TSR Subramanian Committee, HRD Ministry & New Education Policy – Know it all

smriti irani and tsr subramanianWith 65 percent of India’s population under the age of 35 and 290 million students enrolled in schools and universities, no issue is arguably more critical than the future of Education. The Ministry of Human Resource Development established a committee back in October 2015 to come up with ideas for a New Education Policy. The committee was led by former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian, three other retired civil servants Shailaja Chandra, Seva Ram Sharma, Sudhir Mankad and physics professor and educationist JS Rajput.

The committee submitted its report last month: after which Subramanian asked MHRD to make it public. However to this Mrs. Irani said it will be made public after state governments provide their feedback. The report has been circulated nonetheless and contents point will give rise to the political battles on education that India will witness soon if the recommendations are translated into the policy. Now is this committee report a fact or a farce,¬†that’s a discussion for yet another day.

If the self-imposed restrictions on political activity on campus are taken into consideration, then freedom of expression is a fundamental right. Students and the universities have the right to form associations too. But there should be a restriction to ensure that this right of a few should not impinge on the majority of the students. It is possible to have such restrictions. There are two needs; one is the constitutional need of giving the right to the people and the other is the right of other students to not be disturbed. Examinations and classes should not be disturbed.

Usually, the silent majority is never heard, only those who are vocal and who are able to come to the press and media are heard. To curb this, a National Debate should be called, wherein the truth can be balanced. The university is basically not for politics, the purpose of university is not politics, the purpose is to teach people. Therefore, a national debate should take place in the country. Indians are always of the view the U.S.A is this, U.S.A is that, right now there is a huge debate going on in the U.S., but you have not heard of one class being disturbed, you never heard of stones being thrown. No right is unrestricted. The university is a temple for learning. It is not caste or community oriented. Basically all that is being said is the silent majority has the right to study.

Addressing the RSS-affiliated outfits with the larger aim of saffronising education, TSR Subramaniam said, there exists three-four values: work ethics, personal behaviour, not being rude to elders, gender equality etc. There are universal values that every religion teaches – ahmisa, do good to others etc. We have suggested that in middle school, basic religion of all religions should be taught. Hence, saffronisation is not being talked about instead human values are being talked about and the same has been listed and will be part of the curriculum soon.

For huge amount of money and political influence in play in various aspects of education including teachers’ recruitment, often one forgets that Indian children do possess a better IQ and learning attitude than you will find in most countries. You can verify the fact, just look up some big names internationally in any possible domain. Quality is there but the question is of opportunity. The teacher has to teach. The school, the teacher and the student are the kingpins of the matrix. Somehow at the back of one’s mind people think that it is the minister, secretary who are the key players. But they are mere bosses or the kings, but only the facilitators in the end. Hence the need of the hour is to make the teacher recruitment process transparent so that everyone is aware what the process is all about.

Students should not be detained till Class 8-this should not be a law. Why? Here is the answer: There are always two sides of the same coin. Same is the case with No Detention. The arguments of one side are as such: children learn at a different pace so don’t penalize the child, the coaching standards are very bad so don’t penalize the child, thirdly, the examination, because the child has failed in one subject, they have to repeat the class. These are the arguments for no-detention. On the other hand, the child loses interest, the teacher loses interest, coaching standards have to come down sharply to meet their level.

So in principle it is good, but in practice it has to be applied with a lot of caution because it demotivates teachers, it is loaded in favor of the worst in the class but doesn’t give much to the best in class. So 80% of the students are not the focus of the teachers and therefore it is regressive.

The solution is not that you blindly detain. As of now, strong in-built remedial coaching system in the school has been asked for, only those bottom 20% will come and study on extra days.

No emphasis on art and culture and humanities in the policy…

Every good university should have it, and policy doesn’t say you shouldn’t have this. Today there is no shortage of institutions for art courses, the problem comes in medical sciences etc., mostly anyway. Take NEET as an example this year. There are no entrance examinations for art courses. Total freedom is given to higher education.

Overall, the last education policy was 30 years back. It is too important a subject to be reviewed in 30 years. There should be a standing body. As education standards all over are different, a non-executive thinking body of experts who are knowledgeable and who will sit and deliberate and give advice to government on take it or leave it basis should be formed. Also, a state of education report should be published.

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