The country has waited for a new national education policy for three decades and it is still at the draft stage. In any changing society its education policy gets revised in keeping with the developments in society and in conformity with new aims and requirements. This is especially so in societies where organised modern education is itself new. The last few decades saw faster changes in the country in every field, and so there is a special need to make the education policy relevant and useful to the millions of young persons who aspire to learn, to learn life skills and to improve their lives. The nine-member Kasturirangan Committee, which had been tasked to prepare a new education policy, has submitted its report. The report has come at the fag end of the tenure of the government, after the committee’s term was extended five times.
The brief of the committee was to formulate a precise, rigorous and comprehensive education policy. The draft policy has proposed a uniform syllabus for mathematics and science across the country, which makes sense because these are two areas of knowledge with global content and where local content is least relevant. The draft gives importance to local content in social sciences. There is also the right emphasis on promotion of skills, which would make students useful citizens of the country and the world. But the committee created a controversy by recommending adherence to the three-language formula with Hindi as a mandatory language to be taught up to Class 8 across the country. But Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar has made an assurance that "no particular language" will be made mandatory for all students and that the government would respect the diversity of the country and the freedom of choice of students.
The committee wants an "India-centric" and scientific system of learning to be implemented in schools. These words may have different meanings in the present environment in which even those in power and in authority claim that ancient India had the most modern scientific knowledge. The last few years have seen attempts to saffronise education at all levels in the country. Since only a few weeks are left for the elections, the new policy cannot be finalised by the present government. But regardless of what recommendations have been made by the committee, the government might use the opportunity to please its core constituency and polarise the debate on the policy. The policy covers the entire sector from school to tertiary education for the next two decades and it is too important to be left to those with a narrow and retrograde agenda.