NEP 2020: Is Interdisciplinarity the New Future?

“While it is essential to ensure that every child and an adult can attain the basic literacy to prove themselves and contribute back to the world, it is also necessary to have a curriculum that is at par with the global standards, which can cater to the dynamic changes.”

Quality Education is one of the greatest assets that a country can have. Its role is crucial as it can uplift a country from issues such as poverty, slow economic growth, and foster self-dependence, innovation, and knowledge creation that can potentially shape the country’s development. As stated in research, “Education is meant to prepare an individual for life, equip him physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually to deal with the challenges of life with self-assurance, audacity, making the right decisions, and broadening their perspectives. The primary objective of education is to direct the individual to live his life in a useful and meaningful way” (Radhika Kapur, 2018)  . While it is essential to ensure that every child and an adult can attain the basic literacy to prove themself and contribute back to the world, it is also necessary to have a curriculum that is at par with the global standards, which can cater to the dynamic changes. Learners are equipped with enough skills and knowledge to solve complex real-world problems rather than solely depending on marks and rote learning. This essay aims to gauge this particular aspect of the New Education Policy of India.

In 2020, the Ministry of Education released its third New Education Policy by replacing its predecessor after 34 long years. Its vision is to provide a comprehensive framework that can guide the development of the education system in the country, which would be in relevance with the current times. The revised policy brings in landmark changes such as an overhaul of structure in the schooling system, encouraging the use of mother tongue as a medium of instruction, a single body to overlook the Higher Education Institution irrespective of the field, and a return to Four Year Undergraduate Programs (FYUP) with multiple entries and exit options, so as so to reduce the number of dropouts. Another significant proposal is to do away with the rigid separation of subjects to foster multidisciplinary learning. In this way, the learners will be provided with a lot of flexibility to pursue varied interests and specialize in multiple fields with the possibility to bring an interlinkage that can promote further research, innovation, and employment. Once fully implemented, the policymakers believe that India can become a true knowledge centre that will be at par with institutions worldwide. Apart from this, the policy also aims to give more importance to Liberal Arts based subjects and incorporate it with science and technology-centric disciplines. It encourages various Higher Education Institutions to bring these new editions to their course structure likewise. Moreover, this will give an opportunity not only for Science learners to learn courses from the Humanities stream but also encourage the Humanities based learners to appreciate the technicalities of Science-based subjects and also build hands-on experience in related and allied fields.

However, it is essential to note that Multidisciplinary Education, the Liberal Arts education, is not a novel approach to tackle contemporary times but has its roots way back in history.

As mentioned in Section 11 of the policy, Ancient Indian institutions such as ‘Takshashila’ and ‘Nalanda’ are among the world’s first universities that flourished in liberal arts and a plethora of vocational skills that were relevant in those times. As stated in a research,

 “Nalanda was the highest learning centre not just of India but also of entire South Asia. The main subjects were arithmetic, theology, law, astronomy, metaphysics, Mathematics, ethics, medical science, weaponry, architecture, and religion” (Dr Rajashree N. Pandya, 2014). He further mentions, “Takshashila and Nalanda were very renowned where grammar, medicine, philosophy, logic, metaphysics, arts and crafts, etc., were also taught.” The collection of all these knowledge and skills comprised a total of 64 arts and, mastering all these skills ensured that students were enriched spiritually and culturally. As most of the learning was done orally, it equipped students to have active listening skills and indulge in the spirit of debates, discussions, and questions and analyze the truth of various theories and possibilities and apply the same to their practical lives. It was only after introducing the British Education System and the Post Independence period when the segregation of disciplines started to happen.

A similar way of learning was promoted in the Western World, where various philosophers of Athens believed that the primary purpose of education is to prepare the learners to understand and engage in the ideas of democracy, citizenship, ethical decision making. They were also well trained in rhetoric, grammar, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Many went on to study Science-based subjects such as Medicine and Architecture. This is why philosophers like Aristotle are well known in the field of Physics, Biology, Zoology, and Music, Theatre, Poetics, Politics, etc. During the High Middle Ages, this trend continued throughout the Medieval period when the concept of ‘Universities’ was first introduced. The ideas further carried on to the period of Renaissance and the brewing of ‘Humanism’. It is this form of education and pedagogy that the policy envisions to recreate.

The complex issues prevailing in the 21st century, such as Sustainable Development, Climate Change, Migration, and the current Pandemic, have done enough justice to make us realize the importance of solving problems from many perspectives. Many universities abroad have already learned the importance of marrying Liberal Arts with Science & Technology and incorporating them into their curriculum. However, India is yet to realize its full potential primarily because of the rigid segregation of disciplines passed on for years now. As stated in a research, “A comprehensive understanding of the main social challenges requires the collaboration of physical scientists, social scientists, humanities scholars and engineers, and will be highly interdisciplinary” (Solomon Bilign, 2013). Many researches have also shown that by cutting across traditional disciplinary boundaries, students can better develop their abilities to work as problem solvers and prepare them to have better prospects in the job market. A popular report predicts that “85% of the job roles in 2030 haven’t been invented yet” (Derek Newton, 2018). Hence, it has become necessary to encourage today’s youth to a variety of new ideas and explore untrammelled paths to be future-ready. The New Education Policy is indeed the need of the hour. Various eminent institutions of the country have already started to revise some of their course structures that appreciate the spirit of this policy. The only question now is the students’ opportunities once the procedure is wholly implemented and recognized countrywide.


Kapur, Radhika (2018), Factors Influencing the Student’s Academic Performance in India

Bililign, Solomon. (2013, Fall). The Need for Interdisciplinary Research and Education for Sustainable Human Development to Deal with Global Challenges. 1(1), 82 – 87.

Explained: India’s National Education Policy, Indian Express (2020)

McKeon, Michael. (1994, Autumn). The Origins of Interdisciplinary Studies. Eighteenth-Century Studies, 28, 17-28. 10.2307/2739220

National Education Policy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India (2020)

Pandya, Dr Rajashree. N. (2014, May – June). Indian Education System- A Historical Journey. 3 (3), 2347-5412.

Newton, Derek (2018) The myth of Jobs that don’t exist.

Lodge, Kirsten. (2015). A Brief History of Western Education. SlideShare.

Some thoughts on Multidisciplinary Education For India, MyNEP (2021)

Medhaa Priya is a sophomore pursuing Integrated Masters in Humanities and Social Science from IIT Madras. She is interested in Research and Data Analysis and wishes to pursue a career that integrates both. She likes to advocate about Education, Financial Literacy, Mental Health and Fitness.

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