National Policy of Education & Programme of Action

It has been a practice to have Commissions and Committees established on education even by the British well before the independence details of which is presented below. The earliest Charles Wood Despatch was commissioned in 1854 and the last, The Sargent Plan was commissioned just before the independence in the year 1944.

Name of Committees/ Commissions Year
Charles Wood Despatch 1854
Hunter Commission 1882
Raleigh Commission 1902
Sadler Commission 1917
Hartog Commission 1929
Sargent Plan 1944

Since the independence in 1947, the Government of India sponsored a variety of programmes concerning education in both the rural and urban areas and commissioned a number of commissions and committees over a period of time details of which is presented below:

  • University Education Commission (1948–1949)
  • Secondary Education Commission (1952–1953)
  • University Grants Commission and
  • Kothari Commission (1964–66)

Based on the recommendations of these Commissions, a number of new establishments, such as Indian Institutes of Education (IITs), National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and host of other institutions were established. Based on the Kothari Commission, the then Prime Minister of India, announced the first National Policy on Education in the year 1968 which had emphasis on restructuring. Fulfilling the compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14 as specified in the Constitution of India, three language formula in secondary education, expenditure on education to increase to six percent of the GDP were the other far reaching recommendations of Kothari Commission. Details of the subsequent policy formation is presented below:

Prime Minister Policy Year
Indira Gandhi First 1968
Rajiv Gandhi Second 1986
Narendra Modi Third 2020

In addition to Commissions and Committees, a number of centrally sponsored schemes were also launched by the federal governments from time to time which are listed below:

  • Restructuring and Reorganization of Teacher Education (1987).
  • Operation Blackboard (1987–98) aimed to improve teachers and physical resources in primary schools.
  • Minimum Levels of Learning (1991) specifying achievement at various stages and revision of textbooks
  • District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) (1993) with emphasis on decentralized planning and management and school effectiveness.
  • National Programme for Nutritional Support to Primary Education (1995): Noon Meal Scheme with a provision to provide a cooked meal every day for all children in Classes 1–5 of all government, government-aided and local body schools.
  • The movement to Educate for All (2000) aimed to achieve universal primary education by 2010 through micro-planning and school-mapping exercises, bridging gender and social gaps through Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) Programme.
  • Fundamental Right (2001) involved the provision of free and compulsory education, declared to be a basic right for children aged between 6 and 14 years which subsequently enactment of Right to Education in 2009.

The recently adopted National Policy of Education in 2020 has the following features (downloaded from the internet):

  • Schooling to begin from the age of 3 years
  • A Single Overarching Body of Higher Education
  • Mother tongue to be instated as medium of instruction
  • Separation between subject streams to be blurred
  • The Return of the FYUP Programme and No More Dropouts

Meaning of Universalisation in the Light of the National Policy on Education 2020 by Prof. Arun C Mehta, Formally Professor & Head of the EMIS Department, NIEPA, New Delhi (India)

The National Educational Policy (2020) adopted a number of suggestions for school education which, if adopted has got far reaching implications one of which is restructuring the composition of school education. At present in India Primary education level consists of Grade I to V (corresponding age-group 6+ to 10+ years), Upper Primary level consists of Grades VI to VIII (age-group 11+ to 13+ years), Secondary (Grades IX & X/14+ to 15+ years) and Higher Secondary Level of education (XI & XII/16+ to 17+ years). Universalisation in India means universal access (school facilities to all), universal participation (all relevant age group children enrolled), universal retention (meaning all those who enter in to the system retain and transit from one level of education to another) and universal quality of education (satisfying criteria of minimum levels of learning).

Instead of present levels, the NPE (2020) proposed (i) Foundational Stage of School Education (3 years of Pre-primary education including Grades 1 and 2 with corresponding age-group 3 to 8 years) (ii) Preparatory phase consisting of 3 years i.e. Grades 3, 4 and 5 (iii) Middle School Education of 3 years (Grades 6, 7 and 8) and (iv) Secondary Education phase of 4 years consisting Grades 9, 10, 11 and 12. The corresponding clientele age-groups of these phases would be: Phase I (3+ to 7+ years), Phase II (8+ to 10+years), Phase III (11+ to 13+ years) and Phase IV (14+ to 17+ years).

New phases, if adopted, would change the meaning of universal primary education.  A new set of indicators would be required to be developed and adopted. At present universalisation in India at an educational level is viewed through a set of indicators such as, Gross and Net Enrolment Ratio, Age-specific & Adjusted Net Enrolment Ratio, Grade-to-Grade drop out, promotion and repetition rate, average annual dropout rate, retention & transition rates and a set of quality of education related indicators to view learners ability to read and write.

In case if the proposed structure is adopted, meaning of the most of the indicators and its implication for planning universalisation will change. Instead of present 6+ to 18+ years age group, the new system would have 3+ to 18+ as its clientele; thus meaning school education would have 17 years instead of present 14 years.

New indicators for Foundation and Preparatory Phase would need to be developed on the line of existing set of indicators. However, there would not be any implication for third phase i.e. Middle School education which consists of Grades 6, 7 and 8 which is similar to the existing Upper Primary level of Education and Phase 4th which is combination of the existing Secondary and Higher Secondary levels of education. For Universal foundational Stage, one would be required to compute Gross, Net and other enrolment based indicators for the corresponding 3 to 8 years clientele population. To attain universalisation at this phase of education means enrolling all children of age-group 3 to 8 years in the corresponding classes i.e. Pre-primary to Grade 1 and 2 will be the sufficient condition but that itself will not serve the purpose unless all those who enter into the system through first year of 3 years of Pre-primary education retain in the system, move from one grade to another and finally reach and complete Grade 2. To achieve goal of universalisation, the basic condition would be to enroll all children of age 3 for which entry rate would be required to be computed. A 100 percent entry rate (net) will be required to achieve the goal of universal foundation.

Grade-to-grade dropout, promotion and repetition, if any will be required to compute between each of 5 years of foundation stage. In addition, transition rate from Foundational stage to Preparatory phase, Preparatory to Middle school education phase and from Middle school education phase to Secondary education phase as well as retention rate at all these phases will be required to be computed. Retention rate presents information about the retaining capacity of the system which is unless brought to 100; the dream of universalisation may not be cherished.

Similarly, enrolment ratios at Preparatory phase consisting Grades 3, 4 & 5 with the corresponding clientele age group 8+to 10+ years would be required to be worked out. Universalisation at this phase mean all children of age group 8 to 10 years are enrolled in corresponding grades i.e. Grades 3, 4 & 5 but that would depends upon how many phase one graduates (those who successfully reach Grade 2) system will be producing and transit to the first grade i.e. Grade 3 of next phase i.e. Phase 2, Preparatory phase. It may also be of interest to know that to compute enrolment based indicators enrolment in absolute form and relevant age-specific child population is required.

Though enrolment in the latest year is available from the U-DISE but the age-specific population is available only from the Census of India which is latest available for 2011. Until 2001 Census, the Office of the Registrar General of India used to provide projected population annually but the same based up to the 2011 Census population was never provided in the absence of which enrolment ratio at different levels of education may be termed as indicative (GER at Primary 95.12 percent & Upper Primary level, 90.73 percent) as the child population used in computing GER & NER is estimated based on the projected population based on up to the 2001 Census. All through 2012 to current year, enrolment ratios at all levels of education are based on provisional set of child population. Once the actual child population is available, the enrolment ratio may dramatically change. At disaggregated levels such as, district and block levels, official population projections are rarely available in the absence of which it is not an easy task to compute enrolment based indicators at these levels.

School Education Department of the MHRD must approach the Office of the Registrar General of India to ensure timely availability of 2021 Census child population both at the all-India and State and district levels and in subsequent years in the absence of which it is not possible to reliably compute enrolment ratio indicators which has got serious implications for planning universalisation.

The policy document also envisage increasing GER at Higher Education level from present 25 percent to 50 percent by 2035 meaning doubling enrolment during the period 2017 to 2035 which may not be realized unless the efficiently of school education system is improved to significant effect as enrolment in higher education level is not only a function of 18 to 22 population but would largely depends upon number of higher secondary graduates the system will be producing.

Needless to mention that of the total 123.8 million enrolment in Primary classes, about 6 percent children dropped out form the system before completion of Primary level thus influencing enrolment in subsequent levels of education i.e. upper primary and secondary and higher secondary levels of education all which will eventually affect number of secondary graduates that would be available for higher education.

In view of this, the National Policy 2020 emphasized the need to achieve access and participation in free and compulsory quality school education for all children in the age group of 3 to 18 years by 2030 for which it envisaged all out of school, never enrolled and dropped out children back to school as early as possible and to further prevent all them from dropping out. To achieve this, the policy suggested (i) sufficient infrastructure at all levels from pre-primary school through Grade 12; and (ii) to achieve universal participation in schools by carefully tracking students to ensure that they are enrolled in and attending schools.

The Policy (2019) also advocates that the Free and Compulsory aspects of Right to Education (RTE) Act must be enforced and extended through Grade 12 to all children up to the age of 18 is termed welcome and timely suggestion but the moot question one may ask is whether RTE Act enacted in 2009 has been truly implemented in its spirits?. U-DISE data suggest that only 12 percent of the 1.5 million schools imparting school education in the Country have all the 10 facilities as was envisaged in the Right to Free and Compulsory Education 2009 Act majority of schools without such facilities are the Government run schools. In addition, though declined but still a good number of unrecognized schools are functioning across the country which is evident from the U-DISE data.

As per the RTE Act, all un-enrolled, never enrolled and dropped out children are to be identified by the local authorities annually and train them (3 months to 2 years) to make them to sit in the age appropriate grade in view of which in the recent years there are no target date/year to achieve the goal of Universal Primary/School education. The Student Database Management in-sync with U-DISE launched in 2016-17 could have helped, as proposed in the policy, in moving towards developing a Child-Tracking System but unfortunately for unknown reasons, the same despite successfully collecting individual student records of more than 210 million students discontinued abruptly in the following years.

Once the modifications as suggested in the NPE 2020 is adopted,  Officers those who are engaged in data analysis and district plans will be required to understand meaning of universalisation in the changed scenario for which adequate modifications will be required in the planning strategies, if any under the Government of India’s flagship programme i.e. Samagra Shiksha!!

National Curriculum Framework

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