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Interview With M G Devasahayam

Interview With M G Devasahayam

The draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 is all set to be placed before the Cabinet for approval. The Draft NEP (DNEP) has left several academicians and educationists dissatisfied. DNEP supporters say that it will provide reforms at all levels of education from school to higher education. President Ram Nath Kovind recently said that the new Education Policy will help establish the country as a "knowledge superpower" and get global recognition for talents of students.

Notwithstanding the government efforts to finalise the draft NEP, several educationists and academicians have objected to the draft on the ground that it is against the federal character of the Constitution.

Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to former IAS officer M G Devasahayam on the draft NEP and loopholes. Devasahayam who has been writing on education and draft NEP said that instead of streamlining, it will centralise education system in the country.

He charged the central government of arbitrarily trying to make education a central subject through draft NEP. According to him, NEP will take away the responsibility of State from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide good and equal quality public education and encourages unbridled privatisation. He said that India will not be a welfare state as NEP has no people's mandate.

According to Devasahayam under Constitution school education is not the business of Centre.   A single, overarching, micro-managed education policy for a country of immense demographic, social, cultural, linguistic, developmental and historical diversity is unacceptable, he said. He alleged that an attempt is being made to saffronize education. He said that there will be lot of opposition to DNEP because future of India is at stake.

IC: What are your reservations on DNEP?

M G Devasahayam: Nobody knows what kind of process and consultations were done by the government on new education policy. The notification is not valid. I have so many reservations against the draft NEP. The ruling BJP doesn't have the mandate to bring new education policy. In 2015, the HRD ministry had initiated the process of formulating a new education policy to “meet the changing dynamics of the requirements of the population, aiming to make India a knowledge superpower”. However, a committee under the chairmanship of TSR Subramanian, former cabinet secretary, was constituted, which submitted its report in May 2016 which never saw light of the day. The then HRD minister Smriti Irani did not approve the report. The Kasturirangan Committee, set up in 2016, submitted its 484-page report on May 31, 2019. My point is that education policy was not part of the BJP manifesto in general elections in May 2019. In the absence of people's mandate the government will have to place it before Parliament for approval. I don't think that they will follow the procedure because it has already been notified. Originally education was a state subject but during emergency the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi brought it under concurrent list. Hence notification cannot be issued unless two third of states agree to it. The notification was issued as if it is a central subject. Three months consultation was not enough. It is violating the fundamental principles of Constitution. It is a violation of federalism.

IC: Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' said that the policy will lay the formation stone of new India and will provide technical, scientific and job-oriented education to girls, minorities and under-privileged sections of the society."   Your views.

School education should be exclusive responsibility of the state. The central government has no business to interfere in school education because of diversity in India. How can central government decide education pattern of a three year old child?   Education is a route to fascism and brainwashing. My apprehension is that they (government) would change the curriculum in order to promote their own ideology. It is wrong because they can't take over school education.

IC: For good quality of education at higher level the central government needs to take steps. Your comments.

Education is most important part of a welfare state like India. In US and Europe public funded high quality of education free of cost is provided to every child irrespective of his or her background. In India public funded good quality education is not given to children. In a state there are five different streams of education.

IC: What are your suggestions for improving the quality of school education in India?

The government should issue guidelines to state governments to have one school system of education. Even now they are continuing with five streams of education in schools. Tremendous amount of segregation is taking place in education and the draft NEP is certifying it.   The central government should give advice or issue guidelines for state governments to streamline school education. The multi type of education streams should be done away with. But the NEP is not doing it.

IC: The NEP promises to improve quality of teachers and students in higher educational institutions. Do you agree?

Introducing a national eligibility test for admission to higher education will make things extremely difficult. It is unfair to have admission to higher education strictly through national-level entrance tests to be administered by the National Testing Agency thereby making 15 years of school education virtually redundant. Two girls in Tamil Nadu committed suicide because they could not quality in NEET exam. Both were toppers in Tamil Nadu schools. This will give a massive boost to the rich business of coaching which is already being coveted by MNCs like Reliance. DNEP encourages privatisation. Also it has extended invitation to the top 300 global universities for establishing 500 high quality educational institutions in the country by 2030. This is purely elitist. It means that 60% of the youth will be denied high quality education, condemning them to menial jobs and vocations. This is nothing but advancing apartheid! This is worse than the existing Education policy.

IC: The DNEP emphasises the need to have good teachers. Your views.

Establishing quality teaching colleges is an excellent idea but there is no need for centralisation of it.

(Published on 04th November 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 45)