National Education Policy and Higher education in India

The wrap up on NEP is at best, the NEP 2020 is a collection of some cleverly stated measures, several feel-good intents, and a few broad-brush strokes of ideas underlying potential policies, along with selective sprinkling of a few logistical details.

India is close to achieving ‘schooling for all’. Now is the time to make ‘learning for all’ a national priority more so in higher education. We may need another NEP for degrees for all!

New Education Policy 2020 in India is the third NEPThe two earlier education policies were brought in 1968 and 1986.

The Union Cabinet approved the National Education Policy in July 2020. This policy visualizes sweeping changes to the education policy of the country.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development will become the Education Ministry — indeed a big deal! This is supposed to make sweeping changes! God bless!

Its aims at making “India a global knowledge superpower”.

NEP 2020 is the 21st Century’s first education policy in India.

The incumbent government has set a target of 2040 to implement the entire policy. COVID 19 has inflicted a serious body blow to its implementation.

Now it is urge for creativity!

Today’s generation is ready to learn how to learn. In 2021 we’ve seen the concept of personalization in every aspect of human life. Creativity is contagious! So it is ‘Creative Thinking’, ‘Innovative Learning’ and ‘Experience!

The world ahead will be very different from the world we lived in. In this fast-changing and dynamic world, academic institutions must help students focus on 4Cs–Continuous Learning, Collaboration, Communication and Commerce — true multidisciplinary education.

Major corporations like Google, Microsoft and Tesla aren’t keen on your degrees. What’s important for them is,

Have you learnt?

Have you practiced?

Can you solve problems?

We are breaking the traditional ways of education and starting to learn what we want in a way we want to. The roles of a teacher and student are changing.

They learn from podcasts, internet, YouTube and journals! Nobody cares about which country or university you come from.

What matters is the value that you can bring to the table.

The business and user impact you can create will only matter.

The system of education in India for a long time now, has been less about skill education and more about Rote learning and training.

The focus on educating and building your character has moved to the back burner.

The NEP 2020 has tried to make amends to that. The learners will now get a chance to understand their choices and build them.

NEP helps to become what they are good at.

Rather than becoming a part of the crowd, NEP helps them stand out from the crowd.

What is the vision of this policy?

‘This National Education Policy envisions an education system rooted in Indian ethos that contributes directly to transforming India that is Bharat…’ that means building India’s education policy based on Indian customs, rites, rituals and thought.

The needs of higher education cannot be met by the Government alone. It needs the

participation of the Government, the private providers and perhaps selectively participation of

foreign universities. We have to free ourselves from the mindset and take a realistic attitude,

taking into consideration the fact that a major revolution is taking place in higher education in

the world. We have to take certain steps for improvement of our higher education syste

The needs of higher education cannot be met by the Government alone. It needs the

participation of the Government, the private providers and perhaps selectively participation of

foreign universities. We have to free ourselves from the mindset and take a realistic attitude,

taking into consideration the fact that a major revolution is taking place in higher education in

the world. We have to take certain steps for improvement of our higher education syste

India has over 1000 universities and 52,627 colleges and 30 crore graduates- MHRD in 2020.

A University stands for Humanism, for Tolerance, for Reason, for the adventure of Ideas and for the search of Truth. Higher education in India has failed. Overhauling the system can salvage it. NEP is an attempt at the salvation!

The global pandemic is breaking the boundary between static university learning and the fluidity of the world of online learning.

We are teachers. What drives us is the desire to see our students grow, to rise into their best, to achieve a sense of their capacity to enter the world as agents of thoughtful, ethical, meaningful change. And with that in mind — Yes Perhaps there’s something of a silver lining here.

If you are rich, the degree is optional. If you are not it is essential.

Now Why a new education policy?

NEP vision is to improve education for nearly 300 million students in the country through a host of reforms, from first play school to an ambitious master’s degree considering a Ph. D. program. The Indian education system has been functioning on a traditional approach for more than three decades. Hence the need for reforms to move into 21st century global education mode.

English as a Medium Instruction

English as a medium of instruction is a growing global phenomenon

In universities, secondary schools and even primary schools. Parents are taking their wards out of government schools to English medium private schools paying a higher fees as majority of the govt schools do not teach in English medium!

However the implications of this growing trend remains severely under-researched. EMI is booming because “internationalization of higher education remains a priority for universities worldwide, and movements are inextricably linked with increasing the role of English in the university setting!

In higher education, the move towards teaching in English has to start at grass root level. Most academic research is published in English — 94 per cent of research in international, high-impact publications are in English — it makes sense for them to learn in English.

Many argue that a student should be taught in his mother tongue for better grasp! Yes, at primary level with a gradual transition at the secondary level and to teaching fully in English at higher education level.

EMI is a rapidly growing trend even in countries like japan and china. In Japan, 25% of higher education institutions offer undergraduate EMI, and there have been many government initiatives encouraging universities to increase the number of programs taught in English.

English as a medium of instruction in government-run schools is the need of the hour. Imposing regional languages in government schools while letting private schools teach in English is bizarre. The idea of teaching courses in regional languages when it comes to technical education is absurd. It does more harm than good to students.

Our educational system has been structured in a manner that fails to parallel the flux and flow of life after graduation. Students choose majors formed around 10 to 15 carefully constructed courses. Their Parents had taken the same courses.

Inclusion, Equity

Of the many things that have captured public attention is the idea of inclusion and equity. In all education policies throughout the years, the idea of Inclusive Education has often revolved around making education accessible and available for all.

NEP 2020 has set itself a tall task of increasing the GER in higher education from the current 26.3% to 50% by 2035.

The setting up of Higher Education Commission of India for entire higher education is a major policy decision and indeed the need of the hour. This excludes medical and legal studies. The commission will replace all other regulatory bodies like the University Grants Commission or the All India Council for Technical Education.

NEP is long on Rhetoric and Short on Substance!

Although the new policy aims at making progressive changes in the Indian education system, much of the current vision has already been included in previous NEPs and other documents. But a clear plan to execute the vision had always been missing. The 2020 policy is no exception.

The NEP 2020 says that the central and state governments will strive to increase expenditure on education sector to reach 6% of the GDP. This has been the stated goal since the 1960s since the Kothari Commission’s report, but is yet to be achieved.

Moreover, the governments have been cutting the funding for education constantly- since May 2014, expenditure to GDP ratio has been falling –

· In 2012–13, education expenditure was 3.1% of the GDP.

· in 2014–15 to 2.8% and

· in 2015–16 to 2.4%

While speaking about 6% funding, the Union government doesn’t mention whether it will release the funds from its own pocket or generate it from private enterprises.

NEP has proposed a four-year undergraduate program. A similar experiment in Delhi University failed miserably a few years ago. The DU was forced to withdraw the course lock stock and barrel!

I as VC of Bangalore University had started the 4 year BS course in Bangalore University in 2011 but without an exit policy at intervals. It was a failure!

2020 the worst year- perhaps!

January 2020 we all hoped, marked the beginning of a brand new decade that we looked at with optimism hoping to be the beast year of the new decade. But the months that went by were horrible. I kept wondering if the year could get any worse!

We had just finished wishing a happy new year to near and dear ones. Trump came and left. We had a sneak peek of fear in the first quarter itself. In the month of January, we started hearing of a certain virus from China that was wreaking havoc in Wuhan china.. Then came March 24 when the government said lock your doors, stay indoors, you’re under lockdown!

A virus unknown and invisible to the world a few months back brought the world to its knees — without anyone immune, no treatments, no vaccines, high transmission rates, long incubation period and high asymptomatic cases. Add politics and misinformation and we had chaos on hand.

COVID Impact on Higher education!

UNESCO data showed that over 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries were out of school. Over 100 million teachers and school personnel were impacted by the sudden closures of learning institutions. Today, half of the world’s student population (more than 800 million learners) is still affected by full or partial school closures.

What are the Disruptions?

· More Indian students will stay home in India and not go abroad 56% drop in the demand for visas

· The economy has taken a severe hit, and its ripples are being felt in the education sector

· New trends in teaching & learning will emerge- Digital learning is leading the charge

What will the future of higher education look like?

Education is no longer just about putting pen to paper and memorizing facts. Today, innovations in higher education are improving learning through technology — assisted teaching methods and blended learning models.

Blended learning also known as hybrid learning is a method of teaching that integrates technology and digital media with traditional instructor-led classroom activities, giving students more flexibility to customize their learning experiences.

It has the potential to optimize outcomes for individual students in ways that traditional instruction can’t. Using multiple modalities dramatically reinforces engagement, learning and retention. Blended learning is modular and scalable.

Teachers can deliver core instruction in a blended format through the creation of engaging instructional videos, and students can apply their thinking in meaningful ways through the creation of sharable video created products.

One generation has been locked in the house for the last one and a half years. This is having a negative effect on the mind and body of the students. When the situation becomes normal then it will be challenging to work on the quality of education delivery and outcomes!

There’s no blueprint for future higher education success amidst the pandemic. The future is unpredictable! But how the pandemic plays out will continue to shape the way universities function.

Did we all ever imagine that after the passing of 2019- the year 2020 was going to change the prediction of the past hundred years!

But the reality is that online education is a compulsion of the Corona Pandemic. It has been and still miles away from traditional education in terms of quality.

The 484-page long National Education Policy!

As is expected with wordy policy documents, it can be safely assumed that the 484-page long National Education Policy has not been read and absorbed, whether the gist or in its entirety, even by our government’s bureaucrats.

Since it has been read by few but is being discussed by all — it has been one year since it was promulgated — it is time to look at its progress and the reason for its slow implementation. Too much is at stake and there is so much to be done in the NEP.

· COVID 19 and post COVID effects have derailed implementation of NEP to a large extent.

· With the NEP- this initial set back becomes more important as it involves merging or dismantling old academic and regulatory systems and creating new ones at both the state and central level.

· System resists changes. Incumbent administrators are resistant to change! Much of the administrative leadership is comfortable with the status quo.

· Only individuals with the requisite skills, commitment and authority will be able to implement.

· The entry of private players is frowned upon by regulators; as a result, innovative Ed-Tech players like to remain outside the purview of regulatory and academic controls.

· A rule-based transparent regulatory system is proposed under NEP but is being opposed by the incumbents.

Revamp the higher education system so that it walks on the two legs of Access and Excellence.

On one hand, we need a massive expansion of higher education opportunities. Through this, we can expand access to knowledge to all classes of society and to all regions of the country.

On the other hand, we need to upgrade the quality of the higher education so that they work on the frontiers of knowledge, harnessing its immense capabilities for our societal benefit. The higher education system must grow on these two pillars if it is to fulfill its role in nation building.

Universities must reinvent themselves!

· Higher education will never be the same again!

· Rethink on budgets!

· Rethink on Platforms for education delivery.

· Rethink on Curriculum.

· Rethink on value additions in terms of short term skill oriented certificate courses.

Universities should ensure that — a candidate will need to be well versed in the following three buckets:

· Cognitive Ability Skills: This constitutes Analytical Reasoning, and Quantitative Ability skills.

· Computer Fundamentals: The world of work today is digital. Students and Employees must, therefore be adept at basic computer fundamentals and at coding.

· Core Domain Skills: Domain knowledge and expertise is a pre-requisite to be able to perform the job well.

Introduce mathematics for all streams!

Not many people like the subject!

Today, we live in an invisible universe of mathematics. The fuel we burn to drive the information age is mathematics. Mathematics is used in modern communications, transport, medicine, entertainment, sport, financial trading, science, engineering, and many other areas of life.

successful use of today’s computational aids require far greater mathematical skills, and much more mathematical insight, than we old timers had to master to get our sums right.

National Education Policy — Key Points

· Private and public higher education institutes will be governed by the same rules for academic standards, regulation and accreditation.

· Be reformed to shift emphasis from rote learning to critical cognitive thinking and experiential learning.

· The exams may become modular and be offered twice a year as objective and subjective exams.

Introduction of multiple entry and exits points for graduate courses

· Bachelor’s undergraduate programs will now be 4-year programs.

· Students who exit after 1 year will get a certificate,

· Those who leave after 2 years will get a diploma and

· Those who complete 3 years will get a bachelor’s degree.

· Students completing the 4-year undergraduate course will be positioned with the knowledge needed to enter research degree programs directly.

No rigid definition of streams

The NEP blurs the line defining streams such as Arts, Commerce, science, etc. Vocational streams will be given as much importance as academic streams.

Higher educational institutes will move towards becoming multidisciplinary to give students an all-round education. The system of affiliated colleges will also be phased out in the next 15 years. Universities will have a common entrance exam.

Opening up higher education to international players

According to the NEP, some of the top 100 universities in the world will be allowed to set up campuses in India. Currently, foreign universities can only share faculty with partnering institutes in India and participate in collaborative twinning programs. Similarly, Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses abroad.

Academic Bank of Credits system to be set up for undergraduate and graduate students

· Academic Bank of Credit referred to as ABC is a virtual storehouse that will keep records of academic credits secured by a student.

· Students will have to open an Academic Bank Account and every account holder would be provided with a unique id and Standard Operating Procedure.

· The academic accounts of students will have credits awarded by higher education Institutes to students for the courses they are pursuing.

· ABC will not accept any credit course document directly from the students, and its institutes that will make the deposits in students’ accounts.

· ABC will be responsible for opening, closing, and validating the academic accounts of students.

· It will also perform tasks including credit verification, credit accumulation, credit transfer/redemption of students, and promotion of the ABC among the stakeholders.

· The validity of these academic credits earned by students will be up to seven years. Students can redeem these credits.

•The validity of these academic credits earned by students will be up to seven years. The validity can also vary based on the subject or discipline. Students can redeem these credits.

NEP Promotes Indian ethos and mind set

An education system rooted in Indian ethos that contributes directly to transforming urban India and rural Bharat, sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge societies, by providing high-quality education to all, and thereby making India a global knowledge superpower.

NEP ensures institutional Restructuring and Redefining!

By 2040, all higher education institutions shall aim to become multidisciplinary institutions, each of which will aim to have 3,000 or more students.

There shall, by 2030, be at least one large multidisciplinary HEI in or near every district.

The aim will be to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education from 26.3% to 50% by 2035.

The definition of university will thus allow a spectrum of institutions that range from those that place equal emphasis on teaching and research i.e., Research-intensive Universities.

Those that place greater emphasis on teaching but still conduct significant research -Teaching-intensive Universities. The bifurcation of universities into teaching incentive and Research intensive universities is absurd!

A stage-wise mechanism for granting graded autonomy to colleges, through a transparent system of graded accreditation, will be established.


The track record of foreign investments in educational programs over the last ten years has not been impressive. Most programs have been offered by second and third tier institutions, not the top institutions of their countries.

In many cases, the programs available in India are not even accredited in the host countries.

Singapore allows only world-class institutions to enter, and that only when they bring their own money. For instance the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a leading technical institution in the US, has a collaboration with the National University of Singapore.

Effective governance and leadership in university institutions

1. Through a suitable system of graded accreditation and graded autonomy, and in a phased manner over a period of 15 years, all HEIs in India will aim to become independent selfgoverning institutions pursuing innovation and excellence.

2. Upon receiving the appropriate graded accreditations that deem the institution ready for such a move, a Board of Governors shall be established. Equity considerations will also be taken care of while selecting the members.

3. The Board of Governors of an institution will be empowered to govern the institution free of any external interference.

Teacher reforms and education

Teachers will be recruited through a robust, transparent processes. Promotions will be merit-based, and a mechanism for multi-source periodic performance appraisals will be put in place. Progression paths to become educational administrators or teacher educators will be available for the teachers.

A common National Professional Standards for Teachers will be developed by 2022, by the National Council for Teacher Education in consultation with experts in vocational education.

The 4-year integrated stage-specific, subject- specific Bachelor of Education offered at multidisciplinary institutions would be the way forward. A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT.

National Research Foundation

A new entity will be set up to catalyze and expand research and innovation across the country. The overarching goal of the NRF will be to enable a culture of research to permeate through our universities through suitable incentives for and recognition of outstanding research. The NRF will competitively fund research in all disciplines.


Higher education is a high stakes issue in India. It is subject to heavy government involvement. Also, many prominent political figures either own or sit on the managerial board of the Universities. This leads to the exertion of intense political pressures on the administration of these institutions.

Caste based reservations make Indian higher education an even more contested topic. This effectively reduces the race for quality education at quality institutions. Rampant student activists are, apart from this political organization of academic staff are widespread to protect their own interests.

Way forward is to

Creating awareness among all stakeholders

Building consensus among institutions

Develop mechanisms to implement NEP

Deliberate, debate and discuss the NEP

Create a Vice-Chancellors’ Working Group for implementation of NEP

The current education system is a hangover of the British and Industrial age. The change in mindset will involve two or more generation of parents, teachers, grandparents and educators. A STEM education focused generation has to give way to the NEP. The corporate world also will need to align this and change its recruitment and grooming policies. There will be several challenges in changing this mindset. However, it can be done with lot of soft power play by the government.

NEP offers Choice, Chance, and Change, but we have to wait for things to unfold and see how it gets implemented.

Former director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology, Former VC of Bangalore University and former chairman of the Karnataka State Health Commission