Towards the New National Policy on Education (NPE)

Sunand

MODI government had undertaken an exercise of formulating the New National Policy on Education (NPE) immediately after assuming the office. However, the media reports suggest that the finalisation of the policy document may take a few more months. HRD ministry’s reluctance to make the draft report public has led to speculations among various circles that the new NPE will be used to further the Hindutva agenda. Saffron offensive in various spheres of education was witnessed during the NDA-1 as well, but the fact that RSS-BJP now enjoys an unprecedented control of the State machinery following the Lok Sabha elections, suggests that this will now be given an elaborate policy framework.

 

CLAIM OF PARTICIPATORY

POLICY FORMULATION

HRD since beginning had been claiming that unlike the previous NPEs, the new NPE will not be formulated by a select few ‘academicians and specialists’; rather people from all walks of life will be given the ‘opportunity to contribute to the policy formulation’. Initially draft reports were prepared by experts on 33 broad themes, which then formed the basis of discussions and online deliberations. The TSR Subramanian Committee which started working in November 2015 prepared its report based on these consultations. Thus, the consultations have happened within the rigid parameters of the original points on the 33 identified themes.

According to the MHRD, over 29,000 suggestions were received online. It also claims that ‘over 2.5 lakh gram panchayats, 6,600 blocks, 6,000 urban local bodies, 676 districts, and 36 states/union territories participated in the ground-level consultations between May and October 2015’. Further it also claims that ‘63,100 villages, 3,088 blocks, 822 urban local bodies, 247 districts and three states had uploaded their suggestions on the ‘mygov.in ’ website by October 2015’. Besides, on August 19, 2015, a meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) was held, in which views of all the states were invited. According to the press release, HRD minister Smriti Irani held six zonal meetings during September-October 2015 with state education ministers and officials and a meeting with central ministers to seek their suggestions. The Mahatma Gandhi Institute also held extensive online deliberations: six online discussions with subject experts and field practitioners, online surveys by the CBSE, and youth surveys and group discussions for Education for Peace and Sustainable Development. (All these claims based on the MHRD press release dated October 2015)

While on one hand the government claims that, an extensive, participative method was used to include views starting ‘right from the level of gram sabha’; on the other hand, it is hesitant even to make the draft report public. The reality is that none of the students’ organisations, teachers’ associations, staff associations or elected bodies of the stakeholders has been involved in this process. The manner in which these consultative meetings have been held, have a stark resemblance with the IMF-WB method of policy formulations in various third world countries.

 

TRAJECTORY OF

EDUCATIONAL POLICY

The last time that a National Education Policy was formulated was in 1986 by the Rajeev Gandhi government. The NPE was adopted by the parliament in May, 1986. This was reviewed and modifications suggested by the Ramamurthy Committee (1990-92) and the Janardhana Reddy Committee (1991-92). After consideration by the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), a revised document entitled ‘National Policy on Education, 1986 – Revised Policy Formulations’ was laid on the table of the house in 1992. NPE (1986-92) went on to herald the process of privatisation and commercialisation in all spheres of education. This NPE was important also because it ‘delineated the competencies and sharing of responsibility between the union government and the states in terms of the 42nd Constitutional Amendment of 1976, which moved education to the Concurrent list’.

The TSR Subramanian Committee also recognises the fact that ‘with the passage of time, it has become clear that many of the objectives of the 1986 policy could not be achieved due to ineffective follow up on a continuing basis, with little attention being given to the implementation phase of the proposed policies.’ In fact, this can be stated with equal degree for previous NPE in 1968 as well. The fundamental point remains that each NPE arose out of the specific necessity of the ruling classes to have a certain education model based on their requirements at that moment of time. If we miss this crucial aspect then we won’t be able to identify the deep schism between the stated claims of the respective NPEs and the actual results that they produced.

The policy trajectory of the first two years of the Modi government clearly shows the continuation of the neo-liberal academic reforms (privatisation along with systematic degradation of the public institutions) and the imposition of the Hindutva agenda. Whether be it the NPE 68 or the NPE 86-92, both were characterised by the requirement of the bourgeois-landlord order to have a specific type of labour force. The NPE 2016 also should not be seen in isolation of the current model of jobless growth, which has continued even in periods of high GDP growth. Such a model requires a tiny segment of high skilled workers on one end of the labour force and a vast array of various types of semi-skilled and unskilled labour. The technological advance requires a certain minimum level of ‘skill’ impartment among those who are otherwise ‘semiskilled/ unskilled’ in the State’s dictionary. This is the reason behind the clamour for ‘skill-education’.

Even though the government hasn’t made the draft report public until now, various media outlets and other sources have already obtained the document.  We will be trying to present a systematic critique of the TSR Subramanian Committee Report in a series of articles focussing on various aspects of education. A thorough and wide discussion on the draft report is a must before government makes any move towards policy formulation. 

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