New education policy: The wait prolongs

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“The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage.”

– Mark Russell

As the Narendra Modi government enters the final leg of its five-year term, the much-anticipated new National Education Policy (NEP) is yet to see the light of day. The new policy, originally expected in 2016, may not be formulated before the general elections next year. The formulation of the new national education policy that had begun with great fervour four years ago is still in the making. In the meantime, the sector has been subjected to a paradigm shift. If media reports are to be believed a new national education policy is round the corner, when the committee under the leadership of Dr. Kasturirangan, constituted by the Human Resource Development ministry (HRD) will present the draft copy. The eight-member panel was supposed to submit its report in December last year, but was given an extension till March 31. That will leave a little more than a year for the Modi government to prepare the final policy and present it to the cabinet. The HRD ministry will deliberate on the report and make its final suggestions to the cabinet for presentation in Parliament. Within days of indicating that it may introduce a bill in Parliament to create a single higher education regulator before the 2019 general elections, the Modi government has drawn up the draft legislation.

The draft legislation for setting up a ‘Higher Education Evaluation and Regulation Authority, 2018’ (HEERA) or Higher Education Regulatory Council (HERC), says that once the new regulator is created, existing regulatory authorities such as the University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the National Council for Technical Education (NCTE) will be scrapped. Unlike the UGC Act, the new single education regulator will be backed by more teeth. It will be able to bar an institute from admitting new students in a particular course if it is established that it has violated the quality benchmarks. It will also be able to terminate affiliation of such an institute and provide for measures to safeguard interest of the enrolled students. With a comfortable majority at the Centre, the Narendra Modi government and its ideological mentor, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), were seemingly keen on implementing the new NEP before the 2019 elections to leave their mark on the education sector. However, the delay in the formulation of the policy is bothering saffron leaders who claim that there would be less than adequate time left before the 2019 polls for successfully implementing the NEP. Unwilling to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Smriti Irani and get branded as a Hindutva hawk, HRD minister Prakash Javadekar has, reportedly, gone slow on the much-awaited NEP that is being dictated by the RSS.

The focus of the new National Education Policy (NEP) should be on girls’ education, strengthening public institutions with a thrust on traditional knowledge, special attention on language, sports and mathematics at the school level, and addressing regional inequality with the focus on five pillars — accessibility, equity, quality, affordability and accountability. Now, one can only wait and watch to see if the same enthusiasm, which was evident during its proposal stage, will be shown by the political fraternity to make NEP a reality soon.

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