Former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian, who heads the five-member drafting committee for the new education policy, which will be be ready this week.
Excerpts from an interview:
The drafting committee got a two-month extension on the first deadline. Will you be able to meet the second target?
We are now in the final lap (of drafting our report). The draft policy will be ready by February 29, except for the framework for future action, which needs more consultation. We don’t want to rush this bit of the report. We need two to three weeks more to finalise that.
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You have received feedback from thousands of citizens and grass-root level bodies across the country. How is a drafting committee of just five members assimilating so many responses?
Since last year, the (HRD) ministry has spoken to all relevant organisations and sought comments from every state. Many of those (responses) are repetitive and we can see a clear pattern there. The responses from schools, villages and individuals, for instance, are focused on local issues such as curriculum and toilets in schools. Those from the state governments look at centre-state issues, governance and policy. The responses fit a pattern.
We have been through most of the consultation reports. We had also asked the joint secretaries in the (HRD) ministry to provide us with a summary of the feedback received in their areas. Moreover, it’s not just us, we have the whole of NUEPA (National University of Educational Planning and Administration) helping us.
What is your response to the criticism that the drafting committee, except for one, has no educationist or academician in it?
This question should be directed to the ministry. But I think (their) logic was that all five of us have significant exposure to the education sector. Plus, we also have the advantage of having a cross-sectoral view. For instance, we can employ our experience in the environment sector to education.
States such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu haven’t submitted their consultations reports to the HRD Ministry. Are you drafting the new education policy without their inputs?
We are not only depended on the consultation reports. We have met representatives from all state governments. Even though some haven’t formally submitted their reports, they have shared their inputs with us. For instance, Bihar officials met us during our regional meeting in Chhattisgarh.
The Indian Express has analysed the responses from 17 states sent to the HRD Ministry. Many states have come out in support of teaching foreign languages in schools and extending the scope of the Right to Education Act to Class X. Will this find a place in the new education policy?
These are areas we are touching in the report. I don’t want to comment on that.
Our analysis also shows that many states want the no-detention policy to be scrapped…
We have analysed the pros and cons and have come to a conclusion on this issue. I would request you to wait for the report.
In the context of the current debate on nationalism, do you think there is a need to instill pride in students for one’s country?
I’m answering this question in my personal capacity and not as the chairman of the drafting committee. We (Indians) have led the world in every idea of thought and we were leaders in every form of human activity. Ours is one of the oldest civilisations of the world. It’s only in the last 1,000 years we have lost our way. I think that greatness has to come back. One of the purposes of education is to awaken the child’s thoughts and make him or her aware of the great heritage we have. So, while education is about getting jobs, learning mathematics and how to work hard, it is also about being a good citizen, having good values and taking pride in your heritage.
The current government has often spoken about the need to take pride in the country’s ancient achievements and heritage. Will the education policy cover that?
We are covering that in the report.
There is a perception that the new education policy will be influenced by the RSS and its saffronisation agenda. Have you accepted feedback from organisations affiliated with the Sangh?
We have kept our doors open for everyone. As a result, we have received feedback from across the spectrum. We are concerned with what a report says rather than who it came from. All kinds of people have spoken to us. The Committee is clear in its objective. We have to elevate the quality of education in our country.