A Look at Key Indian Educational Policy Reforms and Initiatives in this Decade


Educational Policy and reforms are essential elements of a country’s progress. Since education deeply influences socio-economic outcomes of a nation, India is one of those countries which has given due emphasis on educational policy and its reforms from time to time. Since independence governments of the day have implemented several procedural and structural changes in our education system.

With an average GDP annual growth of 8% over the last decade coupled with the current demographic dividend, India’s demand for higher education will speed up in the next ten years. India’s education system, originally designed by the British for the affluent class, will now have to cater to the needs of common people.

The education policies and reforms in the sector plan in this decade focussed on Innovation and better use of technology to bring change. The move to expand current fleet of Institutions of excellence and national importance such as IIMs and subsequently enable them to offer degrees is intended to bring substantial changes to consolidate India’s position in the global management education arena.

The Indian education system in this decade was driven by economic and demographic outcomes and technological interventions. In the next few years from now, India is expected to have the largest Tertiary-age population in the world, outpacing China.

Indian Educational Policy and Reforms–An Overview

Let re-look at some key policies during the last decade that changed the education scene in India

India’s educational system broadly comprises school education (elementary, secondary and higher secondary), higher education (general and professional) and vocational education.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) is the nodal ministry for the sector. The other bodies involved in regulating and maintaining standards in the sector include the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), the University Grants Commission (UGC), the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), and the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) at the central level. At the state level, the Department of Education and the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) have important roles to play. (Excerpt from National Policy on Education 2016, MHRD, GoI)

Over the last ten years, Indian educational policy and reforms emphasized on overcoming challenges to improve low enrolment ratio in higher education, low quality of teaching and learning, constraints on research capacity and innovation, uneven growth and access to learning opportunities, etc. Both governments during this period planned to address issues such as funding, leadership and governance, quality assurance. to strengthen educational institutions.

Over the most important focus in the recent decade had been on enhancing infrastructure, incentivizing enrolments in schools by providing benefits such as midday meals. etc. The private sector with government support played a significant role in the expansion of the Indian education system and improving its quality.

The undergraduate sector in India in the past few years has seen fast growth. The undergraduate education was given prime focus In the Five-Year Plan of 2012-17 by the government for capacity enhancement of this sector. The major thrust was given on the significant expansion of professional courses.

In the research domain, India is lacking behind. Our universities and colleges lack a multidisciplinary approach to stimulate enquiry-based research skills. Absence of a proper framework for developing industry linkages with academia to promote research is a further limiting faculty and students to work in this area. These limitations are also restricting Indian institutions to come up in the global rankings. Under the twelfth five-year plan these overarching challenges in higher education were duly addressed.

The HRD Ministry in the last decade gave considerable attention to the incentivisation and evaluation of teachers.

Several during this period also came forward in making systemic changes in the education system of their region. Telangana, for example, made gender education compulsory at the graduate level. Similarly, Assam government announced free higher secondary, three-year degree and polytechnic diploma courses for students who can’t afford them. Delhi government announced that school teachers and principals would be sent to reputed Indian and foreign institutions to undergo training. Himachal Pradesh launched Rajiv Gandhi Digital Student Yojna under which Laptops were given to students who have obtained distinction in Classes 10th and 12th examinations.

Top Educational Policy and Reforms in this Decade–Achievements and Initiatives

The Government of India has initiated major reforms in the education sector to improve the quality and access to education. During the last ten years, new premier higher education institutions have been opened across the country to mark an expansion of this sector. Similarly, a lot more initiatives have been taken to provide equal opportunities of access to quality education.

Some of the top educational policy initiatives and reforms in education undertaken in the last decade are listed below. The list is only indicative and there are many more such schemes in place.

#1. SWAYAM MOOCs portal

SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active learning for Young Aspiring Minds) is a programme initiated by Government of India and designed to achieve the three cardinal principles of Education Policy viz., access, equity and quality. The objective of this effort is to take the best teaching-learning resources to all, including the most disadvantaged.

SWAYAM seeks to integrate students from backward sections of society with mainstream education so that they can also be part of the knowledge economy.

SWAYAM platform is indigenously developed by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) with the help of Microsoft. It would be ultimately capable of hosting 2000 courses covering school, undergraduate, post-graduate, engineering, law and other professional courses.

The portal offers a variety of courses from 9th class till post-graduation taught by best teachers in the country. These courses can be accessed by anyone, anywhere at any time and are available free of cost to Indian residents. More than 1,000 specially chosen faculty and teachers from across the Country have participated in preparing these courses.

The courses hosted on SWAYAM are mixed of video lecture, specially prepared downloadable reading material, self-assessment tests and an online discussion forum for doubt clearing. Nine National Coordinators have been appointed: They are AICTE for self-paced and international courses, NPTEL for engineering, UGC for non-technical post-graduation education, CEC for undergraduate education, NCERT & NIOS for school education, IGNOU for out of the school students, IIMB for management studies and NITTTR for Teacher Training programme.

At the end of each course, there will be an assessment of the student through proctored examination and the marks/grades secured in this exam could be transferred to the academic record of the students. UGC has already issued the UGC (Credit Framework for online learning courses through SWAYAM) Regulation 2016 advising the Universities to identify courses where credits can be transferred on to the academic record of the students for courses done on SWAYAM.

(Source: https://swayam.gov.in)

#2. National Digital Library (NDL)

The National Digital library of India (NDLI) is a project under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. It is initiated under the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT) as a pilot project to develop a virtual repository of learning resources with a single-window search facility.

It is being developed to help students to prepare for entrance and competitive examination, to enable people to learn and prepare from best practices from all over the world and to facilitate researchers to perform inter-linked exploration from multiple sources. It is being developed at Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur.

It has already brought together more than 10 million digital books and journals and more than 3 million learners are using this facility. It supports all academic levels including researchers and life-long learners, all disciplines, all popular form of access devices and differently abled learners.

#3. Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA)

The Mission of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan is to leverage the intellectual capital of higher educational institutions for the upliftment of rural India. It is conceptualized by a group of dedicated faculty members of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi actively involved in rural development work. The program was formally launched by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in presence of The President of India on 11th November 2014.

The mission is expected to enrich rural India through the technology that addresses local needs.

#4. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching (PMMMNMTT)

The Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching (PMMMNMTT) is designed to address issues related to teachers and teaching.

These issues would include the supply of qualified teachers, attracting talented professionals for teaching and improving teaching quality in schools and colleges.

#5. Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN)

Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) in Higher Education is an educational initiative by Govt. of India which integrates talent pool of international scientists and entrepreneurs with the institutes of Higher Education in India. Under its mission, the programme is aimed at elevating India’s scientific and technological capacity to global excellence by accelerating the quality of academic resources.

Some of the key objectives of GIAN is to achieve the following:

  1. Greater integration of reputed international faculty with the Indian academic institutes to foster global knowledge sharing between faculty and students.
  2. To increase international collaborations for research.
  3. To increase international student exchange programs in our academic Institutes.
  4. Create an opportunity for collaborative learning among students in niche areas.
  5. Attract the best international experts in the world to work on problems related to India.
  6. To document and develop new pedagogic methods in emerging topics of national and international interest.

#6. IMPRINT (Impacting Research Innovation and Technology)

IMPRINT is a joint initiative of IIT and IISc supported by Ministry of HRD to address the major challenges in science and engineering that the country needs to address for becoming self-reliant. This national programme is aimed at developing new engineering policy to create a road map for pursuing challenges in engineering innovation and intervention.

#7. The Uchchtar Avishkar Yojana (UAY)

The Uchchtar Avishkar Yojana (UAY) scheme is launched with a view to promoting innovation of a higher order that directly impacts the needs of the Industry/industries and thereby improves the competitive edge of the Indian manufacturing,

The scheme would foster industry-specific need-based research so as to keep up the competitiveness of Indian industry in the global market.

#8. Prime Minister Research Fellows (PMRF)

Prime Minister Research Fellows (PMRF) scheme is launched to support 1000 bright undergraduate students every year, for direct admission in the research programmes in the reputed institutions like IISc, IITs. The fellowship carries a lot of social recognition and it ranges from Rs 70,000 to 80,000 per month for 5 year period.

#9. Smart India Hackathon initiative

Smart India Hackathon initiative is to promote innovation in the students by encouraging out of the box solutions for common problems faced by the society at large. In the first edition held in 2017, more than 40,000 students have participated to solve more than 600 problems. In 2018, the scope has been expanded to Hardware area also.

#10. National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)

The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) is a methodology adopted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, to rank institutions of higher education in India. The Framework was approved by the MHRD and launched by Minister of Human Resource Development on 29 September 2015.

#11. Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)

Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) is a joint venture of MHRD 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.

It is a journey towards developing India’s top-ranked institutions like IIT’s, IIIT’s, NIT’s, IISCs, AIIMS into Globally top ranking institutions through improvement in their academic and infrastructure quality.

# 12. Rashtriya Uchchatar Siksha Abhiyan (RUSA)

Rashtriya Uchchattar Shiksha Abhiyan is a holistic scheme of development for higher education in India initiated in 2013 by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. The centrally sponsored scheme aims at providing strategic funding to higher education institutions throughout the country.

#13. Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme

Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme of Government of India (TEQIP), is implemented as a World Bank assisted Project to improve the quality of technical education system in the country.

Under the Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme Phase III (TEQUIP-III) focus has been given to the backward States in the central tribal belt and north-eastern region.

#14. IIM Act

With a view to promoting autonomy for the premier institutions, the IIM Act has declared them as Institutes of National Importance and gave complete autonomy for deciding their administrative and academic matters, without any Government interference.

#15. National Scholarship Portal

In accordance with the policy that education should be accessible for everyone, the National Scholarship Portal has been started. Apart from this, the Vidyalaxmi portal provides one-window clearance for the Education Loans with Interest Subvention.

#16. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in partnership with State Governments for universalizing elementary education across the country.

SSA provides for a variety of interventions, including inter alia, the opening of new schools, construction of schools and additional classrooms, toilets and drinking water, provisioning for teachers, periodic teacher training and academic resource support, textbooks and support for learning achievement.

#17. Other Policy Reforms and Initiatives

In order to focus on quality education, the Central RTE Rules was amended during the last decade. Through the National Achievement Survey (NAS) a competency-based assessment was conducted on the Learning Outcomes developed by the NCERT. Through NAS it was for the first time that the teachers had a tool to understand what exactly the child should be learning in various classes, how to teach this through activities and how to measure and ensure that children have reached the required level.

Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) was launched by Government of India in March 2009 envisaging inter-alia provision of a secondary school within a reasonable distance of any habitation and to improve quality of education imparted at the secondary level.

E-pathshala has been developed by NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) for showcasing and disseminating all educational e-resources including textbooks, audio, video, periodicals and a variety of other print and non-print materials.

Challenges Ahead and Suggestions for Improvement

However, all these changes have not been easy to bring. Efficient implementation has always remained a key challenge in all policy reforms in India. Equitable access to education is a complex issue in a country like India with such a diverse population. Implementation of a pan India reform becomes a daunting task in a heterogeneous socio-political and economic situation.

The Governments in the last ten years have introduced several schemes and policies to improve the overall education system of the country. But still, there are challenges in improving the quality and content of instruction. Our education system still lacks behind global standards. All this calls for a critical re-look into the issues and challenges to implementing educational reforms effectively in the country.

Reforms and policy implementation are highly influenced by personal preferences, interests and ideologies of key players involved in its formulation. We have seen in past issues around curriculum reforms that have been difficult to achieve primarily because of ideological views.

Social programmes like education reforms require structural changes in the system. It has to focus on improving long term learning outcomes instead of bringing piece meal changes. Academic standards in educational institutions must be raised to provide a world-class learning experience to students. Budgetary constraints and lack of technological resources should not push a reform agenda to the wall.

Transforming the education system without bringing a behavioural change is a futile process.

The national educational policy came into force in the year 1968 to make education accessible to masses. It was aimed to strengthen national integration through a unified culture of learning. National prosperity was deeply linked to the progress of this initiative. Since then constant measures have been taken to reform the Indian education system to provide better education services in the country.

Later Resolution on Scientific Policy was adopted by the central government that resulted in the creation of an Indian Institute of Technology (IITs).

The Primary aim of the National Educational policy was to address the problem of illiteracy by promoting education amongst the country’s people. Since then a lot has been done to improve and strengthen the academic and education level of the country.

We have gained a lot in the last decade in terms of economic and technological progress. However, a comprehensive appraisal of the system needs to be done to bring systemic changes. It will bring the nation to the league of the world’s biggest economies.

The gap between rural and urban standards of education needs to be checked. Infrastructure should be revamped to improve the quality of education services. A comprehensive approach should be followed towards providing better opportunities of employment to our graduates.

Make policies where school education and higher education become affordable for all.  Access to education should be further intensified. By making some fundamental shifts in the implementation process government can easily achieve better results.

The main focus of educational reforms in India should be on enhancing job skills of our students. It will help develop a nation too. Of course, this transformation will require collective support from public schools, academicians, intellectuals, educationist and other people from society.

Education is a powerful tool for preparing people to progress in the global economy. The 1968 and 1986-1992 National Education policies recognized education as a precondition for development and set out three critical issues in those policies – equity, accessibility and quality.

Ancient India has been a hub of knowledge in the field of science, mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, fine arts, medical science and surgery, architecture, and many more disciplines.

The Indian education system of the 21st century needs to preserve our ancient culture and instil a sense of greater responsibility and social values in our children. It should reflect profound impact and inspiration to all educational systems of the world, particularly in and around the region.

By implementing these basic changes, the Indian education system can be radically reformed to re-gain its glorified legacy of a global place of learning and knowledge.

Further Readings:

2019 Election Manifesto: Top Pro-Education Policies You Should Know

Best Digital Initiatives for Promoting Girl Education in India