The state’s school education department has dropped certain controversial recommendations from its new education policy, such as compulsory education in one’s mother-tongue at the pre-primary level, eight-hour school days, and withdrawing concessions for minorities and students with disabilities. The recommendations, which the education department uploaded to its website last month, were roundly criticised by teachers and education experts.
On Saturday, the department uploaded a revised 34-page collection of suggestions and points on the policy, sourced from discussions at various seminars held on November 5 and 6 at the village, state and taluka level. In the revised draft, the department clearly states that this time, the document will be open to suggestions from citizens. The state will frame its official recommendations only after going through these suggestions. “The earlier draft contained some mistakes, which have been rectified. People can send their feedback by December 18,” said Nand Kumar, principal secretary of the department.
The department has also put this disclaimer on top of every page of the draft: “Government of Maharashtra shall not recommend anything that violates the provisions in existing enactments, Constitution of India or judicial decisions.”
While the earlier draft, uploaded on November 12, had recommended a minimum of eight hours of school a day, the revised draft omits any mention of this. School principals welcomed the decision to drop the plan. “Having eight-hour school days would have been practically impossible for city schools, as they run in two shifts,” said Meenakshi Walke, principal of the Indian Education Society School, Bhayandar. “It would also have been harsh on students.”
The revised draft also says that education in one’s mother-tongue at the pre-primary level is “preferable” rather than mandatory. Other recommendations — common schools for students with special needs and withdrawing concessions for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes – have also been removed, after critics termed them “unconstitutional”.
The revised draft states, “All SC, ST, minority and other deprived sections should be given the facilities as per the Constitution.”