Shimla, July 31, Keekli Bureau
The Federation of Central Universities Teachers’ Associations (FEDCUTA) expresses its dismay at the adoption by the Union Cabinet of the National Education Policy 2020. While more details are awaited on some of the specifics of the decision, it is clear that the substance of the Draft NEP has been retained. This adoption therefore makes a mockery of the so-called process of ‘consultation’ and public discussion as the concerns raised by a broad array of education experts and teachers and student organizations have been simply brushed aside. That the adoption has taken place while the country is facing the threat of the Coronavirus pandemic and educational institutions remain closed also calls into question the Government’s motives.
With regard to higher education, the policy betrays the very objectives of equality of access to education, development of critical thinking and encouraging teachers to achieve their full potential that it supposedly seeks to promote. The ‘autonomy’ it proposes for Higher Education Institutions is nothing more than enlarging the scope for privatization of higher education and removing any regulatory protection that students and teachers in these institutions can have from the ravages of such commercialization. In fact, not even a façade of democratic self-governance of such institutions is being retained as a variant of corporate management structures is being imposed by placing HEIs under the control of self-perpetuating Boards. On the other hand, through the system of regulation and public funding divided up between multiple agencies under the common control of the Central Government, the powers of the Government to exercise control over the higher education system is being enhanced. Alongside this, the Government is being ‘liberated’ from the parallel responsibility of providing adequate funds to meet the ‘standards’ and ‘norms’ it will set for institutions. The seriousness of the commitment to public funding of higher education in fact is clear from the importance being attached to online education and distance learning for achieving the target of raising the Gross Enrolment Ratio to 50%. One serious aspect of this multi-pronged assault on higher education is the danger being posed to both the quality and autonomy of research through restructuring research programmes as well as the funding of research.
The proof of the pudding is ultimately in the eating. The actual experience of higher education ‘reform’ that has been pushed by the Government before the formal adoption of the NEP has been one which has: fostered privatization, fund cuts and fee hikes and threatened to erode further the still limited inclusive character of higher education; pushed an increasing number of teachers into a precarious situation where denial of their basic requirements of career stability and advancement has become the rule; eroded the autonomy of Universities by enlarging the use of regulations to micro-manage them; placed Universities under a siege for promoting even a little bit of critical thinking and social awareness and used the state machinery to persecute students and teachers for expressing their democratic rights to protest; and used the powers to appoint Vice-Chancellors and members of regulatory bodies to make all these authorities instruments for these ends. More recently, the attempts to impose examinations on Universities in the midst of the pandemic reflected the same tendencies.
The NEP 2020 promises nothing more than a continuation of the ongoing assault on publicly funded and socially inclusive higher education – a more concerted and systematic destruction of its ability to contribute to the nation’s progress towards a more modern, equitable, secular and democratic society. The FEDCUTA and teachers across the country therefore have no option but to discharge their duty to the people of the country by committing themselves to an uncompromising struggle for withdrawal of the Cabinet decision on accepting NEP.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are that of members of FEDCUTA -Rajib Ray, President & D K Lobiyal, Secretary