National Education Policy, 2020

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    The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) has laid out a vision about what education in India should be like in the upcoming years. The NEP has focused on many changes to teaching, learning and regulatory framework of primary, secondary and higher education. The NEP proposes the revision and revamping of all aspects of the current education structure, including its regulation and governance, to forge a new education system that is on par with the aspirational objectives of 21stcentury education. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is renamed as the Ministry of Education in a bid to bring the focus back on education and learning.

    In 1964, the Government of India appointed an Education Commission ("Commission"), under the Chairmanship of Daulat Singh Kothari. Amongst other objectives behind setting up of this Commission also included evolution of a general pattern of education. The report was submitted by Commission in 1966 which indicated the guidelines for formulation of a National Policy on Education. In 1968, the Government of India declared its first National Policy on Education. Based on the recommendations contained in the report of this Commission, the Government took steps to introduce certain needed changes in the system of education.

    Keeping in mind the educational defects during that time, the main recommendations in the area of educational administration included but not limited to the following:

    Free and Compulsory Education

    Provision of free and compulsory education to all the children until they complete the age of 14 years is a Directive Principle of the Constitution. Education should be free and compulsory up to the age of 14. Steps should be taken to ensure that the child enrolled in the school, should successfully complete the course.

    Status, Emoluments and Education of Teachers

    The teacher is the most important person to determine the quality of education in the country. His/Her emoluments and service standard should be increased, with due regard to his/her educational qualifications, professional responsibilities and the expected status in society. Proper attention should be given to quality teacher education.

    Development of Languages

    The three language formula provides for a study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the Southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in the Hindi speaking States and of Hindi along with the regional language and English in the non Hindi speaking States. The three language formula should be introduced, in which a student at the secondary level, should know Hindi, English and the regional language of his/her state.

    Equalization of Educational Opportunity

    Under this policy, every child of the country should get education, irrespective of caste, religion, region or whatever the case may be.


    The policy visualizes integration of the assessment of performance with the process of learning and teaching, and utilizing the process of evaluation to bring about qualitative improvement in education. A major goal of examination reforms should be to improve the reliability and validity of examinations and to make evaluation a continuous process aimed at helping the student to improve his/her level of achievement.

    Educational Structure

    It will be advantageous to have a broadly uniform educational structure in all parts of the country. The ultimate objective should be to adopt the 10+2+3 pattern, the higher secondary stage of two years being located in schools, colleges or both according to local conditions.

    Secondary Education

    Educational opportunity at the secondary (and higher) level is a major instrument of social change and transformation. There is a need to increase facilities for technical and vocational education at this stage.

    University Education

    Considerable care is needed in establishing new universities. The arrangements for planning and coordination of college and university education at the state level are inadequate. States with large number of universities will set up State Councils for Higher Education to review performance, determine financial requirements and plan for innovations and inter-se network.

    Open University and Distance Education

    The Open University System augments opportunities for higher education, ensures access, is cost-effective and promotes a flexible and innovative system of education.

    Games and Sports

    Games and sports should be developed on a large scale with the object of improving the physical fitness and sportsmanship.


    The Government of India is currently investigating the feasibility of implementation of a revised NEP in order to modernize and streamline education, right from the early elementary or preliminary schooling system for children and adults. The NEP believes that the education system should develop good human beings with rational thinking, compassion, empathy, courage, resilience, scientific temper, creative imagination, and ethical values.

    The NEP envisions an education system rooted in Indian ethos that contributes directly to transforming India, sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society, by providing high quality education to all, and thereby making India a global knowledge superpower.

    Some of the major recommendations of the NEP are:


    • The policy recommends replacing the 10+2 format with a 5+3+3+4 structure. This implies five years of a "Foundational Stage" that will include three years of pre-primary and Classes 1 and 2. It will be followed by three years of "Preparatory Stage", three years of "Middle Stage" and four years of "Secondary Stage".
    • All students will take school examinations in grades 3, 5 and 8 where they would be tested on core concepts, knowledge and higher order skills. The grade 3 examination would test basic literacy, numeracy, and other foundational skills.
    • To reverse the harmful effects of the current assessment system, Board exams will be redesigned to encourage holistic development. Students will be able to choose the subjects in which they take Board exams, depending on their individualized interests. Board exams will also be made 'easier', in the sense that they will test primarily core capacities/competencies rather than months of coaching and memorization.
    • Language is a key focus of the policy which strongly recommends making the mother tongue the mode of instruction at least until class five and preferably till at least class eight. It recommends Sanskrit be offered at all levels of school and higher education as one of the optional languages on par with all Schedule 8 languages.
    • All students will be asked to take at least two years of a classical language of India and its associated literature, through experiential and innovative approaches, including the integration of technology, in grades 6-12, with the option to continue from the middle stage through the secondary stage and beyond.


    • The harmful practice of excessive teacher transfers will be halted, so that students have continuity in their role models and educational environments. Transfers will occur in very special circumstances, as suitably laid down in a structured manner by State/UT governments. Furthermore, transfers will be conducted through an online computerized system that ensures transparency.
    • Teacher Eligibility Tests (TETs) will be strengthened to inculcate better test material, both in terms of content and pedagogy. The TETs will also be extended to cover teachers across all stages (Foundational, Preparatory, Middle and Secondary) of school education.
    • Teachers will be given continuous opportunities for self-improvement and to learn the latest innovations and advances in their profession(s). These will be offered in multiple modes, including in the form of local, regional, state, national, and international workshops as well as online teacher development modules. Platforms (especially online platforms) will be developed so that teachers may share ideas and best practices.


    • The panel suggests that higher education system be brought under a single regulator; National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA). While University Grants Commission (UGC) will become a purely grant providing body, entities like All India Council for Technical Education, Medical Council of India and National Council for Teacher Education should evolve into professional standard setting bodies.
    • The panel suggests that undergraduate courses may move to a three or four year duration with multiple exit options within this period, with appropriate certifications, e.g., a certificate after completing 1 year in a discipline or field including vocational and professional areas, or a diploma after 2 years of study, or a Bachelors degree after a 3 year programme. The 4 year multidisciplinary Bachelors programme, however, shall be the preferred option since it allows the opportunity to experience the full range of holistic and multidisciplinary education in addition to a focus on the chosen major and minors as per the choices of the student.
    • Different designs of Masters programme are proposed from a 2 year programme with the second year devoted entirely to research for those who have completed the 3 year Bachelors programme or an integrated 5 year bachelors/masters programme or a 1 year masters programme for those who have completed a 4 year programme.
    • Model public universities for holistic and multidisciplinary education, at par with IITs, IIMs, etc., called MERUs (Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities) will be set up and will aim to attain the highest global standards in quality education.
    • Institutes will be permitted to offer PhD with either a masters degree or a 4 year bachelors degree with research.

    Efficient Resourcing and Effective Governance through School Complexes/Clusters

    • While the establishment of primary schools in every habitation across the country is driven by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), now subsumed under the Samagra Shiksha Scheme and other important efforts across the States which has helped to ensure near universal access to primary schools, it has also led to the development of numerous very small schools.
    • These small school sizes have rendered it economically suboptimal and operationally complex to run good schools, in terms of deployment of teachers as well as the provision of critical physical resources. The isolation of small schools also has a negative effect on education and the teaching-learning process.
    • One possible mechanism for accomplishing the above would be the establishment of a grouping structure called the school complex, consisting of one secondary school together with all other schools offering lower grades in its neighborhood including Anganwadis, in a radius of five to ten kilometers. This suggestion was first made by the Education Commission (1964–66) but was left unimplemented. This Policy strongly endorses the idea of the school complex/cluster, wherever possible. The aim of the school complex/cluster will be greater resource efficiency and more effective functioning, coordination, leadership, governance, and management of schools in the cluster.

    Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education

    • At present, all main functions of governance and regulation of the school education system namely, the provision of public education, the regulation of education institutions, and policymaking are handled by a single body, i.e., the Department of School Education or its arms. This leads to conflict of interests and excessive centralized concentration of power and it also leads to ineffective management of the school system, as efforts towards quality educational provision are often diluted by the focus on the other roles.

    • The key principles and recommendations of NEP regarding this are as follows:
    • The Department of School Education, which is the apex state-level body in school education, will be responsible for overall monitoring and policymaking for continual improvement of the public education system. It will not be involved with the provision and operation of schools or with the regulation of schools, in order to ensure due focus on the improvement of public schools and to eliminate conflict of interests.
    • The educational operations and service provision for the public schooling system of the whole State will be handled by the Directorate of School Education (including the offices of District Education Officer and Block Education Officer, etc.). It will work independently to implement policies regarding educational operations and provision.
    • An effective quality self-regulation or accreditation system will be instituted for all stages of education including pre-school education; private, public, and philanthropic, to ensure compliance with essential quality standards. To ensure that all schools follow certain minimal professional and quality standards, States/UTs will set up an independent, State-wide, body called the State School Standards Authority (SSSA). The SSSA will establish a minimal set of standards based on basic parameters (namely, safety, security, basic infrastructure, number of teachers across subjects and grades etc.) which shall be followed by all schools.


    • India will be promoted as a global study destination providing premium education at affordable costs thereby helping to restore its role as a Vishwa Guru. An International Students Office at each Higher Education Institution (HEI) hosting foreign students will be set up to coordinate all matters relating to welcoming and supporting students arriving from abroad.
    • Research/teaching collaborations and faculty/student exchanges with high-quality foreign institutions will be facilitated, and relevant mutually beneficial MOUs with foreign countries will be signed.
    • High performing Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses in other countries, and similarly, selected universities e.g., those from among 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. Furthermore, research collaboration and student exchanges between Indian institutions and global institutions will be promoted through special efforts.
    • Credits acquired in foreign universities will be permitted, where appropriate as per the requirements of each HEI, to be counted for the award of a degree.

    Catalyzing Quality Academic Research in All Fields through a new National Research Foundation

    • NEP envisions a comprehensive approach to transforming the quality and quantity of research in India. This includes definitive shifts in school education to a more play and discovery based style of learning with emphasis on the scientific method and critical thinking.
    • To build on these various elements in a synergistic manner, and to thereby truly grow and catalyze quality research in the nation, NEP envisions the establishment of a National Research Foundation (NRF). The overarching goal of the NRF will be to enable a culture of research to permeate through our universities. In particular, the NRF will provide a reliable base of merit-based but equitable peer-reviewed research funding, helping to develop a culture of research in the country through suitable incentives for and recognition of outstanding research, and by undertaking major initiatives to seed and grow research at State Universities and other public institutions where research capability is currently limited.
    • The NRF will competitively fund research in all disciplines. Successful research will be recognized, and where relevant, implemented through close linkages with governmental agencies as well as with industry and private/philanthropic organizations.

    Transforming the Regulatory System of Higher Education

    • The regulatory system of higher education will ensure that the distinct functions of regulation, accreditation, funding, and academic standard setting will be performed by distinct, independent, and empowered bodies. This is considered essential to create checks and balances in the system, minimize conflicts of interest, and eliminate concentrations of power.
    • The first vertical of HECI will be the National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC). It will function as the common, single point regulator for the higher education sector including teacher education and excluding medical and legal education, thus eliminating the duplication and disjunction of regulatory efforts by the multiple regulatory agencies that exist at the current time.
    • The second vertical of HECI will, therefore, be a 'meta-accrediting body', called the National Accreditation Council (NAC). Accreditation of institutions will be based primarily on basic norms, public self-disclosure, good governance, and outcomes, and it will be carried out by an independent ecosystem of accrediting institutions supervised and overseen by NAC.
    • The third vertical of HECI will be the Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC), which will carry out funding and financing of higher education based on transparent criteria. HEGC will be entrusted with the disbursement of scholarships and developmental funds for launching new focus areas and expanding quality programme offerings at HEIs across disciplines and fields.
    • The fourth vertical of HECI will be the General Education Council (GEC), which will frame expected learning outcomes for higher education programmes, also referred to as 'graduate attributes'. A National Higher Education Qualification Framework (NHEQF) will be formulated by the GEC and it shall be in sync with the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) to ease the integration of vocational education into higher education.
    • The functioning of all the independent verticals for Regulation (NHERC), Accreditation (NAC), Funding (HEGC), and Academic Standard Setting (GEC) and the overarching autonomous umbrella body (HECI) itself will be based on transparent public disclosure, and use technology extensively to reduce human interface to ensure efficiency and transparency in their work. The underlying principle will be that of a faceless and transparent regulatory intervention using technology.


    Promotion of Indian Languages, Arts, and Culture

    • India will also expand its translation and interpretation efforts in order to make high quality learning materials and other important written and spoken material available to the public in various Indian and foreign languages.
    • For this, an Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI) will be established. Such an institute would provide a truly important service for the country, as well as employ numerous multilingual language and subject experts, and experts in translation and interpretation, which will help to promote all Indian languages. The IITI shall also make extensive use of technology to aid in its translation and interpretation efforts.

    Technology Use and Integration

    • While education will play a critical role in transformation, technology will play an important role in the improvement of educational processes and outcomes and thus, the relationship between technology and education at all levels is bidirectional.
    • Use and integration of technology to improve multiple aspects of education will be supported and adopted, provided these interventions are rigorously and transparently evaluated in relevant contexts before they are scaled up. An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration, and so on, both for school and higher education.


    India has faced unprecedented challenges in providing quality education to children and the youth. Lack of resources and capacity and a persistent mismatch between the knowledge and skills imparted and the jobs available have been some of the challenges that have bedeviled our efforts since Independence. The NEP is a step in the right direction, signalling the 'new normal' in education with its focus on critical thinking, experiential learning, interactive classrooms, integrated pedagogy and competency-based education. NEP has also addressed the issue of creative thinking, design thinking, logical decision making and innovation which was long overdue.

    NEP is futuristic and bold, and at the same time practical, considering the needs of the time. The NEP, if implemented in its true vision, will promote flexibility in the choice of courses for the students. Further, the NEP will also permit switchover to a different course, or to a different degree / diploma programs. Such a flexible approach will ensure that the right students embark on right educational programs to promote optimal national productivity.

    NEP has encouragingly provisioned for real-time evaluation systems and a consultative monitoring framework. This shall enable the education system to constantly reform itself, instead of waiting for a new education policy every decade or so, for a shift in curriculum. This, in itself, will be a remarkable achievement. The NEP also aims to facilitate an inclusive, participatory and holistic approach. It is a progressive shift towards a more scientific approach to education.

    It is observed that the possible challenge(s) with the NEP are (i) the availability of skilled human resource and the transition time and (ii) since NEP leans much more towards the enabling aspect of technology, without fully dwelling on the need for building the capabilities required for engaging meaningfully with it, a lot will depend on how it is implemented.

    Through a robust education system, leveraging the full potential of its demographic dividend, India has taken a giant leap towards establishing itself as a knowledge superpower. As with every policy, the real test of NEP will be translating it to action. Backed by expeditious and effective implementation in sync with its spirit, NEP could shape the lives of our future generations.

    Mr. Sanjay Mehta is Partner & Ms. Lakshmi Gnana Tejaswi is an Associate at Surana & Surana International Attorneys . Views are personal.

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