75 years of Independence: Looking backward, looking forward at the educational journey of Independent India

In 1964-66, the education commission made recommendations on different stages of education at national level, which eventually formed the first national education policy of the free-nation in 1968.

On its 75 years of Independence, India celebrates the second year of NEP 2020.
On its 75 years of Independence, India celebrates the second year of NEP 2020.

While the nation woke to a free India at the “stroke of midnight”, the country started taking baby steps of evolutions in multiple fields, and education was no exception. The first educational reform came with the formation of the University Education Commission in 1949 followed by the Secondary Education Commission in 1952. While the first body was responsible for  reconstruction of courses, medium of instruction, student and teacher services in higher educational institutions, the later majorly focused on school, secondary and teacher educations. 

Institutional and Regulatory Reforms in Independent India

In 1964-66, the education commission made recommendations on different stages of education at national level, which eventually formed the first national education policy of the free-nation in 1968. The policy was revised in 1986, which further emphasised on technology based reforms in educational sectors. Initially the education department functioned under the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, which later in 2020 was named as Ministry of Education under the National Education Policy 2020. 

The major bodies of the department of education under MHRD included  All-India Council of Technical Education (1945), the University Grants Commission (1953), and the National Council of Educational Research and Training (1961). The first body was meant for advisories of technical education, the second body was in charge of coordination and orders on financial advisories and grant allocations for universities, while the third was significantly responsible for quality of educational contents and their implementation.

Parallely, with the foundation of educational entities, the formation of Indian Institution Technologies (IITs) wrote its own chronicle in the light of  upliftment of educational institutions. The first IIT was established in Hijli Detention Camp in Kharagpur, West Bengal in  1951. On September 15, 1956, the parliament passed the Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur) Act under the prime ministership of Jawarharlal Nehru, who declared IITs as Institutes of National Importance. Currently India has a total of 23 IITs. With its primary focus on science and technology, IITs have now reformed with the introduction of liberal arts programmes with due course of time. 

Journey of Educational Policies in Free-India

In 1950, a Planning Commission was appointed by the government of India to prepare a blueprint for the development of different aspects of life which included education as well.  As a result, the five years plan came into existence with the aim to  achieve universalisation of elementary education, eradicate illiteracy from the country, establish vocational and skill training programmes for mass development and raise the standard of education. Further, it aimed to ensure democratisation of education in every strata of the society.

Under this five years plan came several schemes and policies which changed the face of education in India.  First in the line was the formation of National Education Policy (1968) which was based on the recommendations of the Kothari Commission- one of the first commissions assigned the task of formulating a policy for the development of education in India.   This policy emphasised on three language formulas to be implemented in secondary schools namely- English, Hindi, and regional language. In 1986, National Policy on Education led by Rajiv Gandhi came into existence with the focus on women, scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (STs), under which, Operation Blackboard was launched to improve primary schools in the country. 

Policies such as the Teacher Education Schemes were also introduced by the commissions to train teachers for better imparting of knowledge. The government also started several centrally funded programmes to achieve the goal of universalisation of primary education. With this came Mid-Day Meal schemes which aimed to improve the nutritional status of primary school children. It also promoted parents who send their children to schools. Similarly, the government launched many target specific programmes such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat to improve education for certain identified sections of children. The Right to Education Act (2009) was an important milestone in the development of education in India which made it a fundamental right of every child to get education.

As the country readies to celebrate 75 years of independence, it is on the verge of implementation of National Education Policy 2020 which emphasises on digitalisation and internationalisation of education in India. The new policy aims to bring several changes in the education system, among which  regional language as medium of instruction in  schools, a 5+3+3+4 model to optimise learning and paving way for foreign universities in India mark significant ones among others. It is believed that the NEP 2020 offers several new provisions in the Indian education system, the outcome of which is yet to unfold.

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