Mahatma Gandhi had visualised education as a means of awakening the nation’s conscience to injustice, violence and inequality entrenched in the social order. Nai Talim emphasised the self-reliance and dignity of the individual, which would form the basis of social relations characterised by non-violence within and across society. Gandhiji recommended the use of the immediate environment, including the mother tongue and work, as a resource for socialising the child into a transformative vision of society. He dreamt of an India in which every individual discovers and realises her or his talents and potential by working with others towards restructuring the world, which continues to be characterised by conflicts between nations, within society and between humanity and nature.
After Independence, the concerns of education articulated during the freedom struggle were revisited by the National Commissions — the Secondary Education Commission (1952 - 53) and the Education Commission (1964 - 66). Both Commissions elaborated on the themes emerging out of Mahatma Gandhi’s educational philosophy in the changed socio-political context with a focus on national development.

Education under the Indian Constitution until 1976 allowed the state governments to take decisions on all matters pertaining to school education, including curriculum, within their jurisdiction. The Centre could only provide guidance to the States on policy issues. It is under such circumstances that the initial attempts of the National Education Policy of 1968 and the Curriculum Framework designed by NCERT in 1975 were formulated. In 1976, the Constitution was amended to include education in the Concurrent List, 4 and for the first time in 1986 the country as a whole had a uniform National Policy on Education. The NPE (1986) recommended a common core component in the school curriculum throughout the country. The policy also entrusted NCERT with the responsibility of developing the National Curriculum Framework, and reviewing the framework at frequent intervals.

NCERT in continuation of its curriculum-related work carried out studies and consultations subsequent to 1975, and had drafted a curriculum framework as a part of its activity in 1984. This exercise aimed at making school education comparable across the country in qualitative terms and also at making it a means of ensuring national integration without compromising on the country’s pluralistic character. Based on such experience, the Council’s work culminated in the National Curriculum Framework for School Education, 1988. However, the articulation of this framework through courses of studies and textbooks in a rapidly changing developmental context resulted in an increase in ‘curricular load’ and made learning at school a source of stress for young minds and bodies during their formative years of childhood and stress for young minds and bodies during their formative years of childhood and adolescence. This aspect has been coherently brought out in Learning Without Burden, 1993, the report of the Committee under the chairmanship of Professor Yash Pal. 

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