[lg policy] Modi government’s draft education policy reads like a bad PhD thesis

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Jun 7 11:23:49 EDT 2019

Modi government’s draft education policy reads like a bad PhD thesisThe
draft education policy offers nothing new and trivialises education. The
report hasn’t reviewed our educational system, takes an obvious saffron hue
and a neo-liberal path


Ashlin Mathew
<http://twitter.com/@ashlinpmathew>Updated: 7 Jun 2019, 4:36 PM
Engagement: 1.218 K

The government had put out the draft National Education Policy, which was
chaired by K Kasturirangan, and soon came out with a revised draft National
Education Policy after the suggestion of imposition of Hindi in the report
stoked controversy particularly in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

While highlighting the three-language formula, what many didn’t say is that
this 484-page draft is almost an exercise in futility. “The report is full
of platitudes, feel-good things, but without anyone of the sections
actually meaning anything. It doesn’t even read well,” says Apoorvanand, a
Delhi University professor.

Agreeing with him is educationist Krishna Kumar, former director of NCERT.
“There is hardly anything new that this draft offers and it has trivialised
education. There is no acknowledgement of where we are.”

In 1993, National Advisory Committee, with Yash Pal as chairman, was set up
and the report of the committee titled ‘Learning without Burden’ is also
the starting point for this new draft education policy. In 2005, there was
the National Curriculum Framework. Later in 2009, as a part of another
committee, Yash Pal had discouraged stand-alone universities. He had
advocated for regulatory mechanism that would make rational and consistent
rules for setting up institutions (both public and private).

“What will work for Uttar Pradesh may not work for West Bengal and Tamil
Nadu. This draft has not differentiated between private and public schools.
What works for private schools doesn’t work for public schools. This policy
doesn’t address privatisation of education and its effects. There is a
great denial of where we are and no vision of what we want to
achieve,”points out Krishna Kumar.

“Do we know what Liberalisation means in Education? In 1990s, we tried to
start a conversation on it and now almost 30 years later, that is still the
main question. Everyone is still reluctant to address the question because
the state would still like to be seen as in charge of education,”
highlights Krishna Kumar, and acerbically quipped that this was not even
like a PhD thesis.

“Why hasn’t this new committee shown what work the other committees have
done? Why hasn’t it taken stock of what has happened in these years and
improved or suggested alternatives? This new draft policy isn’t taking the
conversation forward at all. This draft goes back to 1993,” explains

“In the introduction, the draft pans to the nationalist narrative of the
government. This government itself is a hindrance to education. We know
what will happen to education, committee or no committee. This doesn’t read
like the report to improve the education of the nation,” emphasises

The draft mentions the exalted status of Sanskrit, highlighting that it was
a great repository of knowledge pertaining to numerous subjects including
science, mathematics, medicine, mathematics, law, economics, politics. It
suggests that Sanskrit will be integrated with literature and mathematics,
suggesting the inclusion of Vedic maths, which isn’t maths, says Anita
Rampal, DU professor and faculty member of department of elementary

“National Curriculum Framework had a focus on making education inclusive,
more rooted in children’s cultural contexts and basing it on children’s
construction of knowledge. This would bring in experience, recognise that
children come from diverse and unequal backgrounds and also highlight the
need for differently paced teaching and learning of mixed ability
classrooms. Now the focus is too much on standardised assessment and
learning 'outcomes', which is problematic, because you then forget the
provisions and the process on which learning depends, and put the onus only
on the child,” asserts Rampal.

“There is now an emphasis on 'census' testing both at the state and Centre
level – in Class III, V and VIII. When you do that you are not focusing on
children coming from diverse backgrounds. You are trying to centralise
everything and make it uniform. This doesn’t provide for a nurturing
environment especially to those from poorer backgrounds. This is worrying
as it pressurises teachers only to 'teach to the test'. There is little in
the draft which points towards inclusion and equity,” contends Rampal

The Kasturirangan NEP has stated that the Right To Education Act will be
reviewed and amended, but they have suggested that it will be to
incorporate improvements on the basis of the “learnings gained since it was
enacted”. What those learnings are, the draft doesn’t mention.

However, this draft looks at extending the RTE Act to include the secondary
education Grades 9-12; typically ages 14-18), which is a welcome move,
emphasises Rampal. The draft states that by 2030, all students can enrol
and participate in quality school education through Grade 12. Earlier the
Act included students between ages 6 and 14.

They have proposed setting up of Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog, which will be the
new apex body for education. “It will be responsible for developing,
articulating, implementing, evaluating, and revising the vision of
education,” states the policy.

“This is a completely government-controlled body, which is to be chaired by
the PM, and includes the Niti Aayog Vice chairman and several ministers.
This kind of complete centralisation of education goes against the spirit
of what all our earlier education policies had envisioned to make education
a democratic endeavour. People on the ground must have involvement, the
states must have a role. This does not allow any autonomy for the
significant actors and institutions in the field,” stresses Rampal.

This government wanted a similar body Higher Education Commission of India
(HECI) for higher education to replace the University Grants commission.
HECI was meant to be completely government controlled and there were huge
protests against it and now they are trying to do it for the entire
education sector,” says Rampal.

“What we are seeing now is that Niti Aayog, is increasingly getting
involved in education. It has in fact taken a few states and has been
asking for school mergers and closures, which even the education ministry
has not done. At least 14,000 schools have been closed and merged in
Odisha, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. If this happens, how are we going to
have a more equitable public education system? This will also encourage a
lot of low-cost private schools to come up, which is a big market and is
completely unregulated. These policies are also being promoted by leading
corporate organisations and those like Central Square Foundation, Pratham,
etc.” points out Rampal.

Rampal says this policy draft doesn’t talk about good quality, equitable
public education. “The government’s decisions such as the school management
committee and parents to decide and take decisions are also problematic.
Can parents regulate schools? ” points out Rampal, and goes on to ask why
the government cannot provide adequately resourced schools like the
kendriya vidyalayas to every child. Why does public education have to be so
stratified, with the poor getting a poor school, whereas they deserve more
nurturing attention?

They have changed the three-language formula, but it is not in line with
how children learn languages. “Children cannot learn reading and writing in
three languages simultaneously. First, the focus has to be on gaining
proficiency in the first language or the mother-tongue and after sometime
the second language can be introduced, through a specific pedagogy of a
second language. Here we need a planned process based on an educational
understanding of language learning, not a political mandate. We have never
really had a good language policy. The three-language formula came in the
late 50s and 60s, when it was looked upon as a political formula to help
national integration and to resolve tensions between states that had been
newly formed on linguistic factors, but even then it did not dwell on how
children learn. Between then and now, there has been tremendous research on
how children learn language and that hasn’t been taken into account,”
explains Rampal.

There is a complete neo-liberal thrust to education and that can be seen in
this education policy draft too. “Niti Aayog and related agencies and NGOs
have been calling for the RTE to be thrown out as they claim it focuses on
‘inputs’, not on ‘outcomes’; but this is misleading, the RTE has not been
implemented, and only ten percent schools are compliant with its basic
requirements. How then can meaningful learning happen without qualified
teachers, good materials and nurturing learning environments?” reiterates

What is indicative of the times to come is the inclusion of businessman
Mohandas Pai, who is the chairman of Manipal Global Education, as one of
the peer reviewers of the draft education policy. One still doesn’t know
why mathematician Manjul Bhargava was on the committee. In the drafting
committee was also a person from the Reliance-funded Observer Research
Foundation as was a director of Veda Vijnana Shodha Samsthanam*. *All our
education commissions right from the Radhakrishnan Commission of 1948
onward had academicians in it. There were scholars recommending policies
and not simply administrators.

VVSS is an organisation, which quotes RSS ideologue MS Golwalkar as their
guru*ji*and reinforces the idea that “Bharatha is the land where the sacred
Vedic aadhyatmayoga, spiritual knowledge originated and is being practiced,
preserved and propagated from time immemorial.”


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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