In last two consecutive editions of the Proletarian Era, we have published articles on the school education and the so called Indian Knowledge System (IKS) as prescribed by the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), the brain-child of the RSS-Sangh Parivar ideologues. In those two articles as well as in previous write-ups on the ominous consequences of adopting NEP 2020, we have dwelt at length on how and why the BJP-led Union Government, ignoring the views of stakeholders like students, teachers, educationists and front-ranking intellectuals of the country, went on formulating the NEP-2020. Now, it is engaged all-out to implement it. In this issue, we shall focus on the National Curriculum & Credit Framework for Undergraduate Program (NCCFUP). The colleges and universities of the country are forced to implement the NCCFUP from the coming academic session under the dictate of the University Grants Commission, now virtually capitulated to the central government. NCCFUP is a 4-year degree course that is going to replace the prevailing 3-year degree course existing in all higher educational institutions (HEIs).
It is very surprising that most of the state governments, cutting across political line, have accepted such a heinous policy without any protest. Before going into what exactly are there in the NCCFUP, it needs to be mentioned that education is now on the concurrent list meaning both the Centre and the states have the right to legislate upon it. It is also pertinent to mention here that after independence, education was on the state list alone.
It was during the emergency period in 1976 under prime ministership of Indira Gandhi that the 42nd amendment of the Constitution was enacted to bring education to the concurrent list with the sole objective of imposing central control over it. However, despite the state governments having every right to question the efficacy of NCCFUP and other aspects of the NEP-2020, they are tamely implementing it attesting to the fact that irrespective of their hues, all bourgeois and petty-bourgeois vote-oriented parties are obliged to serve the nefarious class interest of the ruling monopolists.
The prescripts of NCCFUP
After passing the Higher Secondary examination following completion of Grade 12 course in school, a student, in the existing system, requires completing a 3-year course in streams of Science, Humanities or Commerce for getting a graduation degree. They can also pursue instead professional courses like engineering, medical science, law, etc. But now they will have one more year added to complete graduation comprising eight semesters. Moreover, the new system also prescribes some other provisions like:
i) If one student exits the 4-year course after completing two semesters, i.e., one year acquiring required credit he/she will be given a certificate.
ii) If one exits the HEI after completing two years, i.e., four semesters acquiring the stipulated credit, he/she will receive a diploma.
iii) A student will be given a graduation degree only if he/she completes six semesters with 120 credits.
iv) Likewise, if one successfully completes eight semesters acquiring the stipulated credit of 160, he will be declared as a multidisciplinary honours graduate.
v) At the eighth semester if one learner undertakes a ‘‘rigorous research project’’, ‘‘multidisciplinary honours with research’’ degree will be conferred on him/her. To get ‘‘honours with research’’, an honours student will require to complete 12-credits in lieu of 3 other courses equivalent to (3×4) credit.
According to the NCCFUP, ‘‘the 4-year bachelor’s degree programme is considered a preferred option since it would provide the opportunity to experience the full range of holistic and multidisciplinary education’’. Why is the 4-year option considered a better proposition? Because students with 4-year honours degree will get the opportunity of completing postgraduate course (PG) in one year. Those with honours and research will be the most privileged ones and will get the opportunity of undertaking PhD degree directly skipping the PG course.
Five categories of graduates
The NCCFUP thus creates five categories of graduates of whom the fourth and fifth will be ‘‘preferred’’ as declared by the document itself and the fifth one would belong to the most privileged class. Then what will be the fate of the certificate or diploma holders? How would they be rated in the job market or while desiring to go for higher studies? Also, the scope for undertaking a 4-year course will not be opened to all who would cross the third year boundary. A few of those who can score 75% or above marks after six semesters will fulfill the eligibility criterion.
Let us now examine what would be the quality of this highest rated (!) multi-disciplinary 4-year graduates. They ‘‘may be allowed to change major (subject) within the broad discipline at the end of the second semester’’. That means a major subject may not be studied for a full 4-year period and yet an in-depth knowledge in that subject would be presumed to have an acquired. Incredible indeed! Minimum credit requirement will be fulfilled by: a) major (core) 80, b) minor stream 32, iii) c) multidisciplinary 9, d) ability enhancement courses 8, e) skill enhancement courses 9, f) value added courses common for all UG 6-8, g) summer internship 2-4, h) research project/dissertation 12, a total of 160.
It may be mentioned here that the existing system of various disciplines like Science, Humanities, Commerce, etc., has been done away with in the new scheme as it has been done in school education also. Normally students, in the present system, opt for minor subjects that are complementary or helpful for understanding the chosen major subject. For example, a student opting for Physics as a major normally chooses Chemistry and Mathematics as the minor subjects. Similarly, students taking up Philosophy as a major subject have Political Science, History etc., as minor subjects. But if Physics as major is allowed to combine with (a) a vocational course like say, fashion design as minor, (b) multidisciplinary course like journalism, (c) skill enhancement course like any ‘hands-on training’, (d) value added course like Indian Knowledge System (IKS) or Yoga along with (e) summer internship in local government like Panchayats and municipalities etc., just for earning stipulated credit, how far in-depth knowledge would be acquired in Physics? For, these subjects neither have any interface nor are complementary to each other. There may be similar other combinations of subjects that are completely delinked. How can such a hotchpotch combination of subjects in the name of introducing ‘‘learner-centric’’ system help in developing a comprehensive knowledge in any chosen field? First of all, this ‘novel’ ‘‘learner-centric’’ education is a misnomer and destined to mislead the learners in general. Secondly, given the scope of choice, natural tendency of the students would be to select combinations that yield maximum marks with minimum effort. As a result, this ‘unique’ new scheme from the stable of the RSS-BJP would produce graduates with bag full of marks but having not even skin-depth knowledge in the major area. It is a complete mockery in the name of education!
The novelties (!) of the new scheme do not end at this. The multidisciplinary scheme comprises scope for multiple-entries, multiple-exits, Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) and such other ridiculous propositions which would completely shatter whatever semblance of discipline still remains in Indian higher education system. A student thus would be allowed to get admitted in a university, study there up to few semesters, as per his desire, and acquire some credits. Then he or she can leave that university whenever he/she likes, may be, for spending some years outside the academic system. Then he/she could again be readmitted in another HEI as per choice. Thus, one student will be given a time of maximum of 7 years to complete the 4-year graduation course. The scheme of multiple entry and exit does not mean that one student can change from one HEI having low standard as per rating to another higher graded one at his/her will. It will depend on the availability of seats in the latter. However, the credits he will thus earn through random safari from one HEI to another, will be accumulated and stored digitally in the so called ABC and when that accrued credits will reach the stipulated mark, he/she would be given a 4-year multidisciplinary graduate. The multidisciplinary system is thus devoid of any academic logic or justification. It instead would impair the learning process, inhibit cohesive comprehension and thus leave the student in a half-baked situation despite being conferred a graduation degree. In other words, the system will only give a degree, not education per se.
The scheme is, therefore, designed for providing merely a degree and not for properly educating the students. On the other hand, the provision for multiple entry and exit would generate a sense of uncertainty among the HEIs as there would be an uncertainty over the number of students admitted in a course, how many of them would continue in the following year or semester, how many would ultimately appear in the examination, etc. Also, question arises as to whether proper infrastructure for accommodating one more year of classes, providing teachers and research facilities for honours with research degree would be in place or not. Neither the Central government nor the state governments have so far promised to provide requisite fund for augmentation of infrastructure. Uncertainty, therefore, looms large over the future of the government-funded educational institutions. Guardians would rush to get their wards admitted in highly-expensive private-owned HEIs. What a unique way of implementing privatization and commercialization of education!
Total uncertainty for students
However, far more uncertainty is awaiting the students in the coming academic session when the new graduate course will be operative. Following the NCCFUP that was issued in December 2022, the UGC on 8 June last has circulated a notification named ‘‘Recommendations of the Expert Committee to Review the Notification on the Specification of Degrees and Suggest New Degree Nomenclature(s)’’, henceforth called ‘‘Expert Committee’’. By the notification the UGC has sought feedback from people on the nomenclatures of degrees that the ‘‘Expert Committee’’ has recommended. The recommended degrees at present are BA, BSc, BCom and BA (Hons), BSc (Hons) and BCom (Hons) for three year courses.
i) But in NCCFUP, there are no separate streams like Science, Commerce and Arts/Humanities.
ii) As per views of ‘‘Expert Committee’’, both graduates with and without Hons would need same amount of credit say120.
iii) In NCCFUP there is no scope of three-year Hons degree.
iv) But as per recommendations of the ‘‘Expert Committee’’; the existing 3-year Hons course is retained.
v) The ‘‘Expert Committee’’ has also kept a provision of undertaking a two-year post-graduate course for the three-year Hons graduates.
vi) The ‘‘Expert Committee’’ also recommends a BS degree for all 4-year courses of science, commerce, humanities, engineering and technology, business administration. This is simply copied from the US system without taking into account the objective reality of our country.
Obviously, these recommendations of the Expert Committee are not in keeping with what has been prescribed by both NEP 2020 and NCCFUP. It appears that under pressure of the countrywide protest against four year multidisciplinary degree course announced through NCCFUP, the central government has shifted from its earlier stand and settled for a ‘compromise’ formula. Thus, there are now two courses—3-year and 4-year Hons graduations existing together. Confusion compounded! We sternly oppose such dual systems which will discriminate between two cases of graduates. Moreover,
i) The UGC has not yet finalized the nomenclatures of the degrees.
ii) It has invited feedback on its recommendations to be submitted by 5 July 2023 and only then the naming ceremony will take place.
iii) By that time, admission to the new session will be almost over and the students will start attending classes without having any idea of which course they are following, 3 year or 4 year and what degree would they receive after passing out.
So, the state governments have hurriedly decided to implement the NCCFUP before the UGC finalizes its entire higher education system. Obviously, the students are thrown into complete uncertainty. Why this hurry to start the higher education session in such a manner? Whose orders the UGC is following at the cost of the future of the students? Can the objective of any civilized education policy be to inconvenience the students and doom their future?
Mere skill-generation cannot be the mission of education
There is another aspect. Throughout the text of the NEP-20, there is an emphasis on vocational education, skill development, ability enhancement etc., which was hitherto not the case. Now, to acquire the required credit along with major (core) subject, students have to study minor subjects. Vocational education will comprise not only a major part of the minor stream but even a part of the major subjects. The NCCFUP says: ‘‘Vocational Education and Training will form an integral part of the undergraduate programme to impart skills along with theory and practical. A minimum of 12 credits will be allotted to the ‘Minor’ stream relating to Vocational Education and Training and these can be related to the major or minor discipline or choice of the student. These courses will be useful to find a job for those students who exit before completing the programme’’. Regarding skill development, the document observes: ‘‘These courses are aimed at imparting practical skills, hands-on training, soft skills, etc., to enhance the employability of students. The institution may design courses as per the students’ needs and available institutional resources’’. To ensure development of skills, the students will be given training in the form of internship. The document further adds: ‘‘Students will be provided with opportunities for internships with local industry, business organizations, health and allied areas, local governments (such as panchayats, municipalities), parliament or elected representatives, media organizations, artists, crafts persons, and a wide variety of organizations so that students may actively engage with the practical side of their learning and, as a by-product, further improve their employability.’’ In other words, it is claimed that hand-on training in local industry, local government bodies like the panchayats etc., would enhance employability. It is nothing but a cruel joke with the unemployed millions. If these types of trainings were to improve employability, then, let the authorities answer, why lakhs of graduate engineers and diploma holders in engineering are jobless. Fact is that there is no job in the country. The days of gainful permanent employment are over. Vacant posts in the government departments and PSUs are extinguished. Now the employment, whatever little, is in the form of contractualization with paltry remuneration, both in private and public sectors. Job opportunities are evaporating because of growing capitalist market crisis endemic of the system. To shield that fact, there is so much of drum-beating over skill development as if lack of skill is eluding job to the unemployed. Far more dangerous consequence of vocationalization of education is that it would seriously affect inculcation of basic or theoretical knowledge. This would stand in the way of developing a cohesive thinking process and logical bent of mind. The Indian HEIs would, in fact, be converted into machines to produce ‘robotic graduates’ who would not think, would not raise any question, will be devoid of human values and only operate tools of production of profit making capitalist system blindly as cogs in the wheels of exploitation.
Emphasis on online, blended, digital mode of education
Another treacherous design of this newly chalked out education policy is to shift emphasis on providing online education in replacement of the time-tested system of class-room based teaching-learning through face-to-face interaction between the teacher and the taught. The government has planned to rope in more than 50% of the students under the purview of online education. Even a plan is afoot to open fully digital universities. Digital education, it obviates to say, will be based on computer, laptop, smart phone and apps. So, there will be no need to open new college or university, recruit teachers, establish libraries and laboratories and arrange funds for research. Even some of the existing colleges and universities might also close down. Also imparting education on blended mode (i.e., both online and offline), there will be virtually no need of appointing teachers on permanent basis. Colleges or Universities would hire teachers for delivering lectures. Those lectures would be recorded and uploaded to HEI’s own websites and students would have to pay for downloading and listening to those lectures. So, it will be a one track communication with no scope for interaction. If needed, the students would come to college or university to attend brief classes for clarifications from a teacher. Once a lecture is uploaded, it would continue for years and there would be no need for permanent salaried teachers. Can a student grasp a new topic without having a free interaction with his/her teacher in the class-room? Moreover, a responsible teacher not only teaches, but also guides his/her students, helps them to comprehend the subject, develops in them the ability to contemplate, churn and play on their thoughts and thus rears them as truly educated citizens with a rational bent of mind. In a word, a man alone can rear and steer another man while a machine is capable of only replication and not conscious creative action. The NEP-2020, a RSS-BJP variant of education system, is only purported to produce such machines or ‘robotic’ graduates dispossessed of thinking faculty. Also, in this country of 137 crore population, if the government can force even a small section of people to purchase costly electronic devices and learning-apps, it will curry favour with the domestic and foreign monopolist giants who are selling such hardware and software. That in turn would brighten the prospect of the ruling party to continue to be in power. Amazing is the fact that while the RSS-BJP and their lackeys are crying aloud in favour of technology-based education, they, on the same breadth are effusive in praise for the ancient ‘Gurukul’ system of education as well as Nalanda, Takshashila type of universities. What it is other than an eloquent testimony of double standard!
Saga of value added courses
Buck does not stop here. There is another innovation called ‘value-added course’. The NCCFUP document says: ‘‘The course would… focus on developing an understanding among student-teachers of the Indian knowledge systems, the Indian education system, and the roles and obligations of teachers to the nation in general and to the school/community/society…’’. Mind it, this value-added courses are ‘‘Common to All Under Graduate Students’’ and they have to earn 6-8 credits by these. What are the contents of this course? In one word, be familiar with the iconoclastic achievements of sages and others in ancient India euphemized as ‘Indian Knowledge System’ (IKS) about which we have dwelt at length in Proletarian Era dated 1 June 2023 and shown that it is nothing but a ploy to alienate the students from real treasure house of knowledge, keep them in the dark about the world of modern and advanced knowledge and confine them within the mystic alleys of blind faith, preconception, pseudo-science, irrationality and spiritualism. What is needed to mention in this connection is that in the preamble of the ‘‘Guidelines for Training/Orientation of Faculty’’ on IKS, the UGC secretary expressed his doubt whether the existing teachers could at all teach IKS. The document says: ‘‘Most of the faculty in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the country, although experts in their respective fields, may require additional familiarization efforts for the Indian Knowledge Systems’’, he said. Who would then conduct the orientation/training programmes on IKS? The UGC Secretary very clearly opined that these would be ‘‘conducted by various agencies such as HRDCs’’ along with ‘‘Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya National Mission on Teachers Training (PMMMNMTT)’’. It may be noted that the PMMMNMTT is the brain child of the present ruling dispensation avidly pursuing arch communal Hindutva doctrine. Pandit Malviya, as is known to all, was one of the founders of the Hindu Mahasabha. The UGC secretary further ordered: ‘‘the faculty are required to attend a mandatory induction programme and periodic refresher courses for their continued professional advancement.’’ So, the intention is very clear.
Four-year degree course is a design for inviting FDI in education
It is pertinent to mention here the 4-year degree course has long been in vogue in USA. The BJP government has already extended permission to foreign HEIs to open campuses in India. Indian authorities want to make their higher education system on par with the US system pending which Indian students seeking higher studies in overseas HEIs or their branches in India would be in trouble. Whatever academic justification they have put forward for the 4-year degree course, have been bluntly copied from the USA documents. In the policy text it is stated: ‘‘This National Education Policy envisions an education system rooted in Indian ethos that contributes directly to transforming India, that is Bharat, sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society’’ [NEP 2020, The Vision of this Policy]. On many occasions in the policy the words like Indian heritage, ancient culture etc., are referred. But when it comes to the question of admission in foreign HEIs, all these sermons vanish in the blue and no consideration is given if such a 4-year course is suited to Indian condition. Just see the doublespeak of the ruling BJP government. Allowing foreign HEIs to open branches in India would also bring substantial Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the country.
Thus the 4-year degree course would destabilize the entire discipline in the higher education system in India. Learners would learn little while getting high-order marks. Vocational and skill based education would get emphasis at the cost of inculcation of basic and theoretical knowledge. IKS would take the centre stage of all the courses of study. Online, hybrid, blended mode of education would replace time-tested class-room teaching.
Man making and character building aspects of education would get lost completely. Privatization, corporatization and commercialization of education would be rampant. And most importantly, while education will be stripped of its essence, it will virtually become an exclusive preserve of the rich and affluent. Toiling Indians whose income is dipping with every passing day will only grope in the dark as education will be ever elusive to children.
So, in every respect, consequence of this new education policy of the RSS-BJP is going to be pernicious. A long with all education-loving people of the country, we vehemently oppose this disastrous policy and demand that this be withdrawn forthwith, lock, stock and barrel. We also call upon the teachers, students, educationists, intellectuals and guardians to build up a powerful, conscious, sustained and participative united movement which alone can force the government to retreat.