Will gov­ern­ment’s New Education Pol­icy au­gur well?

At a time when coun­tries like China are en­cour­ag­ing their youth to fo­cus on fu­ture prospects by in­volv­ing them in jobs like robotics and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, In­dia is yet to find its feet.

Alive - - Contents - by KV Venu­gopal

The Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment has for­mu­lated a new education pol­icy for the fi­nan­cial year 2017-18. Will it suc­ceed in its at­tempt to im­prove the stan­dard of education in our coun­try? It re­mains to be seen, how far the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance led by the Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ini­ti­ate mea­sures to re­vamp the education stan­dard in In­dia, keep­ing in mind, its de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in the re­cent past.

There are some clauses in the Right to Education (RTE) Act, which have im­mense po­ten­tial, but ef­forts were not taken to ad­dress the prob­lem, let alone tak­ing a note of it, by the au­thor­i­ties con­cerned. Will the la­cu­nae in the school education sys­tem be ad­dressed in right earnest? The bu­reau­cracy and the cor­po­rate sec­tor are no less re­spon­si­ble than the gov­ern­ment and the po­lit­i­cal par­ties for ru­in­ing the education sys­tem in our coun­try.

It is be­ing re­ported that the Prime Min­is­ter has de­cided to cre­ate 20 qual­i­ty­ori­ented in­sti­tu­tions. He has

As a mat­ter of fact, for a large num­ber of ma­tric­u­la­tion and higher sec­ondary stu­dents in In­dia, reg­u­lar at­ten­dance hardly makes a dif­fer­ence for them. Nat­u­rally, with the de­fi­ciency in skill, ‘Skill In­dia’ pro­grammes enun­ci­ated by the gov­ern­ment would be dif­fi­cult to ren­der ad­e­quate jus­tice.

also set a stage for its re­forms by or­der­ing for the over­haul of higher education in In­dia. For ex­am­ple, The Hu­man Rights De­vel­op­ment Min­istry led by its Union Min­is­ter Prakash Javed­kar im­ple­mented greater au­ton­omy to the In­dian In­sti­tutes of Man­age­ment Bill last year and sub­se­quently ad­vo­cated re­forms in the Univer­sity Grants Com­mis­sion (UGC) norms and reg­u­la­tions to pro­vide au­ton­omy to In­dia’s em­i­nent uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges.

The Min­istry con­cerned had also given per­mis­sion for con­tin­u­a­tion of the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shik­sha Ab­hiyan, which has been mak­ing rapid-strides to im­prove the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions in all the States with suf­fi­cient fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance. The Union HRD Min­is­ter Prakash Javadekar said the gov­ern­ment has re­con­ducted the CBSE ex­am­i­na­tion suc­cess­fully and that had ben­e­fit­ted a mil­lion of stu­dents. He also as­sured that the BJP gov­ern­ment at the Cen­tre will see to it that the education is af­ford­able to stu­dents from all walks of life.

Since In­de­pen­dence

How­ever, the stark re­al­ity is dif­fer­ent. Right from the In­de­pen­dence, the un­e­d­u­cated chil­dren are in­creas­ing day-by-day. The prob­lem crops up with more drop-outs of chil­dren from schools, than of nonen­rol­ment. The lack of at­ten­tion paid on the pupil­teacher ra­tio for a long time is also glar­ingly ev­i­dent. For in­stance, the Education Depart­ment’s data points out re­gret­fully, that un­der the Uni­fied District In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem for Education (U-DISE) data­base 2015-16, 33 per cent of schools in the coun­try do not pos­sess suf­fi­cient teach­ers. Un­der whom the stu­dents can rely on learn­ing, if the teach­ers are in­ad­e­quate and con­spic­u­ous by their ab­sence? It is be­ing re­li­ably learnt that in many cor­po­ra­tion schools, the teach­ers hardly con­duct classes. Schools in some re­mote vil­lages are con­ducted with one or two teach­ers only. Most of the ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions are not will­ing to re­cruit more teach­ers, bear­ing in mind, the need to pay rea­son­able amount as monthly salaries and in­cen­tives.

Sources in the aca­demic cir­cle point out that the ed­u­ca­tional bu­reau­cracy, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, had not al­lowed the de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion of aca­demic sched­ules. This re­sulted in ne­glect­ing the re­quire­ment of the dis­tricts. The An­nual Sta­tus of Education Re­port (ASER) for ru­ral In­dia does not look promis­ing. Its sur­vey re­veals that the school education in 28 dis­tricts across 24 states is in a pa­thetic con­di­tion. The re­port also made a star­ling dis­clo­sure that one-fourth of the stu­dents are un­able to read their mother-tongue flu­ently, while 57 per cent of them are find­ing it well­nigh-im­pos­si­ble to fo­cus on ba­sics in arith­metic.

Adding salt to the wound, 14 per cent of the stu­dents could not iden­tify the map of In­dia and an­other 36 per cent were all at sea when they were asked to name the cap­i­tal of In­dia. Such short­com­ings can­not be ad­dressed only through leg­is­la­tion. As a mat­ter of fact, for a large num­ber of ma­tric­u­la­tion and higher sec­ondary stu­dents in In­dia, reg­u­lar at­ten­dance hardly makes a dif­fer­ence for them. Nat­u­rally, with the de­fi­ciency in skill, ‘Skill In­dia’ pro­grammes enun­ci­ated by the gov­ern­ment would be dif­fi­cult to ren­der ad­e­quate jus­tice. More­over, as a few economists ap­pre­hend, it might have its reper­cus­sions on In­dian econ­omy and the so­ci­ety.

At a time when coun­tries like China are en­cour­ag­ing their youth to fo­cus on fu­ture prospects by

in­volv­ing them in jobs like robotics and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, In­dia is yet to find its feet. Need­less to say, the Modi gov­ern­ment at the Cen­tre should bear in mind, that gen­er­a­tion of em­ploy­ment need to be ad­dressed si­mul­ta­ne­ously with the im­prove­ment in qual­ity of education. Some aca­demi­cians opine that the gov­ern­ment has made a head-way in the education sec­tor af­ter its An­nual Sta­tus of Education Re­port for ru­ral ar­eas pub­lished last year, wherein, it had strongly rec­om­mended for free education to chil­dren till they at­tain the age of 18, in­stead of from six to 14 ear­lier. The re­port also pointed out that 14 per cent of stu­dents un­der the same age group, that is roughly 125 mil­lion chil­dren are not en­rolled in the school. It is es­sen­tial for the chil­dren to get an education that im­parts job-ori­ented vo­ca­tional train­ing to them.

Big gap

The ASER data de­picts a huge dig­i­tal di­vide, with 61 per cent of stu­dents said that they had never seen the In­ter­net, and 56 per cent did not get an op­por­tu­nity to make use of a com­puter, while mo­bile tele­phony was ac­ces­si­ble to 73 per cent. It was not sur­pris­ing, when some girl stu­dents said they hardly heard the names of com­put­ers and the In­ter­net. Dur­ing his re­cent visit to In­dia, the U.S. busi­ness mag­nate Bill Gates said, with­out minc­ing words that the education stan­dard in In­dia is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. Sources in the aca­demic cir­cle as­sert that it nor­mally poses a prob­lem for stu­dents to get ad­mis­sion in an­other univer­sity when his fa­ther or guardian gets trans­ferred to some other state. Aca­demic bod­ies that are re­quired to fix the cur­ricu­lum gen­er­ally do not pay at­ten­tion to the in­for­mal education rang­ing from con­ver­sa­tions and learn­ing, rue some in­sid­ers in the aca­demic cir­cle.

They also added that a large num­ber of teach­ers in In­dia were not given an op­por­tu­nity to get ac­quainted to ad­vanced learn­ing, while try­ing to ren­der jus­tice to their pro­fes­sion. A fac­ulty in a lo­cal col­lege was apt in com­ment­ing that In­dia is badly in need of global net­worked learn­ing-hubs, in­stead of B.Ed col­leges that are not mak­ing much of a dif­fer­ence in brush­ing up their knowl­edge. The stu­dents, who pur­sue M.Ed, are in a much worse sit­u­a­tion. For in­stance, when they get gov­ern­ment job dur­ing train­ing, they leave it abruptly. The col­leges also not bother, as they need not have to re­pay the fees, if not cap­i­ta­tion and some col­leges are

The ASER data de­picts a huge dig­i­tal di­vide, with 61 per cent of stu­dents said that they had never seen the In­ter­net, and 56 per cent did not get an op­por­tu­nity to make use of a com­puter, while mo­bile tele­phony was ac­ces­si­ble to 73 per cent. It was not sur­pris­ing, when some girl stu­dents said they hardly heard the names of com­put­ers and the In­ter­net.

mak­ing use of this op­por­tu­nity to ad­mit some other stu­dent by in­sist­ing on a huge sum from him or her.

Na­tional Teach­ers Plat­form

It is a wel­come sign that the present gov­ern­ment has launched a ‘Na­tional Teach­ers Plat­form’ to en­able the stu­dents and their par­ents to gather in­for­ma­tion about the sta­tus of the teach­ers. The gov­ern­ment is also plan­ning to in­tro­duce QR (quick re­sponse) coded books. The Or­di­nance clearly stip­u­lates that the pri­vate schools are not sup­posed to charge huge fees in the name of cap­i­ta­tion, build­ing main­te­nance, and dona­tion and de­vel­op­ment fees to squeeze the stu­dents, as most of the stu­dents’ fam­i­lies are not well-off eco­nom­i­cally. The prob­lem, how­ever, is, when many col­leges are run by politi­cians, in­dus­tri­al­ists and the peo­ple from the film in­dus­try as be­namis, strin­gent ac­tion were not taken against the of­fend­ers in right earnest ear­lier.

A sec­tion of aca­demi­cians sus­pect that any such strin­gent ac­tion ini­ti­ated by the Modi gov­ern­ment to curb the il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties in the education sec­tor, would de­pend on var­i­ous fac­tors. For ex­am­ple, when the Lok Sabha elec­tion is not far off and with the com­ing assembly elec­tions in many states, the Cen­tral gov­ern­ment will not up the ante to an­tag­o­nise the vested in­ter­ests in the education field at this junc­ture, viewed they, be­fore adding, though the Prime Min­is­ter’s in­ten­tion is to re­dress the ven­ti­lated griev­ances of the af­fected peo­ple in the education sec­tor, it is quite un­for­tu­nate, as he him­self stated re­gret­fully “the bu­reau­crats are not do­ing their job”. It is per­ti­nent to note that the Prime Min­is­ter ear­lier had pinned his hope more on the bu­reau­crats than of his min­is­te­rial team.

The gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to grant au­ton­o­mous in­sti­tu­tions to in­crease their num­ber of fac­ul­ties by 20 per cent and also per­mit­ting for an in­crease of 20 per cent of train­ing spots and ex­po­sures for stu­dents, who would like to learn more about In­dia from In­dian schol­ars are in­deed a wel­come sign. It is be­ing learnt that the ad­di­tional places in In­dia would also pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for the in­ter­na­tional stu­dents to im­prove their knowl­edge. The new sys­tem would also en­able the fac­ul­ties to con­cen­trate on in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary stud­ies in bioin­for­mat­ics and nano-tech­nol­ogy, among others, which was not vis­i­ble a few decades ago,

The Union HRD Min­is­ter Prakash Javadekar.

In­dia has 220 mil­lion stu­dents in schools and over 29 mil­lion in higher education, at least 90% of them un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of states.

Un­em­ploy­ment is one of the mas­sive chal­lenges in In­dia.

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