Re: [MTC Global] Is the govt’s new education policy a blessing or a bane?

Well said sir. This is exactly the situation. Education must empower citizens and help them recognize and nurture their true potential, but the direction of the NPE so far does not indicate any thing in this direction.


On 08-Jul-2017 11:13 AM, "Prof. Bholanath Dutta" <bnath.dutta@gmail.com> wrote:
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Author: Markand R Pranjpe
Poet & Professor: JNU

On December 11, 1823, Raja Rammohan Roy wrote to the Governor-General of India, Lord Amherst, "Humbly reluctant as the natives of India are to obtrude upon the notice of Government the sentiments they entertain on any public measure, there are circumstances when silence would be carrying this respectful feeling to culpable excess." The address was presented to the new rulers of India, 12 years before Lord Macaulay's infamous Minute of 1835 that arguably changed the course not only of Indian education, but of our culture, society, and civilisation. Many have argued that Rammohan's arguments against the Sanskrit College and Sanskrit education influenced Macaulay's decision not only to impose English as a medium of instruction, but English or Western education on the people of India. Some trace the terrible state of Indian education to that fateful moment. Others, contrarily, claim that it was Macaulay and English who saved India from the dark ages.

Whatever our positions, we cannot miss Rammohan's irony when he says, "The present Rulers of India, coming from a distance of many thousand miles to govern a people whose language, literature, manners, customs, and ideas are almost entirely new and strange to them, cannot easily become so intimately acquainted with their real circumstances, as the natives of the country are themselves." No doubt we are now a democracy wherein our leaders are drawn from our own midst. Moreover, the opinion of the people of India is supposed to matter today. But does it, really? Aren't our politicians, aided by bureaucrats and technocrats, still "omniscient" and "omnipotent" for all practical purposes?

"We should, therefore, be guilty," continues Rammohan, "of a gross dereliction of duty to ourselves, and afford our Rulers just ground of complaint at our apathy, did we omit on occasions of importance like the present to supply them with such accurate information as might enable them to devise and adopt measures calculated to be beneficial to the country." That our rulers want to improve the condition of the populace we must not doubt. That education is the key to such improvement may also be taken as self-evident. Then what is our duty to the state and society, especially when the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) recently notified constitution of the Committee for the draft National Education Policy (NPE) under Chairmanship of Dr K Kasturirangan?

We know that the Modi sarkar, since its inception in 2014, has been keen to reformulate the NPE, which was promulgated in 1986 and revised in 1992. The consultative process, on for over two years, has, according to the MHRD website, attracted over 2.75 lakh "direct consultations". But what does that mean? What kind of stakeholders were consulted and what was the quality of the inputs? Did this process produce really new or substantive ideas? This is not clearly stated or known, let alone discussed nationwide.

When it comes to higher education, we hear of one or two radical ideas, for instance the proposed merger of national funding bodies such as Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), and Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR) into one apex agency like the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in the United States. There was another news item about MHRD considering the merger of the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Both these are good ideas, with possibilities of long-term beneficial outcomes, but their modalities and goals are yet to be announced. But they have not been publicly discussed or debated.

Similarly, what are we to expect of the new NPE if its key ideas are not subject to discussion and analysis? For instance, what to do about private universities, including foreign universities, wishing to set up shop in India? Obversely, how to promote brand India worldwide, unlocking the potential of successful institutions? We did read about IITs/IIMs allowed to start campuses abroad, but there isn't much ongoing thinking about how that is to happen. There are also mixed signals about what to do about vexed and contentious issues such as the medium of instruction, not just at the school, but also at the college and post-graduate levels. What about useless degrees/diplomas, outdated curricula, or failed institutions? How to raise the level of primary education, especially given that the Right to Education is proving to be disastrous?

Most of these questions boil down to how to de-politicise education and bring back the culture of excellence at all levels. If this were the sole focus of the NPE it may actually bring about something worthwhile. If we foreground competence and capacity-building, everything else, including social justice, inclusion, and regional and religious claims, will fall into place. The message that needs to be sent out loud and clear is that quality must be paramount, all other considerations following it. While there may be political compulsions that go against such an emphasis, this is where the will of the government will be tested.

The future of the whole country, nay civilisation, is at stake, not just of one regime. To ensure minimum standards at the lower levels and maximum freedom at the higher echelons might be the way forward. The business of the government is to prevent malpractice, ensure quality, protect the interests of the citizens, ensure access and opportunity to the deserving — not to control, over-regulate, stifle, even strangle the creative genius of the Indian people. The government must facilitate the process of society's capacity to meet its own educational needs rather than strangle its ability to improvise, invent, and innovate.


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EDUCATE, EMPOWER, ELEVATE
Prof. Bholanath Dutta
Founder &  President 
MTC Global: A Global Think Tank in 
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