The UT education department sprung into action on Thursday morning after officials cut a sorry figure during a video conference held by the ministry of human resource and development (MHRD) with the northern zone entities (seven states + Chandigarh) on Wednesday. The conference was held to check the preparedness and findings of the education department’s consultative process for new education policy.
Sources said the ministry took note of the department’s failure to gather ‘sufficient views’ with reference to grass-root level consultations on the policy even as instructions were issued in April-May. HRD minister Smriti Irani moderated the conference and grilled officials.
Detailed timelines had been issued to hold meetings at various levels (gram panchayat/block/urban local bodies/district/state). The MHRD had identified 33 themes (13 on school education and 20 on higher education) for consultation. UT officials including education secretary and DPI (S) were not prepared.
The department organised hurried meetings ahead of the regional conference for the Northern Zone scheduled for Saturday. The education department held meetings on Thursday starting with school management committee members (SMCs) at 9am followed by principals and cluster heads at 10am. Later, another meeting was held with elected village/district representatives from periphery schools and private institutes.
Most representatives were not aware of the meeting’s purpose. A principal of a local government school said, “The meeting was futile as we didn’t get enough time to prepare.”
LETTER REACHED, MESSAGE DID NOT
A letter dated October 23 had been sent to schools asking them to hold meetings at cluster-level and to submit theme-wise outcomes by November 6.
When HT visited the venue of one of these meetings, most schools weren’t even aware of the themes.
NEITHER INCLUSIVE, NOR PARTICIPATORY
The department also failed to follow the MHRD’s directives due to the hurry in which these meetings have been held.
When HT contacted some of the local NGOs who are members of the SMC, it was revealed that nine NGOs including Youth Innovative Society, Sai Tara Ummat and Vatsal Chhaya weren’t even invited for Thursday’s meetings.
DPI (S) Rubinderjit S Brar said, “No major issue has cropped up. We are not under pressure to submit data in a day.” The education secretary, who was out of station, was not available for comment.