New education policy endorses most of Sangh core demands

New education policy endorses most of Sangh core demands

The new education policy formulated by the Centre has generated a storm over its recommendation for putting an end to the era of the students’ politics in the universities and colleges. This, perhaps, was the reason for the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry to keep the report of the committee away from the public glare ever since it was submitted on May 27.

The 217-page document finally made it to the public space through unofficial channels – it was leaked to the media – about a fortnight after HRD Minister Smriti Irani refused to put it in public domain. Irani even snubbed the chairman of the committee TSR Subramanian, a former cabinet secretary, over his demand for making the report public, saying the report was not meant to “glorify any individual.”

Putting aside the controversial recommendation for abjuring the functioning of students’ groups in campuses on the lines of caste, community, religion and political affiliations, the critics in their initial remarks dubbed most of the suggestions of the panel as “short-term solutions” to the problems prevailing in the education sector.

However, a closer look at the observations and recommendations made in the Subramanian committee report gives a clear glimpse of the fundamental changes that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has planned to bring about in the country’s education system.

In its carefully-drafted policy advice for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, the five member committee has endorsed most of the core demands of the RSS and its affiliates.

The committee has deliberated in detail about a Supreme Court judgment that exempted the schools run by minority institutions from implementation of 25% quota in admissions of students belonging to the economically weaker sections (EWS) under the Right to Education Act.

“Without entering into the legal aspects, it is now important to reconcile the right of the economically weaker sections with the right of the minorities under Article 30 (1), particularly when minority institutions often appear to clutch at any prop to ensure that their obligations, met by other aided or unaided schools, are circumvented,” the panel suggested.

This issue needed further examination and clarification, not only to expand the scope of reaching out to the EWS students but also to ensure that minority institutions were established “only for the genuine reasons envisaged by the Constitution,” it said.

The minority institutions were “actually” meant for fulfilling the predominant needs of the people belonging to the community. The government must ensure that they not use their Constitutional privilege to “manoeuvre out of national obligations established in overall public interest,” it emphasised. “Surprisingly, even aided minority schools have been given exemption; not surprisingly there has been reportedly a marked increase in schools seeking minority status post the Supreme Court judgement (on 25% EWS quota),” the panel added.

Keeping the focus on welfare of students belonging to economically weaker sections, the panel also advised the government to create a National Fellowship Fund to support at least 10 lakh such students in pursuing higher education.

The fellowship under the proposed scheme would cover tuition fee, cost on learning material and living expenses of the EWS students, specifically those below the poverty line. This will not only improve equity and accessibility in the higher education sector, but also promote “merit”, the panel hoped.

The committee, however, did not discuss anywhere in its report as to what should
be the strategy of the government to improve the gross enrolment ratio of the students belonging to scheduled castes or other backward classes under the new education policy.

The report also did not propose any policy intervention for scaling up participation of the Muslim students in school and higher education, even as the percentage of literacy is lowest (59.1%) among Muslims, compared to other minority communities. “The issues of social access and equity remain complex and have been only partially resolved,” the panel, however, noted in its report.

On the other hand, the panel discussed at length on ways to promote education among tribal students. The committee suggested a host of measures for increasing the participation of tribal students in education in North Eastern states, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

Stress on inculcation of values
In the backdrop of the recent nation-wide debate on patriotism, the panel has put a special emphasis on inculcation of values among students at all levels of education.
“The relevance of value education assumes critical importance in the contemporary scenario where unfortunately the consequences of exploitation and intolerance are increasingly being witnessed. Education should aim to develop pride in India and in being an Indian,” it noted.

The committee has suggested the government for “conscious integration” of value education with general education at each stage, including adult education, teacher education, and also technical and management education.

With compulsory teaching of Sanskrit in schools being one of the main demands of the right wing groups, the committee has advised the government to consider introducing the ancient language as an “independent subject” at primary or upper primary level, instead of keeping it as an option in three-language formula.

“The study of Sanskrit requires special emphasis, as it is still inextricably linked with the life, rituals, ceremonies and festivals of the people and is a window to the rich cultural, philosophical, artistic and scientific heritage of India,” it observed. The panel has also suggested for a new curriculum of schools as well as reforms in current examination and evaluation system.

To deal with corruption and irregularities in the higher education sector, the panel has called for reforms in the governance system, creation of an All India Education Service. It has suggested for enactment of a Higher Education Management Act to bring all the centrally funded educational institutions, regulatory bodies and other institutions under a single legislation.

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