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Union Government Appoints Committee For A New Education Policy

The Article 30 of the Constitution gives religious and linguistic minorities “the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”

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Union Government Appoints Committee For A New Education Policy
Union Government Appoints Committee For A New Education Policy. Pixabay

The Union government has appointed a Committee, headed by K Kasturirangan, to work on a New Education Policy. The Committee is yet to submit its recommendations. Meanwhile, the government is contemplating to replace the six-decade old University Grants Commission (UGC) — a regulating authority that failed to check the rot in Higher Education. Prakash Javadekar, HRD Minister, intends to pilot the Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of UGC Act) Bill in this monsoon session of Parliament, commencing from July 18.

The Bill proposes to delink funding of educational institutions from the regulating body, HRD Ministry itself taking over the responsibility, as the Higher Education Secretary R Subramanyam put it, “the UGC remains preoccupied with disbursing funds to institutes and is unable to concentrate on other key areas such as mentoring institutes, focusing on research to be undertaken and other quality measures.” To placate the apprehensions of the academics, a subsequent press release of the Ministry has assured, “if there is a successor system to the current grant-giving role of the UGC, the same will be operated in the most unbiased and impartial manner.” Some other proposals, inter alia, include (a) universities to get authorisation from the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) before awarding degrees; (b) the HECI to focus on promoting academic excellence and maintaining standards; and (c) closing down fake and sub-standard institutions. Education in general and higher education, in particular, requires fundamental reforms, not cosmetic changes.

First, it is important to raise the standard of schools, run by Panchayat Institutes and Municipal bodies, to the level of Kendriya Vidyalayas. The policy of teaching in mother tongue has altered the very thrust of education. The three language formula is not observed, neglecting the official languages — Hindi and English. It is not a question of preserving regional languages. The regional languages are promoting linguistic chauvinism, resulting in communication barrier. A student from Tamil Nadu, studying in Tamil medium, cannot communicate with a student from UP, studying in Hindi, and vice versa. The students are paying the price for this short sighted policy of States. The teaching in mother tongue has practically immobilised them, affecting their higher studies and job opportunities. Besides, most of the government schools do not have basic amenities and infrastructure. This is aggravated by mass absenteeism of teachers, due to corruption and ineffective supervision and control. How redundant is education could be gauged from a recent recruitment of police constables in Maharashtra. For some 1100 police vacancies, over 2 lakh applicants, including doctors, engineers, MBAs and lawyers, have applied. Arup Patnaik, former Mumbai Police Commissioner says, “The problem with qualified youth from rural areas is that they are unable to communicate in English and hence are unable to bag jobs in the private sector…it is a sad reflection of our times…” A crash course for English language should be made mandatory at the first year of College, exclusively for the students from vernacular medium, to improve their reading, speaking and writing skills. Unless the quality of primary and secondary education is improved, the products of our colleges and universities will not be able to gain productive employment.

Second, our education system encourages rote learning with emphasises only on marks. There is a need to de-emphasise on rote learning and encourage critical thinking. Make the teaching and learning a matter of joy and happiness. The school curriculum should be overhauled to imbibe human values like truth, righteous conduct, gender equality and democratic principles of equality, tolerance and respect for dissent and diversity. As S Radhakrishnan, one of the finest teachers the modern world has seen, said, “The values of human life must come from two sources: parents and teachers. They are the makers of an evolved society.” The School is an important agent of socialisation.

Third, privatisation has made the education unaffordable to the poor and marginalised. It has resulted in commercialisation and profiting the managements. More than 60% students in Higher Education are studying in private institutions. There is mushrooming of engineering colleges, having no infrastructure and qualified teachers, with 50% seats going vacant. The teachers in private unaided institutions do not enjoy the protection of service conditions. They are paid a pittance, seriously affecting the quality of teaching. While cutting grants to educational institutions, the government is promoting contractual appointment of teachers, making the teaching profession exploitative and unattractive. The privatisation should be confined to certain professional courses. The bulk of students in Arts, Science and Commerce streams cannot afford private education.

The Article 30 of the Constitution gives religious and linguistic minorities “the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”
The Article 30 of the Constitution gives religious and linguistic minorities “the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.” Pixabay

Fourth, revisit the policy of admission. Education is an instrument of social mobility. Therefore, quality education must be accessible to all. The Article 30 of the Constitution gives religious and linguistic minorities “the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.” This makes the minority institutions to reserve 50% seats to the members of their community, changing the character of educational institutions, making them non-liberal and exclusive centres of learning. Why not open admission to all students, banning admission based on religion, caste and language, except for SC and ST? This does not amount to denying the minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions.

Fifth, depoliticise the educational institutions. The appointments of top functionaries of institutions should be made on merit basis, not on regional and caste considerations. Today, most of the appointments in universities and academic bodies are made on the ideological basis, eroding the academic autonomy and the freedom to explore ideas and knowledge. As Prof Arun Kumar says, “those not catering to the markets would be marginalised and the generation of the socially relevant knowledge would decline.” Educational institutions need freedom from political controls, if they have to excel and perform to their full potential. Allahabad University was once known as the Oxford of the East. Banaras Hindu University and Shanti Niketan were compared to Gurukuls. Delhi University was renowned for its classicism and Jawaharlal Nehru University for its progressive values. They flourished as premier public institutions because of autonomy.

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And no regulating authority will be able to ensure quality and maintain standards unless its Head and his team enjoy freedom of action and have the courage to enforce the norms and take punitive action against the erring institutions without fear or favour. (IANS)

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Delhi to Have Full-Fledged Schools on Lines of NSD

There should be one centre that can cater to two-three states

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Delhi, Schools, NSD
Right now, students from across the country have to come to NSD in Delhi and first learn Hindi. Wikimedia Commons

Stressing that the National School of Drama (NSD) in the capital was committed to opening three new centres across the country, besides doubling the duration of its one-year courses at its already existing regional centres in Bangalore, Varanasi and Sikkim, Suresh Sharma, Director-in-Charge, NSD told IANS that the school had already appealed to the Ministry of Culture for the same.

“This assumes paramount importance as people whose mother tongue is not Hindi should be imparted training in the language they plan to work in. Right now, students from across the country have to come to NSD in Delhi and first learn Hindi. There should be one centre that can cater to two-three states,” Sharma said.

Besides this, the school also plans to start a one-year course in writing for theatre in Maharashtra. “In fact, as an experiment, we held a workshop in Pune that started last year in October,” he said.

Sharma believes that these centres should not be ‘regional’ in essence, but in fact operate on the lines of IITs and IIMs.

Delhi, Schools, NSD
This assumes paramount importance as people whose mother tongue is not Hindi should be imparted training in the language they plan to work in. Wikimedia Commons

“The idea is to have full-fledged schools on the lines of NSD in Delhi.”

All set to organise the 11th-edition of Bal Sangam from November 9-12 at its premises, he said that theatre and folk performances are a great learning medium for exploring and sensitising children towards different contemporary issues.

“Such activities and festivals are a wonderful platform to not just perform, but learn, travel, and share. NSD believes that theatre makes a person sensitive towards issues and an active participant of society as it boosts powers of communication. Theatre brings in all these qualities and if children are introduced to this wonderful, they become better human beings,” Sharma noted.

Talk to him about the fact that non-metros seldom get to witness quality theatre and he asserts, “Earlier, the Bharat Rang Mahotsav used to be organised only in Delhi and satellite towns. However, things changed from last year and the festival travelled across the country. In fact, this year too, we plan to take it to places like Dehradun, Nagpur, Jorhat and Tejpur. This holds true for ‘Summer Theatre’ too, which was restricted only to Delhi. Last year, shows were held at diverse places like Patna, Benaras, and Aurangabad.”

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Stating that NSD, wanted to take its activities beyond Delhi too as the capital and other metros like Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, are quite active as far as theatre was concerned, he added, “It is in smaller towns that we need to get theatre to. We want to do that through workshops, shows, theatre festivals, technical training workshops in coming times.”

Lamenting that corporate support for independent theatre was limited to a handful of groups doing commercial English work, Sharma, who has been active in the theatre scene for more than three decades now, asserted, “It’s done as part of their CSR. Support needs to be given to groups who are doing excellent creative work and boast of a vision. The commercial ones can still survive tickets. The ones who really need support are the groups in smaller towns, doing. If they get, I am sure the condition of theatre in contemporary times will undergo a sea change.”

With his next production, based on Jallianwala Bagh, Sharma plans go on a large canvas. “It may be staged at Ferozeshah Kotla and the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, if possible.” (IANS)