If you are of the opinion that you have already witnessed the stormy ideological battles in the Narendra Modi era, then you are mistaken. The speeches over intolerance and nationalism were only storms, but the thunderstorm that is going to play out more aggressive and which can even change the old landscape over the horizon, still awaits. The biggest battle in the next few months is going to be fought over the National Education Policy or simply putting, Education. While controversy’s favourite child, HRD Minister Smriti Irani is going to be its face, in the deep background, faceless people are at work.
The National Policy on Education was promulgated in 1968 by the government of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and the second by PM Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. Since then, several changes have taken place that calls for a revision of the Policy. The present Government of India is working to bring out all new National Education Policy that meets the changing dynamics of the population’s requirement with regards to quality education, innovation and research, aiming to make India a knowledge superpower by equipping its students with the necessary skills and knowledge, and to eliminate the shortage of manpower in science, technology, academics and relevant industries.
For the first time, the Indian Government is embarking on a time-bound grassroots consultative process which will enable the Ministry of HRD to reach out to individuals across the country through over 2.75 lakh direct consultations while also taking input from citizens online. It simply reflects that the the government and its ideological guides want to recast a system which they view as biased, antiquated, irrelevant for large swathes of the population and a refuge of work dodgers, beneficiaries of Congress-Left patronage and the rank incompetent.
Meetings have apparently been held in 94,000 villages across the country and more than 1.1 lakh written suggestions are being screened and processed.
As per the New Education Policy, given below are the few changes that will be brought in the structure of education:
- Vocational training will be made part of the core education.
- Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) may move from the periphery to the mainstream.
- Navodaya Vidyalayas (NVs) – the residential schools for poor students in the ancient gurukul tradition have been proposed in every district.
- The Sainik School network may be expanded to encourage more students to think of forces as a career.
- Non-NET scholarships are distributed among women, minorities, disabled and backward castes; that there is last-mile utilization of funds, and that students get fellowships through direct benefit transfer.
But the content is the biggest issue. The new National Curriculum Framework, which is supposed to come later this year, could be explosive. Last year in the month of November, the Punjab and Haryana High Court asked NCERT to look into 182 supposed discrepancies and mistakes in Classes VI to XII history books. The argument was that certain shlokas from the Rig Veda and other scriptures had been mischievously translated to mean exactly their opposite. The Aryan invasion theory is being challenged too, along with interpretations of words like ‘dasa’ and ‘dasyu’.
In the namesake of feedback, public grievances from countrywide consultations on the New Education Policy (NEP) have been received but the five-member draft committee that was to submit its draft report by December 2015, is yet to make a submission.
Till three weeks ago, the committee was busy meeting individual stakeholders seeking opinion on NEP. The committee has so far missed three deadlines and is expected to take a few more months, before finalizing the draft.
The earlier education policies were formed keeping in view then suited needs of the country’s education sphere. The first policy of 1968 focused largely on equal opportunity and education for all, whereas in the second policy of 1986, need for expansion of higher education was discussed. The policy of 1992 focused on technical and professional courses.
For the first time in independent India, the Left-of-Centre narrative in education will be seriously challenged in the coming months; both structurally and in content. This is the battle of all battles and much controversies are in queue.