The first, in 1968, was really a conscious acknowledgement that education is an important subject worth the attention of the Central government in Delhi. It recommended an uniform school system across the nation, universal non-discriminatory access, the 10+2+3 system that India follows today. The NEP 1968 put emphasis on instruction through mother tongue, which, in case of India, was many and varied, and set up the three language system - State language plus English and Hindi - that most Indian schools follow today.
However, despite the economic imperatives for a fresh look at education, the New Education Policy is also bound to be controversial. This is primarily because of the social agenda of the party in power. The stated ideological goal of the ruling party is to redefine India as a Hindu state, and this is likely to seep into a New Education Policy drafted under their watch. For example, there will be some battles over the Three Language system: While the government ministers have talked about 'tolerating India's diversity', others, including the Chairman of the Committee in charge of drafting recommendations for the policy, the former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian, insisted that India's diversity needs to be accepted, rather than tolerated. These ideological battles will come into play on the question of three language system and university autonomy as the policy gets finalised.
Despite these apprehensions, one sector that may be bullish about this New Education Policy is the Foreign Universities. Successive Indian governments have explored the possibility of allowing foreign institutions in India for over two decades, and it is reasonable to expect a definitive statement now that the whole education sector is being looked at with the intent of reform. However, the outlook is not that rosy: The Indian government views the Education Policy as much a part of its social agenda as the economic plan, and the social and conservative considerations are likely to take precedence.
The conversation is not what it should be: Unconditional and even incentivised access for Top Research Universities of the world, both for campuses and collaborative ventures to help build research capacity in India; an open policy, with well-defined safeguards, to invite universities from all nations to set up teaching campuses in India, to augment Higher Education capacity and to introduce competition in the Higher Education sector; and finally, a well-defined policy towards education on the cloud, and distance learning, that encourages lifelong learning and allow greater flexibility of the capacity of the workforce. But, this, perhaps, is too much to expect out of a Government Policy.