Career

Education Policy- XVIII Empowered regulation?

‘Energised, engaged and capable Faculty’ is the caption of chapter 13. Its objective is –empowered faculty with high competence and deep commitment, energised for excellence in teaching and research’.

The objective clause is, no doubt, plausible and commendable too. ‘To systemise recruitment and career progression, is one of the initiatives to achieve the goals of higher education – says the report. This is the same old story of satisfying a few at the cost of many.

As said earlier, the committee brings in the social, political dimension into the main issue. It ensures ‘an equitable representation from various groups in the hiring of faculty’. With due respect to the principle of social justice, this recommendation is nothing but an oft repeated policy of the government.

We have to admit that Indian teachers, of primary, secondary and higher education, do not have social, political considerations while teaching and that they always tend to be above all these divisions. (in Tamilnadu, this was of course the quality of teachers of Kamaraj era. It all vanished in later years of post-Kamaraj period with selfish hawkers taking over from selfless teachers.)

At the same time, the report says that ‘faculty recruitment will be on the basis of academic expertise and depth, on teaching capacities and dispositions for public service’. (P261)

We are surprised to know that there are ‘so many model faculty members who truly inspire us all’ (P255) but it just ‘remains far lower than would be truly desired’. What is the need for playing a ‘balancing’ act? Can any one of us believe that there are so model faculty members today who truly inspire us? This is too far from truth.

The teaching professionals have not been able to rise up to be the role models of our youth and this is the major complaint against them. Unless we accept this fact, we would never be able to address the issue in its proper perspective. But the report strangely praises them for something not tenable. And also, it stresses the need for ‘faculty motivation’. How can the ones who need motivation themselves be role models to others?

‘All institutions, including public institutions (and aided institutions) will have the autonomy to recruit faculty and other members of their choice. Recruitment will be based on rigorous and transparent criteria and processes; both the criteria and process will be available in the public domain’. (P13.1.4)

It is now 72 years since we became independent. Still we keep talking about ‘transparency’ in public appointments. The ‘Policy’ statement of 2019 seems to believe that to carry the details of selection process in public domain would be a great step ahead. Is the committee aware that this is a general practice that is mandatory and is already being scrupulously followed in many of the departments?  

The Policy report has an exclusive chapter on ‘National Research Foundation’ that would aim ‘to create a conducive ecosystem for research through competitive peer-reviewed funding, mentoring and facilitation’.  

Research is an area in Higher Education that calls for maximum attention and optimal assistance. Many educationists insist upon more funds being allocated for research related activities. Hence, creation of NRF with revised, increased financial support from the Government is a healthy, welcome development, though we need to go long way still to be ‘world class’ in the field of ‘studies’ and research. Hopefully, ‘the National Research Foundation will catalyse and expand research and innovation in the country’. (P269)

The succeeding chapter ‘Teacher Education’ says it is heartbreaking that ‘the teacher education sector has been beleaguered with mediocrity as well as rampant corruption due to commercialisation’. We do not understand why what is given in this chapter should not be included in the faculty empowerment. This is just another chapter that ceremoniously says all that has been said already umpteen numbers of times.

Bringing professionalism into the teacher education, creating teaching minds with ‘integrity’, finding more career prospects, inter-departmental collaboration for special subjects, Post-graduate doctoral programmes are some of the recommendations that are ‘promising’ but not path breaking. The Policy report would have done a great job, had it tried or suggested something more intense or innovative.

The report then moves on to ‘Professional Education’ that ensures ‘broad based competencies and 21st century skills’ and says that ‘professional education must be separated from professional practice’.  A shockingly unbelievable observation is found here.

‘Professional councils such as MCI, INC, DCI and others, who regulate professional practice to also specify curriculum and regulate professional education is an undesirable anomaly that must be set right immediately’.(P 294)

‘Professional councils must restrict themselves to the role of PSSBs when it comes to education.’ (PSSB – Professional Standard Setting Bodies) The report later on in chapter 18 says that ‘current regulatory authorities such as NCTE, AICTE, MCI, BCI etc shall transfer their regulatory function to NHREA which shall become the sole regulator for higher education. These bodies may transform themselves into PSSBs.’ (P18.3.1)

‘All higher education qualifications in terms of learning outcomes shall be described by the National Higher Education Qualification Framework.’ (P331)

We keep saying this time and again – a single body or individual having all the authorities shall not be good and must be devolved and decentralised. The New Education Policy puts forth an idea that is very much against this core principle of having many directions and many deciders allowing a pluralistic approach.

To have different governing councils to regulate different areas of a profession is not at all a bad idea. What is described as the ‘anomaly’ is but a deliberately deceiving statement to justify liquidation of many regulatory bodies to pave way for a sole ‘authority’ that will have over riding powers which will ‘rule’ rather than regulate.

If anything wrong is found with the regulatory bodies, steps should be taken to correct them. This is the normal way of doing things. But to abandon them on an ‘anomalous’ notion can never be healthy option. This is what exactly the draft report aims to achieve.

There is another suggestion that reads thus: ‘it must be left to the universities and colleges disbursing professional education to work out all the academic aspects such as curriculum, pedagogy and so on’. (yes, the report says –‘disbursing’ professional education. Oxford Dictionary explains that ‘to disburse’ is to pay out (money; and…, no other meaning is given!!!)

There just can not be a more damaging recommendation. We know the ‘calibre’ of those who run these institutions. Their ‘dedication’ to professional education is also well known. Most of them are politicians in the electoral fray as candidates of one party or the other.  Can we allow the trouble mongers for money to play the role of trouble shooters for nothing? Sorry to say, it is simply ridiculous.

Before the school / college education is reconstructed, it is the New Education Policy that needs a through ‘revamp’, if not a ‘revisit’. Do we not deserve a better climate for a healthier, higher education to our children?

(to continue…

Baskaran Krishnamurthy

mail: [email protected]

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