New Education Policy- A bliss or a curse

On May 28, 2016, the government-appointed committee headed by former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian submitted its report to HRD Ministry. The secrecy revolving around the newly formulated Education Policy draft is finally over, as TSR Subramanian has himself released it without waiting for the ministry to do so. Following news reports that TSR Subramanian wrote a letter, asking the government to make public his panel’s report, HRD Minister Smriti Irani said early this month that the ministry will not disclose the report’s contents unless it has received views and feedback from all state governments.

Education Minister Smriti Irani has opened it up to suggestions from the public at large, all of us. But what about it was so problematic that it wasn’t made public in the first place? It is much more than a draft containing recommendations for the new education paradigm in the country. Reading the 230 page report, it becomes clear that it addresses the much wider pedagogical concerns.

Quality and Equality goes hand in hand : While the entire focus of the report remains on two aspects, that is ‘quality’ and ‘equality’ (equal access to all), it touches many other important themes. For improving the quality “it seeks to create conditions to improve the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, and promote transparency in the management of education”. And in this way, it seeks to ‘restore the credibility’ of the education system.

Entrance Test to be mandatory for recruiting the teachers : For the same, the committee has recommended that a mandatory entrance test should be conducted for recruiting the teachers. There should be a minimum eligibility condition with 50 per cent marks at graduate-level for entry to existing B.Ed courses. Teacher Entrance Tests (TET) should be made compulsory for recruitment. Vacancies for teachers and headmasters for each block should be placed in the public domain. Shorter tenure and other incentives should be offered for posting in tribal and remote areas.

The committee has also recommended recruitment commissions to ensure transparent, merit-based norms for selection. For elementary schools recruitment should be done at district level.

One Single National Level Test : The report also highlights that a National Level Test for every student appearing in class XII from any School Board should be held. This Test will then make the successful candidates eligible for admission to various courses without appearing in a number of entrance tests.

Top Class 12 performers should be offered admission in a 5-year integrated teaching course leading to specialisation in specific subject areas and include an emphasis on developing teaching and research skills. Selected candidates should receive full scholarship from public funds.

On-demand board exams to offer flexibility and reduce year end stress of students!! Good Going, everything as per the needs and demands of the students. An independent board to oversee implementation of schemes for children with special needs.

Class X Board Examination in Mathematics and Science in 2 levels : Part A at higher level and Part B at a lower level. Students who wish to complete their studies at Class X need, by choice, to appear in Part B only. Those who want to take up future courses involving higher mathematics will have to take Part A.

Scaled scores and percentiles in Board checking : The committee took strong objection to the existing evaluation system followed by education boards, and urged scrapping the practice of giving grace marks to artificially inflate the pass percentage. It recommended a new system of scaled scores and percentiles for better evaluation across the country.

No More Detention Policy after Class 5 : The report also suggest no detention policy should be discontinued after class V. Detention provision to be restored but with provision of remedial coaching and at least two extra chances to each student to move to a higher class. Also to amend RTE Act to bring minority institutions back into the fold.

Three languages : As decided by the states, school education in mother tongue till Class V, choice of second language at primary level and third language at secondary level.

10 lakh new fellowships for higher education : The report also proposed to institute 10 lakh new fellowships every year for higher education. The class XII exam could provide national benchmarks to identify beneficiaries based on merit standards.

Excess number of colleges can lead the university in trouble : No university should have more than 100 affiliated colleges and universities which have more than 100 affiliated colleges should be split for achieving better academic oversight and management efficiency.

Stop the migration of foreign universities : Transformation of at least 1,000 institutes of higher learning into world-class universities so as to stop the migration to foreign universities has been recommended.

JNU Sedition Row Effect : Turning attention to campus politics in the wake of JNU row, the policy has proposed non-recognition of students’ groups that are ‘explicitly based on caste, religion or one political party’.

While the infrastructure facilities in the school system have significantly improved, there has been little corresponding impact on the quality of instruction or learning – on the contrary repeated studies have indicated a worrisome decline in learning outcomes in schools. For this the schools with low enrolment and inadequate infrastructure should be converted to composite schools for better infrastructure, teacher availability and efficient re-deployment.

B.Ed to be wrapped up in two years : The states have been asked to convert existing two-year B.Ed. Program to four-year integrated course, with offer of preferential employment to such graduates.

Institutions required to be evaluated : Each institution should be evaluated at least once in five years on a scale of I to VII, with VII representing the highest score. Those in the top two of the scale to be given full operational autonomy; those on the bottom of the scale in category I would be put on notice for immediate closure. Those in category II would be given a warning that they are under close watch, and could be considered for closure unless they move up the scale.

A Council for Excellence in Higher Education should be formed so as to create policies to foster the establishment of Centres for Excellence, both in the public and private sectors.

CONCLUSION

The report has tried to address all substructures of the larger pedagogical superstructure. Though it is quite ambitious in its approach, it raises valid concerns and puts forward some very important recommendations.
While her ministry holds the prerogative of how it deals with the report, the fact remains that the 230 page draft contains much for ensuring a robust education system. And ignoring it won’t do good to anyone. Will this new policy be implemented? Will its recommendations solve a major educational crisis in the country, or will they become the subject of a greater political battle? The questions are yet to be answered.

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