ROOTS AND ROUTS OF INDIAN EDUCATION: Our take on the Draft New Education Policy 2019


Our take on the Draft New Education Policy 2019

Sunny Jacob SJ

The Draft of the Proposed New Education Policy 2019 is out. More than a year the then MHRD Minister kept us in suspense of the Draft, by extending the Commissions tenure four times by three months each. Then came the General election and immediately after the election, the new Government made the Draft out for suggestions from all. As if the ministry is in a hurry, only a month’s time is given for suggestions from the public.

The Draft is a 484 page document.  It needs time to study and make serious policy suggestions. If the Commission can be given so much time as extension, a little more time for all to study the draft can be given. Since principals and educationists of many states in India will be in holidays till the end of this month, it would be difficult to get responses if the Commission and the Govt. are serious on consultation. Hope the ministry will show all stakeholders get to see the draft after the responses are sent by the end of the stipulated time. Hence the implementation of policy should not be July 2019 but April 2020. Otherwise people feel the gathering of responses is just a bluff.  There is already enough controversy on the Three Language Policy in the South and the West. Since Modi has mentioned that he would like carry the Minorities in his second term, I hope that their concerns and suggestions will be taken note by him.

The Roots of Indian Education in Post-Independence India.

We must remember that this is not the first or major Education Policy that made the roots of Indian Education. There were many Commissions in the past. The major ones are the following,

Indian Education Education Commissions: An Overview

1. University Education Commission (1948-49)

2. Secondary Education Commission (1952-53)

3. The Education Commission (1964-66)

4 National Knowledge Commission (2009)

Major Education Policies

1 National Policy on Education (1968)

2 National Policy on Education (1986)

3 Revised Programme of Action (1992)

Schools for Equality and Equity

1 Common School System

2 Neighbourhood Schools

3 Alternative Schools

Universalisation of Elementary Education

1 Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)

National Curriculum Framework (NCF, 2005)

Five Year Plans and Elementary Education

In the all the policies of the yester years, we see how the Commissions and Policies on education, particularly school education, have focused on equality and quality as twin objectives in school education. Education has been the central focus for establishing an egalitarian society and also for national development. However, the results on the ground have not matched with the expectations.

There were problems persist despite good intentions of the governments. After Independence, the Nehruvian vision of “growth with equity and social justice” guided planned development in the country, however, elementary education remained a neglected aspect of planned development. The Education Commission (Kothari Commission-1964-66) provided the much needed attention to elementary education by recommending massive expansion of free lower and upper primary schools and secondly the establishment of a Common School System that sought to bring all existing (government, government aided and private) schools within the ambit of a common system. This marked a major policy shift towards equalising the system which offered substandard education to the majority.

The New Education Policy (NEP) introduced by the Rajiv Gandhi Government in 1986 paved the way for large-scale participation of the private sector in education. Although the NEP then accepted the concept of education for all, it favoured greater participation by the private sector. The neoliberal economic policy being pursued by the State since 1991 saw education in a different light. More scope for private investment, appointment of para-teachers, decentralised governance, etc. were introduced for cost-effectiveness.

RTE 2009 was a major educational reform in India. It was aimed at Expansion, Equity, Excellence and Employability . However, the procedural fault in the execution of RTE is still continues as a hurdle to the desired achievement.

NEP 2019 is supposed to be a collaborative effort, reaching stakeholders to the block level to understand the changes required in the educational structure. The Dr. TSR Subrahmaniam Commission too said the same thing in 2016. However, we knew that the so called consultations and suggestions were not up to the mark and it had be scraped by the MHRD in 2017. The New nine member Commission was formed and it was headed by Dr. Kasturirangan, an eminent scientist. The Draft National Education Policy 2019 is built on the foundational pillars of 'Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability, and Accountability.' The committee has proposed to rename HRD as Ministry of Education (MoE), which is a welcome move. Education definitely goes beyond mere human resource management to total formation of the individual.

Today we are experiencing the extraordinary phenomenon of globalization: instant communication; rapid transportation of people and goods throughout the world that create, simultaneously, unprecedented ties and disruptions— economic, cultural, political, ecological and spiritual. Any suggestions we make on the NEP 2019 must see these changes and respond to the challenges.

In school education, a major reconfiguration of curricular and pedagogical structure with Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) as an integral part of school education is proposed. The Committee also recommends the extension of Right to Education Act 2009 to cover children of ages 3 to 18. This seems to be a good idea, but the practicality of it is doubtful, with the current way of functioning of the offices and the lowering allotment of budget for education. It will lead to unnecessary interference of officers and parents in unaided schools.

The Draft proposed a structural change in our education. A 5+3+3+4 curricular and pedagogical structure based on cognitive and socio-emotional developmental stages of children: Foundational Stage (age 3-8 yrs): 3 years of pre-primary plus Grades 1-2, Preparatory Stage (8-11 years): Grades 3-5, Middle Stage (11-14 years): Grades 6-8 and Secondary Stage (14-18 years): Grades 9-12. Hope these changes will be scientifically studied and will be done on a phased manner. Otherwise, it will create a lot of chaos among all.

The schools will be re-organised into school complexes. It also seeks to reduce the content load in the school education curriculum.

There will be no hard separation of learning areas in terms of curricular, co-curricular or extra-curricular areas and all subjects, including arts, music, crafts, sports, yoga, community service, etc., will be curricular. This is a welcome move. We see this in the light of Multiple Intelligence. We need to educate the parents about it first. Many parents are looking for marks and ‘success’ only. And crave for the subjects that earn more money. The Policy is aimed at promoting active pedagogy that will focus on the development of core capacities, life skills, including 21st-century skills.

The committee proposes for massive transformation in teacher education by shutting down sub-standard teacher education institutions and moving all teacher preparation or education programmes into large multidisciplinary universities/colleges. This presupposes proper infrastructure and needed facilities. At present the country lack proper infrastructure to achieve the desired goal. Unless the government substantially increase the budgetary allocation for education, the recommendation of the Commission will remain only as a wishful thinking.

The Commission recommends 4 years of Integrated B Ed for teacher students. This four-year integrated stage-specific B Ed programme will eventually be the minimum degree qualification for teachers. This will exclude the aspiring good teachers of senior graduates and post graduates.

In higher education, a restructuring of higher education institutions with three types of higher education institutions is proposed: Focused on world-class research and high-quality teaching, focused on high-quality teaching across disciplines with significant contribution to research, and high-quality teaching focused on undergraduate education. This will be driven by two missions -- Mission Nalanda and Mission Takshashila. There will be re-structuring of Undergraduate programs. For example, BSc, BA, B Com, B Voc of three or four years of duration and having multiple exits and entry options. One has to wait for the outcome of these classifications. Will it not lead to more privatised education in India, neglecting the poor and the underprivileged from entering into the best institutions? Any unbridled privatisation and corporatisation is, in fact, exhibiting the failure of the government in providing equitable education to all.

A new apex body, Rashtriya Shiksha Ayog, is proposed to enable a holistic and integrated implementation of all educational initiatives and programmatic interventions and to coordinate efforts between the Centre and the States. However, if one apprehend this move as an effort to centralise everything one cannot be blamed. Remember the 2016 proposal too was a clear policy indicator to three C’s and one of them was Centralisation. The other two C’s were Corporatisation and Communalisation. All the three Cs were vehemently opposed and rejected by the people of India. Any move to bring them back will be a disservice to the people of India.

The National Research Foundation, an apex body is proposed for creating a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education. The four functions of Standard setting, Funding, Accreditation and Regulation to be separated and conducted by independent bodies: National Higher Education Regulatory Authority as the only regulator for all higher education including professional education, creation of accreditation eco-system led by revamped NAAC, professional Standard Setting Bodies for each area of professional education and UGC to transform to Higher Education Grants Commission (HEGC). This will affect the independence of the Universities and Autonomus Colleges to a great extent.

The private and public institutions will be treated on par and education will remain a 'not for profit' activity. Ideally this is a good move, but this might hamper the smooth functions of all the non-profitable and Charitable institutions. Minority institutions will face a lots of problems for their infrastructure building, maintenance and other administrational expences.

The Commission proposes several new policy initiatives for promoting internationalisation of higher education, strengthening quality open and distance learning, technology integration at all levels of education, adult and lifelong learning and initiatives to enhance participation of under-represented groups, and eliminate gender, social category, and regional gaps in education outcomes are recommended.

Promotion of Indian and classical languages and setting up three new national institutes for Pali, Persian, and Prakrit and an Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI) have also been recommended. The three language policy recommended by the Commission is bound to create tensions among many regional language areas.

All the Commissions and Policies related to education in India so far have sought guidance from the Constitutional vision of India as a secular, egalitarian and pluralistic society, founded on the values of social justice and equality. Education has derived its content and meaning from the Constitution and the system has tried to democratise opportunities to move in the direction of education for all. Accomplishments in school education, since Independence have been many.  There are, however, several issues that are of concern, like “drop-out” at the elementary stage, 75 percent of our schools in rural areas being multi-grade and learning being a burden for the children. Multiple Intelligence or many of the latest developments in educational psychology etc. were unknown to most of our teacher educators and our stakeholders. As a result quality in education remains the most critical aspect.

Routs of Education we need to take towards the Future

“Universalisation of primary-secondary education would establish the rule of reason over emotion and empower citizens of the world’s most populous democracy to appreciate the profound logic of the Gandhian prescription of religious harmony, caste and gender equality and development of self-respect in all Indians, to reap the country’s much-awaited demographic dividend” – Dilip Thakore. Nothing happens in the vacuum. In an increased hostile environment of religious conflicts, Caste discrimination, diminishing democratic values, deliberate reduction of Gandhian values, attempting for more cultural hegemony, and degradation of human values, hope the Commission and the Government will take a more progressive route. Hope they will heed to wise counsel of many good educationists and make necessary amendments and bring out an all-inclusive, positive, value based, pragmatic and forward looking educational policy which will take our future to a new level. This needs visionary leaders who listen to the voice of all.  


  • Writer is the Secretary of Jesuit Education in South Asia and Member of International Commission of Jesuit Education in Rome.