14 October 2020: The Indian Express Editorial Analysis
1) 100 per cent failure-
- What can be said about an education system in which a prestigious Delhi University college sets 100 per cent marks as a cut-off for entry to undergraduate courses?
- That it is broken, perhaps irreparably. That it rewards a laughable idea of perfection, rather than intelligence and inquiry.
- That an outdated system of evaluating a student’s “merit” and “ability” has, in a frenzied(mad) race to the bottom, run out of relevance and value.
- The Indian education system has long set itself up for such a fall.
OBSESSION FOR GRADES:
- It is an open secret that the majority of the country’s schools fail in nudging(pushing) children towards inquiry, curiosity or learning.
- The tyranny(focus) of marks has long crushed the spirit of many Indian students, but, at least, it had a limited use for higher education institutions in assessing their capacity for a degree.
- As school boards have out-competed each other in an insane “grade inflation” over the years, however, it has made those very grades increasingly meaningless.
- An analysis of CBSE Class XII results revealed, for example, that a 95 per cent aggregate in 2017 was 21 times as prevalent(common) as it was in 2004.
- The marking system is dead, long live marks. But the cut-off crisis in DU spotlights more cracks in the edifice(structure).
- The obsession with the elite college itself is a sign of a massive skew(bias) and supply gap in Indian education.
- Around 3.5 lakh students applied for 70,000 seats in DU colleges this year, setting thousands of students up for failure and anxiety.
- Beyond these shiny icons of “excellence” scattered in Delhi and some state capitals, lies the vast, un-lit wasteland of higher education, both private and government, which doles out a half-baked learning experience to the majority of Indians.
- For those hobbled by inequalities of caste, gender and class, such bad colleges push them further into a cycle of deprivation.
- The National Education Policy has suggested a common entrance system for university admissions as a way out of this crisis.
- Such a system will also call upon colleges to have the freedom and resources to engage with applications on an individual level — and not just reduce a student to her marksheet.
- The government must find ways to push school boards to inject a dose of sanity to its marking system.
- But, even so, only a reimagination of education and a greater inclusivity of opportunity can rescue it from the obscenity(curse) of the 100 per cent cutoff.
- The marking system is dead, long live marks. Delhi University’s cut-off crisis speaks of a broken education system.
2) How to make NEP 2020 work-
GS 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education
The National Education Policy 2020 has a vision to transform the Indian education landscape.
It relies on a significant commitment for policy implementation from all stakeholders, including the Prime Minister and the education minister.
Research related to policy implementation gaps has repeatedly demonstrated that avoiding policy failures is about having robust(strong) means, methods and implementation mechanisms.
- Bob Hudson, David Hunter and Stephen Peckham had identified four contributors to policy failure.
- These are overly optimistic expectations, implementation in dispersed governance, inadequate(insufficient) collaborative policymaking and vagaries(oddity) of the political cycle.
- This could be the story of most policy failures.
- The authors suggest there is a need to develop a robust policy support programme, if we are to be serious about implementing any policy.
- They write: “…The four threats to successful policy implementation… are so widespread, that simply hoping that normal procedures and channels will be sufficient to resolve them is no longer realistic.
- At a minimum, a better understanding is needed of the processes through which policy moves and how, at each of these points, policy can best be supported.
- Four sequential points can be identified: Preparation; tracking; support; and review…”
- One, the Prime Minister has highlighted a vision to build intellectual and social capital for developing collective consciousness for implementing the NEP.
a) The next step will be to match it with the establishment of an institutional mechanism for implementation.
b) The successful implementation of NEP requires different types of interventions.
c) It includes coordination and cooperation between the Centre and states; legislative interventions, including passing new laws and/or amendments to existing laws; an increase in the budgetary framework and augmentation of financial resources with involvement of inter-ministerial discussions; and regulatory reforms.
d) The PM’s Task Force on Higher Education Reforms can be an advisory body comprising experts from public and private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to help the PM understand and appreciate the bottlenecks, and ensure time-bound implementation with fixed accountability.
- Two, there is a need to establish a National NEP Implementation Standing Committee with select vice-chancellors/directors of universities/institutes.
a) This Committee will be tasked with creating and monitoring the NEP Implementation Plan in a time-bound manner.
b) It will have specific powers and functions, including thematic sub-committees and regional committees.
c) The Committee, located within the Ministry of Education, will be chaired by the education minister and the member-secretary will be the education secretary.
d) It should have ex-officio members of all major regulatory bodies to remove the hurdles faced by HEIs in the implementation of NEP.
- Three, the National Education Ministers’ Council with Education Ministers of all states and UTs, chaired by the Union Minister for Education, needs to be constituted.
a) The Council will be an important institutional mechanism to monitor the implementation of NEP in states and UTs, and will also serve as a forum to discuss and address implementation issues, and navigate through the diverse perspectives of state governments.
- Four, the idea of Institutions of Eminence (IoE) articulated by the Prime Minister contains the vision to develop world-class universities in India.
a) In the budget speech of 2016, the then Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley promised to provide “an enabling regulatory architecture” so that “10 public and 10 private institutions” would emerge “as world-class teaching and research institutions”. This led to the establishment of IoEs.
b) Today, the vision of IoE needs to be integrated with the NEP implementation plan, and IoEs need to be empowered with more freedom, flexibility, autonomy and resources.
c) This will, in due course, help universities to have a robust presence in the global university rankings.
- Five, the National Higher Education Philanthropy Council, chaired by the Education Minister with private sector participation, needs to be constituted.
a) Nearly 70 per cent of Indian HEIs are private, and more than 70 per cent of Indian students study in private HEIs.
b) We must build on this reality to raise financial resources that are critical for the establishment of more private HEIs.
- However, this will require new and innovative institutional mechanisms, tax incentives, endowment frameworks and other initiatives to incentivise the Indian corporate sector to contribute in the form of individual and corporate philanthropy.
- The Philanthropy Council could help promote a fundamental re-imagination of the tax structure to incentivise potential donors for establishing three new endowment funds — Higher Education Infrastructure Development Endowment Fund; Higher Education Student Scholarship Endowment Fund; and Higher Education Research Grants Endowment Fund.
- In Why Government Fails So Often — and How It Can Do Better, Peter Schuck, identifies six elements for successful policy implementation — incentives, instruments, information, adaptability, credibility and management.
- For successful implementation of the NEP, we will need to create
a) stakeholder incentives;
b) formulate instruments in the form of legal, policy, regulatory and institutional mechanisms;
c) build reliable information repositories; develop adaptability across HEIs, regulatory bodies and government agencies;
d) develop credibility through transparent actions and participation of all stakeholders;
e) and develop sound principles of management.
3) Freedom of Speech is being mauled-
- A gradual erosion of one of our most precious fundamental rights — the right to freedom of speech and expression — is adversely(badly) impacting the liberty of all those who dare to speak up.
- Our freedom of speech is being mauled(killed), through twisting and turning the law if not abusing it altogether.
- One of the worst forms of curtailment(restriction) of the freedom of speech is charging a person with sedition(conduct).
SEDITION AND VIOLENCE:
- In 1962, a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court … drew a correlation between sedition and violence, sedition and inciting violence, and sedition and tendency to incite violence — not just simple violence but violence of such a degree as to bring it within the purview(thought) of public disorder.
- So, when you have rival gangs confronting each other and one of them shouts “maro”, a law-and-order situation of rioting(disturbance) and attempt to murder arises, not of sedition.
- However, depending on the occasion and context, when a speaker raises a slogan at a public gathering of supporters by shouting “goli maro”, a charge could possibly be laid of tending to incite violence or incitement(urging) to violence and raising a public order issue rather than a law-and-order issue.
- The distinction is quite clear.
- When there is a call to protest for a cause without any incitement to violence, it would not be sedition under any circumstances.
- For example, when a call was made for large numbers to assemble on the lawns of India Gate to protest against the rape and murder of Nirbhaya, or when India Against Corruption peacefully protested on the Ram Lila grounds, the organisers could not be held liable for sedition.
- This is extremely important for distinguishing between free speech and sedition, but unfortunately the distinction is being lost sight of by the establishment.
- In recent years, new methods of silencing speech have been introduced.
- Attribute something to a speaker that he or she never said.
- A doctor delivered an address to students of the Aligarh Muslim University sometime in December 2019 criticising the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.
- Over one month later, he was arrested for making a provocative(irritating) speech.
- About 10 days later, he was granted bail but was not released. Immediately thereafter, he was kept in preventive detention under the National Security Act.
- The doctor challenged his preventive detention(custody) in the Allahabad High Court and by a judgment and order passed on September 1, the preventive detention order was quashed.
- The HC concluded that the detenu(held in custody) was alleged to have said things which he did not.
- For example, while he spoke of national integrity, he was accused of promoting hatred; while he deprecated(disapproval) violence, he was accused of promoting violence.
- Another recent case on the same subject of attribution is that of a student activist, accused among things, of attempt to murder and making an inflammatory speech and inciting violence.
- The Delhi High Court granted her bail after three months and noted that the prosecution had “failed to produce any material that she in her speech instigated women of particular community.”
THORN IN THE FLESH:
- These cases lead to a frightening inference that if a citizen says something that is not even distasteful, he or she can be arrested on the basis of a fairy tale.
- If that person does not say anything at all but is a thorn in the flesh of the establishment, she can still be arrested and detained on some trumped(outshine) up charges.
- If you are old enough, please compare it to the period between 1975 and 1977 when persons were jailed for allegedly threatening the internal security of the country, without any evidence in this regard.
- We are gradually witnessing a somewhat similar situation… the only difference being that during the Emergency, the alleged threat was to our internal security and today the alleged threat is to the sovereignty(power) and integrity of the country.
NATIONAL CRIME RECORDS BUREAU:
- The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) started keeping a record of sedition cases in 2014 and every year has seen a spike in sedition cases.
- Figures for 2019 recently released by the NCRB reveal a 30 per cent increase.
- Almost every state seems to have weaponised sedition as a means of silencing critics.
- In an absolutely peaceful atmosphere, a teenager in Bengaluru raised a particular slogan three times and this resulted in her arrest on charges of sedition.
- She spent four months in jail before she was granted bail.
- Again in Karnataka, as many as 85 schoolchildren were interrogated by the police concerning a play in which a child recites what the authorities found to be an objectionable dialogue.
- The mother of the child and the teacher who oversaw the play were charged with sedition and arrested.
- While it is important for each of us to exercise our fundamental rights within reasonable limits laid down by law, there is a greater obligation on the establishment to ensure that the laws are not misused or abused in such a manner that citizens are deprived of fundamental rights that impact their liberty.
- It is time for the establishment to realise that the people of this country mean well, and in any democracy, there are bound to be different points of view.
- These must be respected — otherwise the fabric of our society might disintegrate, and fraternity, one of the key words in the preamble to our Constitution, might just become another dead idea.