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Four years of Modi govt: Autonomy granted but education policy yet to take off

In the past four years of Narendra Modi-led government, a number of new institutes including IIMs, IITs and IISERs have been started. However, several promises such as restructuring of the UGC remain unfulfilled.

education Updated: May 26, 2018 10:15 IST
Neelam Pandey
Neelam Pandey
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Four years of Modi govt,Autonomous status to colleges,Narendra Modi
Students arrive for admission at the Miranda House college of Delhi University. (Saumya Khandelwal/HT File Photo)

The Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry has had a mixed bag of achievements in the last four years. While the government has made substantial progress on granting autonomy to institutions, its much touted National Education Policy (NEP) is yet to take off.

The ministry managed to put behind protests and criticism over free speech, fellowships and the 2016 suicide by PhD scholar Rohith Vemula, and fast-track work on granting complete autonomy to the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management , and central universities.

In an attempt to put Indian universities at par with top global universities, it introduced a scheme of “Institutes of Eminence” under which the government will assist 20 institutions — 10 public and 10 private.

In the past four years, a number of new institutes including IIMs, IITs and IISERs have also been started. The government started Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on a platform called SWAYAM and has approved regulations for starting online degrees.

However, several promises remain unfulfilled. The restructuring of the University Grants Commission (UGC) into a Higher Education Commission rather than just a grant distribution agency has been slow. The Bharatiya Janata Party manifesto had also assured public spending on education would be raised to 6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP but the actual figure remains much lower. In 2017-18, it was less than 3%

To make entrance exams more professional, the government has also set up the National Testing Agency (NTA) which is likely to conduct the first test in December. The single examination body will conduct all entrance tests to institutes of higher education.

For school education, an integrated scheme has been launched covering pre-primary to class 12 to provide a holistic approach and ensure overall development of students. The government also prepared learning outcomes, which are the minimum expected levels of learning for students, and conducted the first National Achievement Survey (NAS) for classes 3, 5, 8 and 10.

The ministry, on the recommendation of the states had also taken a decision to scrap the no-detention policy of the Right to Education (RTE) Act which will require approval from Parliament.

The government reintroduced Class 10 board exams for schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which was welcomed by various stakeholders. The government has also initiated work on rationalising the curriculum to reduce not only the syllabi load but also ensure holistic development by including sports and other activities. However, all these are also dependent on the National Education Policy (NEP) the final draft of which is still being prepared.

“I do welcome the sort of autonomy they have granted to the IIMs and the other thing they could is to decentralise the kind of control they have on higher education that is exercised across India by a handful of central agencies. These agencies have limited knowledge of the needs and challenges of different regions of India in terms of education,” said Dinesh Singh, former Delhi University Vice-Chancellor.

“But much as they criticised the Congress, they have blindly followed a tradition which even the Congress had discarded namely creating a central policy for education. Which policy created Harvard or Cambridge? They haven’t tried to understand the real issues,” he said.

Promise: Expand and build on universal school education

Status: Achieved. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has been strengthened and integrated with secondary and pre-primary schooling and is called Samagra Shiksha

Promise: Granting autonomy to institutions

Status: Achieved.

Promise: Work towards a stress-free, holistic curriculum

Status:While work started on reviewing the course content and making it stress-free, in the absence of a National Education Policy draft, there is no time to implement the plan

Promise: Expand and empower the midday meal scheme

Status: Little progress made in the overhaul of management and delivery

First Published: May 26, 2018 10:15 IST