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4 years on, India’s still waiting for new education policy — Modi govt’s big 2014 promise

Students in a school | Flickr
Students in a classroom (representative image) | Flickr

Committee formulating the new education policy has already seen 4 extensions, and now there are fears it may not be launched in this govt’s tenure.

New Delhi: Soon after coming to power, the Modi government promised that it would transform India’s educational system with a New Education Policy (NEP).

But four years and two committees later, the policy is yet to see the light of day. And now there are fresh worries that with only months left for the Lok Sabha elections, the policy may not be announced during the current government’s term.

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While the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry rejected the report and disbanded the first committee, the second panel has so far been given four extensions to submit its recommendations.    

A tale of two panels

The HRD ministry, then under Smriti Irani, set the process in motion in October 2015, when it tasked the T.S.R. Subramanian Committee to suggest recommendations for the policy.

When the committee submitted its report in May 2016, the ministry held several consultations with various stakeholders on the report’s contents. In 2017, when Prakash Javadekar took over as HRD minister, however, the Subramanian panel’s report was rejected and the committee was disbanded.

The Javadekar-led ministry then formed another committee under the former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief K. Kasturirangan. The committee began work on the policy in July 2017; since then, it has got four extensions to submit its report.

The Kasturirangan panel was to hand in its report in December 2017 but the date was then extended to June this year. The deadline was then pushed to August, which has now been extended to October.

The looming elections, however, have cast a shadow of uncertainty over the entire process.

‘Want comprehensive policy’

Officials in the HRD ministry say that the delay is not because the government is reluctant to announce the policy but because it wants to ensure a comprehensive policy.

“The latest extension, which is till October this year, has been granted to the committee because it was felt that not much of a discussion had happened with the states. The committee members have been given time to hold discussions with stakeholders in various states to get their views,” said a senior official in the ministry.

The official added that the ministry felt discussions should be held with the states after the committee members met the minister recently and updated him on the progress.

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“Neither the minister nor the committee is in any kind of rush to submit a hurried report and do a shoddy job. If they are taking time, they are doing a thorough job and examining all aspects,” the official added.

The committee echoed the ministry’s views.

“We want to make sure that we address all issues and all points and do the contemplation that is desired from everyone in the country. We are not leaving anyone untouched when it comes to consultations,” a member from the committee told ThePrint.

He also rubbished any apprehensions about the government not willing to launch the policy. “Our job is to work on the policy and submit it to the government, there is no unnecessary delay on this,” he added.

‘Compilation of old reports’

The HRD ministry had junked the Subramanian Committee report on the grounds that it was a mere compilation of older reports. But while it did that, it, however, did incorporate some of the committee’s suggestions in other policy formations.

For instance, at the school level, the committee had proposed that the Right to Education Act should be amended to include mandatory learning outcome norms. Learning outcomes define the level of knowledge a student should possess at a particular age. The national council for educational research and training (NCERT) tests learning outcomes for students at Classes 3, 5 and 8 to access their levels of learning at the particular age.

This, the government has taken heed of. It has now made measuring learning outcomes mandatory at the school level.

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On the higher education front, the Subramanian panel had called for a flexible regulatory regime that allowed much greater freedom to high-quality institutions. This is also something that the government has adopted while granting autonomy to higher-education institutions.

The education policy that is being followed currently was formulated in the 1980s, which is why the need was felt to review it and bring in changes.