The 2019 Lok Sabha Elections are over, the results are out and the BJP government has roared back to power for another 5 years. This historic win makes Prime Minister Narendra Modi the only Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi to win a second consecutive term with full majority. But what does this win mean for the educational sphere of the country?
India’s current education policy was formulated in 1986 when Congress was in power. It was once updated in 1992. If that does not say enough about the contributions made by the NDA Government in the last term, then let us list down and analyze the educational reforms, policies and budget allocations for the sector in the last 5 years.
The Modi Government came to power in May 2014. In its election manifesto, the government promised to draft a new educational policy but it took one-and-a-half years to constitute a committee, led by TSR Subramaniam, which submitted its report in May 2016. The 230-page report was considered as a compilation of past policies and shortcomings and was ultimately discarded. In June 2017, a new committee headed by scientist K Kasturiranjan was formed.
Analyzing the Modi-government’s activities in the school education sector takes us first to the merger of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan with the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan in 2018. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’s main aim is to ensure ‘right to education’ in the elementary level and the Rashtriya Madhaymik Siksha Abhiyan is related to secondary education. Thus when the merger came under the scanner, many pointed out that it could reduce the effectiveness of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. The budget allocated for the two schemes were also combined at the time of releasing funds and some reports say that the combined fund was smaller.
Talking about budget, the government’s spending on the educational sector has reduced over the years till 2018. In 2018, the education sector has received INR 85,010 crores. In the 2017-18 budget, this sum was INR 81,868 crores. Analyzing the allocations of the past few years, it can be pointed out that the government is suffering from a lack of fiscal space to increase spending and it is also bent on integrating the different sectors of education, at least from the point of view of the budget. This can be proved by quoting Finance Minister Arun Jaitley when he said in the budget speech that the government is treating education holistically.
However, the 2019 interim budget proved to be a bit more positive for the education sector when INR 93,847.64 crore was allocated to it – a 10% increase than the allocation the previous year. INR 37,461.01 was allocated to higher education and INR 56,386.63 was allocated to school education. For research and innovation, the government allocated INR 608.87.
A major trend the government has shown in its last term is its interference in the state education framework. From the Human Resource Ministry and NITI Aayog creating plans of state educational reforms to the introduction of the Performance Grading Index, a school ranking system, to making it compulsory to link Aadhaar (ruled out by Supreme Court in Sep 2018) to every school scheme in order to eliminate fake enrollments – the government has created more disruptions than real-time results.
In February 2017, the government amended central rules of the Right to Education Act by introducing “learning outcomes”. Schemes like Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat, Rashtriya Avishkar Yojana was introduced. Class 10 board exams were re-introduced for the CBSE board. After the government’s efforts to replace pre-medical entrance tests by National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test got into controversial legal issues, the National Testing Agency was constituted in November 2017.
Teachers’ training also found a new dimension through Swayam – an online portal that would train untrained teachers. But experts expressed scepticism about its effectiveness.
The NDA government has introduced schemes like the Unnat Bharat Abhiyan to link the small and medium industries with systematic education. This scheme introduces technical and scientific interventions in the rural arena. The government also set up the Higher Education Finance Agency (HEFA) – a non-banking finance agency – to grant loans to educational institutions to finance infrastructure and research.
Another controversial step taken by the NDA government in the sector of higher education was granted autonomy to various institutions and research centres while limiting funds from public institutions. Talking about controversies, in 2018, the government announced tagging 6 premier institutes of the country, as ‘Institutes of Eminence’, which had the potential to find a place in the top universities of the world in a span of 20 years. Out of them, Jio Institute is non-existent even today. The government has also gone to the extent of drafting a bill to dissolve the University Grants Commission, replacing it by The Higher Education Commission of India. The proposed body would be unable to forward financial grants.
Saying that the Modi Government has not had a single feat in its last 5-year term would be wrong. The government has established 7 new IIMs, 6 new IITs and 2 new IISERs. In the primary education sector achievements such as the first National Assessment Survey and construction of toilets in each government-owned school can be listed. To balance male to female ratio in the education sector and uplift girl students, the government has introduced schemes like Beti Padhao Beti Bachao, UDAAN and PRAGATI (Providing Assistance for Girls’ Advancement in Technical Education Initiative). SAKSHAM scholarships for specially-abled have also been introduced.
While presenting the 2019 interim budget this year in February, Piyush Goyal had revealed numerous plans and decisions for the betterment of the educational scenario of the country. Goyal mentioned the launch of the ‘Revitalizing Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE)’ by 2022. Rs 1 lakh crore would be spent in the next 4 years to ramp up research and research infrastructure in premier institutions. Talk of setting up two new Schools of Architecture and Planning have also been afloat. The government also seems to be stressing on the use of technology right from the primary level by planning to replace blackboards with digital boards.
After PM Narendra Modi’s second win, his government has, in a couple of days already outlined their plan of action in the education sector for the coming 100 days. The plans can be listed as follows-
1∙ The government will introduce a special drive to fill up 5 lakh vacant faculty posts in higher education institutions.
2∙ 10 more ‘Institutes of Eminence’ will be added to the existing sanctioned 20. Cabinet note on the proposal is expected in the second week of June.
3∙ The government has announced that the new education policy under the Kasturiranjan Committee is ready and will be presented by the end of May.
4∙ The Human Resource Department is also working on a five-year plan to address areas such as research and innovation, employability, use of technology in education, internationalization of higher education, accreditation process etc.
5∙ The HRD Ministry plans to make a fresh effort to replace the UGC with a more evolved governing body.
6∙ The government plans to decentralize the accreditation policy by allowing private bodies, as well as NAAC, to rate educational institutions. Applications will be invited in the second week of July and agencies are to be appointed by mid-August.
7∙ The HRD and the Science and Technology Ministry will together set up a body to finance all research activities of the country. The draft act for the same is slated to be ready by the end of the month.
8∙ An online portal will be set up aiming to fill up vacant teaching positions in state and central universities and private institutions.
Apart from all the initiatives that are being taken by the government, experts believe that it should focus on a few more aspects such as linking higher education with advanced skill development and placing more thrust on the issue of women education, especially in the rural belt. Though the government is paying importance to increase enrollment under primary education, it should focus on reducing the drop-out rate of students from primary to secondary education and from tertiary to higher education. Some experts also say that higher education in India should be linked with the Make-in-India scheme to retain good students in the country. However, for now, the Modi government has made promises galore and with big promises come bigger expectations! Though the initial enthusiasm of the Modi government for bettering the education scenario of the country seems great, it will be a real deal if the results this time are more substantial.