The Modi led BJP-RSS Govt 2.0, immediately after taking over, announced a 100-day agenda which included drastic education reforms. It has come out with a document called New Education Policy on June 1, which is open for comments for one month, after which it will be finalized. This document is different from what was proposed by theprevious Modigovt. The TSR Subramanian Committee, and ‘Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy, 2016’, were proposed earlier. This latter was open to public for comment for some time but never finalized, probably due to widespread protests. The present document started getting prepared in June 2017 under the chairmanship of K Kasturirangan. That was the time Minister of HRD, Prakash Javadekar, said we will have a new education policy in a year. At that time, it was thought that the final version of earlier one will be published by end of 2018.But that was not the case. Government waited for general elections and now, with its strong ‘mandate’, intends to bulldoze the new policy.
This new Policy seeks to revamp the entire education system right from pre schooling to research level. This will be done on the lines of an amalgamation of RSS ideology and WTO/WB dictates. This aimissugar-coated with expressions of concern about the reach of education, quality of education etc, but what it proposesamounts to destroying whatever pro-people element was there inthe education system, howsoever faulty this might have been. It also further opens the avenues forprivatization, commercializationand facilitating foreign players on one hand while giving ample scope for pushing through the vision of Hindutva on the other, i.e. saffronization. In higher education, it is absolutely silent about continuingaffirmative action for addressing social backwardness and no doubt, this will translate into doing away with all reservations on this basis in toto. A definite reference was especially needed because reservations do not apply as of now to private institutions and the thrust of this policy is on privatization and commercialization.
This policy makes lots of nice statements, touches many the problems of education today – that it is not reachable, not scientific, is burdensome, heavily stratified, there is poor Pupil to Teacher (PTR) ratio in schools etc. The writers have done some research in substantiating the same but then this is not new. Earlier reports too have done the same. Many of the recommendations of earlier commissions and committees have been reproduced, particularly those of Yashpal Committee and some from Kothari Commission (as far back as 1966). It does not bother to investigate as to why those recommendations were not implemented, why good sounding recommendation remained in files only. It is the government of the day which decides to prioritize the recommendations of a committee. Govts choose to implement only selective parts, which correspond to their own policy thrust and give emphasis as per their own intentions. The current document restates the older positive proposals with nice sounding words and apparent nice intentions such as complete overhauling of the education system, development of scientific temper, fun learning, making education less burdensome, increasing PTR, schools within reach, multidisciplinary education etc. But only actually those parts of the proposals which will bring Education in accordance with the dictates of WTO and Hindutva will be implemented. By Hindutva is implied an upper caste, chauvinist, patriarchal outlook with the inevitable reflection in content of what is taught.
Apart from the lack of analysis on why earlier positive recommendations failed, the lack of serious discussion on the financial implications of the complete overhaul this Policy suggests and what outlay it recommends in the Budget, makes the intention of actual implementation of the positive suggestions doubtful.It proposes some estimates but doesn’t not dwell on the basis of the same. For instance, it says that the filling of the vacancies of teachers will add only up to 0.5% of the government expenditure last year. This looks very meagre and also unlikely. There are many other measures that will need large outlays if they are to be seriously implemented for government schools, like school level options in foreign languages, semesters in schools, high quality preschool education, etc. It clearly means that good things suggested are mostly just for looking good. In this respect it appears that actual measures for general students are those suggested on the side, like open learning, volunteer teachers etc. Rather, with proposals on merging primary schools etc., the real result may be to decrease expenses on govt. funded education. The highly stratified education system shall not only remain sobut surely get even worse.
There is an emphasis on new books and education material. In an environment where academic bodies are being rapidly stuffed with RSS sympathizers, the content of such proposed material naturally seems pre decided. Secondly, the Education policy of this Govt. should be seen in the light of its policy initiatives for pushing through privatization and commercialization in other sectors.
Here attempt is made to make a quick overview of the policy. Let us go through some salient features.
Composition of Committee
The drafting committee was headed by former ISRO Chairperson Dr. K. Kasturirangan. Among its members are Leena Chandran Wadia from Reliance funded Observer Research Foundation Mumbai; Anurag Behar, CEO, Azim Premji Foundation & Vice Chancellor, AzimPremji University, Bengaluru;Vinayachandra, Director, Veda VignanaShodhaSamsthanam (VVSS), Bengaluru. It had a peer review committee which included Mohandas Pai Chairman, Manipal Global Education, Bengaluru, a private education corporate; J.S. Rajput India’s representative to the Executive Board of UNESCO Former Director, NCERT during MM Joshi era. Its technical Secretariat included Gowrisha, Head, New Initiatives, Centre for Educational and Social Studies, Bengaluru. CESS is again an institute with thrust in so called Indic Studies and investigating philosophies of Sri. Aurobindo, Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda. Also, this Institute is developing and theorizing Indian Economic Model and Indian Management thought. All these are ample indicators of theprovisions to be expected in this draft.
Some Provisions of GATS
UAPA Govt was stopped by people’s movements from signing GATS Agreement under WTO as it included Education as a Trade, and this applied to the BJP-RSS 1 Govt. too. Let us look in a nutshell at the policy directives of GATS to appreciate this New Educationpolicy’s adherence to it. It has four modes. One is Cross Border Delivery: i.e. delivery of education services via internet which covers Distance education, tele-education, education testing services and open education.This is the thrust of this Policy too. Second is Consumption Abroad which covers Movement of students from one country to another for higher education and foreign students in US universities etc. This, too, is one of the strong proposalsof the current draft although this is garbed in other phrases. Third one is Commercial Presence which means Establishment of local branch campuses or subsidiaries by foreign universities in other countries, course offerings by domestic private colleges leading to degrees at foreign universities, twinning arrangements, franchising; presence of sponsors of campuses and courses. Fourth is Movement of persons meaning Temporary movement of teachers, lecturers, and education personnel to provide education services overseas. We shall see that all the four modes are embedded in the new policy draft with some sugar-coating and camouflage of good intentions to drastically change the situation with respect to the problems identified.
Let us start from the beginning. It proposes a new terminology Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) –a sobriquet for pre schooling, nursery, Anganwadi etc. It cites a study to show that children exposed to various ECCE schemes have a higher retention rate and they learn better. Since large number of people do not have access to quality ECCE or have no access at all, they lag behind in learning from grade1.Financially well off have advantage of good pre schooling and that is the reason for their faring better. Up to now Anganwadis have functioned under the aegis of ICDS. It proposes to continue it, but its contents are to be decided centrally by Ministry of HRD. RTE (Right to Education) will also extend to include ECCE. Let us have a look at its contents.
It talks of children aged 0-3 years first. It talks about stimulating inputs for learning throughlow-costequipment like rattles made using bottles etc. Second stage meant for children 3-8 years is called Foundation Stage. This stage is meant for parents, anganwadis, pre-primary schools, grades 1 and 2. Here they will introduce basic learning including language and socio-emotive skills etc, but also customs, moral development, what is right and what is wrong. This will surely becomeoneentry point for giving the content of theRSS agenda of upper caste, chauvinist and patriarchal values, right at the beginning. It even proposes to integrate and strengthen the traditional role of family. It means the onus of education will be transferred to the family of the children. The other important proposal is that Anganwadi centres will be better equipped, more trained manpower will be there, they will be co-located with primary schools. It may imply lessening the number of Anganwadis. Even pre-primary schools will be co-located. This is even now being tried in the name of better allocation of resources.In actual practice such co-locations will inevitably constrain parents from being able tosend children to places that may be far away. Recognizing this, and especially the need to facilitate girl children being sent to school, the emphasis upto now was always on neighbourhood schools as having the maximum chance of ensuring that all children went to school. It also proposes to buildstandalone pre-primary schools. This ECCE system will have a strong regulatory and accreditation mechanism. That means central control and little freedom to reflect the diversity that is inherent in our country. Central control, it is being seen in other such bodies in education, means bodies with RSS idealogues as overseers and advisors.
The curricular framework it talks about for ECCE has certain points to be pondered on. One, it is proposing parents, Anganwadisand low cost locally made tools to be part of this teaching. While it all sounds good, the difference it has mentioned about learning abilities of rich children and poor only get deeper here. Secondly, it proposes a flexible course, which while it sounds good in theory, paves the ways to have sub-standard education at certain places. Thirdly, in NCF (National Curriculum Framework) itself, there is provision for incorporation of various rich traditions of India. In the name of traditions, it is not the democratic, people oriented and enriching traditions which will find place, but rather that of the ideology in power at the Centre.
It also proposes that the Anganwadi teachers will be given 6 months’ time for CPD (Continuous Professional Development) to enhance themselves. This could become a tool to reduce the number of Anganwadi teachers, particularly old ones. Moreover, while doing all this, it does not at all mention about what will happen to the status of Anganwadi teachers. Currently they are given the status of voluntary workers and instead of salary, given honorarium without any other benefits mandated by the laws for regular jobs. With such a change, there will be an obvious demand to make them regular teachers. It conveniently ignores the financial implications of this part unless it plans that they will be designated differently under ‘reformed’ labour laws.
Now coming to schools. While it rightly recognizes problems faced by students, the solutions it proposes are dangerous. It acknowledges lack of school preparedness, poor PTR (pupil to teacher Ratio) etc. It also acknowledges that teachers are less. To resolvethis, it does not emphasise hiring more teachersalone (it does that but proposes other solutions too with the same emphasis, which give ways to bypass that need), but wants community and peers to participate in the same. It advocates what was proposed long back, but now has come as matter ofpolicy “each one teach one”. This is sought to be justified by citing an Indianproverb that “Knowledge is the only quantity that increases for oneself when one gives it away to others.” NEPproposesthat this can be done out of school hours by volunteers or people passionate about teaching, under guidance of teachers. This alsoclears the way for entry of NGOs (which can later develop into PPP and eventually Corporates can also enterin the name of CSR).Notably, it says that vacancies of teachers should be filled ‘as soon as possible”, and not‘as soon as needed.’It also talks about recruitment of volunteers and social workers and encouraging large scale community participation. The need to recruit trained teachers for quality education is totally diluted and this dilution is going to impact the children in govt. schools.
There is proposal for Remedial Instructional Aids Programme (RIAP). It is suggested that locals specially women will be drawn in to enable or motivate students who have fallen behind. They will be given special remedial classes by such voluntary teachers. Another similar idea is National Tutor Programme (NTP). The best performing students will be drawn to this programme. They will teach up to 5 hours a week and these volunteers will be given certificates too. No mention is madeof renumeration. While doing away with permanent teachers it will use the services of underpaid/unpaid people who want to serve on one hand, on the other hand perpetuate the stratified education system.There is also a provision for ‘qualified volunteers’ for both NTP and RIAP which will include retired teachers, good students or other society members. It also in consonance with GATS policies as it is informal low-cost measure.
The policy does talk of ensuring PTR under 30:1, vacancies to be filled urgently, but without even estimating proper budgetary allotment, and giving scope of NTP, it looks obvious that NTP will get precedence.
To facilitate bigger coverage of students, Open Distance Learning (ODL), using NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling), e-learning etc. will be used.So, all the good talk of school for everyone is mostly for making the draft sound good. The bulk will be shifted to Open schooling. Open, distance and online learning is clear dictum of WTO to reduce infrastructural spending.
It suggests that distance will not be sole criterion for schools. There are ideas of transport given by the Policy document, one of which is novel to government schools. Modes of transport suggested are bicycles, schools’ buses, apart from walking groups. But cycle rickshaws are proposed to be provided to some parents, who will also use it to leave children of the area to school as well as take them home for fixed renumeration and then use the rickshaw to earn their livelihood. It is clear that buses will rarely be provided.It implies that while talking of new schools etc., basically there is plan to reduce the number of schools and do away with many of the neighbourhood schools even in existence.
Structure has been revised into 5 + 3 + 3 + 4 system. It includes 5 years of Foundation Stage (3 years of pre-school and grade I & II); 3 years of the Preparatory or Latter Primary Stage (Grades 3, 4, 5); 3 years of the Middle or Upper Primary Stage (Grades 6, 7, 8) and 4 years of the High or Secondary Stage (Grades 9, 10, 11, 12).From grade 9 semester system will be introduced.
While different methods and ideas are described for each stage. There is no necessity to again explain why, in the current atmosphere where education bodies and institutions are being packed with Hindutva ideologues, the following statements do not portend well,
“All stages will heavily incorporate Indian and local traditions, as well as ethical reasoning, socio-emotional learning, quantitative and logical reasoning, computational thinking and digital literacy, scientific temper, languages, andcommunication skills, in a manner that is developmentally appropriate and inthe curricular/pedagogical style that is optimal for each stage” (emphasis ours).
It also proposes that all activities will be will be considered curricular ratherthan extra-curricular or co-curricular, including sports, yoga, dance, music,drawing, painting, sculpting, pottery making, woodworking, gardening, andelectrical work. While it has been long desired that all aspects should be included as a part of curriculum so as to allow development of all aspects of children, there is apprehension that in govt. schools this may allow neglect ofproviding proper teachers and proper infrastructure and give a cover for poor facilities as well as neglecting teaching of the core subjects.
With emphasis on multidisciplinary learning, distinction between arts, science, vocational and academic is proposed to be blurred.The way the stratified education system has worked till now, pushing children from poor economic backgrounds towards vocational education rather than giving all children equal opportunity and then respecting their choice, raises the fear that by continuing and intensifying the same stratified system, the Policy will intensify this trend, In fact, the Documentstates that with rapidly changing economic scenario, vocational courses are more relevant, and even pre-vocational courses should be started at early stage. This may mean governmentschools and thus invariably, students from poorer background, will end up getting a lopsided education which will dictate that they are left with no option but to enter the ranks of skilled workforce. This will further enhance stratification in education system.
“So many developed countries around the world have amply demonstrated,being well educated in one’s language, culture, and traditions is not adetriment but indeed a huge benefit to educational, social, and technologicaladvancement.” While it is good to be taught in mother tongue and know aboutcultures and traditions, in multilingual, multi cultural India where will this lead to especially when it is also decreed that textbooks will be centrally prepared?The country has rich democratic, scientific, pluralistic traditions; will these be reflected or will Hindutva ideology become the order of learning? Secondly, it is important to remember that books needed for higher education are certainly not available in all languages of India.
There will be teaching of moral and ethical reasoning. It will inculcate “traditional Indian values of seva, ahimsa, swacchata, satya, nishkam karma, tolerance, honest hard work, respect for women, respect for elders,..”
There will be full-fledged course on “knowledge of India”. While this could be considereddesirablefrom the point of view of emphasizing certain developments in India missed by western historians of science; but, given the political context, this is more likely to lead to pseudo-science and chauvinism given the orientation of policy and policy makers.
This apart, Sanskrit will be given special emphasis as it is considered a language where a great repository of knowledge including arts, literature, science, mathematics and medicine, is there. It means that knowledge which is centuries old will take precedence over current knowledge. It may be good to mention many achievements as part of history, but not as replacement of contemporary science and other things.
The proposed three language formula with Hindi as an essential element to be taught from first stage has already met with enough resistance for government to backtrack. It was an attempt to impose RSS idea of imposing Hindi as “One nation one language” or “Hindi, Hindu Hindustan”. There is talk of foreign language to be offered with language options mentioned being German, French, Japanese, Chinese. Today, these are courses offered only in private schools of elite standing. Where are the teachers going to come from for government schools if this is the routine option in schools? There is also likelihood that with such dramatic difference in the wages of skilled personell in our country and imperialist countries, this knowledge of languages will allow MNCs coming to India to use this pool just as they use other skilled personnel like scientists, IT personnel, engineers etc in their overseas locations rather than the expensive personnel of their parent countries,
A National Curriculum Frame work will be designed to incorporate above policy points. The local variations can be there in additional text books. Interestingly, while NCERT in consultation with SCERT, will develop ‘high quality text books”, the local supplementary or additional material will be prepared through PPP and crowd funding.
While rightly recognizing the burden Board examinations put on the students and its uselessness, the solutions it proposes seem only to confuse the situation. Going further, for university entrance a National Testing Agency (NTA) is proposed. This is akin to the Education and Testing Agency of USA which conducts various qualifying exams like GRE, SAT, GMAT etc. We shall see later that the idea in higher education is to replicate US system. Universities will not be able to conduct entrances or have admission criterion as per their mandate or vision. Such unification is also desired by WTO.
There are suggestions to change teachers’ selection processes too as well as their training schedules. New four years B.Ed. will be introduced and no further recruitment from old system will be there and para-teaching staff like Shikhsmitraswill be discontinued. For promotional avenues,itproposes“salary, promotion, career management, and leadershippositions in the school system and beyond tend not to have any formal merit-basedstructures, but rather are based on lobbying, luck, or seniority. An excellentsystem of merit-based structures and reviews, with excellent enablingschool and school complex leadership and environment, is essential foroutstanding teachers to be incentivised and motivated to do, and beappreciated for doing their highest quality work”. So there goes affirmative action like reservations.Besides, such proposed measures, though they may appear all right in theory, always tends to promote sycophancy and adherence to dominant line of ruling section, while claiming to remove the same. InB.Ed.programmes too “knowledge of India and its traditions” will be introduced.
The Policy talks of job guarantee for B.Ed. pass outs, but again there is no mention of how budgetary allocation will be met. At the same time, it talks of sharing teachers in a school complex. There is an inherent contradiction and it is seen throughout the draft. CPD will be introduced and minimum of 50hours a year will be expected. CPD will also include cooperation of civil society, peer learning and online resource learning. This means, while giving a window to Hindutva committed elements as civil society, CPD programs will not be manned by highly trained experts, but much will be left to peers and online resources.
There is a talk of making school complexes rather than more schools. Idea is to a have senior school and various junior schools integrated into one administrative unit and resource sharing. While the said intent is to remove isolation of small schools, it risks doing away with any autonomy of small schools. It would be far more desirable to improve small schools and have proper infrastructure and facilities there. Instead of that in the name of resource sharing, prospects are that many schools may fail to have any development at all. Even teachers are proposed to be shared among schools. It means not increasingteachers but increasing their load, with a possibility rife that students have to go to distant places to access resources. NEP states – “Adequate numbers of social workers will be appointed to the school complexes ……… The social workers will engage deeply with the community being served by the school complex.” It implies an emphasis on doing away with paid staff. Even PTR improvement is sought in school complexes. It means same teacher will teach in different schools of that complex. Not only it will burden a teacher, talk of better conditions and more jobs will prove to be only an eyewash.
A Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA) is proposed to be created for accreditation and regulation of schools. NEP says – “This apex body will be the primary institution for overall monitoring and policymaking for continual improvement of the system”. This body will not handle service provision.Similar bodies Rajya SikshaaAayogs(RjSA) areproposed at state level. We shall discuss RSA later.
It also makes recommendation that no private school can have ‘public’ in their name as this is misleading. This is fine. But, in the same breath, it gives full right for running parallel stratified system of schooling by giving full right to private schools to flourish. Thus every single apprehension expressed that the whole policy will be used to further dilute teachers, teaching personnel level and courses and options for govt. school students is fully justified. Specifically, the Policy proposes to encourage ‘public spiritedprivate schools’, schools by ‘private philanthropic organizations. Regulation criterion will be same for both private as well as public schools.
Schools are also given freedom to choose curriculum of their own, but in full accordance with NCF or SCF, however, public (government) schools will have stricter regulation. There can be multiple boards of assessment as at national level like CBSE, ICSE, NIOS. All schools will be accredited and assessed, for which a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) is proposed. It will have teachers, parents as well as civil society organizations. Apart from some basic parameters like basic facilities, PTR, etc., aspect of infrastructure is left flexible. All this means that in name of civil society, different schools can have different infrastructure and deficiencies can be justified. It should be obvious that all the Central boards and regulatory authority will be staffed by those who share the ruling ideology of RSS.
Private schools will have freedom to decide their fees as long as it is not for profiteering. All it means is that some accounts have to be managed to show no profit.
We can see while making so much of noise about high PTR, less scientific education, responsibility of state to educate, it gives ways to NGOs, corporate as CSR, and just changes the names of schools from public to private and thuslegitimizes, validates and encourage private schools. For government schools, particularly in remote areas, in places where poor children will go it only suggests informal education albeit in glorified ways.
In Higher education too, the Draft Policy starts with lots of phrases about failures orproblems of education so far, followed by suggestions to resolve them. But the intention remains the same. Hindutva is amalgamated with WB/WTO dictates. There is a general talk of Pan Indian traditions, talks about Takshashila and Nalanda and description of education in ancient times, which needs be replicated in today’s scenario. It talks of 64 Kalasdescribed in ancient texts from music, painting to engineering, medicine, math and so on. And then proposes that Indian higher education should be multi-disciplinary as that was the first concept of liberal arts. All the future courses and Higher Education Institutions (HEI) will be multi-disciplinary. It is important that such homilies for ‘multi-disciplinarily’ and ‘liberal arts’ be read in the context of actual practice of the present ruling dispensation.
ThePolicyproposes three types of HEIs. Type I will be Universities doing research and offering both research and teaching; Type II will be universities offering only teaching; and all affiliated colleges will fall in Type III category. All will be autonomous. Type III too will gradually be made autonomous. All must be multi-disciplinary(MD). Deemed universities,too,will come under one of such categories and there will be no more deemed universities. These norms will apply to private colleges as well. The direct implication is that all mushrooming private colleges will have authority to grant degrees of their own. All of them will gradually move towards full autonomy- academic, administrative and financial,implying that gradually all higher education will be privatized and commercialized. That is the main drive.
Though the Policy also talks of autonomy to formulate courses, freedom to innovate etc. but one can see that with tight RSA and National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) sitting on their head, the direction of courses will be pre decided. Moreover, with financial autonomy (though graded and increasing with time), new courses can only be those where rich can come and which will be saleable in market. It advocates design of new cutting-edge courses and setting up career management systems. Thedevelopmentof basic science, literature, philosophy, social science will automatically get a back seat. The scope of dissent in practice and in teaching and decidingdifferingtypes of course material will be curbed. Private institutions can have their own funding as long as they disclose their accounts fully. Own funding means own fee structure, and one hundred percent reservation for the rich and privileged. All the courses are suggested to be capable of making the students occupationally ready. This is not always a positive thing though appear to be one, as it dilutes the importance of pursual of basic science and humanities.
All universities shall be enjoined to have a four years B.Ed. programme. Idea is to prepare Multi-disciplinary (MD) teachers for schools. While this is a replica of US system, autonomy of privatization is in built in the policy which makesall the nice things it says about reach to last person bogus and nothing buteyewash. It also says focus of education will be on languages. This is in the name of making “it engaging with world” and students can learn to express in mothertongue. But it adds “This shall include India’s deep traditions in the arts, music and sports, including the numerous remarkable local and regional traditions. Yoga shall form an integral part of such efforts as well. Institutions will be encouraged and funded to offer full-fledged programmes and courses in these areas”. NEP also promotes vocational courses and skill developing courses to be an integral part of all courses. It is advocating opening of five world class HEI for liberal arts like IITs, IIMs, ISERs to be “modelled after some of the best universities in world history, such as Nalanda and the Ivy League schools in the U.S.” The engagement with world and liberal arts idea is either engaging with imperialism or with a phrase mongering which appropriates everything in ancient India for it.
Even professional HEIs like engineering/medical HEIs will be ‘liberalized’ and will notremain single field programmes. This could be a welcome step, except for the ideological desperation bringing it. It implies that above ‘values’ will be part of every student seeking higher education and thus agenda of RSS will have widest possible base in higher education as the content of Education will be in the hands of the regulatory bodies finally.
While talking of no student being deprived of higher education, it talks of introducing certificate courses in vocational training. This means that those not getting into proper courses, which shallbe the largestsection of our population as all positive measures like reservation and scholarships will be done away with and also higher education will be more and more privatized with fee structures differing for courses, shall be deemed to be only skill workersin waiting for the success of Make in India.
As far as research is concerned, there will be single funding agency called National Research Foundation, NRF. Others like DST and ICCSSR etc. will continue but NRF will bethemajor agency funding all arenas of research including science, history, culture, language etc.). NEP also states that “There will be a rigorous periodic review (once every 5 years) of areas and fields of current national importance, and of emerging fields, by a committee constituted by the RSA for this purpose.” This should be viewed in light of the recent order which states that research should be done in topics relevant to national importance and the deliberate push on an artificial history and on pseudoscience in national seminars and scientific conferences shows what this means. In addition, scientific institutions are already under pressure to do ‘’ commercially viable’’ research which gives marketable entities rather than focussing on basic research.
It also talks about promoting mobility of students as well as teachers. This is a clear condition of WTO to treat education as a trade. It will mean foreign students will come to India to get educated at lesser fees and at the cost of our students. RSA will make a proposal and set up portals and other means to help foreign students get visas,andwillsetup a ForeignerRegistrationRegional Office (FRRO).Extension of stay and internship policieswill be simplified to attract high quality students from all over the world.
NEP talks of internationalization of higher education, justification for which has been invoked by citing example of ancient international universities like Nalanda. Therefore, to attract others and to prepare our students for global challenges, we must have internationally relevant education. Same goes with teachers. they too can move. It may mean that foreign teachers may eat our vacancies. Again,this only implies succumbing to GATS and facilitating foreign players in education business. This mobility was a major condition of GATS.
Not just this, it also proposes to invite select foreign universities into India. The draft policy proposesthat200 foreign universities will be invited to operate in India, for which legislative framework should be made. It is worth noting that whentheVice Chancellor of the famous Cambridge University was asked about going global with off shore campuses, he said our prestige is from this campus and we are not McDonald to distribute franchise in every street. We can understand that only second grade universities, not world-famous centres, but profithungry education businessmen will enter to disburse second grade education with high fees in the name of foreign universities. It seeks to remove all the barriers so that the trading is unhindered. Collaborations with foreign universities is also encouraged. An Inter-University Centre for International Education is proposed for this. /Australian universities are not generally considered very good, admission is easy and it gives a stamp of foreign university, it may happen in India now/
Another feature is emphasis on ODL and online courses.It proposes Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). While talking of establishing new institutes, enhancing old, ensuring all get educated, it ultimately comes down to saying that GER (Gross Enrolment Ratio) in ODL must increase to 50%. Expansion of ODL must be encouraged. Regular institutionsof Type I and Type II should have programs for ODL, supposedly to shorten the gap in quality of the two. But obviously, it is to promote ODL. This means that the students from poorer background, will be sucked in for ODL and MOOC. The policy only further the present system of differentiation. Both ODL as well as MOOCarepropositionsof GATS to reduce infrastructural costs.
Faculty recruitment will includeacademic as well as some social work (“Faculty recruitment will be on the basis of academic expertise and depth, on teaching capacities and disposition for public services”). This ‘social’couldimplyin association with the RSS outfits. Probation period for faculty will be five years! Their promotion will be based on merit, feedback etc. Aso-called robust merit-based tenure track, promotion will be developed. It will amount to people not falling in line not being promoted. Even downgrading and throwing out is also proposed. It will mean toeing the government line or be out. A Continuous professional development (CPD) will be compulsory and will includethis‘social work’ and ‘values’. All are but euphemismforcontinuous ‘Hindutva’ push to education. The most important aspect is that there is no mention anywhere that in teacher recruitments to predominant privatized education, will the reservations which allow some social justice to prevail, find any place?
Professional education (medicine, architecture, agriculture, law and technical education) will undergo a major revamp. It is proposed that all professional regulatory bodies will come under RSA, NHERA, NAAC, HEGC. They will do the job of” governance, regulation, accreditation, and funding”. Current bodies like UGC, MCI, AICTTE will be only Professional Standard Setting Body (PSSB),settingstandards for courses etc.
Agricultural universities are proposed to be given new vision. They will not concentrate on just traditional agricultural subjects but will have to have strong linkage with other national laboratories, in terms of start-ups, business incubation, etc. meaning there by emphasis on commercialization of agriculture.
Technical and vocational education will be given a thrust and B.Voc. type of courses will start. This will produce workers in related professional areas like horticulture, pharmacy, radiology, etc. In healthcare alone WHO estimate is cited of requirement of 80 million jobs by 2030. It will be part of national skill development program to produce skilled manpower which will be used primarily into the private enterprises to dominate health due to other parallel policy initiatives.
Fees for all professional institutions will be decided by the institutionitself, forboth public and private enterprises. To enable access to poor students, they will be required to provide scholarships. Minimum 20% should get 100% and up to 50% “some degree of scholarships”. This has been the proposal of many corporate lobbies even earlier. Do not regulate fees, but give some concession to few. Such models are practiced in USA. It will ensure that a large section of middle class is thrown out of professional education. And scholarship will be for poor, from where anyway only a small section will be able to qualify.
There is a proposed provision in the law curriculum that it should fall back on culture and tradition. History of legal institutions and victory of Dharma over Adharma are be taught.Classical law text should be taught. (it explicitly does not say manusmriti though).
For Health, it proposes a ‘pluralistic and holistic’ healthcare education and delivery. MBBS should be redesigned. The first two years of education should be common with all science graduates, after which they can opt for MBBS/BDS/Nursing etc. There is also a provision for lateral entry for graduates from other medical disciplines including dental/nursing into medicine. It proposes common foundation courses based on “medical pluralism”. It means that all that are included in AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy)as well as others will be mainstreamed and they are proposed to be bridged later whenone can select electives in later part of the course. This will also mean that without creating proper infrastructure for better scientific medical education, one can increase the numbers of doctors. AYUSH and scientific medical health centre will be co located. These will be the inputs into a healthcare delivery system differentiated by class. All this must be seen in the context that the political class which swears by Ayurveda and ancient medicine for the masses, goes to the top govt allopathic institutions or to such ones abroad for their own treatment.
A single final exam like single entrance exam like NEET is proposed called EXIT exam. This exam will not only burden medical students, will also lower the standard of education. This will be to facilitate lateral entrants to exit gracefully. This will also serve as PG entrance examination. All this implies that it will help to produce legitimized substandard pseudo scientifically educated personnel for use in care structure for masses. Nowhere do RSS functionaries go for treatment to AYUSH centres for major health problems. Nothing can be better example of amalgamation of imperialistdictates and Hindutva in education.
Provisions of underprivileged sections
This Policy does talk of Unrepresented Groups (URG) in education but is absolutely silent on reservation of any kind. For URG too, it only says it will give emphasis in recruitment of teachers and volunteers, and these can serve as role models for students from URG. With privatization as major direction of thrust, virtually reservations for SC/ST/OBCs and any special provisions for peoples from interior area, girls etc. are also done away with. Also, in URG it equates all SC, ST, OBCs, minorities, urban poor, girls, students with special needs, transgender etc. this is sociologically illogical.
Regulation & Funding
There are proposals for various levels of regulatory structures and curbing or redefining existing ones. These new institutions include the establishment, by an Act of Parliament,an all-powerful RashtriyaSikshaAyog (RSA). It will regulate all education, from KG to research. It will have the Prime Minister as Chairperson and will have Vice Chairman of NITI Ayog as member and is to be run by executive and advisory bodies that will consist of 50% of ministers and another 50% of educationists, academics and civil society members. Thus, education will be in the tight centralized control of Government as well as RSS (who will flood Civil Society members even when not in government). Also, private corporate organizations like Pratham, Central Square Foundation etc. will get a say in these matters as civil society. These NGOs are already there. Therefore, it will be direct control of central government, RSS, and corporate(CSR). And for NITIAyog it has already started interfering in education and many states promoted merger or closure of schools, it has also called for scrapping RTE Act (as has CSF). What direction will it give too can be seen soon.
Under this all powerful RSA will be many new institutions such as: National Research Fund, National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (and State Education Regulatory Authorities in all states), Central Education Statistics Division (under NUEPA), National Repository of Educational Data, National Testing Agency, Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation, Multidisciplinary Education and Research Institutes or Indian Institutes of Liberal Arts, and General Education Council. There will be new wings or schemes like National Scholarship Fund, Study in India Portal (for international students), and the Global Initiative for Academic Networks. The Draft, repeatedly speaks of ‘autonomy’ in education actually proposes a direct central control government of the growth of bloated and hierarchical bureaucracy.
National Research Foundation (NRF)
NRF will be the major funding agency for research in the country. Its Governing Board shall be appointed by RSA. It will fund research in four major divisions Sciences;Technology; Social Sciences; and Arts and Humanities – with the provisionto add additional divisions (e.g. health, agriculture, environmental issues),whenever it may be determined to be beneficial by the Governing Council ofthe NRF. Other funding agencies will remain.
The arrangement will ensure that by grant of funds the “most urgent national issues of the day” areregulated. We have seen that recently a circular was issued to a central university to do research only in issues of national interest. It will become national policy now. Either do research in accordance with official line or do not do.
There is suggestion that NRF will work as a liaison between government, researcher and industry. Up to now government has no direct control over funding but fundingagencies do it, of course in accordance with the governmental policies. Now this liaison will give a more direct control. It also implies that now Industry can have a say in deciding the funding of research. Thisis much in accordance with WTO/WB. What is even more dangerous is that it speaks of collaboration with other government agencies, industry and philanthropic organization. These philanthropic organizations could be CSR organizations or RSS affiliatedorganizations.
NRF will also “create a mechanism for monitoring and mid-course corrections.” It will have a governing body comprising of academicians and professionalsconstituted by RSA. NRF will also fund international projects. This will mean India will fund foreignprojects, where domestic research struggles for funds, funds may be snatched by foreign bodies. There will be ‘no discrimination’ between public and private institutions.
While it says that monetary benefits of intellectual property will be given to researchers due to patents etc., government and the parent body shall have licence to use it. And this will apply to private and foreign bodies too. Since NRF will fund, without discrimination both public and private bodies it will mean that research will be funded by government, and if there is any significant development, it will be owned by private sector.
Other Regulatory & Funding Institutions Under RSA
Many such bodies are proposed. For instance, National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA), Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) NAAC etc. NHERA shall be the sole regulator for higher education, including professional education. Other bodies like UGC, MCI, AICTE etc. will serve only as PSSB (Professional Standard Setting Body) under the guidance of RSA. For this all existing laws, acts of parliament etc will be appropriately modified. It will monitor and audit finances and academic output with diversity of education as its special emphasis. What shall be the nature of this diversity, has already been discussed.
NAAC will be there foraccreditation and will accredit all the educational institutes. Now instead of a grading system of accreditation, a binary ‘yes or no’ will be introduced. Meaning thereby, fall in line or perish (though a 10 years gap period is there). This accreditation will also facilitate transition to autonomy.
All fund granting powers shall be transferred to HECG. It will be the sole funder and gradually replace UGC. “HEGC shall focus its energy on scholarships and on developmental funds to start new focus areas in HEIs across fields and disciplines”, with HEIs being forced to be financially autonomous, little funding can be expected from the HECG. Since all these will be under direct supervision of RSA, everything will be under tight control of the government, withnot just the incorporation of infamous HECI bill, but worse than that.
The document has a lot many more things which need a very detailed review and deliberation. But we can see clearly that GATS has been introduced as a matter of policy even without the government signing it. This policy is to make Indian education accessible to private and foreign education corporate and produce trained man power for them, make education inaccessible to common folks, demolish the concept of state funded free education to all. In fact, if we read this document with GATS or with six bills on education by Kapil Sibal, we shall find stark similarity. At the same time infiltration of Hindutva ideology at various levels shall come full throttle under different garbs. Lest there be any illusions regarding the interpretations of the policy proposals under taken above, please read it in conjunction with the NITI Aayog policy recommendations on ‘Education and Skill Development’ which is available from https://niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/coop/20.pdf.
It is surprising indeed that all of this leaves scope in some quarters for this policy to be read as ‘Too good to be true’! Anyhow, not only should this draft be opposed tooth and nail; rather, it is our bounden duty, for which outsourcing our concerns through petitioning to various representatives of the ruling classes in different political parties is certainly not the way forward. Powerful movements of students and teachers, which seek to inform and educate the common people of India of the dangerous portents is on agenda. There is burning need too, for the people of India to come forward in struggle against this document and all measures for commercialization and privatization of education besides measures seeking to end positive social action like reservations, without equitable changes in the life of the people.The way forward lies in powerful broad based struggless which must be followed in earnest.