Will the Union Government succeed in its plans to cut the workload of all school-going students from Class 1 to 12 by half in all Central Board schools and reduce the number of books and school bags by 50 per cent from the academic session of 2019? Will it be able to pilot a Bill in both Houses of Parliament on these laudable objectives of the Union Minister of Human Resource Development, Mr. Prakash Javadekar?
Will the New Education Policy, about to be unveiled, according to the Minister, have these ideas and a number of other reforms? Will the “reforms” quietly include the present rulers’ Saffron perspectives on history and be enunciated in school text-books? Would that become a question of debate around the country?
But one aspect has been made clear by the Minister that examinations will be back and there would be no automatic promotions to the next class as, perhaps,
students should be motivated to study and work hard rather than take their climb to the next class for granted
and the brilliant students should not miss out on being graded properly for their dedication and studious efforts they put in.
Will the Central Government’s plans be accepted by the States and follow the lead? Will the States, especially non-BJP ruled, ignore the proposed reforms as education is a low priority for all States? They have their own State-level Councils of Educational Research and Training, their own courses of study, their own language as the medium of instruction and own styles of teaching. They are not mandated to follow any Central precedent as Education is a State subject as well as on the Concurrent List in the Constitution. That ensures that the Central lead is not binding on the States.
Will that leave out hundreds of millions of school students countrywide out of the educational reforms and reduction of the burden on the school students? Perhaps the States may find themselves forced to do something about educational reforms and a better life for the children of India and the life of families. But hunger is a prime problem of the nation and sheer survival and health hazards and natural calamities like drought and floods negative a number of good policy measures or formulation and implementation of policies, but good intentions and promises by politicians and officials often continue to remain on paper.
Mr. Javadekar has promised to pilot a Bill in Parliament to try to take steps to achieve these good intentions on school reforms and objectives during the resumed Budget Session? Has he received Cabinet approval for his moves in this direction and the Prime Minister’s nod for early action? Will the Opposition allow him to go ahead and support him without throwing a spanner in the works and question him good and proper or insist that he should consult them on several issues concerning school education threadbare?
The Minister seeks to ask the National Council of Educational Research and Training to cut the courses of study by half. Has the NCERT started working on his proposals or is he planning to issue a directive if and when the Bill is taken up and approved by two Houses of Parliament? Is it easy to push a Bill through two Houses of Parliament or will the Opposition, as is its wont, demand that the proposed Bill be referred to a Joint Select Committee for thorough scrutiny?
He expressed concern over the poor quality of teachers with the result that learning outcomes are inadequate. But a substantial number of students do well because their grasp is good and are used to self-help; many others resort to private tuitions as parents are interested in ensuring good results and marks. Competition, fierce as it is, motivates bright students. The basic job of the teachers, he says, is to mentor and motivate students, assess their strengths and weaknesses.
Two million teachers were supposed to be trained by the year 2015, but only half a million were, in fact, trained. Will teacher training institutes be multiplied all over the country? He claimed that 1.4 million teachers were undergoing skill up-gradation programme. If true, it is a heartening process.
It will not suffice to leave it to the States, but better administrated States could take the lead; perhaps Kerala set an example in total literacy before 1990; other States covered several districts; but Goa, Chandigarh and perhaps Puducherri have done it as well. Delhi may never be able to do it because thousands migrate to it every day, possibly some trainloads and that will never stop.
Lalit Sethi is a Journalist of long standing and a commentator on Political and Social Issues.