A brief history of federalism in education: Busting Opposition's claim of 'centralized' NEP 2020

It will be the joint responsibility of both the Centre and the state to ensure a good educational system in the country.



Rahul Tiwari


It has been three decades since Indian education saw any reform till 2020 when ground-breaking changes have been introduced in educational as well as academic sector. The much awaited National Education Policy arrived on 30 July 2020 after being approved by the Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The new policy has paved the way for huge changes in schools as well as higher education.


The objective of this policy is to increase the standard of education in India and bring it up to global levels. It has also been framed keeping in mind the need to make existing education structure more flexible, comprehensive, holistic and multidisciplinary for the coming generations. The most important attribute of the new policy is that it has considered the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and puts stock in changing India into an energetic informed society. The policy also aims to introduce of a four-year multidisciplinary undergrad program with various leave alternatives, dismissing of University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) aside from permitting foreign academic entities to open their grounds in the nation.


In school instruction, the new policy seeks to update the educational program, choosing "simpler" board tests, noticeable decrease in prospectus, and push for "experiential learning and basic reasoning". The policy has also brings academics, vocational skills and extracurricular activities on equal footing. Some of the major changes include renaming of “Ministry of Human Resource and Development” to “Ministry of Education”.


The NEP aims to increase the GDP investment in education from 1.6% to 6%. This policy also aims at increasing the gross enrollment ratio to 50% by 2035. The NEP will create an independent regulatory body called the State School Regulatory Authority. Even though the NEP 2020 is wide in its scope and reach yet there has been vehement criticism from the opposition that alleged the NEP to be “unilateral drive” to destroy the Indian education system by “greater centralization, communalization and commercialization”. It is alleged that the NEP 2020 burglarizes the independence of states by vesting all-powers to the Union government on host of issues that have been state areas for a long time. Further, the opposition claims that the policy is in conflict with the federal standards.


It is pertinent to ask therefore if the NEP is really concentrated and unitary in its approach? An analysis of the development of federalism in academics needs to be done to understand this.


Rise of Education Federalism in India

The responsibly of education was rested with the states in 1917, when the Sadler Commission of colonial India had made education a state subject with considerable coordination from the Centre. This was continued even as the constitution was being framed post-Independence, but with more powers to the Central to ensure standard and equity in education. According to Entry 11 of List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, education including universities, subject to the provisions of Entries 63, 64, 65 and 66 of List I and Entry 25 of List III should be a state subject. Yet, the constitution framers specified additional educational responsibilities to the Union through certain other entries in few areas of national importance such as technical education or agencies that determine standards for institutions of higher education and scientific research. Furthermore, the entry 20 of the concurrent list vested the responsibilities of economic and social planning of education on the Union powers. Apart from all these provisions, Article 45 of the Indian constitution that guarantees free and compulsory education to children up to 14 years also rests on Union powers. Thus, educational responsibilities of the Union are not new. They have been there from the start.


However, during the 42nd amendment of the Indian Constitution in 1976, education was moved to the Concurrent List, whereby education was rendered as a joint responsibility of both the Union and the State. Centralization occurred all the more with the passing of the National Policy of Education (NPE) in 1986, whereby, statutory status was conferred to central-level bodies such as the as the AICTE and the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE). The Centre assumed more decision-making power in the fields of education with the imposition of the Right to Education Act (RTE), 2009, with guarantee of free education for children from 6 to 14 years of age by the Union.


How Relevant is the Criticism


It is needless to say that even though the NEP 2020 looks more centralized, yet it will be the joint responsibility of both the Centre and the state to ensure a good educational system in the country. There is no reason to think that the Union would monopolize the system or impose standards that are not consented to by the respective state governments. In order to bring in a uniformity in the educational structure of the country these few steps have been taken. However, education on the whole will always remain a divided area for both the Centre and the state to take care of.


Now, the standard of education in India will depend on the execution and implementation of this policy by the government. With the advent of this an education policy after 34 years, the information based education system is set to be transformed into a knowledge based education system with the inclusion of vocational training from Class 6, PARAKH a mechanism of assessment of student’s Intellect and 360 report cards. The new policy would help to plug unavailability and inaccessibility to the Indic content (based on Indian culture and values) and shift gears to empower native Indian languages by using them as medium of instruction up to primary level. The policy outlines several more such alterations to allow the multifaceted development of students and make them more employable in the contemporary arena. If India, that is Bharat, achieves this target it would reinstated itself as a 'Vishwaguru' once again.


(Rahul Tiwari is an Intern with Academics4Nation. He is doing M.P.hil from Ambedkar University.)

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