Periodically the media brings out the best and worst in the system leading to passionate discussions. But they are soon forgotten amidst sea of other issues. The NDA government last year said that a committee headed by former cabinet secretary TSR would draft a New Education Policy.
The last Education policy was framed in 1986 which was modified to some extent in 1992. The need for a new policy which can take the ongoing changes and progress in so many field during these years has been greatly felt. The TSR committee had submitted a 200 page report many months ago which had been released by MHRD recently as ‘Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy – 2016’ of 43 pages. Some modifications apparently are in Committees’ recommendations.
The education system array is in disarray as mentioned in report. To know the treatment of the illness, it is necessary to what the problems are. Fairly detailed diagnosis of education scenario in India, across the boards in school education and higher education sector, lot of things have happened in last 30 years. College education from two lakh students has raised to three and half crore students now. From one and a half crore students in schools, now we have thirty-three crore students in universal education in school. 12% literacy in 1950s is now 74% literacy.
The gaps found by TSR Committee are fundamental.
Quality of Education: Overall the quality of education in school and higher education is very bad, and even worse, it is deteriorating in last 10-15 years.
Discrimination against weaker and marginalized sections: Though not easily visible, but children from economically and socially backward classes, even though they have same right under RTE and higher education laws for education, it was found that system does not allow for the natural handicaps- financial or social handicaps. The major investment made in terms of emotions, finances and aspirations, they have not been realized.
These are the important gaps found. 25% of class 8th students are not familiar with class 2nd material. After 8 years of schooling the basics of arithmetic operations are not familiar to 50% students. In higher education, for every reasonably one good institution, there are 20 which are bad. Across the board, it was essentially found that the system cannot sustain itself as it is and this is the diagnosis.
Broad directions and solutions required, which are but not limited to:
Teachers are important: The importance has to be given to the teachers at all levels. The entire administration is focused on minister, secretary, director, the institutions etc. whereas it ought to focus on school and teacher. Need to inverse the psychology of entire pyramid of approach to education.
Reduced Politicization: Rampant politicization and political interference at every aspect of school administration and higher education.
Solving problems of quality and inclusivity
Positive future: An interesting fact was found that human material in India is outstandingly good. Even if one goes into most remote part of India, there a child who is given reasonable health care, education, which in 3-4 years, will develop into a world class mind as good as anywhere in world. Thus TSR report is an indictment of the governance model in education sector. Basically, in other word there is crisis today and if India has to fly high again, education sector needs to be revived. TSR committee has given 90 recommendations for the same.
TSR report tries to do the need-gap analysis which was first time done in 1948 by Dr. Radhakrishnan. These two reports have same focus on quality, inclusiveness, education, innovation. What is not mentioned in 1948 is the innovation which was not the need of economy or society. The need-gap analysis mentions the need to identify the right regulatory mechanisms and make these regulations effective. The problems in country today about school education or higher education system is not that we don’t have good policy makers or good policy report, but that the execution is not effective.
The report released by MHRD is different from TSR report. However, in both report and draft, there is not much focus on RTE Act. Not much has been known about RTE implementation in school education. After six years of enactment of RTE, only 10% of schools are complying with RTE. Everything is mentioned in RTE act, infrastructure, level of quality, teacher training and training regularization, so many solutions are incorporated in RTE act. If the focus on RTE act for implementation of RTE, many problems can be resolved. However, it is an act which has to be implemented. TSR report two points for RTE- Infrastructure is element and finance is another. There is a huge element of quality that has to come across the board of education. Also, couple of changes is required.
It must be strongly enforced
The gaps must be addressed
The crisis today is of rise in intolerance in society and our education system should be able to address it. But the report doesn’t mention it.
The quality question without context means nothing. The context is massification of schools and higher education and universities is increasing. Massification is a dramatic transformation of profile of student body in universities. However, our universities are not prepared to address them yet.
The report also suggests not to open doors to foreign universities in rampant manner. It talks against commercialisation of education.
It talks about regulation mechanism of universities but main thing which Yashpal committee had identified, that the primary problem is lack of autonomy to universities, is missing in report.
There is political interference and then commercial interference too. There are lot of market interference. Most of professional education has gone with market. It no longer lies with public authorities.
The ‘no detention policy’ is linked with Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation. No country has ‘no detention policy’. The detention policy has been removed at the time of RTE formation with a concept that self-esteem of a child should not be killed. Despite such initiatives, the results are poor. The 2014 ASER report showed that every second Class V student in rural India can’t read the text of a class three levels below.
Thus, it is not the failure of child but of school and system. The system is not providing qualified teachers which hampers the child’s ability to learn.
The report bats for 6% GDP, for public system of education, for strengthening of RTE, for public system of universities which is commendable. The center and state government relation has to be in such a manner that it goes and perform the deliveries of education. Numbers are coming in but quality is destroying. Comparing with international community, India is world class economy without world class universities. Finland, South Africa, Singapore have surpassed mathematics and other calculative methods. Its success depends on participation of state government with central government to implement the reforms.
Why not a philosophical text?
The TSR Committee approach is not of a social commentary. According to it, there is no need to go back to society and have a treatise over what is required. The economic, social problems, gender issues all other things in society need to be addressed and not changed and how to take into account with what the realities are. The issues need to be known.
Grade the universities on merit. Those which fall in the higher merit category, give them 100% autonomy in every way.
It is not a philosophical treatise. Not to see the history of education. Not talking of philosophy of education. Strong focus should be on values which permeate to entire system.
Commission is not supposed to give 100% solution to the problems of country. Commission has to deal with the task allotted. It has not to deal with how to remove the corruption. Bodies and ministries have to take action. Currently, the regulatory mechanism is not autonomous, neither at center nor at the state. Thus, to improve the education conditions, autonomy is required to top-class institutions to further escalate positive changes.
Medium of education
TSR talks about 3 language policy. Mother tongue should be imperative in primary education and even further but English shouldn’t be ignored.
Student union was not in favour by TSR report in sense of politicisation but MHRD is in favour. The Committee wants that there shouldn’t be any politicisation of Student’s Union. Even top institutes like Oxford and Harvard have Students’ Union. As long as academics issues are within universities, there is no problem. But if there is too much of politicisation at any level, whether teachers’ association, students’ association, regulatory bodies etc. then there is a problem. Indian universities have seen campus activism in pre independence which had been political in nature. Thus, today, there cannot be any guarantee of political colour not sprinkled on it. Important things have existed in history and today, Universities can’t disassociate itself from society and its issues.
Connecting the dots:
Identify the key challenges and possible solutions to be formulated as a part of New Education Policy.
Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation: A process of assessment mandated by RTE Act which involves
Evaluate every aspect of the child during their presence at the school
Standards include class 6th to class 10th. Schools have own discretion in implementing beyond the range
Aim: to reduce pressure on child at the time of annual exam through continuous evaluation during the year.
It is different from traditional chalk and talk method
The marks of students are replaced with grades which will be evaluated through a series of curricular and extra-curricular evaluations along with academics
No detention policy:
Students cannot be held back in class even if they fail
TSR Committee report recommends No detention policy till class V, then hold exams
RTE Act prescribes No detention policy for students till Class VIII
Criticism: Lackadaisical attitude of children developed towards studies. Parents also do not bother as children cannot be held back