A Critical Response to “Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016” Ministry of Human Resources Development, G.O.I

September 19, 2016

A critical response to “Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016” Ministry of Human Resources Development, G.O.I

By All India Forum for Right to Education (A. I. F. R. T. E)

15th September, 2016

 

AIFRTE PRESIDIUM

Dr. Meher Engineer, Chairperson, AIFRTE
Kolkata, West Bengal ; Ex-President, Indian Academy of Social Science;
Prof. Wasi Ahmed, Bihar, Former Joint Secretary, AIFUCTO; Patna
Sri Prabhakar Arade, Maharashtra, President, AIFETO; Kolhapur
Prof. G. Haragopal, Telangana, National Fellow, ICSSR; TISS, Hyderabad
Prof. Madhu Prasad, Delhi, Formerly Deptt. of Philosophy, Zakir Husain College D U
Prof. K. Chakradhar Rao, Telangana, Deptt. of Economics, Osmania University
Prof. Anil Sadgopal, Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal, Former Dean, Faculty of Education, DU
Prof. K. M. Shrimali, Delhi, Formerly Dept. of History, Delhi University
Dr. Anand Teltumbde, Goa, Senior Professor, Goa Institute of Management, Goa. 

 

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To

Shri Prakash Javadekar,

The Minister for Human Resource Development

Government of India

Shastri Bhavan, New Delhi

Subject: AIFRTE Response (Revised) to the MHRD document ‘Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016’.

Note: We have submitted our response on 12th Sept. This is a slightly modified document and we suggest you to consider this instead of the earlier.

Respected Sir,

All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE), a federal platform of grassroots organizations, activists, academicians, educationists, artists, writers and eminent persons would like to submit its response and recommendations on the document

Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy, 2016’ released by MHRD. AIFRTE is working in 22 States and Union Territories

AIFRTE, after thorough analysis, is convinced that the document ‘Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016’ issued by GOI has great many components of commercialisation and communalisation of education and stands against the constitutional vision of our nation. We hope that your ministry will take our endeavor seriously and will work in direction of abolishing commercialisation in all forms including Public Private Partnership from education and strive to build an egalitarian education system in the country. We hope all majoritarian and hegemonic traits in our education policy on the basis of religion, belief, caste, economic capacity, 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 equality, equal opportunity, liberty, fraternity secularism and socialism.

Thanking You.

With Regards,

Presidium

All India Forum for Right to Education

 

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Introduction

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A response to the MHRD document “Some inputs for Draft

Education Policy 2016” (MHRD Inputs) raises some questions:

  • 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?

  • 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 neighborhood 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?

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 Policy Framing-Approach

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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.

The way the T. S. R. Subramaniam Committee was constituted with four bureaucrats and only one academic, 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. Is there a dearth of educationists, academics and intellectuals in our country? Does it not indicate a sinister motive behind not involving them? Is it not contrary to good democratic practice?

The MHRD document lack coherence, consistency or a holistic approach. There are clear contradictions between the avowed goals and objectives and the policy framework and the strategies discussed. Absence of the required priority to education and political commitment and will is apparent.

The conception of Education

The conception of education in the MHRD document is narrow, restrictive and misleading. In its preamble it says “the

NEP 2016 envisions a credible Education system capable of ensuring inclusive quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all and producing students / graduates equipped with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values… to lead a

productive life, participate in the country’s development process, respond to the requirements of the fast-changing, ever-globalizing, knowledge-based societies, and developing responsible citizens who respect the Indian tradition of acceptance of diversity of Indian heritage, culture and history and promote social cohesion and religious amity”.

This is full of neoliberal and Hindutva ideological jargons and concepts, both of which are regressive and anti-people. 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.

In fact education as a social-historical process plays an enlightening, transformative and emancipative role. Education should lead to the enlightenment of individual and progress of society. Through its humanizing, civilizing and rationalizing role, it inculcates in the individual and society a spirit of enquiry and scientific temperament and also leads to a society with freedom, justice, equality, fraternity and human dignity, democracy, plurality, federalism, secularism and socialism.

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. Severe caste-class-gender inequalities, prejudices and discrimination are all-pervading. Social injustices against SC, ST, OBC, religious and linguistic minorities, the disabled, women, trans-genders and children are rampant. Engaged in caste-based occupations or in the unorganized sector with low earnings, they suffer from poverty, social and educational backwardness and the cruelty of social practices and stigmas like untouchability and alienation. The NEP does not address them.

The Constitutional Framework

The Indian Constitution affirms that ours is a sovereign, democratic, secular, socialist republic with 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.

 

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The policy framework of the MHRD Document:

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 By advocating privatization of education, withdrawal of the state and assigning a pro-active role to the corporate sector, turning education into a private good and a tradable service, the NEP is in clear contravention of the constitutional vision of a common education system. Objectives like equality, equitable education, social justice, secularism are repeatedly mentioned (chapter 3 of inputs document) in a formal and perfunctory manner and they are not supported by necessary policy initiatives.

With education shifted from the State List to the Concurrent List in the Constitution, there is a heavy centralization of decision-making power with the Centre and the states are made to depend on it for policies and financial resources. This needs to be changed. The states which are the major providers of education should be provided with adequate powers and financial resources.

Professor Amartya Sen, the Nobel Laureate, once said: ‘we cannot live without the past but cannot live within it either’. All varieties of history of humanity show that once humans started living a sedentary life and acquired the sense of private property, societies evolved along stratified classes with a handful of privileged segments controlling all kinds of resources and a great mass of people engaged in primary tasks of production of wealth being subjected to all kinds of indignities and disabilities. Until the advent of modern democratic establishments rooted in universal suffrage, all societies of the world preserved the vested interests of select few classes. Equally significant feature of human history, notwithstanding these fragmenting forces, is the demolition of the twin myths of ‘purity of race’ and ‘purity of language’. And with the all-pervasive eternally migrant character of humans, all societies of the world have perennially been pluralistic – socially and culturally.

The MHRD document invokes history in a somewhat queer manner. The very first sentence and the first paragraph of the ‘Preamble’ makes it amply clear that the whole approach is not only ahistorical but is completely motivated by the interests of what has come to be seen as ‘imagined community’. When even in today’s democratic India, post-Independence seven decades have never seen more than 1/25th of the national financial resources being spent on education, the claim that

India has always accorded high importance to education’ can at best be seen as laughable and an exercise in self-delusion.

Further, it is contradicted by the document’s admission a few pages later, ‘India currently has the largest non-literate population in the world’ (p.7)

At couple of places, the ‘Inputs document’ harps on disseminating ‘India’s rich heritage, glorious past, great traditions’ and the need to provide adequate space for ‘Indian culture, local and traditional knowledge’. Legitimate questions in this context would be: whose heritage? Which heritage? Which past? Which tradition? While no categorical answers to these questions are forthcoming, its stray allusions to ‘linguistic and cultural diversity’, ‘heterogeneous culture’ are more in the nature of mere lip service than voices emerging out of any serious conviction. On the other hand, the real intent can be easily deciphered in its eulogy of ‘Vedic system of education’ and ‘the Gurukul system’ (Preamble of MHRD document) and in its mission of achieving ‘cultural unity of the country’ through the ‘teaching of Sanskrit at the school and university stages’ because of ‘special importance of Sanskrit to the growth and development of Indian languages’. In this context, it needs to be recalled that throughout its long history spanning over several millennia, Sanskrit always remained a language of the ruling and social elite.

Again, the inputs document leaves no one in doubt that all non-Sanskritik traditions – right from the Charvakas, the Buddha and Mahavir to Nanak, Kabir, Ramdas and more recently, up to Phule, the Periyar and Ambedkar (most of these were using people’s languages) – essentially, all thought currents that questioned the ‘Vedic’ tradition and ‘Vedic system of education’ (read Brahmanical tradition) have been completely blacked out. By questioning this ‘Vedic’ tradition, they were all contesting its inherent opposition to any social change and its predilection to be status-quoist. Remarkably, all these were voices of reason and rooted in scientific temper, voices that encouraged people to think on their own and question everything. While the Buddha wanted every individual to ‘be a lamp unto himself’ (atta deepo bhava), the Jainas through their accent on the multi-faceted truth created phenomenal spaces for alternative and even dissenting voices. The Jainas debated incessantly for over two thousand years about the rights and potentialities of women to achieve nirvana (salvation). They also went on to discuss such manifestations of identities of women and womanhood that would perhaps put even the most modern feminist to shame! Notwithstanding the initial reluctance of the Buddha to admit women into the sangha (monastic establishment, that later grew as big educational centers), women were subsequently encouraged to develop their educational skills. Many of them went on to become renowned poets. Both the Jainas and the Buddhist sanghas allowed their women members to retain their property rights, which enabled them to give big donations for the building and embellishment of stupas such as Sanchi, Bharhut and Nagarjunakonda. These non-sanskritik voices provided roots for and nurtured the

Argumentative Indian’. The Document, on the other hand, wants a regimented system. No wonder, the ‘Gurukul system’ is understood as ‘a teacher centric system in which the pupil was subjected to a rigid discipline and was under certain obligations towards his/her teacher’ (pg.1 of MHRD document). The inquisitive Gargi, during a philosophic discussion in one of the Upanishads, was brazenly asked by the sage Yagyavalkya to shut up lest her head was chopped off’. The NEP Document just does not have any space for ‘reason’ and ‘scientific temper’.

The richness of non-Sanskritik thought currents can also be seen in the earliest Tamil literature. It is quite a revelation that more than two millennia ago, these texts developed a concept of eco-cultural zones within ancient Tamilnadu. These zones sustained inhabitants of multiple identities. One can see a generic link between such exposition and the identification of more than ninety eco-cultural zones in India by the Anthropological Survey of India’s People of India Project of the 1980s.

That India’s long pluralistic and non-Sanskritik cultural traditions are not even on the radar of the policy framework envisioned in the document is also reflected in the identification of markers who contributed to seminal contributions to the world of knowledge. It is well-known that very significant scientific treatises were written in Arabic and Persian. Not a single allusion to authors of such writings figures in the list, where Charaka, Sushruta, Aryabhata, etc are mentioned. The Madrasa of Mahmud Gawan at Bidar (in Karnataka built in late 15th century) focused not just on its ecclesiastical interest of propagating Shiaism but also invited reputed faculty from outside India to teach science and mathematics. It is also recorded that free boarding, lodging and education to over 500 students from the world over was provided at any given time. The founder had established a library of 3000 volumes in this university before his death. Regrettably, it does not figure anywhere in the Document. Don’t Akbar, Dara Shukoh and

Shah Jahan deserve a place for patronising and nurturing different linguistic traditions? Recent studies have shown that contrary to commonly held view of decline of Sanskrit, more than 250 years of the Mughal rule (16th-18th centuries) constituted a very rich and creative phase of Sanskrit writings in varied genres. Akbar’s patronage of Persian translations of the Epics and Dara Shukoh’s monumental translations (from Sanskrit to

Persian) of numerous Upanishads stand out as remarkable examples. While Takshila (Taxila) is merely history now, the building of Dara Shukoh’s library (in Kashmiri Gate, Delhi) still exists and is housing the Bharat Ratna Bhimrao Ambedkar University and even Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University functioned from this building until recently.

Singing paeans of the selected past (read ancient Hindu’ / brahmanical past of the Pre-Turkish times as delineated by Brahmanical lawmakers and social thinkers), without making its critical evaluation, and in the process, deliberately ignoring its extremely dehumanizing inegalitarian patriarchal caste-system and divisive socio-cultural dimensions (anti-women, anti-lower social orders and against the people following occupations that were hated by the brahmanical thinkers – all zealously codified in the Manusmriti) is only aiming at the perpetuation of similar divides in modern democratic

India. We can do without recalling the ‘Sudarshan Chakra’ of ‘Mohan’ (Lord Krishna) but we must not be oblivious of the chaak of the first kumhaar of humanity (wheel of the potter, whose religious identity can never be established), which not only honed her/his skill of creating varied pots and pans but more importantly, is the greatest testimony of her/his inventive mind that made such a phenomenal technological breakthrough.

We do not need Dronacharyas of the ‘Gurukul system’ but an educational apparatus that does not produce Ekalavyas and Shambooks. While Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore was inspired by the ashramas in establishing his Santiniketan, one would look in vain to find evidence of those ancient learning establishments venturing to realise Gurudeva’s ideals of a

Knowledge Centre embodied in his famous lines:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;…

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sands of dead habit;…

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

Further, when this MHRD document mentions achieving cultural unity of the country through teaching of Sanskrit’, one can be sure of its determined pursuance of the goal of ‘One People, One Culture, One Nation’, which would obviously destroy the millennia old ‘Idea of India’ rooted in its multi-faceted pluralities.

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 Social Justice Ignored

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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 social justice and equity demands they are provided with extra support (both financial as well as non-financial) over and above the provision for general population. There is a dire need to enlarge the prevailing system of providing them, nutritious mid-day meal, clothing free medical care, text books, scholarships and hostel facilities along with free education. There is need for continue the quota system for these category students in public educational institutions and government jobs in suitably extending them to private sector. But the document does not make any commitment to continue with reservations and existing affirmative measures for them. Least does it commit for extension of affirmative measures. It mentions about providing 10 lacs scholarships for so-called ‘meritorious’ and this needs to be questioned on the ground that ‘merit’ in our socio-economic system is a privilege of the few. Any opportunity crated by government should be equitably distributed. There is a further apprehension that the newly proposed scholarships could be intended to siphon funds to private agencies under reimbursement schemes. There should be a rule that the public money should be spent only through public institutions.

The emphasis in the document on “pre- vocational oriented activities” and “skilling of students in tribal areas” alludes to a vision of making the children of these social categories “skilled laborers” while structurally reserving the quality education for the students of upper caste and upper class there by reverting to the Manu-Ordained paradigm.

Pre-School Education

It is stated in chapter IV that “as a priority, a programme of pre-school education for the children in the age group of 4 to 5 years will be implemented. The state governments will prepare cadres of pre-primary teachers, by training Anganwadi workers in due course all primary schools will cover pre-primary education… Anganwadis will be located either in the school premises or close to them. Appropriate regulatory and monitoring rules and mechanism will be designed for private pre-schools.”

The development of pre-primary education for children of 3-5 years age is very crucial for strengthening and developing the government primary, upper primary and secondary schools. But the policy document states that only 4-5 year olds will be covered and private pre-schools on commercial lines will be permitted. Anganwadis are not proper place for pre-school education. Pre-school education shall be provided in for 3-5 year olds in primary schools. There shall be a full-fledged preparation for this. But, no timeframe is proposed for bringing pre-primary education in all primary schools. Adequate budgetary allocation and infrastructure should be provided for pre-schools and proper curriculum should be evolved. The pre-schools should be brought under the school education department.

To improve learning by the children, it is stated that the ‘no detention policy’ will be followed only in lower primary stage. Detention at the upper primary and secondary level is proposed instead of providing quality education at the primary level to improve learning. It will have an adverse effect on the children of the poor, rural and tribal and other marginalized sections. It is the system that fails and not the child. It is the education system that should be transformed and developed. If adequate class-rooms, teachers, infrastructure facilities and student support measures for quality education are provided, the students will learn well.

School 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 of child laborers is increasing. Hence the statement that the Universal Elementary Education has become a reality is not true at all.

Instead of taking remedial measures by providing the required teachers, infrastructure and taking student support measures to for 100% retention, merger, consolidation, composite schools and closure of a large number of schools is proposed as a policy, to ostensibly achieve one class – one teacher norm. This goes against even the provisions of the flawed RTE Act. Already more than one lac government schools have been closed in the country during last 5 years, doing immense harm to the children of the poor and marginalized sections.

The Pupil Teacher Ratio should be developed minimum to 20:1 to achieve one class-one class-room-one teacher norm in all elementary schools. The RTE Act which covers elementary education, failed on all counts – universal enrolment, retention, equal standard of infrastructure and teaching and providing quality education. Extending this ill-conceived Act to secondary education will be a futile exercise. Closing down a large number of schools on the one side and proposing expansion of the KVs, JNVs and the KGBVs on the other is a highly lopsided and elitist approach. In fact, all government schools should be developed on a par with the KVs. The multi-layered system of schools with differential infrastructure and staffing patterns should be abolished and a common-school system based on neighborhood school principle should be developed. This will be the solution for the low enrolments, high dropouts and poor learning. The policy document does not recognize this.

Curriculum and Examination Reform

The document says “there is a need to renew curricula at all levels of education, for science, mathematics and English subjects, a common national curriculum will be designed and for other subjects such as social sciences, a part of the curricula will be common across the country and the rest will be at the discretion of the states”. Why there should be common national curricula the above mentioned subjects, and how will it address the deteriorating quality of school education? The curricula for English, Science and Mathematics should also be developed in each state on the basis of local geographic, ecological and sociological specificities. Again, the document proposes to conduct examination in mathematics, science and English at two levels – Part A at a higher level and Part B at a lower level – ostensibly to reduce failure rates in class X examination. The provision in the document is that the students who wish to shift to vocational stream could opt for part-B level examination. Two levels of education at school level are but a gross injustice and are aimed at denying quality education to the disadvantaged. This is a very unjust and irrational proposition. It will further accentuate inequalities in our education system.

Undue emphasis on skills and employability

The document lays undue emphasis on skill development, use of information and communication technology with a view to enhance employability of the youth. There is, undoubtedly need for creating more jobs for the growing numbers of the youth. But the present development model with undue emphasis on high technology, mechanization and automation, indiscriminate use of labour-displacing and capital-intensive methods and techniques of production is leading to jobless growth. When not many jobs are created in the industrial and services sectors, how can skill-imparting and vocationalization help the youth in getting jobs? To what extent will the integration of skill development programmes in 25% of the schools and higher education institutions and creation of skill schools will help. There is a clear contradiction between the neo-liberal development model and creation of mass employment opportunities. In this situation, reduction of education to skill development will seriously harm the future prospects of economically and socially disadvantaged children who depend on state- funded schools.

Reduction of education to “skills” for global market and using this agenda to exclude children after Class V, adolescents after Class VIII and youth after Class XII (and during higher education as well) will make them a “low-wage earning semi-skilled slavish work–force” for the global market, rather than developing them as democratic citizens committed to social transformation. For this, the entire Skill Development program is designed to be compliant to National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) as stated in the MHRD document. Indeed, it will function as a camouflage for Deskilling India i.e. deskilling more than 80% of Indian population comprising SCs, STs, OBCs and Muslims, and especially women in each of these categories. All this fits into the Make in India agenda to provide cheap labor to both domestic and global capital. This is where the NSQF provision for ‘Recognition of Prior Learning’ becomes an alarming agenda of massive deskilling of the 93% people in the unorganized sector. And when it is linked to the recent amendment to the Child Labor Act by pushing children below 14 years to family based occupations and enterprises (basically embedded in caste and gender) and those in the 14-18 years to hazardous occupations, we have a complete prescription for converting the “patriarchal caste-system legitimized by Manusmriti into the neoliberal avatar of a Brahmanical – corporate order legitimized by finance capital”. [Source for this paragraph: Economic and Political Weekly, 27th August 2016, p. 36]

The ‘inputs’ are totally at peace with the RTE Act 2009 which is designed to demolish the government school system, and to promote privatization and commercialization of education and the Public Private Partnership (PPP) programme of reimbursement of 25% EWS quota in private schools intended to siphon public funds to private agencies. However, the only progressive provision in the RTE Act of ‘No Detention’ in elementary school has been deliberately removed from the upper primary stage in order to exclude children from 11-14 years and shift them to Skill Shops.

Distorted view of language and culture:

The document says “students learn most effectively when taught through their mother tongue”. But immediately thereafter it refers to the growing demand for… schools with English as medium of instruction and concludes that all states and UTs, if they so desire, may provide education in schools up to class V in mother tongue, local or regional language as medium of instruction. Countries imparting education in their mother tongue are making great strides in overall development. Why should India be an exception? Mother tongue is always desirable as the medium of education from Pre-school to higher education. In addition, mother-tongue is a symbol of freedom, identity, self-esteem, equality and social pride. The advantage of learning other languages like English, Hindi etc., is not denied but like all learning this too is facilitated if the student is proficient in the mother tongue.

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Reforms in Higher Education

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The document states that a set of policy initiatives will be taken for ensuring effective governance of higher education.

  • An Education commission… will be setup every five years to assist the MHRD in identifying new knowledge areas / disciplines / domains as well as pedagogic, curricular and assessment reforms”… The MHRD arrogating to itself such an interventionist role will be dangerous and harmful to the Higher Education System. Universities and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs should have full autonomy to perform these functions.

  • The proposed representation on the governing bodies of HEIs from other social sectors should not be restricted to Industry but must include trade unions, teacher and students organizations and unions, and civil society representatives otherwise it will be likely to induct undesirable corporate and commercial practices into them.

  • The proposal for the creation of an Indian Education Service with an All India cadre under MHRD will centralize decision-making and introduce bureaucratic practices, hierarchy and authority in Higher Education, where democratic functioning, autonomy, academic freedom, openness and critical study are important.

  • Establishing separate educational tribunals with power to follow summary procedures for educational institutions would not be an adequate alternative to higher courts of judicature like High Courts and Supreme Court. It is to be noted that this tribunalisation of justice is proposed in line with possible multi- lateral or plurilateral global agreements in ‘trade in education services’

 

  • Although the document says that “the Government recognizes and will encourage the positive role of students’ unions” it observes that “most of the disruptive activities and disharmony in a campus are led by outsiders and unauthorized students. A study will be conducted to prevent outsiders and those who ceased to be students from playing an active role in student-politics and disrupting academic activities.” This is a very dangerous and unwarranted move to penalize students and faculty members. Recently many Dalit, leftist, independent-minded and Muslim students have been harassed by the authorities of FTII, HCU, JNU, Jadavpur University, IIT Chennai, Allahabad University and other HEIs branding them anti-national, casteist, anti-social, extremist and terrorist-connected. Many were arrested even under charges of sedition by the Police. This happened because ABVP, the RSS students’ wing is sought to be made dominant on the campuses and the BJP leaders and Ministers intervene with full support from the authorities and government.

  • In the name of ‘achieving enhanced access’, skill development, capacity building, training, employability and lifelong learning, the document resorts to vocational courses, open and distance learning courses and massive open online courses (MOOCs). This will create a subordinated stream of students with limited opportunities open to them when compared with students of the regular stream of schools and colleges. This will lead to inequality and discrimination among students.

 

Internationalization of Education

The Inputs document states that “Internationalization is an inevitable dimension of higher education in this era of globalization, and generation of new knowledge and its application. Internationalization comprises of mobility of students, scholars and faculty; export / import of academic systems and cultures; research co-operation; knowledge transfer and capacity building; internationalization of curriculum and learning outcomes; and cross-border delivery of programmes and includes virtual mobility and digital learning”.

The policy initiatives proposed will encourage selected foreign universities from the top 200 in the world to establish their campuses in India through collaboration with Indian universities, to make legislation / regulations to allow them to offer their own degrees which will be valid in their countries, to internationalize the curricula, encourage more foreign faculties to join Indian HEIs and to move from years-based to credit-based recognition of qualifications.

This policy perspective of the BJP-led NDA Government is in total conformity with the neo-liberal capitalist model of development and its basic tenets of globalization and privatization. The World Trade Organization and General Agreement on Trade in Services (WTO-GATS) which is the initiator of this model envisages the globalization and internationalization of education as part of the trade in services to be regulated by GATS. This perspective assumes that education is a commodity to be sold and purchased in the market-place for profit and it is a commercial and tradable service that can be imported and exported across the countries.

Even before the ‘offer’ for market access to GATS approval is finalized, the GOI is enthusiastically pushing for the imposition of the provisions of GATS and policies on the people of India. In fact, education is a public good and a social and merit good. And it cannot be a commodity or tradable service. It is a necessity, vital for the existence, survival and progress of human beings. It is a fundamental right of the citizens and it is the duty and responsibility of a democratic government to provide free, equitable and quality education to all. Shirking this responsibility and handing over education to domestic and foreign capital for doing business and making profit is an anti-democratic and anti-people policy.

Nobody oppose openness of mind to ideas and thoughts from all sides. Our university system functions with this perspective. But every system or a segment of knowledge needs critical scrutiny before accepting ideas. Otherwise, the danger of colonization of minds through indoctrination, conditioning and subordination to the hegemonistic and exploiting forces of imperialism, caste, class, gender, religion and regionalism.

We need to distinguish between MHRD’s neo-liberal ‘internationalization’ of education for the global market and ‘internationalism’ in education as advocated by Bhagat Singh, Tagore, Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar and Zakir Hussain.

There is a need for an independent, national, democratic education policy to provide democratic, free, secular public education to all citizens to achieve the constitutional goals of an independent sovereign, democratic, secular, socialist republic with social, economic and political justice, liberty, equality and fraternity and equal fundamental rights.

In the National Education Policy now proposed by the NDA Government, there is neither an independent, nor a national, nor a democratic perspective of education. By a total opening up and by allowing uncritical import / export of academic systems and cultures they are denying the possibility of an independent knowledge and education system, by making our cultures and language policies subservient to global capital and imperialist powers. By implementing the neoliberal, imperialist development model they are making our economic policies and the economy subservient to them. And by internationalizing knowledge and education according to neoliberal interests, they are making our country itself subservient to those powers. Does this not expose the bankruptcy of the ruling BJP which day-in and day-out keeps on repeating platitudes and sermons about nationalism, patriotism, Indian culture and heritage, swadeshi etc? Are these not empty slogans without any real import being used for hoodwinking the people? With these economic and education policies, can our country survive as an independent, sovereign country?

Financing Education

Education being the basic necessity for the people and for the overall development of society and the country, it should be given priority with adequate public funding. But so far, no government has assigned such a priority to education.

The document says “Education, in Indian context should be considered a public good and there is a need for greater public investment in the sector. There are evidences to show that countries which have heavily privatized education systems could not economically and socially progress and hence there is a value loss rather than gain. On the other hand countries which consider education a public good reap greater social benefits on a sustained basis. The earlier national policies of 1968 and 1986/92 had recommended 6% of GDP as the norm for the national outlay on education. However, the actual expenditure on education has remained consistently below this level and in recent years it has hovered around 3.5%”.

The policy initiatives proposed include “taking steps, for reaching the long pending goal of raising the investment in education sector to at least 6% of GDP as a priority, to supplement the government effort, investment by private providers through philanthropy and corporate sector responsibility will be encouraged through incentives such as tax benefits and including education within the definition of infrastructure, private funding and FDI for R&D will be pursued as an important strategy, HEI’s funded by governments need to… increase their revenues… through alumni funding, endowment funding, tuition fee enhancement… and private investment .. and modified education loans schemes etc.’’

Is there any consistency and clear approach in this policy statement? On the one hand it says there will be greater social benefits with education as a public good, on the other it says private investment-oriented funding, fee hikes and FDI will be pursued as an important strategy. It says allocation to education will be raised to 6.0% of GDP, but it does not specify when and how.

In fact, the talk of allocation of 6% of GDP to education at this time does not make any sense. Kothari Commission had recommended reaching this level by 1986. Since that has never been reached at any time, the huge short fall every year cannot be made good even if 10-15% of GDP is allocated and spent on education from now onwards for many years to come. And it should be clear that this expenditure must be incurred by the Central and state governments only and should not include private investment.

Does the State lack financial resources for education? The justification for raising private funds and FDI for education is based on the plea that the governments do not have enough financial resources, which is not true at all. In fact, this has been the standard position taken by all governments before and after independence. Since 1947, GDP and government revenues have increased many folds. Our rulers claim that ours is the fastest growing emerging economy which is the tenth largest in the world. The bogey of lack of funds is raised only to cover up their regressive low priority for education. The GOI expenditure on education is far lower than the 4.7% of GDP spent by Nepal, 5% by Rwanda and 6.3% by Vietnam which are all poor countries. Regarding budgetary allocation and expenditure on education, which is the mode of actualizing the required GDP percentage, the Kothari Commission and many others suggested a 30% of each state’s expenditure as desirable, keeping 6% of GDP in view. But the states never reached this level. The budgetary allocation for education for 2016-17 ranged between 9% in Telangana to 23% in Delhi. In view of the cumulative short fall in the expenditure on education, the 30% norm has no meaning and it should be much higher. What is now required is a fully state-funded free education covering all children at the elementary, secondary and higher secondary levels. The Government should also provide equal opportunities for higher education to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio from the present 23% to at least 30% by 2017 and 60% by year 2022.

Implementation and Monitoring

It is said that the NEP will be followed by a detailed implementation strategy which will lay down the framework for action at the State / UT, district and block level and by preparing a micro-level operational plan of action for every educational institution with clear performance indicators and quantifiable targets.

Appropriate monitoring methods, mechanisms and systems will be devised from the micro to macro level for periodic assessment and evaluation of the progress made in achieving the outcomes and a five-year review of the policy.”

Without looking into the causes for the failures in the past, without a proper conceptual framework and without a concrete road-map, the implementation strategy envisaged in the NEP will only increase bureaucratic control and interference but not be likely to achieve the desirable goals in our education system.

Conclusion

The MHRD document has a narrow technocratic conception of education, which cannot provide an independent democratic, secular and humane education system for our people. It is dubious in its intensions when it repeatedly mentions the goals of equality, social justice, secularism and diversity in education on the one hand and emphasizes on the other hand an important role for private, national and foreign corporates and agencies. Through its unbridled ‘internationalization’ agenda, it poses a grievous threat and hindrance to an independent democratic education policy.

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 cannot provide equal and equitable opportunities for higher education. 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. It cannot strengthen and develop the public education system. With the RTE Act already sanctifying privatization of education and PPP, reimbursements etc, the NEP will become a further obstacle to the achievement of a common school system based on neighborhood schools.

In view of the above realities, the AIFRTE rejects the MHRD Inputs document on NEP in toto. The AIFRTE demands an independent, truly national, democratic, secular, equal and humane education policy with completely free and common public education system of quality for all from pre-school to P.G and Research level fully funded by the central and state governments. AIFRTE is committed to building a countrywide movement for the achievement of such a system of education.

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1 Comment »

One Response to “A Critical Response to “Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016” Ministry of Human Resources Development, G.O.I”

  1. K SHESHU BABU Says:
    September 19th, 2016 at 13:11

    One can only express full solidarity with the response of A. I. F. R. T. E on the proposed education policy which lacks holistic vision. The hindutva forces are narrowing the scope and meaning of education. The response is a much needed critique of the draft and the ministry must take serious note of the detailed points discussed in the response.

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