Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said the government’s intervention and influence on the New Education Policy should be minimal. The prime minister was addressing the inaugural session of the governors’ conference on the education policy approved by the Union Cabinet in July.

“The more teachers, parents, students are associated with education policy, the more relevant and broad-based it will be,” Modi said via video conference. “New national education policy focuses on learning instead of studying, goes beyond the curriculum to focus on critical thinking. India has been ancient centre of learning...We are working to make it hub of knowledge economy in 21st century.”

Modi praised the education policy, saying it will make way for opening campuses of the best international institutions in India so that youth from common family can also join them. “As foreign policy, defence policy are of the country, not government, so is education policy. It belongs to everyone,” he added.

President Ram Nath Kovind, who also addressed the conference organised by the Ministry of Education, said the policy has been formulated after an unprecedented and lengthy process of consultations. “I am told that in the formulation of this policy, over two lakh suggestions were received from about 675 districts,” he said. “It has been made clear in the National Education Policy that public education system is the basis of a vibrant democratic society. Therefore, strengthening public educational institutions is very important.”

The president added that the aim of the new policy is to provide basic literacy and numeracy to all children at primary school level by 2025.

Stalin criticises NEP conference

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin on Sunday opposed the conference on the National Education Policy, PTI reported. He said without waiting for a debate in the Parliament on the policy, the meeting was unacceptable.

“The Centre did not discuss NEP at the Central Advisory Board of Education’s meeting [in which state Education Ministers participated], before the policy’s approval in July,” Stalin said.

The DMK chief, who has constantly criticised the educational reforms proposed under NEP, said the Centre cannot thrust it without a “honest, democratic” debate about it in Parliament. He said the government’s move to solicit the views of the governors “blunts the democracy”.

The New Education Policy

The National Education Policy, approved by the government on July 29, was an election promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014 and the first one in 34 years. A panel headed by former Indian Space Research Organisation chief K Kasturirangan submitted a draft in December 2018, which was then made public and opened for feedback after the Lok Sabha election in May 2019.

The new highlights include a plan to allow foreign universities to open campuses in India and a single regulator for higher education institutions, except for law and medical colleges. It encourages the use of technology, the study of Sanskrit, and teaching in one’s mother tongue or regional languages up to Class 5. Meanwhile, Class 10 and 12 board examinations will be made easier, to test core competencies rather than memorised facts and all students will be allowed to take the exam twice. The policy will also introduce four-year undergraduate degrees with multiple entry and exit options, abolish the M Phil degree.