Education and Public Policy

Session Report
Samprikta Banerjee

A Four-Week Online National Spring School and Immersive Online Introductory Certificate Training Course on, Fundamentals of Public Policy was conducted by IMPRI, Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi from 3rd March to 25th March, 2023.

On Day 4, there were two speaker sessions lined up, the first one being Education & Public Policy by Prof Jandhyala B. G. Tilak, ICSSR National Fellow; Distinguished Professor, Council for Social Development, New Delhi; Former Professor & Vice-Chancellor, National University of Educational Planning and Administration. He began his session with greetings to the chair, the moderator and IMPRI.

He started off by stating that Education has a large set of positive externalities so it is imperative for policymakers from all spheres to indulge in formulating policies with regard to education. Then he gave a brief outline of how his session would pan out which included a history of the evolution of education in India, the status of its development and the present state of education policy particularly NEP 2020 in the country covering aspects of school education and higher education.

History of the Evolution of Education Policy in India

He drew India’s education policy trajectory over the years in a structured manner wherein he stated:

  • Before Independence was achieved, in 1944, a sergeant commission prepared a 40-year plan for education in the country and among the many recommendations, it strongly argued for the availability of free primary education along with the preparation of detailed budget estimates for the same.
  • After Independence, in 1948, the first commission to be set up was the University Grants Commission chaired by Dr Radhakrishnan.
  • Next it was the Kher Committee in 1949, which included the idea of providing universal basic education for primary and upper primary level for a 10-year period among its many recommendations.
  • The Constitution of India in 1950 mandated universal education to be for a period of 14 years, although without a detailed plan followed for the same.
  • However, according to him, a path-breaking policy regarding education was made in 1952 by the Mudaliar Commission which structured the entire primary education, secondary education and higher education divide in a similar manner as we know today.
  • 1964 saw the development of the Education Commission making education formula 3-language.
  • Further, the 1968 policy reform made the system of 10+2+3 uniform in the country.
  • The 42nd Amendment Act put education on the concurrent list.
  • The Janata Government tried to make a National Education Policy in 1978 for basic education but it did not see much outcome.
  • Next, the 1983 Teacher’s Commission institutionalised education with a focus on the betterment of teachers and included aspects of all the major reforms.
  • The second most path-breaking policy was the National Policy of Education in 1986 which had several developmental reforms in the field of education such as DIETs, SIEMATs, Academic Staff Colleges, and Rural Universities.
  • Then came the NEP 1992 making all-India common entrance examinations for professional courses.
  • Further the Yashpal Committee in 1992, made curricular reforms in school education along with pleading for the Rejuvenation of universities and integrated development in the form of knowledge in a holistic manner.
  • A major progress in the field of Education was achieved in 2002 with the passing of the 86th Constitutional Act which later transformed into the RTE Act in 2009.
  • And after a prolonged period, the year 2020 saw the NEP

He mentioned in detail the various achievements India’s Education Policies have achieved so far which entailed the eradication of gender and social inequalities to some measure, improvement of the quality of higher education, major nationally acclaimed institutes contributing to the improvement of socioeconomic and technological advancement fostering self-reliance, ICT technology, etc.

Critically analysing such policies, he didn’t leave out the disappointments they faced, like elementary education not achieving the level of universalization that was desired, no take-off as such in the field of vocational education and although the policies saw a gradual expansion of higher education, it was still below the international standards. He also highlighted that though inequalities lessened, stark income inequalities still tampered with educational quality and its deliverance and the problem of shortage of teachers prevailed.

NEP 2020

He explicitly took this policy up and highlighted its goals such as literacy for all, education for development and building a knowledge society. Apart from these general goals the policy also focused specifically on universalising elementary and secondary education, reducing the dropout rate, vocational skill development and expanding higher education of higher policy. It aimed for the equitable quality of education under world standards and making India’s education policy value-centric.

It made certain remarkable proposals in regard to school education where the focus was put on childhood care and education and attaining foundational learning and numeracy skills. The NEP proposed a new education system architecture wherein 5 years of foundational level (3 pre-primary and 2 lower primary), 3 years of primary level, 3 years of upper primary level and 4 years of secondary level education attainment were mandated. Moreover, the curriculum was revised according to the necessary skills required to face the actual world and attain employment.

However, the NEP also brings to question how feasible and effective is the new education curriculum, which cannot be effectively understood without analysing its implementation outcome over the years. Even open schooling and non-formal schooling systems’ outcomes cannot be rightly assessed yet. Moreover, RTE removed the system of examinations at the school level which was restarted by this system along with the system posing a certain favouritism towards private schools and institutions. Also, the system has no reference to a common school system with multiple boards of assessment and self-accreditation.

The NEP 2020 tried to achieve newer and higher heights in higher education so it restructured the higher education system into three categories namely research universities, teaching universities and (Teaching) Colleges and aimed to make all colleges and universities multidisciplinary. Professional education should have a greater importance in the higher education system and teacher education institutions should become an integral part of the system according to the policy with liberal arts being given an important stature along with science and technology.

The NEP has taken a strong standpoint in promoting Indian languages by emphasising the learning of at least one Indian language in the higher educational system along with a higher focus on arts and humanities. It has looked into the specialisation aspect of education too by making provision for major and minor degrees.

There are numerous exit points in the higher education structure wherein a student can take a 1-year (certificate course), 2-year (Diploma Course), 3-year (Degree Course) and 4 year (Degree Course (H)) programme and after a four-year programme they can pursue masters or directly go into PhD programmes giving every student numerous options and openings to pan out their education journey and skill building process. The main objectives of the 4-year programme included skill development for employment, knowledge enhancement and inculcating research capabilities.

He also highlighted the issue of privatisation of education and stated that education in India is more privatised than in most other countries leading to unregulated growth, exorbitant fees, disciplinary imbalance, etc. The policy answers to this by negating profit-making and commercial motives and promoting philanthropic activities in higher education.

However, the policy needs to work on the aspect of over-expansion and too many universities as it negatively affects sustainability and leads to parochial and local diversities in the education structure. He justified his statement with data and statistics of recent years. The policy hence, as an answer promises full autonomy in all aspects to almost all institutions and to the faculties and proposes to constitute an Independent Board of Governors which shall decide on the nuances of education structures. Although every institution shall have autonomy, the BoG shall be the main body to scrutinize and monitor everything.


He ended the session with a focus on the restructured governance system in relation to educationand how the Higher Education Commission of India has been formed and restructured with four vertical pillars. He emphasized the need to increase the amount of public investment in education as public funding is extremely critical for achieving a high-quality and equitable public education system thereby fostering India’s social, cultural, intellectual and economic progress.

He also critically analysed the policy of NEP 2020 where public expenditure increment didn’t reach the forefront although finances are critical. Hence, the success of the policy strategically depended on formatting plans for implementation, centre-state rise in expenditures in the aspect of education, effective centre-state coordination, unwavering national commitment to education and a good time bound plan. The session ended with an interactive Q&A leading to engaging discussions.

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