DRAFT NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL POLICY : Features and detailed Analysis

DRAFT NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL POLICY : Features and detailed Analysis

Kamaraj IAS Academy | DRAFT NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL POLICY : Features and detailed Analysis
  • July 24, 2019, 12:25 pm

Draft National Education Policy, 2019


Draft National Education Policy - DNEP 2019: The last National Education Policy (NEP) was released in 1986 and modified in 1992. Since then major changes have been observed in the world and in our country and the education policy needed to be modified as per the current scenario. In order to make changes and implement new policy from primary, secondary & higher education, a committee was set up (June 2017) to prepare a draft of a new National Education Policy, under the chairmanship of Dr Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan. .Here you will also learn about the changes suggested by the committee regarding primary, secondary and higher education.


Some important features, recommendations & suggestions from Draft National Education Policy 2019:


  • The Draft National Education Policy, 2019 is built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability

  • Renaming of MHRD as Ministry of Education (MoE)

  • Free and compulsory education from preschool to 12th

  • A major reconfiguration of curricular and pedagogical structure with Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) as an integral part of school education is proposed.

  • Extension of Right to Education Act 2009 to cover children of ages 3 to 18. 

  • A 5+3+3+4 curricular and pedagogical structure based on cognitive and socio-emotional developmental stages of children:
  1. Foundational Stage (age 3-8 yrs): 3 years of pre-primary plus Grades 1-2;

  2. Preparatory Stage (8-11 years): Grades 3-5;

  3. Middle Stage (11-14 years): Grades 6-8; and

  4. Secondary Stage (14-18 years): Grades 9-12.


  •  Schools will be re-organized 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 extracurricular areas and all subjects, including arts, music, crafts, sports, yoga, community service, etc. will be curricular. It promotes active pedagogy that will focus on the development of core capacities: and 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/education programmes into large multidisciplinary universities/colleges.

  • The 4-year integrated stage-specific B.Ed. the programme will eventually be the minimum degree qualification for teachers.

  • In higher education, a restructuring of higher education institutions with three types of higher education institutions is proposed-

Type 1: Focused on world-class research and high-quality teaching;

Type 2: Focused on high-quality teaching across disciplines with significant contribution to research;

Type 3: High-quality teaching focused on undergraduate education.

This will be driven by two Missions -Mission Nalanda & Mission Takshashila.

  • There will be re-structuring of Undergraduate programs (e.g. BSc, BA, BCom, BVoc) of 3 or 4 years duration and having multiple exits and entry options.

  • 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 States.

  • 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: the 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).

  • The private and public institutions will be treated on par and education will remain a ‘not for profit’ activity. 

  • Several new policy initiatives for promoting the internationalization 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 underrepresented groups, and eliminate gender, social category and regional gaps in education

  • 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) has been recommended. 

  • The path-breaking reforms recommended will bring about a paradigm shift by equipping our students, teachers and educational institutions with the right competencies and capabilities and also create an enabling and reinvigorated educational eco-system for a vibrant new India


The Positives:

1. Emphasis on Research and the National Research Foundation (NRF): The emphasis on research and the recommendation to create an autonomous NRF is an excellent one. If India has to become a highly innovative society, it has to be fuelled by research. As the policy says, we currently invest 0.69% of GDP on research as against 2-4% in China, the US, Israel and South Korea. An annual grant of Rs. 20,000 crores is proposed (hopefully exclusive of the current annual spend on the IITs, IIMs, UGC, etc. which is around Rs. 13,000 crores – this is not clear) for the NRF. 

The policy states that intellectual property stays with the researchers – a welcome step. Over the years, America’s National Science Foundation has driven high-quality research in that country and NRF can do that for India. The link to school education is clear as we have always seen rote learning in schools and lack of research in universities as two sides of the same coin – each the cause and effect of the other. The proposal to place teacher education within the higher education system is also welcome. 

Educational research – including into how students learn different concepts and the misconceptions they have (what we at EI refer to as the ‘Science of Learning’) – will definitely get a huge fillip if these are implemented. 


2. Emphasis on Foundational Learning: The second, equally important positive, is the emphasis for the first time in an Indian policy document, on Foundational Learning. We all know about the learning crisis that exists in India and it is acknowledged multiple times in the policy. A lot of this learning crisis can be attributed to children not learning to read fluently by grades 2/3 and not learning fluent arithmetic operations by grade 4/5. 

For us as a country today, focussing on foundational learning is key. As we see for other aspects of the policy, there are many issues with the details discussed Foundational Learning. The emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is welcome, but to further address the foundational learning crisis, we believe the need is to research reading and arithmetic gaps and their causes especially in the students from the lower socio-economic strata.

This research and learning data must be used to train teachers to help students for the lowest socio-economic backgrounds who usually tend to be first-generation learners as well. Monitoring our progress on students’ foundational skills through sample assessments and closing this gap within 5 years should be a national priority and is doable.


3. The policy candidly acknowledges some important problems in the Indian education system: In acknowledging problems, the policy does not mince words. It says ‘we have been almost fatally slow in the adoption of technology to improve the quality of education’, and ‘salary, promotion, career management, and leadership positions in the school system and beyond tend not to have any formal merit-based structures, but rather are based on lobbying, luck, or seniority’ and further ‘the teacher education sector has been beleaguered with mediocrity as well as rampant corruption.’


4. Commitment to public education, investment in education and religious and other equity unequivocally re-affirmed: The draft policy re-affirms each of these and that is welcome. Only well- funded, public education can ensure that the quality of education a child receives is not dependent on her parental income and we need to strive towards that goal. The policy makes these arguments well. The commitment that education should be a tool to reduce inequity in society is also well- made. India can never achieve greatness if stark divides that exist today continue in society.


The Negatives:

1. Many of the biggest challenges facing Indian education are not addressed: We discuss 6 large challenges below.

a. The Learning Crisis: The learning crisis is acknowledged in the draft policy multiple times but neither the causes nor the specific solutions are discussed. The term rote learning is used but it is not clear what the authors mean. It says on page 76, “Learning will .. move away from rote memorization; if and when rote learning is used, it will always be pre-accompanied by context and motivation, and post-accompanied by analysis, discussion, and application.”

Firstly, there is no discussion of how this will be achieved – a diktat will certainly not be enough. Secondly, it seems that memorisation (which is required) is being confused with rote learning (which is learning something mechanically or by memory without understanding it). The two are distinct and we believe that there is no situation where rote learning is good, while memorization is a powerful tool in many situations.

The policy does not try to examine why rote learning is so widespread in our system. We see rote learning in our classrooms as a simple consequence of exams expecting recall of textbook facts and procedures and not understanding. This is not something individual teachers choose but the way Exam Boards set exams year after year (and to that extent, is possible to address if there is a commitment to change this.) The policy says that Board Exams will be made ‘modular’ and ‘restructured to test only core concepts, principles, critical thinking, and other higher-order skills in each subject.’ Though positive, this sounds a little vague and jargonish. There is a need to change the type of questions that are asked in our exams and to mention this explicitly. The policy acknowledges this but does not discuss the causes for this except to suggest that there is ‘too little curricular emphasis on foundational literacy and numeracy. There is a need for research on teaching reading and numeracy to children from poorer backgrounds and training teachers on techniques that work with these children. There is also a need to have national and state goals like ‘every child reading by grade 2’, for example, which should ideally be a part of a National Education Policy.


PISA is an international assessment that provides cross-national learning benchmarks and helps nations improve their learning levels. India has decided to participate in PISA in 2021 and 2024. (The last time we participated in PISA in 2009-10, we stood 73 rd out of 74 countries). Many countries set goals that they will figure in the top ‘n’ countries in assessments like these within a certain number of years. The policy should clarify if India accepts these international benchmarking results and will strive to improve its PISA ranking. 


b. The crisis of capacity in our system: Many long term educational observers believe that there is a root cause which explains why many of the educational initiatives undertaken in our system fail or do not produce all the benefits that were hoped for. That reason is a severe shortage of capacity – well-trained individuals and institutions that can implement initiatives, do research to know whether an initiative is working and build a body of knowledge about the same. Capacity includes both administrative capacity and educational capacity. 


c. Private Schooling, fee regulation and medium of instruction: While the policy is quite explicit in its denouncement of for-profit schools, it almost ignores the issue of private schools which educate about 40% of our children according to estimates. A related issue is fee regulation. The policy mentions that private schools should have the right to fix their own fees but not to increase them arbitrarily. But many states now have stringent rules limiting private school fees.


The medium of instruction and 3 languages formula:

A related issue is that of the medium of instruction. The policy reiterates the 3 language formula but does not talk about the craze for English-medium we are seeing in society. Issues like these are huge in India today. The exodus from government schools to private is partly due to the demand for English medium education. This is forcing many state governments to open new English medium schools or convert existing ones to English medium. The policy document should take a clearer stand on this.


d. Use EdTech effectively for maximum impact: The policy mentions India’s unique leadership in the IT space. There are few steps in the policy to mandate a push towards greater technology use in education. Technology in schools should be seen as a key part of Digital India. Today, for example, most competitive exams in India have moved to computer-based testing, but assessments at the school level (including Board Exams) continue to be pen-and-paper. The policy could have mandated a time-frame to move assessments to computer-based testing.

Both at the national and state level, various educational software could be empanelled or rated by an independent committee. Capacity to do impact assessment needs to be built at a national level.


The policy does recommend setting up a National Educational Technology Forum, “an autonomous body … to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to improve learning, assessment, planning, administration, and so on.” It seemed vague but could become a powerful idea if its role and strategies could be more clearly defined.


e. Compulsory Education: The policy seems to reaffirm its commitment to compulsory education. However, it is not clear if it means compulsory education the way it is normally meant (“…a period of education that is required of all people and is imposed by government…. Involving both the duty imposed upon parents by law to see that their children receive instruction, and the prerogative of every child to be educated 1 .”) or the, frankly absurd, alternative definition mentioned in the RTE Act of 2009 (“compulsory education means the obligation of the appropriate government to provide free elementary education…”). Most countries have recognised that sending a child to school cannot be a CHOICE that parents make. In India, including in this new draft policy, we keep that choice intact while still using the word ‘compulsory’.


f. AI as a national priority: Just as India strove to achieve leadership in some high technology areas like space and software, it has the opportunity to do so in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is not just another sector but can fundamentally change a society’s competitiveness and levels of prosperity. We have the human resources needed to become a world leader, but do not, as yet, have the educational system it needs. But this should be one of the key focus areas as it can be a force multiplier in our education reform efforts while paying off rich dividends for industry and the economy as well. Though AI is mentioned in the policy, it is mentioned only as a sector and not as a strategic priority area it can be.

3. Many of the suggestions seem unrealistic or mere platitudes or made without a full understanding of the issues and challenges involved. The mismatch between the challenges and some of the solutions proposed are striking.


Analysis and Opinion


A new apex body for education—the Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog

A new apex body, designated as the RSA/NEC, will be constituted. The RSA will be responsible for developing, articulating, implementing, evaluating, and revising the vision of education in the country on a continuous and sustained basis. It will also create and oversee the institutional frameworks that will help achieve this vision. 

Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog Appointment Committee: an RSA Appointment Committee (RSAAC), consisting of the PM, the Chief Justice of India, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the leader of the opposition in Parliament, and the UME [Union Minister for Education], will be constituted to enable the appointments to the RSA and to other key related roles and structures.

Rajya Shiksha Aayogs/State Education Commissions: Similar to the RSA, a RjSA/State Education Commission (SEC) may be constituted in each State, chaired by the Chief Minister with the Minister of education, nominated by the chair, as vice-chair. The respective SECs can have as its members the ministers of education, ministers of other stakeholder ministries related to education, eminent educationists and professionals, and a senior representative from the RSA. The creation of SECs in the States will facilitate better coordination with the centre.

The reduced role of the state

The draft proposes a comprehensive disempowerment of the states in the sphere of education. With an education in the concurrent list, the present rights of the states under the Constitution are eliminated and they are reduced to mere coordination with the centre and implementation of policies decided by it. At the centre, also, all effective powers are concentrated in the hands of the five-member RSAAC, with majority ensured to the ruling party.

This Raises the question : Were they not aware of the essential and close connection between education quality and academic independence?

Education of “good quality” for all child citizens between the ages of six and 14 years is a fundamental right mandated by Section 8 of the RTE Act. What is “education of good quality” is also defined clearly in NCF 2005, which has been notified under Section 7 of the RTE Act. “Equality of outcomes” of the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 is sought to be replaced by mere “access and participation” in DNEP 2019.

What DNEP 2019 proposes is, therefore, a dilution of the NCF 2005 and the abandonment of this perspective on quality for equality. Whether this is merely due to the insufficient study of the NCF 2005 by the committee members, or whether it is a deliberate decision taken after due study of the NCF 2005, is an important but open question about which we will not speculate here.


Quality of Education:

Another major concern is that quality school education has still not reached a large section of our population. There is no doubt about some “islands” of excellence, but the large majority of marginalised groups such as girls, socio-economically disadvantaged children, etc, do not get meaningful learning experiences in school, which will give them a sense of dignity and confidence. 

Curriculum design must reflect the commitment to Universal Elementary Education (UEE), not only in representing cultural diversity but also by ensuring that children from different social and economic backgrounds with variations in physical, psychological and intellectual characteristics are able to learn and achieve success in school. In this context, disadvantages in education arising from inequalities of gender, caste, language, culture or religion need to be addressed directly, not only through policies and schemes but also through the design and selection of learning tasks and pedagogic practices, right from the period of early childhood. Education must empower them to overcome the disadvantages of unequal socialisation and enable them to develop their capabilities of becoming autonomous and equal citizens.

It is not only the word “Universalisation” that goes missing in the document. Several other missing concerns speak loudly about the real concerns of the DNEP 2019 and constitute a fourth fundamental flaw.


Disconnect to real world

A real disconnect between education and the problem of employment is apparent. Unemployment is mentioned only once. There is no mention of job loss, jobless growth, employment generation, economic viability, cooperatives, industrial workers, industrial workforce. “Farmers” are mentioned only twice. The document has also comprehensively ignored major sectors that are driving the Indian economy today


How serious is the intention of the present government to include everyone in the discussion on the new education policy is evident in the fact that DNEP 2019 has been published only in English and Hindi? Though there are a few welcome recommendations and aspects, like those for Early Childhood Children Education, upgrading the mid-day meal scheme, and a section on scientific temper, the bulk of the DNEP is just a shabby political document.



The flaws in the DNEP are so fundamental and basic, that the document cannot be rectified by redrafting. It should be withdrawn in the interests of Indian education. After withdrawing the DNEP 2019, there need not be a long wait until another draft policy is produced. The unfinished tasks and the quality mandate of the RTE 2009 and NCF 2005 can well be taken forward on the basis of the excellent comprehensive Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Quality Framework document “Framework for Implementation,” published by the MHRD in 2011