National Education Policy 2020 Explained

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Context: Cabinet has recently approved National Education Policy 2020, paving way for transformational reforms in school and higher education systems in the country. Consequently, the Human Resource Development Ministry has been renamed as the Ministry of Education.


  • Current events of national and international importance.
  • Indian Polity and Governance– Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.

Mains: GS II- Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Concerned Ministry: Ministry of Education.


Key Highlights
  • New Policy aims for Universalization of Education from pre-school to secondary level with 100 % GER in school education by 2030 (SDG 4).
  • NEP 2020 will bring 2 crores out of school children back into the mainstream.
  • New 5+3+3+4 school curriculum with 12 years of schooling and 3 years of Anganwadi/ Pre-schooling.
  • Emphasis on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy, no rigid separation between academic streams, extracurricular, vocational streams in schools.
  • Vocational Education to start from Class 6 with Internships.
  • Teaching up to at least Grade 5 to be in mother tongue/ regional language.
  • Assessment reforms with 360-degree Holistic Progress Card, tracking Student Progress for achieving Learning Outcomes.
  • GER in higher education to be raised to 50 % by 2035;  3.5 crore seats to be added in higher education.
  • Higher Education curriculum to have Flexibility of Subjects.
  • Multiple Entry / Exit to be allowed with appropriate certification.
  • Academic Bank of Credits to be established to facilitate Transfer of Credits.
  • National Research Foundation to be established to foster a strong research culture.
  • Light but Tight Regulation of Higher Education, single regulator with four separate verticals for different functions.
  • Affiliation System to be phased out in 15 years with graded autonomy to colleges.
  • NEP 2020 advocates increased use of technology with equity; National Educational Technology Forum to be created.
  • NEP 2020 emphasizes setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund, Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups.
  • New Policy promotes Multilingualism in both schools and HEs; National Institute for Pali, Persian and Prakrit, Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation to be set up.
  • Indian Knowledge Systems, Languages, Culture and Values to be given focus.


National Education Policy- Introduction

  • This is the first education policy of the 21st century and replaces the thirty-four-year-old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986. 
  • Built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability, this policy is aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • Aim: It aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, suited to 21st century needs and aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student.
  • NEP 2020 has been formulated after an unprecedented process of consultation that involved nearly over 2 lakh suggestions from 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats, 6600 Blocks, 6000 ULBs, 676 Districts.
  • The MHRD initiated an unprecedented collaborative, inclusive, and highly participatory consultation process from January 2015.
  • In May 2016, ‘Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy’ under the Chairmanship of Late Shri T.S.R. Subramanian, Former Cabinet Secretary, submitted its report. 
  • Based on this, the Ministry prepared ‘Some Inputs for the Draft National Education Policy, 2016’.
  • In June 2017 a ‘Committee for the Draft National Education Policy’  was constituted under the Chairmanship of eminent Scientist Padma Vibhushan, Dr K. Kasturirangan, which submitted the Draft National Education Policy, 2019 to the Hon’ble Human Resource Development Minister on 31st May 2019. 
  • The Draft National Education Policy 2019  was uploaded on MHRD’s website and at ‘MyGov Innovate’ portal eliciting views/suggestions/comments of stakeholders, including the public.
  • NEP 2020 will become operational as soon as it is notified by the government.


Key Features of NEP 2020

School Education

Ensuring Universal Access at all levels of school education

  • NEP 2020 emphasizes on ensuring universal access to school education at all levels- preschool to secondary.
    1. Infrastructure support,
    2. innovative education centres to bring back dropouts into the mainstream,
    3. tracking of students and their learning levels,
    4. facilitating multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes,
    5. an association of counsellors or well-trained social workers with schools,
    6. open learning for classes 5 and 8 through NIOS and State Open Schools,
    7. secondary education programs equivalent to Grades 10 and 12,
    8. vocational courses,
    9. adult literacy and
    10. life-enrichment programs
      These are some of the proposed ways of achieving this.
  • About 2 crores out of school children will be brought back into the mainstream under NEP 2020.

Early Childhood Care & Education with  new Curricular and Pedagogical Structure

  • The new policy bats for extension of the right to education (RTE) Act to all schools- from pre-school to standard 12 instead of Class 1-8. 
  • With an emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education, the 10+2 structure of school curricula is to be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively. 
  • This will bring the hitherto uncovered age group of 3-6 years under the school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for the development of mental faculties of a child.
  • The new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/ pre-schooling.
  • While the actual system would not change, in terms of the years a child spends within the formal education system in the country at the school level, the new structure brings into the fold the already existing playschools within the ambit of ‘formal education’. 


  • NCERT will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8.
  • ECCE will be delivered through a significantly expanded and strengthened system of institutions including Anganwadis and pre-schools that will have teachers and Anganwadi workers trained in the ECCE pedagogy and curriculum.
  • The planning and implementation of ECCE will be carried out jointly by the Ministries of HRD, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs.

Attaining Foundational Literacy and Numeracy

  • Recognizing Foundational Literacy and Numeracy as an urgent and necessary prerequisite to learning, NEP 2020 calls for setting up of a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by MHRD.
  • All the State/UT governments will prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners by grade 3 by 2025.
  • A National Book Promotion Policy is to be formulated.

Reforms in school curricula and pedagogy

  • The school curricula and pedagogy will aim for the holistic development of learners by equipping them with
    1. key 21st-century skills,
    2. reduction in curricular content to enhance essential learning and critical thinking and
    3. greater focus on experiential learning.
  • Students will have increased flexibility and choice of subjects.
  • There will be no rigid separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams.
  • Coding to begin from Class 6. Music, Arts, Sports, would be at the same level.
  • Vocational education will start in schools from the 6th grade and will include internships.
  • Every Child will come out of School adept in at least one skill.
  • A new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be developed by the NCERT.

Multilingualism and the power of language

  • Provisions in the original draft
    • Language issues caused the most outrage at that time because the original draft had called for mandatory teaching of Hindi to all school students.
  • Greater flexibility in the new policy
    • However, the final policy document makes it clear that no language will be imposed on any State.
    • The three languages learned by children will be the choices of States, regions, and of also the students themselves, so long as at least two of the three languages are native to India.
  • Mother tongue
    • The policy has emphasized mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond.
  • Classical languages
    • Sanskrit to be offered at all levels of school and higher education as an option for students, including in the three-language formula.
    • Other classical languages and literature of India also to be available as options. No language will be imposed on any student.
    • Students to participate in a fun project/activity on ‘The Languages of India’, sometime in Grades 6-8, such as, under the ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ initiative.
  • Several foreign languages will also be offered at the secondary level.
  • Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardized across the country, and National and State curriculum materials developed, for use by students with hearing impairment.

Assessment Reforms

  • NEP 2020 envisages a shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment, which is
    1. more competency-based,
    2. promotes learning and development, and
    3. tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity.
  • All students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority.
  • Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued, but redesigned with holistic development as the aim
  • A new National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development),  will be set up as a standard-setting body.

Equitable and Inclusive Education

  • NEP 2020 aims to ensure that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of the circumstances of birth or background.
  • Special emphasis will be given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities and disabilities. 
  • This includes setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups.
  • Divyyang friendly education software to be launched.
  • Children with disabilities will be enabled to fully participate in the regular schooling process from the foundational stage to higher education, with support of
    • educators with cross-disability training,
    • resource centres,
    • accommodations,
    • assistive devices,
    • appropriate technology-based tools and
    • other support mechanisms tailored to suit their needs.
  • Every state/district will be encouraged to establish “Bal Bhavans” as a special daytime boarding school, to participate in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities.
  • Free school infrastructure can be used as Samajik Chetna Kendras.

Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path

  • Teachers will be recruited through robust, transparent processes.
  • Promotions will be merit-based, with a mechanism for multi-source periodic performance appraisals and available progression paths to becoming educational administrators or teacher educators.
  • A common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers and expert organizations from across levels and regions.

School Governance

Schools can be organized into complexes or clusters which will be the basic unit of governance and ensure availability of all resources including infrastructure, academic libraries and a strong professional teacher community.

Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education

  • NEP 2020 envisages clear, separate systems for policymaking, regulation, operations and academic matters.
  • States/UTs will set up an independent State School Standards Authority (SSSA).
  • Transparent public self-disclosure of all the basic regulatory information, as laid down by the SSSA, will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability.
  • The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) through consultations with all stakeholders.

Higher Education

Increase GER to 50 % by 2035

  • NEP 2020 aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035.
  • 3.5 Crore new seats will be added to Higher education institutions.

Holistic Multidisciplinary Education

  • The policy envisages broad-based, multi-disciplinary, holistic Under Graduate education with flexible curricula, creative combinations of subjects, integration of vocational education and multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification.
  • UG education can be of 3 or 4 years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period.
    • For example, Certificate after 1 year, Advanced Diploma after 2 years, Bachelor’s Degree after 3 years and Bachelor’s with Research after 4 years.
    •  The 4-year multidisciplinary Bachelor's programme, however, shall be the preferred option. 
    • Students pursuing a 4-year degree programme would have an option of getting a degree with Research if the research process is completed in the area of study as specified. 
  • An Academic Bank of Credit is to be established for digitally storing academic credits earned from different HEIs so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned.
  • Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, to be set up as models of best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country.
  • The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education.
  • Universities to be named not on the basis of ownership but on quality of education. 


  • Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body for entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education.
  • HECI to have four independent verticals-
    1. National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation,
    2. General Education Council (GEC) for standard-setting,
    3. Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding, and
    4. National Accreditation Council( NAC) for accreditation.
  • HECI will function through faceless intervention through technology, & will have powers to penalise HEIs not conforming to norms and standards.
  • Public and private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards.
    • Graded Autonomy: Academic, Administrative & Financial
  • The professional councils, such as
    • Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR),
    • Veterinary Council of India (VCI),
    • National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE),
    • Council of Architecture (CoA),
    • National Council for Vocational Education and Training (NCVET) etc.,
      will act as Professional Standard-Setting Bodies (PSSBs).
  • Common Norms for Public and Private HEIs
    • Private Philanthropic Partnership
    • Fee fixation within Broad Regulatory Framework

Rationalised Institutional Architecture

  • Higher education institutions will be transformed into large, well resourced, vibrant multidisciplinary institutions providing high-quality teaching, research, and community engagement.
  • The definition of the university will allow a spectrum of institutions that range from research-intensive Universities to Teaching-intensive Universities and Autonomous degree-granting Colleges.
  • Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism is to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges.
  • Over a period of time, it is envisaged that every college would develop into either an Autonomous degree-granting College or a constituent college of a university.

Motivated, Energized, and Capable Faculty

  • NEP makes recommendations for motivating, energizing, and building capacity of faculty through clearly defined, independent, transparent recruitment, freedom to design curricula/pedagogy, incentivising excellence, movement into institutional leadership.
  • Faculty not delivering on basic norms will be held accountable.

Teacher Education

  • A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT.
  • By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree.
  • Stringent action will be taken against substandard stand-alone Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs).

Mentoring Mission

A National Mission for Mentoring will be established, with a large pool of outstanding senior/retired faculty– including those with the ability to teach in Indian languages– who would be willing to provide short and long-term mentoring/professional support to university/college teachers.

Financial support for students

  • Efforts will be made to incentivize the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs.
  • The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships.
  • Private HEIs will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of free ships and scholarships to their students.

Open and Distance Learning

  • This will be expanded to play a significant role in increasing GER.
  • Measures such as online courses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, credit-based recognition of MOOCs, etc., will be taken to ensure it is at par with the highest quality in-class programmes.

Online Education and Digital Education

  • A comprehensive set of recommendations for promoting online education consequent to the recent rise in epidemics and pandemics.
  • The aim is to ensure preparedness with alternative modes of quality education whenever and wherever traditional and in-person modes of education are not possible, has been covered.
  • A dedicated unit for the purpose of orchestrating the building of digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be created in the MHRD to look after the e-education needs of both school and higher education.

Technology in education

  • An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created.
  • The aim is to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration.
  • Appropriate integration of technology into all levels of education will be done to
    1. improve classroom processes,
    2. support teacher professional development,
    3. enhance educational access for disadvantaged groups and
    4. streamline educational planning, administration and management.

Promotion of Indian languages and knowledge systems

  • To ensure the preservation, growth, and vibrancy of all Indian languages, NEP recommends-
    1. setting up Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI), and National Institute (or Institutes) for Pali, Persian and Prakrit,
    2. strengthening of Sanskrit and all language departments in HEIs, and
    3. use mother tongue/local language as a medium of instruction in more HEI programmes.
  • The focus will be given on:
    • Literature & Scientific Vocabulary of Indian Languages.
    • Cultural Awareness of our Indian Knowledge Systems.
    • Promoting Traditional Arts/Lok Vidya.
  • HEI/School or School Complex to have Artist(s)-in-Residence.
  • Internationalization of education will be facilitated through both institutional collaborations and student and faculty mobility and allowing entry of top world ranked Universities to open campuses in our country.

Professional Education

  • All professional education will be an integral part of the higher education system.
  • Stand-alone technical universities, health science universities, legal and agricultural universities etc will aim to become multi-disciplinary institutions.

Adult Education

The policy aims to achieve 100% of youth and adult literacy.

Financing Education

The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in the Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.


Implementation of the new policy

  • Education is a concurrent subject, also most states have their own school boards.
  • Therefore, the state governments would have to be brought on board for the actual implementation of this decision.

Why a new education policy was needed?

  • Education is an important tool in Human Capital Formation and thus is critical for the holistic development of a democracy like India. 
  • Education is the most important component of various components of social infrastructure.
  • The well educated and properly trained manpower can accelerate the pace of economic development.
  • While we all understand how crucial education is to shape our lives, it has also been a major problem in our country.
  • There are several issues that the Indian education system is grappled with.
  • The Indian education system is infamous for producing “educated unemployed”. 
  • The education policy has been changed after 34 years.
  • This is the third NEP after policies that came in 1968, and 1986.
  • Though the government amended the 1986 policy in 1992, it was largely the same.


Evolution of Education Policy
  • University Education Commission (1948-49)
  • Secondary Education Commission (1952-53)
  • Education Commission (1964-66) under Dr D.S. Kothari
  • National Policy on Education, 1968
  • 42nd Constitutional Amendment,1976-Education in Concurrent List
  • National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986
  • NPE 1986 Modified in 1992 (Program of Action, 1992)
  • T.S.R. Subramaniam Committee Report (27 May 2016)
  • Dr K. Kasturirangan Committee Report (31 May 2019)
  • National Education Policy, 2020

Here are some issues of the current education system which highlight the need for proper implementation of the new National Education Policy:

  1. Lack of funds:
    • The lack of sufficient funds is the main problem in the development of education.
    • The outlay for education in Five Year Plans has been decreasing.
  2. Expensive higher education: 
    • University, professional and technical education has become costly in India.
    • Fee structure of technical and professional institutes like IIM’s is quite high IIM’s charge Rs. 2 lakh per semester for MBA classes. 
  3. Lack of ample schools:
    • Local transportation is a problem in rural India, and this assumes greater significance when it comes to education.
    • At many places, good schools are outside the villages, and this can deter parents from sending their kids to such schools.
  4. Lack of affordable schools:
    • As compared to urban areas, government schools are not as spread out in rural areas, and this can discourage parents to spend on their kids’ education.
  5. Quality of education in Government schools:
    • The Indian government may have made the right to education a fundamental right by bringing into force the Right To Education (RTE) Act of 2009, but government schools are lagging far behind in providing quality education.
    • This has led to the corporatization of education where private schools demand high fees which less privileged cannot afford. 
  6. Neglect of Indian languages:
    • The medium of instruction particularly in science subjects is English.
    • So rural students who are not well versed in English, cannot study science properly in English.
    • Standard publications are not available in the Indian language.
  7. Extracurricular activities not encouraged:
    • The focus is given on grades and not personality development of the students. 
    • Extracurricular activities are important in the overall development of a child. 
    • Children show interest in painting, dancing, singing etc but this is not encouraged as a career choice. 
  8. Teachers Education:
    • Teachers play the most important role in schools and hence, they should be given the best of class training.
    • But teacher training in India is of poor quality and is not given the importance it needs.
  9. Mass illiteracy:
    • Despite constitutional directives and economic planning, we are not able to achieve cent per cent literacy.
    • Even now 35% of people remain illiterate.
    • In India, the number of illiterates is almost one-third of the total illiterates in the world.
    • Advanced countries are 100% literate; the position in India is quite dismal.
  10. Wastage of resources:
    • Our education system is based on General Education.
    • The dropout rate is very high in the primary and secondary level.
    • Most of the students in 6-14 age groups leave the school before completing their education. 
    • It leads to wastage of financial and human resources.
  11. Problems of primary education:
    • Our primary education is ridden with too many problems.
    • A large number of primary schools has no buildings what to talk of basic facilities like drinking water, urinals and electricity, furniture and study materials etc.
    • Large numbers of primary schools are single teacher schools and many schools are even without teachers. 
    • Most students in primary classes are not able to solve simple maths and make spelling errors, according to recent surveys.


Best education systems in the world

In 2020, the top three educational systems in the world were Finland, Denmark, and South Korea. This is based on developmental levels including early childhood enrollment, test scores in math, reading, and science in primary and secondary levels, completion rates, high school and college graduation, and adult literacy rates.


  • Finland has one of the most advanced and progressive education systems in the world, which outperforms the United States in reading, science, and mathematics.
  • To some, Finland's education system is a dream: early education is designed around learning through play, school meals are free, and universities are tuition-free for students coming from EU, European Economic Area (EEA) countries, and Switzerland.
  • A majority of teachers also have a master's degree; in fact, basic education teachers are required to have them.


  • Dating all the way back to the Middle Ages, Denmark has been improving its education system since then.
  • While education used to revolve around learning Latin, Greek, and philosophy (even today, literacy rates are high at approximately 99%), the education system today is well-rounded.
  • The government invests heavily in education, approximately 8% of its budget, and education is free for students until they turn 15 or 16 years old.

South Korea

  • Education in South Korea is highly-valued: in fact, secondary school completion rates are 100%.
  • The public system is divided into six years of primary school, three years of secondary school, and then three years of either academic or vocational school.
  • In secondary school, students even have an “exam-free semester” which allows students time each day to take a course of their choice that isn't included in their regular curriculum.
  • Students in South Korea take education seriously: many also are involved in supplemental tutoring and after-school programs called “hagwons.”


  • The country is showing consistency in economic growth pattern, leading the world in terms of information and technology, modernization various economic activities and pushing for a higher share of industries and services sectors of the economy but there is one area which needs reform is “education system”.
  • While it is true that some investments are taking place in the country’s higher education system, we are yet to establish world-class research facilities, recruiting profound academicians in universities/colleges/research institutions, etc. to sustain and forge lead in economic development.
  • It is important to understand that countries like China, Singapore, South Korea, etc. are moving fast in investing in the education system.
  • Therefore, it is imperative that our educational institutions are equipped with the desired quality and standards which are essentials for transforming the younger workforce into productive ones.
  • Needless to reiterate that in the higher education system focus on the use of technology for effective learning by students also need to be encouraged to have a cutting edge over our competitors in the globalised world.
  • It is to be seen how strictly the new policy is implemented and if it yields desired outcomes. 

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