A five-member committee headed by former cabinet secretary T S R Subramanian has recommended that the government reinstate detention of students beyond Class V and also set up an all-India cadre of educational services on the lines of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in its report on the new education policy submitted to HRD Minister Smriti Irani on Friday.
The 200-page report contains close to 90 suggestions, including a drastic overhaul of regulators such as the UGC and AICTE, allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India under a strict regulatory framework and compulsory quality audit of all higher education institutions, both private and public, in three years.
The panel, reportedly, hasn’t recommended any changes to the three-language formula followed in schools.
The five-member committee was entrusted with the responsibility of assimilating feedback collated by the HRD Ministry through grassroots and national level consultations on 33 topics and making suggestions for drafting a new education policy for the country.
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The last policy was made almost three decades ago in 1986. Former chief secretaries of Delhi and Gujarat, Shailaja Chandra and Sudhir Mankad, respectively, and ex-NCERT chief J S Rajput are also members of this panel.
The government will now study the report and prepare a draft education policy, which will be put in the public domain for feedback. HRD Minister Smriti Irani was unavailable for comment. Subramanian refused to speak on the contents of the report. “Please speak to the ministry,” he told The Indian Express.
Sources said the panel wants the government to bring back detention after Class V but only when the child has failed to clear his or her learning backlog even after three attempts each year. As of now, under the Right to Education, all children are ensured promotion each year up to Class VIII. As per the new proposal, a student will be tested each year after Class V, but will not be promoted to the higher class until she clears the exam — she will get three attempts each year.
“The committee has written strongly in favour of remedial classes for such students during holidays and after school hours. They will be given three attempts to clear the examination in the same year. If he or she cannot cope, then the school can hold the student back in the same grade. They can even encourage the student to join the vocational stream,” said a source.
The recommendation on the no-fail policy is significant against the backdrop of the growing chorus against it. As many as 15 state governments want this policy to be scrapped on the ground that it is contributing to a sharp decline in the quality of students at the elementary level. Since promotion up to Class VIII is currently guaranteed, schools claim students don’t take classroom learning seriously and are enrolled into secondary level without having learnt enough in elementary school. This, they claim, leads to mass student failures in Class IX when they face the first serious examination.
An all-India cadre of educational services has been recommended for developing “credible leadership” in the education sector. The officers, the panel has proposed, should be recruited by UPSC which currently conducts examination and selects candidates for the civil services.
The committee also feels that the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), the central accreditation agency for higher education, is ill equipped to handle the current burden of quality assessment and, hence, has recommended that the Centre train auditors like chartered accountants to audit quality and infrastructure of all institutions every three years. “So the idea is that NAAC will lay down standards and procedures for the quality auditors. It will not regulate the institutions, but the auditors,” said another source.
In addition to this, the members have proposed that the government, through the ‘Digital India’ initiative, track all school students, teachers and learning outcomes and start linking the latter’s promotion to the performance of their class in two years. “It’s absurd that a Class VIII student cannot read material meant for Class II. This has to stop,” the source added.
“There is a strong focus on value education, too. Every student should be proud to be an Indian and schools have a vital role in inculcating that,” the source said.