“Some Inputs …” : Deceitful-dangerous new document on National Education Policy 2016


Formulation of a new education policy was among the electoral promises made ahead of the 2014 general elections by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during its attempt to ride to the the seat of Union government. How important it was considered by the party was evident from the fact that this was also a priority agenda of the RSS, the ideological mentor of the BJP, whose political wing the BJP worked as.
Following a set of twists and turns, the Union Human Resource Development Ministry (HRDM) recently came out with a document entitled Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016 (hitherto referred as Some Inputs…). On several earlier occasions, the Party submitted its considered opinions on the pages of Proletarian Era [1 December, 2014 ; 1 January, 2015; 1 February, 2015; 15 April, 2015; 15 January, 2016] on different emergent issues of education as well as attacks launched against education of the country. It also avails of the opportunity to submit its brief views on the present document. But before going into the details on that document, a brief look at the past background for the education system of the country may be relevant.

Education envisaged for the modern nation
When the modern Indian nation was emerging the stalwart educationists and eminent personalities, who also fought for the country to earn independence, thought of an education system to build up future generations of worth for that sovereign independent country. As the base they envisaged education for all, free and comprehensive, which earlier had never been like that. They also did not mince words to pronounce that it was the government which must bear the full responsibility of providing free and universal education at all stages of formal education system, from the lowest to the highest stages of it. For that the government must provide the resources, including a fair adequate fund from the budgetary allocation.
However, they also held firmly, what should be the character of that education was never going to be the business of the government. It had to be determined by educationists, academicians, scholars and education-loving people. And accordingly, a galaxy of towering personalities of the past spent their life and life-struggle to lay down their ideas and views in unambiguous terms. With all their due reverence and responsibility towards the glorious scholastic tradition of the ancient India, the host of the illuminaries who included men like Vivekananda, Rammohan Roy, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Lala Lajpat Rai, Gopal Krishna Gokhale , Jyotirao Phule and many others thus maintained that education must have ‘life-building, man-making, character-making’ role to play. They knew that the emerging nation must be equipped with secular, scientific, democratic modern education that knew no national bounds. Only that could help the nation grow with all strength, vigour and character to stand with head high in the present day world. It is a matter of deep regret for the country, that despite all trumpeting and intermittent frantic hype for education reforms since independence the dreams of these doyens of modern India about its desired education system for the age, not only remain unfulfilled, those seem to have been shattered with each attempt at overhauling education. The present Draft National Education Policy (hitherto to be referred as NEP) of the BJP government, proposed with overt and covert approval and endorsement from their mentor RSS, adds to that long list of those skewed attempts at avowed development of education of the country.

Formulation process
In its move for the NEP the HRD Ministry of the recent Union government came out with a document on a proposed New Education Policy on 21 March 2015. Anybody concerned with education of the country, would have expected that the task of formulating an education policy should have been laid with a public committee of renowned, upright, rational and democratic- minded educationists and such eminent personalities from other walks of life. As said before, this was not the task of the government, its ministers or its pliant or stooge organizations- individuals-bureaucrats. The process followed was far from this desired path. At that time, the claim of the HRDM “some lakhs, thousands and hundreds of meetings are proposed for different levels” was questioned. It was asked: “How many of these, have people at respective levels come to know of, let alone have seen or taken part in? What were the proceedings or outcomes of those ?” While these questions remained unanswered, there were open reports of RSS-affiliate individuals and organizations demanding ‘complete overhaul’ of Indian education emphasizing ‘only assimilation of Hindu thoughts into country’s education can provide perfection of means and finish confusion of ends’. They even claimed to have placed their opinions with the then HRDM to be considered and incorporated.
In the next phase a 5-member panel or committee, mainly of bureaucrats, and called Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy, subsequently known as TSR Subramanian Committee or Panel was formed which submitted its report containing its recommendations to the HRDM on 27 May 2016. The HRDM was supposed to put this report for “public views” and evaluate it itself. However, theHRDM, instead of making the report public, came out with a 43 Page document “Some Inputs…” in July 2016, in which they claimed that the new education policy would prove to be a milestone. Be that as it may, these twists and turns at the background of evolution of this policy did not speak of a clean approach from the HRDM.

Object of education
In the document Some Inputs …, the Section 4.5 titled Curriculum Renewal and Examination Reforms starts with a quote: “To quote Swami Vivekanand, “Education is not the amount of information that we put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested, all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library….. …. If education is identical with information, the libraries are the greatest sages of the world and encyclopaedia are the greatest Rishis.” This was an addition, rather an amendment on the original draft of the NEP. However, later in the document, in its Section 3, there is a list of multiple (as many as 14) objectives of education. In none of those and also nowhere else in the document, the objective quoted from Vivekananda {“We must have life-building, man-making, character-making assimilation of ideas”.} finds its due place to give effect to, or even desired. This is even after the HRDM claims the NEP to be a milestone for the country’s education system. Rather, the purpose of education is set to be limited to skill development for work and entrepreneurship and employability generation for life and development of the country. (p9: Some Inputs) (emphasis ours). The document however does not answer some questions. Will skill or employability-oriented (a new term for old job-oriented) education generate jobs, which are dwindling due to acute industrial recession? On the contrary, should not the document ensure object of education to be free from fanning up consumerist, job-seeking and individualistic approach and outlook? Besides nowhere in the document there is any reference to secular, scientific and modern education. Even there is no appreciation of scientific method and approach as a foundation of education.

Maladies in the system
That the education system of the country is presently plagued with thousand and one serious maladies, cannot be denied or ignored by anybody with a minimum knowledge about the issue. In the “Some Inputs…” document , the HRDM also could not but admit that “There are many persisting concerns and challenges relating to access to and participation in education, quality of the education imparted, equity in education, system efficiency, governance and management, research and development, and financial commitment to education development.”(p.7) But nowhere there are concrete assessments of the situation undertaken to define the causes to get at the root of the problems, nor any remedial measures suggested in right earnest. Had the government been really interested in mending right the earlier follies and make education inclusive, they should have rescinded the Right to Education Act 2009 and introduced legislation to guarantee genuine Right to Education at all levels and education as a Fundamental Right, not merely introducing some tinkering efforts like, as they suggest in the document, in amendment of ‘the RTE Act to bring minority institutions back into the fold’. If the HRDM is really keen on bringing education of the country on the right track, they should allot 10% of Central Budget in education exclusive of emoluments and pensionary benefits for teaching and non-teaching staff and withdraw self-financing approach to education and policy leading to formation of elitist expensive institutions through government funding. They should ensure academic support and improvement of crumbling infrastructure for educational institutions at large. If the HRDM is genuinely respectful to democratic and constitutional ways and means it should also guarantee treatment of education as a subject of Concurrent List thereby ensuring rights of States in educational issues.

Instances of maladies : Drop-outs
In any case, in respect of maladies, for brevity’s sake a few important issues may be chosen for discussion. For instance, on Drop-outs, the document admits that “In 2014-15, the retention rate at primary level was 83.7 per cent and it was as low as 67.4 percent at the elementary level. This indicates that roughly, four in every 10 children enrolled in grade I leave the school before completing grade VIII” (p.12). It even makes contradictory statements of facts. It is said that there is significant decline ; but again it is defined as a matter of concern. No reason is however given nor remedy suggested. It says the drop-out problem brings into focus the need to undertake measures to improve retention in schools of children from socially and economically disadvantaged communities(p.11), but what measures, there is no indication. It is stated that “children from economically disadvantaged groups are more likely to receive less opportunity to participate in pre-primary education”. But why? Is it not because of high cost of education rising everyday with rampant privatization as well as commercialization, the latter being practised also by the governments themselves? Is it not because of abject poverty of the majority of the masses of the country, whatever may be the cooked up government data on poverty level suggest? These reasons are simply kept under the carpet. Also kept under the carpet the fact that the union government which sheds crocodile tears for pre-school children in its policy document that is on paper, has actually mercilessly slashed the ICDS budget meant for this section of students. So lamenting on drop-outs turns out be just a hoax.

Quality of education
To quote the document “The biggest challenge facing school education relates to the unsatisfactory level of student learning”. Some non-committal verbosity is there to cover up this stark reality of lowering quality. But then the real problems are skirted. What about the poor infrastructure in most of the schools; what about paucity of schools and teachers despite the governments’ commitments and objective necessity for a school in each village? What about filling up of vacant posts and appointment of adequate number of qualified permanent teachers and non-teaching staff in all funded institutions ? Why not absorb all part-time, para teachers, guest teachers as permanent teachers? What about extreme poverty holding back students and their families? What’s of disgusting and widespread corruption that involves education authorities, ministers, and what-not of high-ups.? What is to say about the inefficient administration and all such other vices and viruses? These are not at all mentioned; rather onus is placed on teachers and students. Does it speak of honest intention of the policy makers?

On privatization, too, there is outwardly a frank admission about the “wretched condition created by rampant privatization” . But the policy does not answer: Why has it occurred? Who, other than the governments, are responsible for it ? Who other than a former Congress-led government introduced the slogan ‘Education is a unique investment’ that eventually opened the floodgate of privatization? Who other than later governments of different hues, including those of BJP retained the same approach to reign supreme? And if the present government is honest and different, where are the remedial measures, like immediate withdrawl of fee hike and effective curb on donation-capitation menace at all levels of education, as also withdrawl of education and other service sectors from under the purview of the WTO?

Evaluation: No Detention Policy
No detention Policy is a burning issue in education field today. The document Some inputs says “The present provisions of no-detention policy will be amended, as it has seriously affected the academic performance of students. The no detention policy will be limited up to class V and the system of detention will be restored at the upper primary stage. Academically weak students will be identified, based on CCE conducted by schools, for providing remedial instructions.” It is noted with concern that these comments come after countrywide admission of the fact that ‘ no detention policy has brought disaster to school education’. Even all the committees and bodies set up by the governments themselves as well as overwhelming majority of the states have endorsed that popular verdict against the no detention policy. The HRDM poses innocent admission, yet takes a half–hearted measure. Obviously it is taken only under people’s pressure. Yet the government does not care to suggest introduction of Pass-fail system right from Class I, from where the education starts and which the organizations like the All India Democratic Students Organization (AIDSO), All India Save Education Committee (AISEC) and others have all through demanded for unequivocally. After all this policy is creating two kinds of students; one from the government- run or such other schools where students of poorer families take lessons from. And the other the private schools charging high fees, offering excellent grooming including their proper evaluation and detention if necessary, for students from rich and affluent families. Detrimental to students interest in general, this matches perfectly well with the policy of curtailing education from the masses, which the rulers and their policymakers have been continuing since independence. So, on this or that pretext, with this or that cunning tricks they have always tried and will try till the last to keep the no-detention policy alive.
As a measure of examination reform, the document proposes to hold two levels of end Class X Board examination in Mathematics, science and English on the plea of high incidence of failure. But it does not spend a word on ensuring improved infrastructure, adequate number of teachers and not methods like CCE, to help ‘academically weak’ students. The proposed measure will only and obviously give birth to two sets of students: One handicapped from studying in ordinary schools with rickety infrastructure and following “No detention” policy (till now) , and thus ill equipped for and thus weeded out from higher studies. They will be thrown open to vocational job-oriented education and finally the utterly uncertain intensely competitive job market. The other privileged with studying in high-priced private schools properly grooming them with examinations and better coaching, will emerge to look-out for few well greased jobs in the country and abroad. Should not the NEP have thought of measures instead to do away with this sad outcome? The HRDM must also immediately stop segmenting education into small modules through recourse to measures like introduction of widely criticised semester/trimester system and interdisciplinary Choice Based Course Credit System — all designed to impair development of comprehensive knowledge; it must withdraw policy of weakening public examination and stop stress on internal assessment like CCE prone to spread of corruption, favouritism, intentional victimization, etc.

Language of instruction
On language of instruction, it says “ All states and UTs, if they so desire, may provide education in schools, upto Class V, in mother tongue, local or regional language as the medium of instruction.” Mark the option or. This will leave a room for Hindi to infiltrate as regional language at the cost of mother tongue; even English will be taught at only functional level, without any emphasis in literature and such other components of language studies and will be marked with reduced importance.
Over and above that, the document mentions that, “Keeping in view special importance of Sanskrit to the growth and development of Indian languages and its unique contribution to the cultural unity of the country, facilities for teaching Sanskrit at the school and university stages will be offered on a more liberal scale.” Not only words. In May 2016, the MHRD issued instructions to the IITs and other institutes of national importance to initiate “Sanskrit Cells” for introducing courses in Sanskrit, “ to facilitate study of Science and Technology in Sanskrit literature and inter disciplinary study of various modern subjects and its corresponding subjects in Sanskrit literature.” An MHRD document (http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/ Report-CVRM.pdf) titled ‘Vision and Road Map for the Development of Sanskrit – Ten Year Perspective Plan’ further claimed, “There are hundreds of works like Siddhanta Shiromani, Vriksha Ayurveda, Upavana Vinoda, Mayamatam, etc., to name a few, which are of great relevance in the context of research and innovation.” It is thus clear the government is trying to impose Sanskrit at various levels of the education system as a part of some agenda, where the Vedic age will be painted in a picture of imaginary glory. What a double-dealing on the part of the HRDM. On one hand, it advocates for teaching-learning of technological aspects of science for skill development to find global footing for the few and vocational education for the masses. On the other, it proposes and acts for promoting Sanskrit to teach materials in the name of science which were far from the modern science that is based upon established and universally acclaimed scientific methodology of observation, experimentation, theory-building, and objective testing or verifications of those theories before accepting those in the treasure of human knowledge. Where will this admixture of these two apparently incompatible propositions lead our education to? The HRDM will have to answer it.

Bureaucratic curb of autonomy
The document proposes overhauling of University Grants Commission and All India Council for Technical Education and there are also other recommendations to fix the governance of education. These include changes in management and monitoring of education departments, schools and universities and in the process of recruitment, training and posting of academic staff. All this will lead to centralized bureaucratic administration and control over the education system with an eye to smoothening implementation of their agenda, whatever that be, spelling doom for the question of autonomy. Rather, the HDRM must take steps to stop policy of compulsory accreditation of institutions, measure designed to promote commercialization and making accreditation the criterion for UGC funding, stop attempts at autocratic centralization of education through restructuring by legalizing Private Universities Bill, Foreign Universities Bill, Educational Tribunal Bill, NCHER Bill, Central Universities Act, etc. The policy should also stop pursuing policy of curtailment of autonomy and democratic rights of academic community, re-instate all democratic rights of students, teachers and non-teaching staff, stop encroachment and curb on autonomy of educational institutions.

Foreign universities
Some Inputs… suggests : Selected foreign universities, from the top 200 in the world, will be encouraged to establish their presence in India through collaboration with Indian universities. If required, steps will be taken to put in place an enabling legislation. Rules/ Regulations will be framed so that it is possible for a foreign university to offer its own degree to the Indian students studying in India, such that these degrees will be valid also in the country of origin.
In the present context of globalization and particularly the GATS, when education is viewed as a global trade, would the proposed setting of Indian campuses of foreign institutions, even the traditionally renowned ones, ever be enough to help those rise above the status of industries, money-making centres, whose worth will be determined by their ‘brand value’? Already all over the world even the best of the institutions are not being able to keep their standard from falling. There is acute dearth of good teachers at the higher level of education in all countries, including ours. Can the problem of lowering of standard or dearth of teachers be tackled simply by hiring academicians at high costs, as prescribed in the GATS’ provisions? Will these foreign institutions ever care to give priority to the needs of education of the country under the particular situation available at present in their programmes for framing curricula, chosing subjects, determining terms and conditions of work for the teachers and employees etc.? Expectedly not. Particular needs of the country will come only as secondary to them; their intent and goal will only be the business. It will only add to the virulent spate of privatization- commercialization of education now rampant in the country.

Conclusion : Old wine in a similar new bottle
In sum and substance the document Some inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016 does not present much difference from the proposals, recommendations, measures of earlier attempts, particularly the NPE ’86, NKC report or the Yashpal Committee report of the UPA regime. Thus in discriminating two kinds of students (one privileged and other commoners that is the vast masses of students from poorer families: marked OLL and MLL in the earlier attempts respectively and here in the document two kinds sitting for two different school leaving examinations) and as corollary in restricting rather curtailing higher education from the poorer section of students, in continuing with privatization (along with ritualistic criticism of its maladies), menacing trend of centralization of powers (examination, administration and governance etc., with increase in bureaucratic powers) with a view to smoothening out any opposition or non-conformist traits: in all these major trends the draft policy does not differ from the earlier ones, barring stronger and more centralized efforts. But what is more dangerous lies elsewhere.

The most ominous trait
Glaring is the preamble. Here it is stated that :
“Indian scholars like Charaka and Susruta, Aryabhata, Bhaskaracharya, Chanakya, Patanjali and Vatsayayna and numerous others made seminal contribution to the world knowledge in such diverse fields as mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, medical science and surgery, fine arts, mechanical and production technology, civil engineering and architecture, shipbuilding and navigation, sports and games. During the freedom struggle, several leaders like Gokhale, Ram Mohan Roy, Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya and Gandhiji worked for better education for the people of India.”
The list is striking from the absence of any names of the fore-ranking scientists, such as Jagadish Chandra Bose, Meghnad Saha, SN Bose, CV Raman, PC Roy and many others who contributed to the human treasure of knowledge and modern science. The list mentions afore-said four stalwarts working for education during the freedom struggle (which did not really begin during Rammohan Roy’s time). Their contributions notwithstanding, the document conveniently omits the name of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, one of the most eminent , if not the singular educationist who stood steadfast for a scientific secular education. What do these omissions indicate, may be easily judged. What is important are the happenings and utterances that go on in the background. As mentioned, while the process of preparing a national policy was on, the RSS had declared openly that they will be submitting their views and will have those implemented. The RSS affiliates had openly demanded ‘complete overhaul’ on Hindu thoughts. Time and again RSS- BJP leaders in the name of upholding the cause of the past Indian glory and tradition, have simply trumpeted for their Hindutwavadi agenda, which repudiates in clearest terms modern scientific education as foreign (though the HRDM presents a red-carpet ovation to the foreign universities for business) . They have catered totally unscientific, even obscurantist ideas in the name of science. Their campaign for Sanskrit, inclusion of Hindu scriptures like Geeta, Ramayana, Mahabharat in curriculum even of universities, all speak of their intent. On this background total official black out of scientific modern education in the draft policy carries grave omens , no doubt.
This blunt whitewash of the concept of secular scientific modern education is sure to bring about a tremendous adverse effect on the country’s social-cultural ambience. It will promote blind submission, fanaticism, obscurantism and all sorts of intolerant irrationality, as destruction of secular scientific education means destruction of rationality, power for objective analysis of life’s problems and, in the long run, thinking faculty of human being with accompanying shattering of cultural- moral backbone of people. This is the mindset that helps establish fascism in the country.
So people must demand of the HRDM , rather the BJP government to maintain and fortify effectively secular – scientific – democratic approach in all aspects of education, in academic curricula and syllabi, course content and textbooks, behavioural lessons, practices and custom in the institution. Any extent and kind of communalist approach must be shunned. The education policy must lead to stop catering distorted views of history, obsolete unscientific thoughts in any and every aspect referred above. Those should give due emphasis on basic sciences, humanities and literature and stop superficial ‘functional approach’ or ‘Child Centred Approach’ in teaching and learning— measures intended to undermine foundations of school education. Only then a free, comprehensive man-making character building education that makers of the nation envisaged can be reached at. Otherwise the draft will remain a milestone document for destroying the secular scientific modern education in the country.
The HRDM needs to take note of these facts, carry out necessary amendments and rectifications before the final policy is framed. Indian people, in their turn, require to remain aware of the omens carried in the so-called Draft National Education Policy 2016 and organize themselves for a powerful sustained education movement to thwart implementation of this disastrous policy.

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