Seminar on Draft New Education Policy
S M Paranjape
A SEMINAR on the draft New Education Policy(DNEP) was held on September 21, 2019 at the Ferozeshah Mehta Bhavan Auditorium, University of Mumbai; jointly organized by the School of Social Sciences (SSS) Mumbai, Bombay University and College Teachers’ Union (BUCTU) and University of Mumbai Academic Staff Association (UMASA). Kapil Patil, Member of Legislative Council(MLC)- Teachers’ constituency was chief guest and keynote address was delivered by Aniket Sule, of Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE – TIFR). Other speakers’ were Chandrashekhar Kulkarni, joint secretary BUCTU, Balaji Kendre, general secretary, UMASA and S M Paranjape, secretary SSS.
Madhu Paranjape, general secretary BUCTU, while introduced the theme of the seminar. She stated that the seminar is expected to assess the impact of DNEP on the reality of lakhs of out-of-school children in Maharashtra despite a decade of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, objectives of expansion, equity, access and quality of education, stagnation of GER in higher education and grant-in-aid education.
OVERVIEW OF DNEP 2019
The keynote speaker Aniket Sule presented an overview of DNEP in a very lucid manner. He initially highlighted some of the general positives of the DNEP 2019. These are: need for substantial increase in spending on education; practice of Ad-hoc teachers /shikshan-sevaks should be stopped; teaching-learning should be ‘inquiry based’ and not rote learning based; the mechanisms for research funding should change for better; widening the Right to Education (RTE) to the age group 3-18.
Continuing to then focus on the lacunas and drawbacks of the draft policy, Aniket Sule averred that DNEP is silent on: why the good suggestions in previous policies and commission reports failed to make a difference; how to actually implement the radical changes proposed without breaking the system?; how much and from where the additional money would come? and whether the proposed centralisation of education is constitutional. He explained the proposed new school format, with special reference to maths and science and exposed the non-feasibility of designing a syllabus to ensure even a minimum topical coverage at the high school level(Classes 9 – 12). He dealt with issue of learning science bilingually. Further, he cautioned that proposed National Testing Agency may encourage dependence on coaching industry/ readymade tests from private players.
CRITIQUE OF BJPGOVERNMENT
Kapil Patil came down heavily on the present dispensation at the centre as well as in Maharashtra, which has vitiated the socio-political scenario; any opposition to the state policy is declared as an act of anti-nationalism and people are terrified to even protest. He asserted that the RSS is determined to wipe out the history of freedom struggle as they have played no role in it. Also, serious attempt is on to create social acceptance against reservation policy. Kapil Patil emphasised that the same atmosphere is pervading the domain of education. He rued his isolation in the Legislative Council when BJP-SS-Congress-NCP joined hands to adopt the Maharashtra Universities’ Act 2016 as the tool for total privatisation of higher education and for dismantling democratic structure of universities. The overarching provisions of nominations are now being used to pack all authorities and boards with persons faithful to the government’s ideology. He pertinently mentioned that vice chancellors are becoming mouthpieces of the government; higher education will be out of reach for all due to privatisation. He appreciated the strong resistance by teachers’ unions like BUCTU.
IMPLICATIONS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
Chandrashekhar Kulkarni elaborated the impending crisis arising from the proposed overall restructuring of higher education especially funding norms and procedures. He emphasized that DNEP has suggested steps to close down smaller institutions in phased manner and converting them into a cluster university if they perform as per imposed standards else utilising the infrastructure for other social purpose. The funding of the higher educational institutions will be based on a ranking system that is based neither on any scientific survey nor on assumptions about the requirements of the society.
He asserted that presently this Draft policy is already under implementation; ranking mechanism is already created and in operation; funding is through RUSA. All universities are being compelled to give autonomy to their constituent colleges; target is given to make majority of affiliated institutions as autonomous by 2020.
ASPECT OF EQUITY
Balaji Kendre elaborated his suggestions on the aspect of equity in the context of claims in the DNEP that it is based on foundational pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability. He highlighted that most of the developed countries have homogenous populations and have uniform laws to protect human rights. While we cannot live in isolation in the era of globalisation and need to change our educational system, the fact that we are a developing society, where caste-based hierarchy is social reality, cannot be overlooked. The forefathers of Indian democracy, recognising the heterogeneity of the society which is afflicted by oppression and marginalisation of sections of population, had envisaged the ideals for Indian society. These were incorporated in the Indian Constitution as provisions of protective discrimination to marginal groups such as SC/ ST, OBC and Women. Kendre emphasised that there is no mention of continuation of protective discrimination (Reservation) in the DNEP 2019 causing the weaker sections to be left out of the mainstream.
ELEMENTARY EDUCATION AND RIGHT TO EDUCATION (RTE) ACT
SM Paranjape began by pointing out to the dearth of data in the DNEP. Even so, it cannot conceal the number of dropouts that is stated to be 6.2 crore nationwide, for the age group 6-18 years. He displayed graphs culled from the UDISE portal, showing drop in enrolment in classes 1-5 in Maharashtra, from about 52 lakhs to 50 lakhs during 2012-17. The document not only shows a conspicuous absence of remedial measures for arresting the rot, but blithely ignores facts such as, the BJP-Shiv Sena government of Maharashtra shutting down elementary schools in remote, hilly areas on account of enrolment falling below 30 in some classes. Paranjape drew attention to the “original sin” of not incorporating the right to education as a fundamental right in the constitution that was present in the draft constitution presented by Babasaheb Ambedkar. And even after the (truncated) constitutional amendment being carried out IN 2002, it took almost a decade to give effect to the RTE Act.
The large audience attending the seminar comprised of university and college teachers, PG students and research scholars, trade union leaders and social activists, most notably RTE activists. Anil Bankar, Rohini Sivabalan and S Maind chaired the sessions; Madhvi Nikam compered the event and B M Shikare proposed vote of thanks.