 21st Century Skills, Mathematical Thinking and Scientific Temper

Primary and secondary education curriculum will be revised to integrate foundational literacy and numeracy. There will also be major reforms in assessment with 360 degree holistic progress cards tracking student progress for achieving learning outcomes.

10) National Professional Standards for Teachers

A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) in consultation with National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT). By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree .

Sannam S4 View

The removal of separation between streams at secondary school level education is India’s embrace of liberal arts education for the masses. The most significant of the reforms is the intent to move away from rote learning. Hopefully it will result in a generation of learners who will be better equipped to solve some of the collective challenges facing humanity with a multi-disciplinary approach.

Next Steps

Now that the much awaited NEP has been cleared, the real work begins, of translating these forward looking recommendations into tangible actions. The renaming of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to the Ministry of Education is a welcome move and puts Education at all levels at the heart of this reformation drive.

At Sannam S4, we have been closely tracking the release of the NEP as it places a strong emphasis on developing the internationalisation capabilities of Indian higher education institutions. In June 2019, we submitted our own recommendations to the Ministry, in consultation with our partner institutions, outlining ways India can develop a bold and successful global engagement strategy to improve the quality of its academic  institutions, develop domestic research and innovation to help accelerate the progress of India’s stated national and UN Sustainable Development Goals and create significant employment across the country.

The Ministry of Education will soon release the fully revised National Education Policy, following which we will release another summary of the key takeaways for Indian and International institutions.


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