New Education Policy 2016: Same Pizza With A Few Saffron Toppings?

Yoga training camp at PU hostel, Express photo 

Recently the contents of the New Education Policy 2016 draw the attention of many stakeholders including academicians in particular. A detailed look at the policy found to be very ordinary; it’s the same wine in new bottle, even it’s failed to address the RSS doctrine on education in totality. The drafting Committee consisted of three bureaucrats and ex NCERT chief (during earlier NDA regime) Prof J.S. Rajput, since servility, not the merit is the great prerequisite of good civil servant, and the lone academicians is from radical right therefore nothing innovative  could be expected from it.

The policy has mentioned few global truths on the name of policy which everybody knows and under discussion at almost every forum beforehand; for instance emphasis on use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to its full potential in the field of education which has not been fully harnessed. Similarly the issue of Regional disparities in Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education from dismally low of 8.4% to healthy 53% is on the agenda of planners and the successive governments; the gender disparity and among SC/ST is also addressed but very conveniently the most downtrodden minorities after SC/St are not mentioned.

The education financing is again reiterated under mixed model with the participation of public and private sector both, the government also realised that still our private sector in education is in infancy and the element of philanthropy is mere a lip service than anything on ground; rather it is on a decline on account of cut throat snappish commercialization. Nevertheless successive governments are enlarging the role of private sector and squeezing its own institutions; states are culpable of greater criminal neglect. However the policy failed to even create a real rosy picture of more than 10% GDP allocation to this sector and continued with 6% GDP target. Earlier policy makers had also recommended 6% of GDP as the norm for the national outlay on education in 1986 and 1992 policies but the executive failed to cross 3.5%. Had it been 10% as rightly suggested by Aligarh Muslim University’s Vice-Chancellor Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah (Veteran) while delivering valedictory address at International Seminar on NEP 2016 at Amarkantak. We would have able to achieve near 6%; do our planners are so naive that they are unaware of the lethargy of our executive in achieving targets.

I must congratulate General Shah that he touched almost the entire hidden core of the saffron agenda in such a fine manner which only a fearless statesman can do but certainly not expected from serving Vice-Chancellor or any sort of public servant. Some of his salient contents worth mention;

We should not equate nationalism with patriotism. Patriotism is essential for citizens of democracy. Extreme nationalism has to be handled with care.

NEP 2016 is counter-discourse to colonial knowledge aggression to our education system.

The former colonialists concentrated on plunder and quit the country; the earlier settlers only enriched India and made their adopted country home in perpetuity. NEP 2016 must be inclusive to multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural fabric of India.

The on-going SPPEL (Scheme for the Preservation and Protection of Endangered Languages), a flagship program launched by the Ministry of HRD under the Central Institute of Indian Languages which is aimed towards preserving the linguistic vitality of India, should also be integrated with the NEP 2016.

The proposal to introduce ICT as a subject from class sixth needs to be re-considered. He proposed that it should be introduced rather earlier. For example, it is easier to teach a three year old a language rather than a ten year old.

He said we should introduce a two-tier evaluation system at the initial recruitment level for the post of Assistant Professor with different compositions of selection committees. The first tier shall be on the basis of their performance in live classroom in the presence of other faculty members and the second tier of evaluation shall comprise the usual composition of the selection committee under the chairmanship of Vice-Chancellor. In order to eliminate vacancies for long period provisions shall be created in rules for empanelling candidates for one year for future vacancies. He added on that the AMU is going to propose mandatory inter-disciplinary Orientation Course and Subject Refresher Course each of not less than three months for newly recruited Assistant Professors and both to be completed within a year and shall be made one of the bases of confirmation of services after probation.

Similarly, the recruitment of non-teaching staff needs to be made much more competitive and all the university non-teaching staff should also be made to undergo periodic training of secretarial practices, file-noting, movement and maintenance of the file-records etc.

He expressed apprehension of encroachment of the autonomy of the universities as an outcome of“Education Commission”. General Shah was also critical on the under-emphasis on doctoral degrees suggested in the NEP 2016, as it will eventually make the nation deficient at knowledge creation. Instead he suggested that Good Ph.D. theses should be incentivized through a rigorous method of shortlisting the best Ph.D. theses. He further said that the research productions for obtaining PhD degrees should be made to undergo more rigorous scrutiny of the work done at the level of evaluation than what it is now and it shall be supported by indexed publications.

He welcomed the proposal of having tribunals for adjudicating on higher education. It will ease the burden on already overburdened judiciary.Less competent students are found to having scored very high marks because of our practice of inflated marking, this problem was also raised by him in the conference, perhaps for the first time it was deliberated at this level.

The preamble of the NEP 2016 defines Education System which was evolved first in ancient India is known as the Vedic system; without denying its importance he said that the foundational tier of the proposed architecture is premised on VEDIC view, where VEDIC as an acronym that stands for: Versatile/Visionary, Efficient/Enthusiastic, Dynamic/Dedicated, Inventing/Inspiring, and Committed/Curious. This inculcation would however remain incomplete if our teachers are not made familiar with the outcomes of civilizational exchanges which have come about over a long period of history. Amir Khusrau’s invocation of India as heaven on earth (firdaus bar roo-e-zamin) suggests that we must also have a comparative study of other cultures, traditions, languages, religions, and literatures. The stress on VEDIC studies is appreciable but the proposed NEP 2016 must be inclusive to cater for multireligious, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural prosaic of India.

He continued to assert that NEP 2016, should endeavour towards developing integrity and character of individuals not only by teaching epics pertaining to Hinduism and Sikhism, but also by including epics of other religious traditions such as Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Christianity, and quite importantly the folk traditions of the tribal populations. However, uncritical acceptance of long standing practices would hamper the inculcation of critical thinking. Comparative study of different cultures and their histories added with the core commonalities and syncretic elements impinging upon the well-being and coherence of the harmonious social fabric of the pluri-cultural country like ours should be a necessary component of our curriculum across the disciplines.

No one can best describe the pain of managing old universities/institutions other than their Vice-Chancellors themselves, he rightly proposed that the funding for infrastructural developments in such universities requires separate treatment. A large proportion of the total grant is invariably spent on pensions and salaries and also on maintaining the already existing old infrastructures, thus, adversely affecting the infrastructural developments. Hence these universities need special grants and packages in addition to their regular grants.

The Vice-Chancellor was very categorical in negating the NEP 2016 proposal to have three sorts of institutions, viz., Research-focussed Institutions, Career-focussed institutions, and Foundation institutions. He opined that these institutions should not be taken in isolation but all the three need to be integrated.

Of the 140 universities accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), only 32% are rated as A grade, this assertion of policy acknowledges the farsightedness of present University administration in leading NAAC process from the front.

The National Education Policy, 2016 itself mentions that its success solely depends on spirit of cooperative federalism between Centre and the States which is unimaginable in the absence of consensus between centre and states out of present day polity.

However, the crux somewhere mentions in the policy when it suggested the timely available of funds although equitable distribution of planned fund is more important but availability and that too at the right time is the core of programme implementation and our governments are guilty of criminal contempt. Volumes are required to describe this rot but I would prefer to mention only two recent cases; AMU established three off campuses The initial financial proposal was of Rs. 1400 Crore for Malappuram and Murshidabad Centres but government added Kishenganj Centre in addition and only sanctioned Rs. 349.55 Crore in XII five year plan and till date only Rs. 130 Crore is released. Less than one year is left in this plan and if the present government will sanction anything more, which I doubt they are in a mood to give, but for the sake of argument if at all it will be sanctioned than by any stretch of imagination and technical skill the remaining Rs. 219.55 Crores can never be utilised in time i.e. 31st March 2017.

The ICAR release their grant every year either on 30th or 31st March and twist the arm to submit utilization the same day; is someone listening to inform our planner that mechanism to unplan their plan is in existence before their plan. Till such time element of programme implementation will not be coupled with planning this entire exercise is nothing but flawed.

Maintaining their true spirit the NEP 2016 policy mentions names of Gokhale, Ram Mohan Roy, Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya and Gandhiji who worked for better education for the people of India but deliberately ignored Sir Sayed.

The over enthusiasm at times spoil the whole effort, everybody realises that policy making on such major area as education is the domain of Prime Minister; in this scenario does this sound necessary to coin the title as New Education Policy and NAMODI Framework, where NAMODI stands for NanoArchitectureMobileOrientedDigital Institutes, it is very much avoidable but then how to prove that we are substandard mediocre regime.

Dr Anwar Khursheed is Professor of Environmental Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering in Aligarh Muslim University and University Engineer, Building Department, AMU Aligarh. He did his under graduate and masters programme from AMU and PhD from IIT Roorkee. He possesses teaching and research experience of about 33 years. He has also served for three years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He was involved many design and consultancy projects out of which 46 were major. He is mainly teaching subjects related to Environmental & Pollution Control Engineering. His research areas are Wastewater Treatment, Energy Recovery Processes, Nutrient Removal, and Reverse osmosis. He has published more than forty (40) papers in various International and National journals and conferences. He has also delivered dozens of invited talks and expert lectures, 59 projects and dissertations. He has completed large number of projects including Campus-wide Networking on 10 Gigabyte OFC backbone & Camus Wi-Fi projects and Construction projects of more than 200 crores. He also headed Computer Centre as its Director and FCI as Principal and presently he also hold the position of Nodal Officer of the Camus-wide Networking Project (Wi-Fi Project).


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