TSR Subramanian committee recently came with a draft proposal for the new education policy.
The panel has recommended significant interventions such as:
- Amending the Right to Education (RTE) Act to bring back detention of students after Class V, and
- Making minority schools reserve 25% seats for candidates of economically weaker sections (EWS)
- It has called for restrictions on campus politics, and recommended extending the scope of RTE to cover pre-school education, and
- of the Mid Day Meal Scheme to secondary education.
- The report has criticised governments for interference in important appointments, especially that of Vice-Chancellors.
Some of the proposals of the committee have generated a lot of debate over the potential shape of the new policy.
Let’s discuss some of these policy implications along with context from the past:
- Background of education policy in India
- What are the key legacies of NEP I and II?
- How has the implementation been?
- Recommendations of the new committee
- Analysis of the new recommendations
- Criticism/ challenges
- Way ahead
Background of education policy in India
- India had two policies on education in the past- in 1968 and 1986
- It serves as a comprehensive framework to guide the development of education in the country and offers the government of the day an opportunity to leave its imprint on the country’s education system
- The policy provides a broad direction and state governments are expected to follow it. However, it’s not mandatory. For eg. Tamil Nadu, even today, does not follow the three-language formula prescribed by the first education policy in 1968
What are the key legacies of NEP I and II?
The 10+2+3 (10 yrs secondary school + 2 years high school + 3 yrs of undergraduate education) structure of education, and the three-language formula followed by a majority of schools are among the most enduring legacies of the first national education policy.
The prioritisation of science and mathematics in education is another.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Mid Day Meal Scheme, Navodaya Vidyalayas (NVS schools), Kendriya Vidyalayas (KV schools) and use of IT in education are a result of the NEP of 1986.
How has the implementation been?
- NEP 1986 was implemented better.
- The government failed to bring out a proper Programme of Action, and implementation was hamstrung by the shortage of funds.
- Education in 1968 was a State subject, and the Centre had little role in how the policy would be implemented. This led to poor implementation.
- The second NEP came after the Constitutional Amendment of 1976 which made education a concurrent subject — and the Centre accepted wider responsibility and introduced a number of programmes in line with the policy.
Recommendations of the new committee
1) An Indian Education Service (IES) should be established as an all India service with officers being on permanent settlement to the state governments but with the cadre controlling authority vesting with the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry.
2) The outlay on education should be raised to at least 6% of GDP without further loss of time.
3) There should be minimum eligibility condition with 50% marks at graduate level for entry to existing B.Ed courses. Teacher Entrance Tests (TET) should be made compulsory for recruitment of all teachers. The Centre and states should jointly lay down norms and standards for TET.
4) Compulsory licensing or certification for teachers in government and private schools should be made mandatory, with provision for renewal every 10 years based on independent external testing.
5) Pre-school education for children in the age group of 4 to 5 years should be declared as a right and a programme for it implemented immediately.
6) The no detention policy must be continued for young children until completion of class V when the child will be 11 years old. At the upper primary stage, the system of detention shall be restored subject to the provision of remedial coaching and at least two extra chances being offered to prove his capability to move to a higher class
7) On-demand board exams should be introduced to offer flexibility and reduce year end stress of students and parents. A National Level Test open to every student who has completed class XII from any School Board should be designed.
8) The mid-day meal (MDM) program should now be extended to cover students of secondary schools. This is necessary as levels of malnutrition and anaemia continue to be high among adolescents.
9) UGC Act must be allowed to lapse once a separate law is created for the management of higher education. The University Grants Commission (UGC) needs to be made leaner and thinner and given the role of disbursal of scholarships and fellowships.
10) Top 200 foreign universities should be allowed to open campuses in India and give the same degree which is acceptable in the home country of the said university.
Analysis of the new recommendations
- A new policy after 3 decades: The new education policy, which is coming after a gap of almost three decades, is expected to give a direction to the education sector in India which has grown in proportion but suffers from quality concerns.
- Covers qualitative & quantitative challenges: It provides solutions to several challenges of the sector, including quality in both school and higher education, employability challenge, regulation of private education, internationalisation of higher education and a possible restructuring of education regulators like University Grants Commission and All India Council of Technical Education.
- Open the gates: The entry of foreign institutions will help to bring the level of education in India at par with global standards.
- Restructure UGC: UGC has become inefficient over the years due to politicization and other factors. There is a need of a complete overhaul of its organizational structure. The committee has tried to take significant steps in this direction.
- Relook at the no detention stance: The no détention policy over the years has failed to achieve the objectives with which it was introduced. The provision of restoration of detention in upper primary stage will enable to instill the fear of exam process in students which will make them take learning and study seriously rather than just attending school.
- Learnings from the ASER: The ASER shows the data about the poor level of learning in India. The detention is expected to improve learning outcomes in the country.
- The barring of students from political and religious debates is expected to reduce the anarchy in the education campuses which have become very common in the present scenario.
- Historically, campuses have been crucibles of leadership. College and university students are active citizens with voting rights to general, assembly and local body elections. It is absurd and even undesirable to expect them to be insulated from political ideas and debates.
- It is doubtful if scrapping UGC or any institution is the remedy needed for India’s higher education system, according to some critics.
- The changes suggested by the committee cannot be brought in a day or two. So thinking that the education system will be reformed in a short span of time is something imaginary and needs to be thought upon.
- India needs to improve the amount it spent on the education if it needs to implement these changes. Considering the funds available with the sector and the shortage of manpower at various levels, it is difficult to implement these changes.
- The report has tried to address all substructures of the larger pedagogical superstructure. Though it is quite ambitious in its approach, it raises valid concerns and puts forward some very important recommendations.
It contains much for ensuring a robust education system. Will this new policy be implemented? Will its recommendations solve a major educational crisis in the country, or will they become the subject of a greater political battle? The questions are yet to be answered.