On 30th July 2020, I received a forwarded message from a good friend and well-wisher, all along with his life of about 50 years, and the New Education Policy, (NEP) 2020 is about 700 pages. He Wanted to read and express an opinion: “But the Left has already denounced it. Hence no need to read it. Must be good in substantial measure.”
This is not the only message. Some have outrightly rejected the Policy. Some welcomed it as unique. Some want to wait and see. Some are unhappy that every new policy based on the Commission’s recommendations or a result of democratic discussions, were not given a fair trial. They faced infant mortality. In British India, since Macaulay, numerous Commissions and Committees had been appointed on Educational Policy. In post-Independent India at least three major commissions, 1.Radhakrishnan Commission 1948-49; 2.Mudaliar Commission 1952-53; and 3. Kothari Commission 1964-66, were appointed. They labored hard and prepared Voluminous Reports. In 1986, the government led by Rajiv Gandhi introduced a new National Policy on Education. The new policy called for “special emphasis on the removal of disparities and to equalize educational
opportunity,” especially for Indian women, Scheduled Tribes (ST), and the Scheduled Caste (SC) communities. That apart the then Planning Commission, often criticized as Super Cabinet/ Parliament had been issuing instructions periodically. All of them are almost consigned to Archives. Hence the apprehensions of the well-meaning and good-intentioned elders about the present NEP.
The prophetic sentences of Dr B R Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly on 25-11-1949 shall be borne in mind before we launch on any new policy. Moving the Constitution Bill he said:
1. “If hereafter things go wrong, we will have nobody to blame.
2. The task of drafting Committee would have been a very difficult one if this Constituent Assembly has been a merely motley crowd, a tessellated pavement without cement, a black stone here, and black stone there in which each member or each group was a law unto himself. There would have been nothing but chaos.
3. The proceedings of the Assembly would have been very dull if all the members had yielded to the party discipline. Party discipline in all its rigidity would have converted this Assembly into a gathering of, ‘yes men.’
4. Fortunately, there were rebels. They were Mr. Kamath, Dr. P S Deshmukh, Mr Sidhwa, Prof Saxena & Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava, along with they, I must mention Prof KT Shaw and Pandit Hruday Nath Kunzru. The points they raised were mostly ideological.
5. Coming to the Drafting Committee, it was elected by the Constituent Assembly on 29 August 1947. (The other members of the Committee were Sir Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayer, Nyapati Madhav Rao, KM Munshi, N.Gopalswamy Ayyangar, TT Krishnamachari and Syed Mohammad Saadullah,)
It held its First Meeting on 30 August. Since August 30, it sat for 141 days during which it was engaged in the preparation of the Draft Constitution. The Draft Constitution as prepared by the Constitutional Advisor (Sir Benegal Narasingh Rao) as a text for the Draft Committee to work upon consisted of 243 Articles and 13 Schedules. The first Draft Constitution as prepared by the Drafting Committee to the Constituent Assembly contained 315 Articles and 8 Schedules. At the end of the consideration stage, the number of Articles in the Draft Constitution increased to 386. In its final form, the Draft Constitution contains 395 Articles and 8 Schedules. The total number of Amendments to the Draft Constitution tabled was approximately 7,635. Of the total number of Amendments actually moved in the House were 2,473.
Dr Rajendra Prasad, the President of the Constituent Assembly on 26-11-1949. 1. I must convey, if you will permit me, my own thanks as well as the thanks of the House to our Constitutional Adviser, Sir B.N.Rau, who worked honorarily all the time that he was here, assisting the Assembly not only with his knowledge and erudition but also enabled the other members to perform their duties with thoroughness and intelligence by supplying them with the material on which they could work. In this, he was assisted by his band and research workers and other members of the staff who worked with zeal and devotion. Tribute has been justly paid to Shri S N Mukherjee who has proved of such invaluable help to the Drafting Committee.
2. The cost too which the Assembly has had to incur during its three years’ existence is no too high when you take into consideration, the factors going to contribute it. I understand the expenses up to the 22nd Nov come to Rs.63,96,729.00
“Facts are stranger than myths”. (For more facts about the Framing of Indian Constitution turn to Google search or Read Framing of Indian Constitution (five volumes) by B.Shiv Rao, a member of the Constituent Assembly.)
This may look irrelevant. But just as the contents of the Constitution is the guiding spirit for our administration, its framing has laid down the roadmap for future legislations and policies. In the preparations of every piece of Legislation and Policy, so many resources are pumped in. To allow them to go into the drain is nothing short of a national crime. I too have not read the whole NEP. Let me diagnose the present malaise. There are spacious schools in rural areas. However, the infrastructure is hopelessly bad. The upkeep of the premises is nauseating. Physical Education and Sports and Athletics are not properly promoted. In fairness, the performance of Nadu Nedu (then and now- నాడు-నేడు ) Scheme in upgrading the infrastructure is worth noting. However, the Teacher-Students ratio of 1:20 is not maintained properly. Overall, at least there are 30% vacancies. Higher Education is worse. Even in the Universities more than 50% of the teaching and non-teaching staff are either part-timers or outsourced. It is shocking that the post of Vice-Chancellors is kept vacant. IAS officers or vice-chancellor of another university is posted as a full additional charge for even years.
One universal complaint is on Macaulay. As he is known to every stakeholder in the system, the Macaulay system needs not to be explained. But just let us go back by one hundred years. All the leaders of the National and Renaissance movements were products of the same system. Till the privatization of the education and liberalized industrial and economic policies, up to the Intermediate classes, the students, in alphabetical order used to sweep the classrooms. To create social awareness we used to have weekly debating societies. School and Class Magazines, to encourage creativity was a yearly routine.
Language teachers were the most respected ones. With a sense of pride and possessiveness (My School/College), we were maintaining the school garden and the playground. Physical Training Instructor (PTI) was the most feared one. The craft teacher was loved by one and all. The Headmaster/Principal was well respected in the Society. Over and above all even in colleges most of the lecturers were taking roll calls by names.
Years after we left the Institution, at the sight they would address: How are you, Kalkura? (కల్కూర, బాగున్నావా?) Such a student-teacher relationship cannot be incorporated in any policy. They have to be cultivated and inculcated. In schools, Corporal punishment was a rule. The rate of literacy was very low. The professions were few. Most of the literates, the cream of the society opted to become teachers. There were fewer govt employees. The number of doctors engineers and advocates was negligible. The quality is bound to suffer in mass production. We can’t recapture those days and persons. So let us turn to 2020.
Till 1957, Education System was 5+3+3+2+2; the last two stages in College. In 1957 with the introduction of a year Pre University Course (PUC) it became 5+3+3+1+3. Finding the one year PUC as a weak link, the Kothari Commission had favored reorienting the whole system, 4+3+3+2+3. It delinked the two years course from the University and recommended the establishment of a separate body to supervise it.
Invariably it is called Board of Intermediate, PUC, Plus 2, etc Board. The present proposal is 5+3+3+4. The proposals have many good features, like the promotion of mother tongue or local or regional language, opting for a combination of science and Arts or Humanity subjects. Certain subjects like History, Political Science, and philosophy are being neglected and the governments and the universities are seriously considering abolishing those departments. Now there is a chance of they being studied, at least as ancillary subjects, a synthesis of Arts and Science.
Departments and Faculties named as Science and Humanities may be renamed on the model of Central Universities as School/Faculty of individual subjects. Every subject must be taught scientifically. Its usefulness in life and career and for the society must be explained. The best talent with attractive pay scales and service conditions must be regularly recruited, without the post being kept vacant.
For Einstein, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” We can replace religion with Humanity. Since the medium of instructions in all the primary schools is the mother tongue and options of studying more than one language, particularly Sanskrit and other classical languages, the vernacular gets a boost.
However, there is a hitch. Migrants, for any reason, may find it difficult to educate their wards. Employees in central services, particularly the banks and LIC are liable to be all- India transfers. Not only in metropolitan cities, but the banks also have branches even in remote places.
The think tank in the govt must bestow attention on this aspect. Teachers are expected to be trained to be teachers by choice, not by chance. Medical and legal education is considered purely professional and delineated from the mainstream Collegiate Education.
It is common knowledge that education is Item no. 25, in the Concurrent List III in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. “Uniformity is desirable but not essential on items in the concurrent list. If any provision of a law made by the Legislature of the state, is repugnant to any provision of a law made by Parliament which Parliament is competent to enact, or to any provision of existing law with respect to one of the matters enumerated in the Concurrent List, then, the law made by Parliament, whether passed before or after the law made by the Legislature of such State or, as the case may be, the existing law, shall prevail and the law made by the Legislature of the State shall, to the extent of the repugnancy, be void. There is an exception to this in cases “where a law is made by the Legislature of a State with respect to one of the matters enumerated in the Concurrent List contains any provision repugnant to the provisions of an earlier law made by Parliament or any existing law with respect to that matter, then, the law so made by the Legislature of such State shall, if it has been reserved for the consideration of the President and has received his assent, prevail in that State. Provided that nothing in this clause shall prevent Parliament from enacting at any time any law with respect to the same matter including a law adding to, amending, varying or repealing the law so made by the Legislature of the State.”
Hence it is imperative that for the successful implementation of the NEP, a harmonious relationship between the Center and the states is essential. Almost all the BJP ruled states have welcomed the Policy. Other states have, though not expressly, announced their reservations, implying opposition. The Centre must adopt an appeasement policy. States must realize that uniformity is in the interest of the students at regional, national, and global levels. Politically also they are bound to gain. Aam Admi Party of Kejriwal in Delhi is the standing example. Kejriwal took a leaf and started improving the Schools. They were converted into model schools for the country and in many respects better than the Corporate Schools. As a result, in spite of his otherwise not so good Administration, he won hands down the 2019 Assembly Elections
Before embarking on the ambitious program, the Central Govt must test the pulse of the teachers, management, parents, and the students and take them into confidence. Are they prepared to accept the change and universal system? There cannot be dual systems. With the riders narrated above, I do agree with both Govt and the Left. One shall not try to rub on the wrong side. At the same time, we shall not oppose for the sake of opposition. Both are for the welfare of Humanity. According to Gandhiji, “Education is the realization of the best in man – body, soul, and spirit.” He maintained that education must be based on ethics and morality. Ethics and morality are integral to Gandhi’s life. All his thoughts, actions and speeches are based on these two concepts.