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There has been a lot of nationwide discussions, seminars, consultations, deliberations, signature campaigns, and in a way, tremendous opposition in the parliament as well as outside from many circles on or against the proposed NEP 2016. It is interesting to note that grassroots organizations, activists, academicians, educationists, artists, writers and eminent persons have to submitted their responses and recommendations on the document ‘Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy, 2016’ released by MHRD. Why these things happen against a Policy Draft by the commission set up by the government, submitted to the Government for its consideration? Why serious oppositions from academicians cutting across party lines and religio-cultural boundaries? Why there are apprehensions about the policy at all?
The whole process started almost two years ago by the MHRD. It gave 33 areas for suggestions from individuals and organisations. It also said there will be consultations at all levels on a new Policy. Once these processes is over, there will be a commission set up for codifying the suggestions received from all to make a draft policy for the government. Accordingly the Government claimed that 2, 75000 consultations have taken place and the committee headed by TSR Subrahmaniam, a former Cabinet secretary, a bureaucrat by profession was formed. The committee consisted of 5 members. The very fault begins there. The way the T. S. R. Subramaniam Committee was constituted with four bureaucrats and only one academician, inviting and receiving opinions and feedback (with a preconceived agenda and methodology) from a large number of organizations and individuals which have not been made public and finally when the committee report has been submitted, keeping it in cold-storage, neither accepting, nor rejecting nor putting it in the public domain, shows the lack of sincerity and commitment. Seeing all these, our natural questions would be: Is there a dearth of educationists, academics and intellectuals in our country? Does it not indicate a sinister motive behind not involving them? Are educational suggestions a secret affair? Is it not contrary to good democratic practice? Why no Minority representatives in the committee? Why no mention of the great contributions done by Minorities and secular groups to education in this country?
A serious reading of the document ‘Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016’ issued by GOI has great many components of centralisation, commercialisation and communalisation of education and stands against the constitutional vision of our nation. This was well expressed by Mr. Sitaram Yechuri in his address in the parliament, initiating the discussion on the NEP 2016. We hope that the new minister and his ministry will take the views of all seriously and will work in direction of abolishing commercialisation in all realms of education, including Public Private Partnership from education and strive to build an egalitarian education system in the country. We hope the ministry will not ignore the point of view of opposing the highly centralisation tendencies found on the document. A contrarary view is not the view of the enemy, but a view for the betterment of the educational arena of the country. We hope all majoritarian and hegemonic traits in our education policy on the basis of religion, belief, caste, economic status, gender, normal body, language and cultural practices will be done away with to foster a new vision of a humane and enlightened society based on equity, equal opportunity, liberty, fraternity secularism and socialism.
All the educationists are asking the same questions to the government of India on the draft document, especially to the MHRD.
- Does it have a comprehensive, coherent, democratic perspective and approach?
- Is it in conformity with our constitutional vision, goals and principles?
- Can it achieve a humane, democratic, secular education based on the principles of equality and social justice?
- Can it strengthen and develop our public education system and stop its deterioration?
- Does this policy create Global citizens?
- Is this policy reflecting the point of view of all? Is it a comprehensive view of all regions, cultures, groups of peoples?
- Who all have recommended to the commission? Why the Annexure does not show the names of them?
- Can it provide free and quality public education to all children up to 18 years till they complete higher secondary education and equal and increasing opportunities to go to higher education?
- Can it help abolish privatization, commercialization, globalization and communalization of education and achieve a free, quality common school system based on neighbourhood schools fully funded by the government? Can it address the rural-urban, caste-class, gender, religious, disability inequalities, discrimination and deprivation?
- Will it pave the way for social transformation towards a humane, genuinely democratic, secular, egalitarian society with human security, dignity and good human relations?
- Will this recommendation by the commission end bureaucratic corruption the education arena of the country?
- Does this document take every body, religious and linguistic majority and minority, to progress?
- What values is it stressing? Humane, universal, or religious specific, hegemonic values?
Major areas of concern:
Anyone who is looking for the welfare of all will look at the following points of the document very critically. I have been travelling extensively in various parts of the country and meet educationists, principals and teachers in hundreds. I found all raising the same concerns. Initially the educationists thought the government’s intention is good. However, the documents have a lot of similarity with the document prepared by RSS in its Amarkantak meeting. According to Mr. Sitaram Yechuri, the ‘draft is a direct lift from the RSS meeting and it is the same document prepared by them’. He has placed its copy in the parliament. If it is true it raises serious questions on the whole exercise of a new policy. The hidden agenda of the ideological masters of this government, the manner in which the document avoided the contributions of various selfless organisations, the Church run educational institutions on nation building etc. is alarming.
- Policy Framing-Approach
The MHRD document shows a lack of deeper understanding of the problems afflicting our education system. It is more akin to a project feasibility report and is devoid of insights into the socio-political processes and causalities. The language and style of presentation shows a techno-economic and bureaucratic approach, without a democratic and social commitment and involvement. This is because it is prepared by bureaucrats.
- Hindutva frame work
The document is full of neoliberal and Hindutva ideological jargons and concepts, both of which are regressive and anti-people. According to Mr. Sitaram Yechuri the report converts history to Hindu Mythology, Philosophy to Hindu Theology. As another group of scholars find, “the concept ‘inclusive’ is used as a substitute for ‘common’ or ‘equal’, lifelong learning implies adult, open and online education, ‘productive life’ is used in the economic sense, ‘development process’ and ‘ever globalizing’ in the neoliberal sense, and ‘Indian heritage, culture and history, social cohesion and religious amity’ are conceived of within the communal Hindutva framework”.
- Socio-Economic Milieu
The context in which a new education policy has to be discussed is the socio-economic milieu of our society. Socio-economic systems of Varna-Caste, feudal and neoliberal capitalism, and patriarchy are marked by hierarchy, hegemony, subordination, alienation, marginalization, exclusion and deprivation. The failure of Indian education system so far is it does not create a change of mindset in people. Society is full of caste-class-gender inequalities, prejudices and discrimination. Social injustices against SC, ST, OBC, religious and linguistic minorities, the disabled, women, trans-genders and children are rampant. The recent act of violence against Dalits is a manifestation of such a discrimination. Engaged in caste-based occupations or in the unorganized sector with low earnings, they suffer from poverty, social and educational backwardness. There are reports of atrocities against a major section of the society on a daily basis. NEP does not address them.
- The Constitutional Framework
The Indian Constitution affirms that ours is a sovereign, democratic, secular, socialist republic, built on the strong pillars of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. Building an egalitarian, welfare state is the essence of its vision. Ensuring free and compulsory elementary education to all children and equal and equitable opportunities for higher education for all youth is its mandate.
- Social Justice Ignored
In the MHRD document there is very little mention on the change of mindset of pupils. There is a vague and token reference to social justice in the MHRD document. The marginalized sections like SC, ST, OBC, Minorities, Women, Children and Disabled face social handicap in addition to poverty and resourcelessness. The Sachar Committee report has mentioned it elaborately. No evidence of such serious issues and remedy of the lapses found in the document.
- Universal Education
The document pronounces (Ch.4) that “with Universal Elementary Education becoming a reality, expansion of secondary education is inevitable”. This claim is far from reality. The major problem lies at the Elementary stage itself. In spite of higher enrolments, high dropout rates in the Government Primary Schools, lack of adequate teachers, classrooms and other infrastructure facilities, lack of proper supervision and monitoring and therefore poor quality of education are the problems afflicting these schools. Hence the number of out of school children and drop outs and of child labourers is increasing. Hence the statement that the Universal Elementary Education has become a reality is not true at all.
- Stress on Administrative structures and not on Academic contents
The entire document is written with an idea of administrative measures rather than content based academic reforms. This is because of the lack of academicians in the committee. The reforms they have suggested for better administration will, in fact, only increase corruption in the system that is already corrupt to the core.
- Ignoring Character formation
The document stresses more on employability skills but ignores the importance of character formation of individuals, which is the backbone of any nation. Humanitarian subjects must be part of any schooling if we want people with heart. In fact, Jesuit education will always stress on ‘Head, Heart and Hand’ education.
- Over stress on Sanskrit and Indian culture
It all sounds good. But the document forgets that India has a composite culture and multiple language. Stressing on one language, that too, a language that is identified with a particular section of the society, exposes a narrow point of view. Let the children study in mother tongue till 5th standard in that case. Let tribal languages too get their importance.
- Higher Education and Free Market
The commission recommends the inflow of 200 foreign universities in India. It is a dangerous trend and is going to be detrimental, if not monitored. We know the intentions of the corporate and Multi-nationals. Profit is their only motto. This will simply take away all our social thrust and work for excellence, equity, expansion, and employability especially in our rural areas. Result will be we will have two classes of people created. India and Bharat, as someone rightly said.
- Financing education
The Draft education policy recommends 9% of GDP for education. It sounds good. But remember all the previous commissions had suggested the same. However, so far we never spend more than 3.5% of GDP for education. This is a pity. If we have not implemented the previous recommendations yet, and not even a serious evaluation on them, what is the use of another document with the same suggestion?
- Implementation of the suggestions
I think the biggest danger of the document is how and who is going to implement the suggestions of the Commission. It is so structured bodies that is going to increase the already corrupt system. Let the government look in to the causes of the failure in previous policy implementations seriously before it begins to complicate it further. What we need is more transparent, less structured system in place. This recommendation is exactly opposite of it.
Finally, it is crystal clear to all who study the document that the agenda and strategy of indiscriminate and unprecedented privatization, corporatization, commercialization, globalization and communalization of education is against our constitutional vision, goals and policy directives and against peoples’ interests. It cannot bring all our children – particularly the poor, rural, the socially marginalized SC, ST, OBC, religious and linguistic minorities, the disabled and girl children to school and retain them up to the secondary and higher secondary levels. It does not have mush of a concrete suggestion to make students for the future with the necessary qualities of conscience, competence, compassion, commitment and character. It cannot stop the present disruption and deterioration of public education. It cannot stop the closure of large numbers of government schools across the country. Governments simply justify the closing down of government schools by abdicating its responsibilities of providing quality education. It cannot strengthen and develop the public education system with such an attitude.
Therefore, we hope that the government will take corrective measures and rework on the Draft for the sake of the nation or reject the draft and constitute a commission with academicians and educationists from all regions and religions to frame a better policy. It is not an issue of the minorities; it is the issue of the nation. Neither is it an issue to be hurried without having serious reflections, deliberations, and discernment. We are happy that the new MHRD Minister, as it was reported, is ready to welcome good ideas from all in this direction.
- Write is the Secretary of Jesuit Education in South Asia (JEA SA), and National Adviser to Jesuit Alumni Association of India (JAAI).