“The light of knowledge is strong enough to brighten the darkest recess of humanity” - Dr. Maulana Abdul Kalam.
As India’s first education minister he subtly highlighted the role of education in a nascent democracy, recovering from painful partition. Modern education was expected to play a pivotal role in the development of the country and thus much impetus was staked on bringing a meaningful reform in the education system of India. In pre-Independence India, education was a luxury reserved for few who attended the established universities in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay, opened around 1857.
But a major chunk of population remained illiterate, with women and lower caste groups denied even the basic education comprising mathematics and writing in general. Thus, after independence education for all became the cry of the ruling Indian National Congress which leaned towards a uniform educational system. University Education Commission and Secondary Education Commission, were formed in 1948-1949 and 1952-1953 respectively to develop and work on proposal targeted towards the revival of Indian education system. In 1961, NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) was created as an autonomous organization to supervise and manage the implementation of educational policies.
The first national education policy was implemented
in 1968 by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who primarily focused on
the implementation of Right to Education as mandated by the constitution, for
all children up to age of 14 and worked towards the restructuring the
educational opportunities for social development. It also stressed on quality of
the training of teachers and implemented the “three language formula” in the secondary education system. The
formula called for usage of three languages in secondary level of education-
the instruction language being English, the official language of the state of
the school and Hindi. This was developed to bridge the gap between the
academicians and the general mass.
This was further developed by the government
led by Rajiv Gandhi, who introduced a new national educational policy in
the May 1986 working on the frame work established by the 1968 Educational
Policy. This policy resuscitated the focus on the education and development of Indian
Women, Scheduled tribes (ST) and Scheduled Castes (SC) as established by the
constitution of India. This policy led to the expansion of scholarship and
adult education, increased recruitment of teachers from Scheduled Caste/Tribe
and made provisions to provide incentives for marginalized people to send their
children to school.
The national policy on education went under further evolution in 1992 and 2005 under the government of PV Narsimha Rao and Manmohan Singh respectively. The 1992 NPE commenced the work on the creation of a common entrance examination which was envisaged in the 1986 NPE. In this system, the government of India introduced a three exam scheme in which JEE and AIEEE were conducted for national level institutions such as IIT’s, NIT’s and State level engineering entrance exam for state institutions. This was developed to reduce the redundancy in the entrance examination and reduce the stress associated with them. Many new additions were made to the policy in past few years such as Rashtriya Madhyamik Shikhsha Abhiyan of 2009, Saakshar Bharat of 2009, Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan of 2013 etc. however lack of major revisions made the national education policy superfluous with no evident benefit to the society.
Education was the key issue highlighted in
the general election of 2014 and student were hopeful as the new government
under Narendra Modi formed a committee to draft a new education policy. This
draft was stipulated to be primarily focusing on revamping the three-language
formula, making skill or practical training mandatory in educational curriculum
and work toward developing the current institutions in terms of research,
innovations and quality graduate education.
However, the prominence of this new
draft was the adoption of bottom-up approach in which efforts were made to
reach out to all the stake holders of the policy from a village primary school
level to state level educational institutions to collect inputs for developing
the policy. This was felt necessary due to the changing needs of a different demographics.
The government identified 33 themes relating to multiple issues associated with the higher education in India such as lack of infrastructural development, regulatory inconsistencies due multiple affiliations under one university, archaic system of teaching and evaluation, lack of professional skill training, online courses and decentralization of management which was mentioned in NPE of 1986 and Publication Programe of Acton (1992) but failed to gain impetus.
However, one key census which is on
side-line in the development of this policy is the graduate students who are
pursuing higher education in countries such as United States of America,
Canada, New Zealand, Germany etc. and are major stake holders in Indian education
and economic scenario. Over the last decade, India witnessed a mass exodus of
students to foreign shore to pursue graduate studies.
This was necessitated by the dearth of quality higher educational institutions compelling unreasonable entrance requirements (such as high cut-off marks in Delhi University and IIMs) and indirectly promoting spurious illegal Institutions such as IIPM. This situation was aptly described by Dr Shashi Tharoor in one of his interviews where he stated that “We have islands of excellence floating in sea of mediocrity”. However a reversal in the recent trend of brain-drain is observed as many Indians educated abroad are returning to India which can be a great opportunity for India.
They bring the technology and the advances along with
them which can contribute towards the growth of Indian economy and thus it
makes economic and strategic sense to cater to these new demographics. Thus, some
of the critical areas which the new policy should address are financial aid to
supports scholars and graduate students, increased incentives for collaboration
program such as semester aboard program or internship opportunities and better
regulation of counseling services which are known to misguide students for black-listed
international institutions for financial motive.
There is also a dire need to
increase faculty collaboration and scholar exchange which can boost Ministry of
Human Resource and Development (MHRD) efforts of opening new IIT’s. This will create
feasible opportunities of graduate studies in India and also help in manage the
quality of the new institutions formed. The initiatives such as global
initiative of academic network (GIAN) developed as a platform for academicians
in US to exchange ideas with their peers in India needs revamping.
should also work towards developing few more programs such as Fulbright-Nehru Program
and work to develop collaboration such as passport to India initiative with the
Ohio State University. Renewed focus on private industry-educational institutions
collaboration in existing government programs such as Make in India is needed
to improve the employment opportunities in India which is one of the major
causes driving students to international countries. Also, the ideologies
guiding India education policy needs a major upgrade and this can be easily
achieved by processing the request of foreign universities such as Yale
University to open campuses in India.
This will eventually develop the quality of Indian education and the students and teachers alike would benefit from a new perspective towards education. It can be easily observed that our education policies have become complacent and are encapsulated in the issues of past whereas new contention is over the horizon. If necessary steps are not implemented, India would not only lose a qualified generation of students, it may also lose the interest of global companies which have a huge contribution in the economy.
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