NEP 2020 – elitist and corporatized education under Hindu Rashtra

This study of the National Education Policy 2020, apart from my own  analysis, draws on extensive commentary on the final document and its earlier drafts, by education policy experts and teachers, including my own union,  JNU Teachers’ Association, which undertook a detailed critique of the Draft NEP 2019.  This needs to be said because neither educationists nor academics were consulted in the process of making the initial policy, nor were states, despite the fact that education is a concurrent subject. We begin therefore with the procedure of finalizing the NEP 2020.

Faulty procedures of formulating and finalizing the policy

No consultative process

All previous education policies have undergone massive consultation processes, as Niraja Gopal Jayal outlines, but not this one. At the press conference announcing the policy, Gopal Jayal points out, it was claimed that an “unprecedented collaborative, inclusive, and highly participatory consultation process” was conducted, but it is clear from the single slide that was shown, that states were not consulted at all.

Besides, from the government’s own claims, all feedback ( from the general public, gram panchayats and Blocks etc) are on the Draft NEP 2019, not in the process leading up to the Draft. This Draft NEP was made public in May 2019, and suggestions sought from the general public within a deadline of two months only.  The consultation was a mere formality and cursory at best. By July 2020 (including that is, the months of the pandemic), the final policy was announced.

Previous policies have undergone more than a year of nation-wide consultations before being made public.

Deliberate ambiguity regarding final policy

What exactly are we talking about when we say “National Education Policy 2020”? In keeping with the way this government functions, there is a complete lack of transparency about which document is the actual policy that will be implemented. What is published online by the MHRD as the NEP is a 66 page document.

However, there are at least three other documents that have circulated from official sources –

  • the original Draft National Education Policy 2019 (DNEP 2019), which was the report of the Kasturirangan Committee, just a little short of 500 pages in length.
  • a 55 page abbreviated version by the MHRD which was called National Education Policy 2019 (NEP 2019).
  • on 29th July the MHRD circulated a 60 page version with the file name NEP 2020 Final for Circulation
  • the next day another version of 66 pages (NEP 2020 Final) dated 30th July 2020, appeared on the MHRD website.

This supposedly final 66 page version now uploaded by the MHRD has no names or signatures of Committee members.

In addition, former Director of NCERT, Prof Krishna Kumar says that this is only the summary of a 200-page policy document that has not been made public.

So there is no clear sense that we can have, on how much of what has been left out of the 500 page 2019 Draft NEP, will find its way back as policy and rules.

Not discussed in parliament

The NEP was cleared by the Cabinet without a discussion in Parliament. This means states and parties other than the BJP have been completely excluded from consultations.

The following discussion is based on the NEP 2020 Final as uploaded by MHRD.

Two clear agendas – privatization and Hindu supremacism

Privatization

First of all, there is a clear thrust towards privatization both at school level and at higher education level.

This move has a longer history. In 2000, during the term of NDA I, the Policy Framework for Reforms in Education (PFRE), drafted by Mukesh Ambani and Kumarmangalam Birla, advocated foreign direct investment in higher education and also initiated the idea of private universities. The reflection of the Ambani-Birla document, which was widely criticized at that time, is clearly visible in the NEP of 2020. Many of its recommendations find a place here, including private universities, market oriented education, “user pays” principle and opening up to FDI in the education sector.

In NEP 2020, the term “Public Philanthropic Partnership” is the euphemism that masks the encouragement of private capital in education. The term “philanthropic” is a simile for “private”, and the latter term never appears without “philanthropic” or “public spirited” before it, as Jyoti Dalal points out.

So in the list of “principles that will guide the educational system” (Pp 5-6), we find

education is a public service; access to quality education must be considered a basic right of every child,

immediately followed by

substantial investment in a strong, vibrant public education system as well as the encouragement and facilitation of true philanthropic private and community participation. (P.6) (Emphasis added)

If education is a public good, and there is a strong and vibrant public (i.e. state funded) education system, what is the role for “philanthropic private and community participation”? The intention of NEP 2020 is stated clearly – to “encourage and facilitate” private interests in education.

Jyoti Dalal also argues that the NEP 2020 is uncomfortable with the existing practice of stringent assessment and tracking measures for private players to keep them under check, because this “asymmetry” (between public and private institutions) discouraged private investment. Or, to put it  in NEP 2020’s inimitable code language – stringent assessment “inadvertently discouraged public-spirited private/philanthropic schools” (P 30).

Similarly, the way is to be cleared for foreign universities. which will be given

special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance and, content norms on par with other autonomous institutions of India (P 39).

Now we must discuss a notable omission from the NEP 2020, the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA), a joint venture company, approved by the Union Cabinet in 2016, once again, with no discussion in parliament. HEFA is not mentioned even once in the NEP, but it is up and running since 2017, and JNU has already taken a loan of Rs 445 crores from it. All funding for infrastructure for Higher Education Institutions (HEI) will henceforth not be given as grants from the government, but be taken as loans from HEFA, and the  HEIs  will then have to repay the loans by raising their own resources, which is basically an implementation of the”user pays” principle – or simply put, the loan will be repaid to the government by raising student fees.

Please note that HEFA is not for the private universities, but for the ones supposedly run by the government. HEFA’s website tells us

Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) is a joint venture of MoE Government of India and Canara Bank for financing creation of capital assets in premier educational institutions in India as part of rising 2022 HEFA’s scope is greatly expanded to cover school education, educational institutes under Ministry of health etc

The term “etc” is revealing, offering receding horizons of expansion.

A simple question arises, given the role it plays in educational infrastructure – why is HEFA not mentioned in the NEP 2020?

This is a fundamental change in the public university system, in which the government will no longer give grants for infrastructure but become a money-lender who will be repaid by its citizens, students, through fee hikes. Moreover, this system is extending now to the school system, and it was operationalized three years before the NEP. The lack of transparency and accountability of this regime is at unimaginable levels now.

Returning to the NEP 2020, it sets up  the Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC), to carry out funding and financing of higher education “based on transparent criteria” (P 47/ 18.5). These   grants would be for other than infrastructural needs.

But the policy actively encourages non governmental funding, as we see on P 61 /26.6.

The Policy also calls for the rejuvenation, active promotion, and support for private philanthropic activity in the education sector. In particular, over and above the public budgetary support which would have been otherwise provided to them, any public institution can take initiatives towards raising private philanthropic funds to enhance educational experiences.” (Emphasis added).

Private HEIs can of course decide their own fee structure (P 49), provided these are “transparently disclosed” and provided that midway during the period of enrolment of a student, fees cannot be raised. In other words, fees may be raised only for every successive batch.

All fees and charges set by private HEIs will be transparently and fully disclosed, and there shall be no arbitrary increases in these fees/charges during the period of enrolment of any student. (P 49/18.14).

The Draft NEP 2019 had been more forthright about the role of the market – mentioning market determination with regard to legal education on P 303, and on P 329 regarding ranking of HEIs. This had been noted and widely criticized, for example, here.  So the solution is that the pruned NEP 2020 simply does not mention market forces at all, while retaining the expanded role of private investment in education. Lip service to allocating 6% of GDP to education apart, the NEP 2020 clearly intends greater privatization and self-financing public institutions, a process that has already started in the last few years.

In the face of all this, the discussion in Points 18.12 to 18.14, on “curbing commercialization of education” is meaningless and hypocritical.

Hindu supremacism

The second key element is the saffronization agenda, again, masked in innocuous terms which we recognize as code words for the RSS conflation of “Indian” with Brahminical Hindu. But perhaps it is time to drop the anodyne term “saffronization” and call it what it is – the RSS  Brahminical Hindu supremacist agenda.

There are several references to the “rich diverse Indian tradition”, but also to something called “eternal Indian knowledge”. It is claimed that

the pursuit of knowledge (Jnan), wisdom (Pragyaa), and truth (Satya), was always considered in Indian thought and philosophy as the highest human goal (P 4).

As we know from scholars of ancient India, in the “Indian” tradition, the pursuit of knowledge was actively denied to lower castes and to women, with a very few exceptions  like Gargi and Maitreyi who are the only citable instances to prove a “Golden Vedic Age” for women. Claims to equality later emerged with the powerful anti-caste utterances of Bhakti poets and larger movements from the 19th century onwards.

So what exactly is being claimed by the NEP as “Indian” thought and philosophy?

Here is the list of names of “great scholars produced by the Indian education system” – the committee seems to believe not only that “India” existed from time immemorial, but that there was an “Indian education system” that produced Charaka, Susruta and so on. This list of Indian scholars stops at approximately 6th century CE.

Charaka, Susruta, Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Bhaskaracharya, Brahmagupta, Chanakya, Chakrapani Datta, Madhava, Panini, Patanjali, Nagarjuna, Gautama, Pingala, Sankardev, Maitreyi, Gargi and Thiruvalluvar (P 4)

Note that Gautama (Buddha) is included as one of the “scholars” produced by the Indian education system, not as the founder of a new rationalist religion that posed and continues to pose, a powerful challenge to caste-ridden Hinduism. Note also that materialist philosophy represented by Charvaka is conspicuously absent.

(And I am not even going into the fact that serious scholarship recognizes most of these names as representing schools of thought that crystallized over centuries, not as individuals. That is, even when individuals bearing those names can be historically located, the works associated with the names are rarely “authored” by those single individuals, at a single point in time. For just one example, take the work of Sri Lankan scholar Patrick Olivelle on Chanakya/Kautilya.)

There is a continuous invocation of ancient India, followed immediately by 21st century India that this document represents, as if the centuries in between were barren of thought and intellection.

The RSS twin agenda is clearly visible here, of

a) assimilation of non-Islamic religions into Hinduism and

b) exclusion of Islamic and non-Sanskritic/non Brahminical traditions from the category of “Indian”.

That a National Education Policy of the 21st century can take such an outdated, ahistorical, almost mythical view of India is shocking. But even more shocking is that for all the celebration of India’s eternal knowledge traditions, the actual policy hands over the country’s education to private capital and to foreign entities. Surely foreign universities are not going to tailor their syllabi to suit the requirements of “eternal Indian  knowledge”?

Here is another fact about the NEP 2020, revealing its RSS parentage. The document mentions Fundamental Duties and constitutional values,  several times, with not one mention of Fundamental Rights. But more significant is the list of 29 constitutional values as given on P 16/4.28:

seva, ahimsa, swachchhata, satya, nishkam karma, shanti, sacrifice, tolerance, diversity, pluralism, righteous conduct, gender sensitivity, respect for elders, respect for all people and their inherent capabilities regardless of background, respect for environment, helpfulness, courtesy, patience, forgiveness, empathy, compassion, patriotism, democratic outlook, integrity, responsibility, (and finally!) justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity

Of which constitution are these the values? Compare them with the values listed by the educational wing of the RSS, Vidya Bharati, in an article on RSS education by Akshay Bakaya.

The ‘Ten Qualities Inculcated among Students in Vidya Bharati Schools’ according to a VB folder in English are: 1. Gratefulness to God and Nature; 2. Respect for Hindu Cultural Traditions; 3. Love for the Country; 4. Respect for Parents, Teachers and Saintly Persons; 5. A regulated life; 6. Discipline and Respect for the Law; 7. Hard Work; 8. Co-Operation in Socially Useful Productive Work; 9. Sacrifice for the Common Good; and 10. Spirit of Service.

See the resonances?

Consider also that one of the “constitutional” values listed, nishkam karma, that is, selfless service, work without any expectation of reward,  is derived from the Gita and invoked continuously by RSS. Of course, whatever its philosophical complexities, the concept serves the purposes of the Brahminical caste order very well.

What are listed as constitutional values, then, are in fact the values promoted by the RSS.  The actual constitutional values (justice, liberty, equality, fraternity) are tacked on at the end of 25 RSS values for a Hindu Rashtra. And this has passed largely without notice in the discussion of this document.

The final characteristically RSS salute to us from the NEP 2020 is the delusional invocation of India as Vishwa Guru, a self-awarded title by the RSS to Hindu Rashtra.

India will be promoted as a global study destination providing premium education at affordable costs thereby helping to restore its role as a Vishwa Guru (P 39/12.8)

Who ever called India Vishwa Guru, other than the RSS, that it is declared as a status to be “restored”?

It is another matter that as educationists and academics we are all aware of the rich treasures of philosophy and science that this subcontinent has produced, from multiple different traditions, none of which the RSS has the intellectual resources to acknowledge. The critique of Eurocentrism is by now very well established, both in the Indian academy and globally, and there are many bodies of scholarship globally that  have opened up repositories of thought and intellection from the global South. However, the RSS and the NEP 2020 are embarrassingly, stuck in the semi-literate and formulaic invocation of a narrow, parochial slice of this vast treasure, while in practice, clearing the field for the complete takeover by private capital, of the education sector.

This document is a prime example of the compromise between Hindu supremacism and predatory capital, the twin forces India is under assault from today.

And now some other key features of the NEP 2020 that should cause concern.

Disjuncture between declared objectives and proposed institutional structure 

“Fun” and “vibrant multidisciplinarity” versus mammoth clusters

These are frequently occurring terms in the document. Pages 12 to 13 wax eloquent about “experiential learning”. However, all the discussion about these, leads eventually to the “highest recommendation” of the NEP 2020 – to merge schools and colleges into large clusters.

Moving to large multidisciplinary universities and HEI clusters is thus the highest recommendation of this policy regarding the structure of higher education (P 34/10.2)

The smallest institution would have an enrolment of 3000 students. Continuously,  a link is drawn between multidisciplinarity and mammoth educational clusters, without any clarity on why one follows from the other. Is this meant to increase profits in the educational sector through the economies of scale? Will not building such clusters require huge infrastructure loans from HEFA? Is that the purpose of clustering then?

Similarly with schools. Educationist Poonam Batra points out that this practice of merging schools with low enrolments has already begun  and  NITI Aayog’s education project, SATH-E, alone has “led to the merger of about 40,000 schools in Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Orissa in 2018.”

NEP 2020 legitimises the practice of school mergers by recommending the rationalisation of small schools that are considered

economically suboptimal and operationally complex to run (P 28/7.2)

This essentially means shutting down schools in disadvantaged areas. And evidently, schools are to be judged by whether they are economically optimal, not by whether they reach the last and furthest possible student.

There is in fact, a clear disjuncture between discussions on pedagogy (replete with vibrant multidisciplinarity and fun based learning), and the institutional structures envisaged, in which fewer mammoth institutions are to replace many smaller ones. The teacher-student ratio is not discussed at all. In such mammoth institutions, unless it is explicitly made clear that there will be considerable care given to establishing smaller classes and more teachers (and no such commitment is made), the likelihood of fun and learning seem dim.

“Critical thinking” and “autonomy” versus tight, centralized control of government institutions

Again, terms that appear several times in the NEP 2020, but rendered meaningless by the proposed institutional transformations.

First, it is clear that teachers will be recruited on “tenure track” basis, tenure to be confirmed only if various conditions are met (P40/13.6). Even promotions and salary increases “will not occur based on the length of tenure or seniority, but only on the basis of such appraisal” (P 22-3/5.20)

Given the “constitutional values” that have been outlined already, it is not difficult to understand what kind of teaching, syllabi and comportment of faculty will be encouraged, and what kind of thinking and speech will be weeded out.

Second, all entrance examinations will be conducted centrally by the National Testing Agency (NTA), again, like HEFA, already up and running. These entrance examinations are entirely on-line and multiple choice. This is both exclusionary (of the large numbers who cannot possibly have access to or familiarity with online modes of engagement at the end of school or a BA) and reductive for the social sciences and humanities (because thinking through and analysing ideas is more important than getting one “correct” answer).  Critical thinking is precisely what is discouraged by exclusively multiple choice questions. (For a detailed critique of this format see Ayesha Kidwai and Nivedita Menon  here.)

(Oh wait, the NEP 2020 is sanguine about one thing:

“Once internet-connected smart phones or tablets are available in all homes and/or schools…”

many many fun learning activities can be initiated. P 20/4.46)

Third, the term “light but tight” is used several times to refer to governance, and decoding this strange oxymoronic formulation  in the light of the institutional provisions, indicates that “light” refers to state responsibility (for funding, as already demonstrated above), while “tight” refers to state control over education.  Niraja Gopal Jayal unpacks this element of tightness quite simply  into what I see as two components.

(i) Autonomy is circumscribed and controlled by, the state. For instance, it promises faculty the autonomy to design curricula and pedagogical approaches “within the approved framework” (NEP 2020, 40). “It is not hard” says Gopal Jayal, “to imagine the fun that educational bureaucrats could have with those four innocuous words empowering them to curtail and restrict the very freedom that is promised.”

(ii) All forms of self governance that currently exist (Boards of Studies, Academic Councils) are to be ended and

 HEIs will be headed by an Independent Board of Governors, consisting of “a group of highly qualified, competent, and dedicated individuals having proven capabilities and a strong sense of commitment to the institution”. The brief description of its role—“empowered to govern the institution free of any external interference, make all appointments including that of head of the institution, and take all decisions regarding governance” (NEP 2020, 49)…. signals…the elimination of the elective principle and of the established system of representation of faculties and departments of the university.

Thus there will be total control of HEIs by government-appointed Boards of Governors.

Fourth, all research will be controlled by a National Research Foundation.

The NRF will competitively fund research in all disciplines.
Successful research will be recognized, and where relevant, implemented through close linkages with governmental agencies as well as with industry and private/philanthropic organizations. (P 46/17.9).

How much critical thinking would be encouraged by government and industry is not a complicated question to ponder.

Disjuncture between tight control of public institutions and freedom for private entities

One of the newly emerging entities in the education ecosphere, “edtech companies”, we are informed, are “bullish” on the NEP 2020

various market reports suggest that the new education policy will open doors for the edtech sector in India, which houses over 4,000 edtech startups.

CEOs of startups are quoted as saying

With the introduction of an Academic Bank of Credit, students belonging to Tier-II and III cities can get credits by just adapting online courses…

and

With this move, there are new growth opportunities which await the edtech sector. Edtech players will now look at new paths to expand their learner base, explore new markets, especially in Tier-II and III cities, and introduce new offerings which will cater to the needs of this upcoming consumer segment,

Of what quality these new offerings will be, to cater to new “consumers” of education, is anybody’s guess. The message however is loud and clear – there is good money to be made from the NEP 2020.

Encouraging dropping out and the link to Make in India

The new supposedly flexible structure of 5+3+3+4 essentially encourages dropouts from Class 6 onwards, without considering the socio-economic reasons why students drop out in the first place. While Pp 10-11 are about “Curtailing dropout”, and advocates the tracking of students, setting up systems of counsellors, social workers and so on, in the new large school clusters envisaged, this kind of tracking is likely to be even less effective than before.

However, the sinister agenda becomes clearer when one considers this encouragement to drop out, together with the emphasis on vocational training, alongside the implicit connection to “Make in India”. Let us remember that the idea of introducing vocational subjects in school goes back to the Indian Education Commission of 1964-1966, including the idea that students should be able to rejoin the academic stream later if they wanted. So this is nothing new. Even today ICSE, for example, as can be seen from  the list of vocational subjects on its site, offers many branches of vocational training at Class 10 level. But the fact is that given the option of a good and affordable academic education, Indian parents will always put their scarce resources into formal schooling.

All pious incantations about the “dignity of labour” (P 44) are meaningless if the scene is being set for unaffordable education to encourage the largest possible number of droputs, who will work for low wages, thus attracting foreign investment to “Make in India”.  To this end we have already seen the dismantling of labour laws, and the rapid clearing of all hurdles for foreign capital.

This is what the website of Make in India proudly states:

It represents a comprehensive and unprecedented overhaul of outdated processes and policies. Most importantly, it represents a complete change of the government’s mindset – a shift from issuing authority to business partner, in keeping with Prime Minister’s tenet of ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance.

In a short space of time, the obsolete and obstructive frameworks of the past have been dismantled and replaced with a transparent and user-friendly system. This is helping drive investment, fostering innovation…The most striking indicator of progress is the unprecedented opening of key sectors – including railways, defence, insurance and medical devices – to substantially higher levels of Foreign Direct Investment.

In clear terms, if the Government of India is a “business partner” with foreign capital, it is clear what its relationship to its own citizens (labour) will be.

What happens to the RTE and to reservations?

The Right to Education Act is mentioned as having achieved near universal enrolment in schools, but there is no further discussion of how it is going to be implemented and strengthened. Rather, Anita Rampal points out, the NEP 2020’s “centralised focus on state examinations even in grades 3, 5 and 8 in addition to the board examinations in grades 10 and 12,  runs contrary to the RTE.”

Moreover, she argues

The policy repeatedly insinuates that the regulatory framework (of RTE) for opening new schools is very restrictive and will be loosened “to ensure that all students, particularly from underprivileged and disadvantaged sections, shall have universal, free and compulsory access to high-quality and equitable schooling from early childhood care and education (age 3 onwards) through higher secondary education (i.e. until Grade 12)”(section 8.8). Having brokered a bargain to do away with RTE, it assures that the emphasis will be on ‘outcomes’, not inputs. 

As regards the constitutional categories of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, these are not mentioned as such. Rather, they are listed as “socio-cultural identities” (P 24/6.2) within a broader term – Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs).

SEDGs are defined as

Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) can be broadly categorized based on gender identities (particularly female and transgender individuals), socio-cultural identities (such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs, and minorities), geographical identities (such as students from villages, small towns, and aspirational districts), disabilities (including learning disabilities), and socio-economic conditions (such as migrant communities, low income households, children in vulnerable situations, victims of or children of victims of trafficking, orphans including child beggars in urban areas, and the urban poor) (P 24, 6.2)

This pretty much covers up to 80% of the population, but it also means that there is no reference to reservations anywhere in NEP 2020. In any case there would be no obligations on philanthropic private institutions to implement reservations. So the RSS agenda of ending reservations (which ties in neatly with the neoliberal agenda here), is fulfilled.

The mention of Special Education Zones for SEDGs is couched in terms that suggest greater concern for such groups (P 26/6.6). However, read this alongside P 11/3.6 which says, in the context of curtailing dropout rates, that “alternative models of education” will be permitted “to make it easier for both governments as well as non-governmental philanthropic organizations to build schools”,  and “the requirements for schools will be made less restrictive”. In addition, “the focus will be to have less emphasis on input and greater emphasis on output potential concerning desired learning outcomes.”

This point appears in the section on curtailing dropouts, so the terms “alternative models of education” and “Special Education Zones” for SEDGs are ominous, suggesting an apartheid-like  division between the 20%, more privileged “general” population (with access to foreign universities) and the 80% of SEDGs who will be given “alternative models of education”.

What are these alternative models of education, which are especially suitable for SEDGs? The NEP 2020 does not tell us.

Language Policy

A thoughtful critique of the alluring sounding language policy in the NEP 2020, with its emphasis on the mother tongue. has been offered by Ganesh Devy, the person behind the Linguistic Survey of India  and founder of Bhasha Centre for the conservation of indigenous languages.

He points out in an interview that the policy privileges Hindi speaking children, for they are not required to learn another Indian language than Sanskrit (about which he has more to say, as we shall see). But if any other language is your mother tongue, then the mother tongue plus Hindi will have to be learnt. The “cognitive load” is thus higher for non-Hindi speaking children.

Further, what if the mother tongue is a scheduled tribal language or not the main language of a state (say, Tulu in Karnataka or Kuchchi in Gujarat or Irani in Maharashtra)? These children will have to learn their mother tongue up to Class V, then the state’s language, then Hindi and then English. Essentially, he says,

The further we go away from the centre, the higher is the learning load and the more marginalised groups. It is precisely these children who have remained as school dropouts because their mother-tongues have been different. They will suffer even more if this policy is not implemented with sufficient imagination.

On Sanskrit, Devy points out that the census of 2011 shows an increase in Sanskrit speakers from the 2001 census. This is because when Sanskrit is mentioned as the second language, it is counted. At the same time, the number of English speakers appears less because when people record English as the second language, it is not counted. The recording of Sanskrit as second language would happen in Hindi speaking regions, because students prefer taking Sanskrit to Advanced Hindi, which would be their other option. Sanskrit, says Devy (and as we all know from experience), “fetches good scores” because it is no longer a living language, and is taught exclusively as grammar rules.  The high scores would naturally attract students as compared to Advaned Hindi. He concludes:

This will prepare the ground for claiming that there are millions of Sanskrit speakers and go towards creating a Sanskrit-based reconstructed past as the mainstream culture of India. This will also form the basis of funding for other formative languages. The policy looks good, but it is spacious enough for bringing in a cultural bias or what we call the RSS agenda during its implementation.

What about problematic provisions in the preceding three documents and the previous version of HECI?

In NEP 2020, a new body, the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will replace the UGC.  Under the HECI there will be “four independent verticals”  to deal with regulation, accreditation, funding, and academic standard setting respectively.

Earlier, in 2018, a Bill to establish HECI was introduced in parliament, but ultimately dropped due to opposition to its provisions, which more or less replicated the institutional transformations in the NEP 2020. A thorough critique of the HECI Bill of 2018 by Ayesha Kidwai can be found here.  For instance

nine of the 12 members of the proposed Commission are either directly officers of the Union government or ex-officio members who serve at the government’s pleasure. Only two of the 12 members are teachers, and there is space for a “doyen of industry” as well.

The HECI as outlined in the NEP 2020 sounds relatively more benign only because it is more vague:

Each vertical in HECI will be an independent body consisting of persons having high expertise in the relevant areas along with integrity, commitment, and a demonstrated track record of public service. HECI itself will be a small, independent body of eminent public-spirited experts in higher education, which will oversee and monitor the integrity and effective functioning of HECI.

When the HECI is actually set up, it is likely to look exactly like its previous avatar in the HECI Bill of 2018.

Again, a new body, Rashtriya Shiksha Ayog was part of the Draft NEP 2019,  which was to be led by the Prime Minister, with absolute power over education. The second and third drafts changed this to an advisory body chaired by the Education Minister, but NEP 2020 only talks of strengthening Central Advisory Board of Education. Will the RSA return in a new form, but under a different name, maybe?

What has happened between the abandoning of the HECI 2018 and NEP 2020 is the new strategy of

a) making fundamental structural transformations through the Union Cabinet, bypassing parliament altogether and

b) Taking care that specific features criticized in earlier versions are simply not mentioned again, or are white-washed, with no guarantee that these will not appear in the form of rules and circulars from time to time.

In Conclusion

The NEP 2020 is wrapped in pretty language but at its structural core, it is elitist, Hindu supremacist, treats education as a commodity in a capitalist market and actively obstructs critical thinking. Certainly education policy in India needs massive reforms and restructuring, but in the completely opposite direction to what NEP 2020 offers. All those who care about the future of education in India, indeed, about the future of India itself, must reject the NEP 2020 and resist its implementation to the extent we can.

References to useful articles not cited in this post. 
  1. Critique of sections on “Early Childhood Care and Education” and “Foundational Literacy and Numeracy” in NEP 2020

Prabhat Rai and Prachi Vashishtha “NEP 2020: Rhetoric for children”

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/national-education-policy-2020-rhetoric-for-children-6563134/

2. On status of teachers

Vimala Ramachandran “NEP 2020 is silent on the contract teacher system”

https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/nep-2020-is-silent-on-the-contract-teacher-system/story-rn1IKY2yJCBDF2R6SQOCKM.html

3. On the “light but tight” regime

G Arunima “‘Light But Tight’: Whose National Education Policy is it Anyway?”

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/opinion-light-but-tight-whose-national-education-policy-is-it-anyway/357968

4. Interview with Krishna Kumar on NEP 2020

https://frontline.thehindu.com/cover-story/it-offers-more-of-the-same-remedy/article32305017.ece

5. Anil Sadgopal “Decoding the agenda of the National Education Policy”

https://frontline.thehindu.com/cover-story/decoding-the-agenda/article32306146.ece

6. On implications for the marginalised, disciplinary spaces, autonomy, and constitutional values

Kumkum Roy  “National Education Policy needs close scrutiny for what it says, what it doesn’t”

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/national-education-policy-reservation-6531546/

10 thoughts on “NEP 2020 – elitist and corporatized education under Hindu Rashtra”

  1. Equality and Equal Opportunity for All:

    ‘ No doubt, NEP may brings improvement, but it should focus on integrating minds of young children, which results in bringing Unity of people , when they grow up. This, leads to development, growth of our country.
    The present schooling system, is resulting in social and economic difference, gender bias….as they do not study together, hence there is no integration of mind and Unity.
    As, our Constitution says, in the preamble… Equality and Equal Opportunity for All, irrespective of social and economic background.

    When children, irrespective of caste, religion, social and economic background, gender….study together, it brings….we are all same, we are all equal, equal opportunity for all…In young children. And, when they grow up with this kind of mentality, it brings..immense benefit…resulting in bridging minds and Unity.
    This, kind of Common School for all, concept was there up to year 1970, but later got disintegrated when private convent schools, which have become money making machines, came up. The govt schools, suffered poor infra structure.

    So, for our country to unite, to grow up, what’s is said in the Constitution…Equality and Equal Opportunity for All…is to be implemented.
    If done so, our country will become…truly Democratic, country with values, economically super power. …in about 25 years…
    Let us hope, aspire…for our great country, to become like that.’

  2. Thank you very much for this detailed critique.

    I’d like to circulate a Tamil translation of this post on a WhatsApp group of teachers and educationists in TN.

    May I request your kind permission for the same? When I complete the translation i will also email you a copy.

    Of course, in my Tamil translation I will list the Kafila link and a complete reference to the English version.

    1. Yes of course, I am happy to have the critique reach the widest audience.
      Thank you and solidarity.

  3. Excellent article. I read this article in Tamil. great work.Thank you so much. Special thanks to Translator.

  4. Perhaps you would like to make a correction – Gautama mentioned in NEP is not Buddha, but the founder of the Nyaya school.

    1. Pratyush, thanks for your comment. But you seem to be very certain of which Gautama is being referred to in that list, but it is not clear on what grounds. I am certain too though, that it is not the founder of Nyaya philosophy, and these are the reasons why:
      a) The list is not in chronological order, so there is no way of saying which Patanjali they mean (there are 4 ranging over 10 centuries) or which Madhava (there are 2 ranging over 3 centuries), and similarly, no way of knowing which Gautama they mean. If the assumption is that Gautama follows Nagarjuna in the list so it cannot be the Buddha, that does not work, because Akshapada Gautama – as he is better known – (2nd C BCE) also preceded Nagarjuna (2nd to 3rd C CE).
      b) Which Gautama is being referred to in the list has to be inferred from (i) its location in a document that passes off Brahminical RSS values as constitutional values and (ii) RSS claims at other times and places that Gautama Buddha did not found a new religion and “did not quit Sanatan Hinduism or Vedic religion“.
      (In addition, before another point is brought up, let me add that I said the list ends at approximately the 6th C CE. I should add that 3 names out of 19 are from the 11th (Chakrapani Datta), 13th-15th (the 2 Madhavas) and 16th century CE (Sankardeva).
      Anyway, since it is crystal clear from everything else, that this document is guided by RSS values that undergird the Brahminical Hindu Rashtra project, even if it is now claimed by the Committee that the reference is to Gautama the Nyaya philosopher, it does not make a difference to my two points of critique, that the NEP is a corrupt deal between Hindutva politics and predatory capitalism.

      1. I definitely admire the range of your scholarship that you displayed in the main article and also your response to my comment. However, just to clarify, in my opinion, the way the said list is constructed and where it comes in the report, it is clear that Gautama is posed there as a figure in the so-called formalist and scientistic legacy of Ancient India, i.e. as a logician.

        Of course, this has nothing to do with your main arguments in the article, which are quite relevant.

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