A new education policy is likely to be in place soon! The government has already constituted a panel of experts comprising of nine members, including the chairperson, across several sectors, all of them widely recognized in their own fields. This panel is set to be headed by K Kasturirangan, the former chairman of ISRO; an eminent scientist and recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. The rest of them include,
- The Vice Chancellor of SNDT University, Mumbai, Dr. Vasudha Kamat. An academic with over 25 years of experience, Kamat has played a great role in the development of instructional designs for online courses and is highly qualified in the field of education technology.
- J. Alphons Kannanthanam, a retired civil servant who has played an instrumental role in achieving 100% literacy in the districts Kottayam and Ernakulam in the state of Kerala. He is also known for his role in the demolition drive against illegal encroachments in Delhi when he was serving as the head of the Delhi Development Authority in the 1990.
- Manjul Bhargava, professor at the Princeton University who has previously been the recipient of the prestigious field medal owing to his contribution in the Gauss Number Theory. He is the first person of Indian origin to receive the medal. He has constantly been in touch with academics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and the Indian Institutes of Technologies.
- MK Shridhar, the former executive director of Karnataka Knowledge Commission (KKC), former member secretary of Karnataka Innovation Council and a present member of Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE).
- Mazhar Asif, professor of Persian at the Gauhati University.
- TV Kattamani, Vice Chancellor of the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, an accomplished researcher and writer who was previously the dean of mass communication and journalism department at the Maulana Azad University.
- Krishna Mohan Tripathy, previously chairman at the UP High School and Intermediate Examination Board and also associated with the implementation of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, and
- Ram Shankar Kureel, Vice Chancellor of Baba Saheb Ambedkar Unviersity of Social Sciences, Madhya Pradesh, who has written a number of articles on the inclusion and upliftment of the marginalized sections in education and development.
Education is an investment. Educated Indians will only add on the number of people paying taxes and in turn bring in a higher standard of living for all. The scope OECD says has moved beyond this to the acquiring of quality competencies. Medium term plans keeping in mind the returns from those educated most be formulated. The Indian government strived for the upliftment of this sector right after independence, wherein the Planning Commission had identified the Universalization of Elementary Education; not only primary but also at pre-primary stages where healthcare plays a major part in let’s say, preventing drop-out rates due to sickness. The number of children in the village area are prepared often by taking help from the local panchayats and these are not mere statistical information. Serious planning in Primary education has ensured that children avail the luxury of learning in a quiet and conducive atmosphere. The number of habitations having primary schools within a kilometer, has seen a considerable increase along with enrollment number and following a decrease in gender disparity. The government has focused on Universal Access, Enrolment, Retention and Achievement. Secondary and Higher secondary education has been clearly differentiated as opposed to the system in the past where they were a part of college education or termed as ‘intermediate stages’. Since a lot of drop-outs take place at this level, vocationalization right from the secondary education stage can provide students with practical on-field skills.
The National Education Policy since its inception has been revised a couple of times (1968 under Indira Gandhi, 1986 under Rajiv Gandhi and 1992, under PV Narasimha Rao). The first NEP started with a resolution moved by Congress MP Siddheshwar Prasad who lamented the state of education at that point of time. Consequently, the then Education minister, MC Chagla agreed that a national coordinated policy must be put in place. A 17 member commission was set up headed by DS Kothari. The policy called for a National School System were education would be accessible to all. It also advocated that in the initial years the use of mother-tongue for purposes of teaching would be a must. Moreover it sought to strengthen university level research. The 1986 policy saw a considerable thrust to issues like women empowerment and adult literacy along with development especially for a selected few colleges and autonomy in institutions. During the first implementation, Education was a State subject, where the Centre had little or no participation. Meanwhile, in 1976 Education as a subject was transferred to the Concurrent list, where the Centre had a major role in formulation. The use of three-language scheme in schools, the 10+2+3 formula and several initiatives such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, Mid-day meal scheme, National Literacy Mission, are all results of the 1986 scheme. Also, the period saw establishment of the NCERT and its state-level counterpart, UGC, to determine education standards.
The scheme was sought to be revised most recently in the year 2016 that too after almost three decades. The government has acknowledged that the previous policies have not provided enough to promote research and innovation in the country. Education sector has not made much headway in the vocational training and professional courses either. Moreover, the quality of education has been dismal. The Government through its presence on social media has often solicited views from the citizens on improvements that may be incorporated into the current framework. It had during the tenure of Smriti Irani as the Union Minister for Human Resource and Development, already identified 33 key themes to be worked upon, where 13 themes were specific to school-level education while the rest 20 were specific to higher education. Later on however, the ministry maintained that the report was in fact merely a set of recommendations and not the Framework For Action (FFA) as initially proposed in the official release.
The previous panel headed by former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramaniam, comprised of former Chief Secretary of Delhi government Shailaja Chandra, former Home Secretary, Delhi government Sevaram Sharma, former Chief Secretary, Gujarat Sudhir Mankad and former Director, NCERT J S Rajput. The following are some of the important recommendations:-
- The Right to Education (RTE) act must be extended to cover secondary education to increase education coverage.
- Open schooling facilities will be further increased to cover drop-outs and working children.
- The committee has recommended an increased spending of 6% of the GDP on education sector.
- A National Fellowship Fund will be developed to cater to the needs of the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) students, which is likely to benefit around 10,00000 students with regards to fees and other material and travel expenses.
- National Talent Scholarships will be evolved to reward meritorious students in all subject areas.
- An autonomous body will be set up to oversee Open and Distance Learning (ODL) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will also be in place for better access and participation.
- The Curriculum will experience an overhaul to include goals of social cohesion and unity and religious harmony. Emphasis will be placed on both English as well as the regional language. Sanskrit as a mandatory subject has also been proposed.
- Multi lingual education to benefit tribal students will be in place.
- Students with special learning requirements will be identified and supported by the Centre. Professional Counsellors and helpline numbers along with Aptitude tests will take care of the same.
- Disability studies will be augmented through research for disability access.
- Alternate schools are being proposed for children who are migrating or are deprived to ease mobility.
- Pre school education for children in the age group of 4 to 5 will be considered as a right.
- The Mid Day Meal program should also be extended to secondary school students as a number of them suffer from malnourishment and anaemia.
- For entry to B.Ed. courses, a student must have secured atleast a 50% in his or her graduate studies. Also, the Teacher Entrance Tests (TETs) should be made compulsory for recruitment purposes. The Centre and the States should jointly decide on the qualifications to be possessed by prospective teachers.
- Teachers at all levels of education will be provided with insights into child rights and what may amount to a violation of their training programs.
- The no detention policy must not be continued beyond the fifth grade and at the upper primary stage detention shall be restored subject to remedial classes and the child taking at least two extra chances of proving his mettle.
- The UGC must give way to a better law for the purposes of education management. The institution must also engage itself in providing scholarships and fellowships.
- There must be compulsory licensing/ certification of teachers at both government and private institutes. The same must be renewed every ten years by an external testing body.
- For science subjects, more emphasis would be placed on its practical aspects. A common curriculum for subjects like English, Science and Mathematics would be put in place while the other subjects would be partially common with a few changes being made by the States.
The new Panel formed under the guidance of K. Kasturirangan marks a positive shift. The composition itself speaks volumes since the members are accomplished academicians across several spheres as opposed to the previous Subramaniam Committee where the panel comprised only of Bureaucrats. Zonal, district and tehsil level meetings held in all the States among the respective stakeholders such as educationists, teachers, experts and students have allowed constructive formulation. The Subramaniam Committee had also identified the restructuring of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) along with internationalization of education. The new committee will substantially draw policies from the previous committee while framing the policy. It remains to be seen what the new policy will unfold!