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Opinion: “NEP 2020 Brings The Gandhian Vision Of Making Hindi A Pan-Indian Language To Life”

The National Education Policy, 2020 is the first comprehensive vision document on the much-needed reforms in the education sector in India. It aims to propel India into higher trajectories of Global Knowledge Superpower. The standout feature if the NEP 2020 includes its keen focus on bringing reforms in the education apparatus in India. It seeks to do away with the archaic colonial-era apparatus by integrating the education system in India from the school level to all the way to the higher education institutions and beyond.

For example, the NEP 2020 seeks to integrate the regulating institutions which were responsible to oversee the higher education like UGC, AICTE, etc., by breaking the artificial silos that were separating the various streams of higher education. In their place, it aims to create a single regulator in the shape of the Higher Education Commission of India to streamline the plethora of courses that are being taught in numerous universities across India.

It seeks to integrate the system of entrance examinations across the Central, State and Deemed Universities of India. By doing so it will become easy for the students to seek admission in universities and break up the islands of universities by creating a confluence of the mighty river of higher education in India. NEP 2020 is bringing the Gandhian vision of making Hindi a pan Indian language to life. The three-language formula proposed by Kothari Commission aims to provide a judicious balance between Hindi and regional languages at the same time giving a necessary impetus to the National Linguistic integration and nationalism itself.

school children playing in a classroom
Representational image.

National Education Policy: A Chronology

First National Education Policy, 1968

Based on the recommendations of the Kothari Committee it called for restructuring the educational system in India while providing an equal and equitable distribution of education among all strata of society, with compulsory education for children up to the age of 14 years. It also sought to promote the regional languages and originally gave the ‘three-language formula’. It promoted the studies in the ancient language Sanskrit and proposed to spend 6% of national income in the area of Education.

Barring the Right to Education, the subsequent governments failed to implement the remaining provisions of the Kothari Committee. The NEP 2020 is a significant concrete step to realize these important aspects of integrated national education.

Second National Education Policy 1986

The new policy called for “special emphasis on the removal of disparities and to equalize educational opportunity,” especially for Indian women, Scheduled Tribes (ST), and the Scheduled Caste (SC) communities. The NPE called for a “child-centred approach” in primary education and launched “Operation Blackboard” to improve primary schools nationwide. The policy expanded the open university system with the Indira Gandhi National Open University, which had been created in 1985. The policy also called for the creation of the “rural university” model, based on the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.

Third National Education Policy, 2020

The main points of NEP include the following.

New Education Policy 2020 aims for the universalisation of education from pre-school to secondary level with 100 % GER in school education by 2030. It seeks to bring 2 crores out of school children back into the mainstream of education. It augurs a new 5+3+3+4 school curriculum with 12 years of schooling and 3 years of Anganwadi/pre-schooling. The emphasis will be on foundational literacy and numeracy with no rigid separation between academic streams, extracurricular, vocational streams in the schools.

Teaching up to at least Grade 5 will be in mother tongue/ regional language to address the concerns of regional language pluralism. Students will be assessed with a 360-degree holistic Progress Card, tracking their progress for achieving learning outcomes.

The NEP 2020 aims to increase GER in higher education to 50% by the year 2035 with 3.5 crore additional seats added in various higher education institutions. The higher education institutions have been given flexibility in the curriculum of Subjects. Importantly, there will be multiple entry/exit to be allowed with appropriate certification to allow students to join/leave their respective education suited to their individual needs.

A national-level academic Bank of credits will be established to facilitate the transfer of credits. A National Research Foundation will be established to foster a strong research culture. With the motto of ‘Light but Tight Regulation’, an integrated higher education single regulator with four separate verticals for distinct functions will be created which would subsume institutions like UGC, AICTE, etc.

While fixing the eye on the future, the visionary document of NEP 2020 advocates a more proactive use of technology with equity. It seeks to promote equality in terms of education of the various segments of society including women, weaker sections of society, differently-abled segments of society by advocating the establishment of Gender Inclusion Fund, Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions, and groups.

Representational image.

An Afterthought

The National Education Policy, the first education policy of the 21st century India, aims to usher India into the League of Global Superpower on account of her vast base of the young and energetic populace. It aims to train the younger generation in the streams apt to suit the needs of the present and the future and propel India as the Global Knowledge Super Power.

The policy is a comprehensive document that covers various fields of the educational arena including school education, technical education, higher education, financial and regulatory aspects of the education sectors as well. By making education multi-disciplinary, it aims to create holistic human beings. It hits at the rote learning and aspires to make education organic.

The critics argue that the National Education Policy has opened the floodgates of privatization upon the fragile sector of pedagogy. However, the NEP instead aims the create scope for individual excellence by providing quality faculty as well as infrastructural apparatus for academic excellence in the shape of Institutions of Excellence. The global precedence for private investment in education has come from academic leaders like Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. If we aim to make India a knowledge powerhouse in the company of Ivy League Universities, then we should also be open to accepting the talent from whichever segment of the society it is coming from.

Secondly, the NEP aims to create an institution for training the trainer, which is bringing transparency, quality checks, and value enhancement for the teachers as well. This aspect is applicable to teachers at all levels. For far too long India and the Indian education system have suffered from the practice of rote and stagnant learning which comes with substandard teaching practices and pedagogy.

The 21st century implores us to look beyond the colonial era methods of pedagogy. It asks us to innovate how we teach our young minds and to keep a cautious look at what we teach them and in what manner. The aim of the policy is to give a standardized scale for recruiting the teachers so that the quality of education remains the same across India.

Thirdly, the argument that the three-language policy will diminish the value of the regional languages vis a vis Hindi, and in fact will be an imposition of Hindi on the linguistic diversity is but a sham. It is so essential because the children up to class 5 will be given education in their regional language medium. Hindi will be only added subsequently. By doing so, twin objects are sought to be achieved.

One is that the child is well versed in his/her mother tongue and he/she can pursue regional language in subsequent classes as well. Two, it aims to create national integration by making people across India at least familiar with the language that is spoken by the majority of Indians, that is Hindi. The fixation with English but repulsion with Hindi betrays a sort of colonial mentality of those who profess to the dominance of regional languages. In effect, it goes against the spirit of our great nation and its nationalism.

NEP 2020 has been brought to life after a considerable consultation process involving a vast array of stakeholders from various education-related fields. The aim of the government has been to not only create a vision document for the education system in India in the 21st century but also to make the policy document a true representative of the diversity of our country.

At the same time, the age-old desire to integrate India into a cohesive linguistic nationalism over regionalism has also been achieved.

The NEP 2020 is truly the preamble of the future of India as the knowledge superpower of the world.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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