Home >Politics >Policy >34 years on, India decides to overhaul its education policy

India approved a new National Education Policy after 34 years, paving the way for radical reforms, including the introduction of local languages as the medium of instruction till class V, initiation of vocational training and coding classes in school and offering senior students more choice in how they want to pursue studies.

The policy, which was cleared by the Union cabinet on Wednesday, aims to promote autonomy in the higher education sector, and lays greater emphasis on learning outcomes. The policy has been designed to benefit students, education providers and the labour market through an emphasis on vocational training.

Under the policy, multiple higher education regulators, including the University Grants Commission, All Indian Council of Technical Education and National Council of Teacher Education, will be merged into a single regulator to reduce the multiplicity of regulations. The new policy will also rename the human resource development (HRD) ministry as education ministry, HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal said.

A class act
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A class act

The policy will initiate the phasing out of the affiliation system at the university level, making way for three categories of institutions—research-focused universities, teaching-focused universities and autonomous colleges.

As suggested in the draft report, the final policy has done away with the M.Phil degree and makes under-graduation degrees either three or four-year. Besides, it will allow multiple entry and exit options and introduces a new concept of academic credit bank so that working professionals can come back and pursue education from where they left.

Masters-level degrees can be of one or two years. Currently, one-year degrees are not recognized in India. And after masters, one can directly pursue a Ph.D. The new policy also talks about special education zones (SEZs) aimed at helping bring in foreign universities to India.

“We have gone for systemic reform than incremental reform. The multiple-entry-and-exit system, less regulation, graded autonomy are significant steps," higher education secretary Amit Khare told reporters. Khare said the Centre and states will work together to increase education spending to 6% of GDP as against the current 4.4%. Increasing the spend on education has been a long-standing demand from educators.

At the school level, the policy redraws the schooling system on a 5+3+3+4 formula instead of the current 10+2 model. Besides, the high stake board exams at class X and class XII level, will be ‘low stake’ and may be conducted more than once a year. Students in the age group of 3-8 years will be part of the foundation stage, 8-11 age group for preparatory schooling, 11-14 years for middle school and 14-18 for secondary level.

The policy emphasizes educating students in their mother tongues. “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/regional language," the HRD ministry said.

The policy says vocational education will be integrated from class VI and an internship of 10 days at the school level will be made part of the system. It reduces the rigid course structure between science and arts streams, curricular and extracurricular activities, and emphasizes the need to track the learning outcome of students from pre-school level to school-leaving grade. The new policy also plans to introduce computational thinking and coding from class VI.

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