Since independence, the Central Government has released three different policy frameworks for the Indian education system. The first and second, known as the National Policy on Education (NPE), were released in 1968 and 1986 respectively; the third is the National Education Policy (NEP) released in July 2020. These policies propose changes to the education system in order to promote and improve education in India.
Historically, these policies have included references to constitutional values and specific Articles in the Constitution of India, 1950. We decided to trace these references to understand how they have evolved across the three policies.
The first Policy is the shortest of the three, being only eight pages long. It pushes for the State to fulfil Article 45 of the Constitution which provides free and compulsory education for children up to the age of 14. It does not explicitly cite specific constitutional values, but alludes to the role of education in “creating a common citizenship”.
Less than twenty years later, the Government expanded the scope of both the Policy and the constitutional values contained within. The 1986 Policy declared that the educational system must be reoriented to uplift and ensure equality for women, Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and other marginalized groups so that the “educational system can move towards the democratic and socialist ideals” in the Constitution.
It is also significant that this Policy was explicitly pegged to a number of provisions in the Constitution, such as Articles 29, 30, and 350A on the rights of minorities in matters of education and conservation of their culture, language, and script. It also instructed NCERT to bring out a model syllabus focusing on ten core curricular ideas – such as constitutional obligations, democracy, and secularism.
The latest Policy describes “building an equitable, inclusive and plural society as envisaged by our Constitution” as one of its guiding principles. It also focuses on “empathy…democratic spirit, scientific temper…equality, and justice” and integrating constitutional values into educational curriculums.
This Policy is the first to explicitly require “excerpts from the Indian Constitution” as essential reading for students; this focus on the text of the Constitution itself is a positive development for constitutional education. However, it is interesting to note that the 2020 Policy elaborates on the meaning of ‘constitutional values’ to include all the values prescribed in the Preamble – with the words ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’ noticeably absent.
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