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Final draft of new education policy silent on student role in decision-making bodies

The final policy draft limits itself to giving students “plenty of opportunities to be involved in sports, culture/arts clubs, activity clubs, community service projects”.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi | Updated: May 3, 2020 10:53:55 am
JNU fee hike, JNU protests, JNU fee, Jagdish Kumar, Jagdish kumar jnu, JNU VC, Indian Express The change is significant as it comes in the backdrop of a fierce face-off between JNU and its students over the university administration refusing to involve elected student representatives in its decision to increase the hostel fee. (Express photo by Gajendra Yadav)

The final draft of the New Education Policy (NEP), circulated among ministries last month for feedback, is silent on student participation in decision-making bodies, committees, and institutional processes of a university or college.

The final policy draft limits itself to giving students “plenty of opportunities to be involved in sports, culture/arts clubs, activity clubs, community service projects”. It also speaks of creating a “systematised arrangement” to support “students from rural backgrounds, including increasing hostel facilities as needed”.

However, the provision on setting up “systems and mechanisms” to enable student participation in the institutional processes of higher education institutions is missing from the document shared by the HRD Ministry with ministries for their feedback, before the approval of the Union Cabinet.

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This provision in the draft NEP was submitted by a group of experts, led by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan, to the HRD Ministry in June last year, and uploaded online for public feedback. It was also there in the revised draft prepared by the ministry in December 2019 based on the two lakh suggestions received by the government.

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The change is significant as it comes in the backdrop of a fierce face-off between JNU and its students over the university administration refusing to involve elected student representatives in its decision to increase the hostel fee. The student agitation at JNU against the hostel fee hike lasted over three months, forcing the Union government to step in and even resulting in the transfer of then Higher Education Secretary R Subrahmanyam.

The NEP was discussed at a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister Friday “to deliberate on the issues and reforms required in education sector”. A tweet by the Prime Minister on Friday night said that the meeting focused on “working towards educational reforms that would make India a global knowledge superpower”.

The final policy document has also dropped the proposal to set up a Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA) as suggested by the Kasturirangan Committee. The RSA was to be headed by the Prime Minister and was intended to replace the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE).

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Following objections from the state governments to this proposal, the HRD Ministry first decided to make the HRD Minister the head of this Commission. However, now the proposal has been scrapped altogether. The policy circulated among ministries instead speaks of strengthening CABE and giving it a greater mandate.

The final draft of the NEP has also dropped the recommendation on setting up a “permanent Indian Education Service (IES) cadre comprising a specialist cadre of the bureaucracy”. This proposal was there in the December draft of the NEP prepared by the HRD Ministry in December last year.

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