Abhyuday Joshi



New Education Policy 2020 : Students’ Outlook

Published on March, 25 2021

After the independence, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and a prominent decision maker-PC Mahalanobis, chose to focus more on the industrial sector. For building and managing all the industries, students were trained, and institutions like the IITs and IIMs were set up. But, amidst all the efforts to pace up the economy of the poor country, primary education was neglected. And this proved to be a blunder which resulted in a mess our education system today is. Primary education is the foundation of learning and the most important aspect of education. Just as every food chain starts with green plants, a successful learning system must have quality primary education. Therefore, it has been a matter of utmost importance in the New Education Policy 2020. Let’s try to look at some of those points related to primary education and the schooling system.

Source – analysis of budget expenditure on education, mhrd

Before coming to any conclusions, let’s look at another chart.

Source – business standard making a chart out of data by the research paper of geeta gandhi kingdon

The above graph tells us that student enrollment in  government schools dropped from 126.20 million in 2010-11 to 113.08 million in 2015-16. While enrolment in private schools increased during the same period. It is evident that even the poor are paying from their pocket to send their children to a budget private school. This has happened despite boosting expenditure on public schooling as was shown in the previous graph. Karthik Muralidharan and economics professor at UCSD who also contributed to NEP, points out in an interview that all the spending goes on infrastructure, salaries, teacher training, and meals, out of which none of them affects the outcomes of education.  Talking to the principal of a primary school, a small village in Uttarakhand (India), I found out that they receive ₹30,000-40,000 per year from the government, which is more than enough for a small school like that. Sometimes they feel frustrated about where to spend all that money. This overspending may even result in corruption. Thus we should be more cost-efficient and focus on things that would enhance learning. Unlike a teacher’s training programme we have today, a more practical way of training should be adopted, says Murlidharan. Also, the aim should be of achieving foundational literacy and numeracy till grade 3. Today, under the pressure of completing the syllabus, a teacher tries to rush through the course and (aš)šinaadīruleʾāʾu. If you are wondering what that means, this is the same condition of every child while reading his/her textbooks. Therefore, although NEP has given a focus on personalized learning and first time ever, on pre – primary education, literacy should be given importance rather than the syllabus.

Another very important point is the reducing importance of board examinations in the NEP. This is a very important step towards developing higher-order skills, and scaling down the obsession with marks. As Murlidharan wrote in his research paper:

‘[Indian] education system is driven by “sorting” rather than “human development”… [and] is perhaps best understood as a “filtration” system rather than an “education system”’

He goes on to write,

‘An obsessive focus on exams and marks has led to an education system characterised by rote learning to pass exams (often through cramming of past exams)’

This is also the cause of today’s unemployability crisis, where even the educated Indians don’t have the capability to get employment.

And of course, technology will also play an important role in the NEP. An interesting provision of teaching coding from an early age has caught everyone’s attention. But, parents should ensure that they don’t force their child into it. It’s OK for a child to not study it and follow his dreams.

Apart from all the plus points, there are some negatives too in the NEP. As Ajay Shah, Former Consultant, Ministry of Finance, writes*, “The first [defect] is hostility towards for-profit private schools…The second is the need for a decentralised approach. The NEP seeks to force a single design upon every corner of the country.”

All in all, NEP has been a huge net positive. The previous education system was outdated and was no more effective. Let’s see how things work out on the ground.

“One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

- Milton Friedman, Nobel Laureate Economist