“Political interference is almost certainly” the most important reason for poor outcomes in education sector, according to a committee set up by the HRD Ministry, with a suggestion that appointment of Vice Chancellors should be “depoliticised”.
The five-member committee, headed by former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian, has said in its report that political intervention from all levels is all pervasive in selecting location of institutions, approval of grant-in-aid status, selection of examination centres and in all senior appointments and in many states from VC to college Principals to District Education Officers.
The committee, set up to give suggestions for the New Education Policy (NEP), also said that it is “undeniable” that there is large scale corruption in appointments, transfers, approval to affiliate and grant recognition of institutions, even going to the extent of manipulation of exam results.
It said that during meetings with national educational institutions at Delhi or informal contacts with state officials across India, the single most important reason mentioned by all respondents was “political interference”.
The panel observed that when national accrediting agencies were asked to explain why undeserving educational institutions often received rapid accreditation, while ‘more qualified’ institutions waited for long periods, the answer almost invariably would relate to political interference.
“The committee cannot ignore this repeated assertion brought to its attention in different forms in diverse circumstances – the clear conclusion is that ‘political interference’ is almost certainly the most important reason for poor outcomes,” said the report submitted to the government.
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Among the suggestions made by it are that the process of selection and appointment of Vice-Chancellor should be “depoliticised” and done purely on merit.
It has also suggested that independent mechanism for teacher recruitment, creation of an Autonomous Teacher Recruitment Board and revamp of teacher education system.
“A cross-section of stakeholders gave examples of widespread corruption which prevails in the functioning of regulators like AICTE, UGC, MCI and NCTE; the general refrain was that any obstacle can be overcome by contacting the right persons,” the panel said.
Another recommendation is that a new transparent system should be established for approval, affiliation and regular evaluation of new institutions, with transparent processes, based on clearly established principles, with full public disclosure.
Apart from Subramanian, the other members of the panel include Shailaja Chandra, former Chief Secretary, NCT of Delhi, Sewaram Sharma, former Home Secretary, NCT of Delhi, Sudhir Mankad, former Chief Secretary, Gujarat and Prof J S Rajput, former Director, NCERT.
In its report, the panel has dealt in detail with the issue of appointment of VCs, which it says should be the embodiment of scholarship, wisdom and high academic stature.
Persons like Dr S Radhakrishnan, Dr Laxman Swami Muddaliar, Pandit Amarnath Jha, Dr Zakir Husain, Dr Amrik Singh et al have been in this position, it noted.
The panel said the process of these appointments is “ostensibly independent” but not in actual practice.
“The search committees go through the motions and process of selection, but their recommendations are unfortunately generally pre-determined. The result is that, in fact, most VCs are political appointees,” the panel said.
It emphasised that Central and state governments should come together and agree on a common agenda for appointing persons of academic eminence only as VCs.
The panel also said that at the school level (postings and transfers of principals and teachers), at block and district level, the common refrain of all officials involved in education would relate to ‘politics’ as the mainspring for non-performance.
It said that “extraneous factors relating to improper monetary considerations often become the decisive factor in the selection process.
There has been no credible or reliable system of measurement of a teacher’s output or performance – promotion or increments have generally had little co-relation with merit or performance, the panel said, adding “The management of the educational manpower being largely non-transparent and arbitrary.”
It, however, emphasised that this “general criticism” is not valid in respect of all states as it noted positive interest taken by the political leadership in few states.
The panel said it had heard allegations or assessments in informal comments relating to higher education sector as well.
“The committee heard of institutions charging large capitation fees (illegal), as also colleges readily issuing degrees against payments proffered under-the-table; the general informal comment was that all ‘approvals’ were ‘purchasable’,” it said in its report.
It factored that sometimes allegation of corruption could be made falsely even to shift blame but added that whether or not these adverse comments are, largely true or not, the conclusion is inescapable that governance standards at all levels has been poor.
The committee concluded that in many parts of the education system, at school or higher levels, factors other than merit have played and are playing a significant part in the management of affairs.
As measures to counter these problems, it has suggested creation of an independent mechanism for teacher recruitment, setting up of an Autonomous Teacher Recruitment Board, revamp of teacher education system and introduction of a four-year integrated B Ed course or a two-year B Ed Course after
It has also sought effective monitoring of teacher performance, with built-in incentive systems.
The panel has also stressed that great care be taken in selection of principals, and vesting them with appropriate freedom for action.
It has also sought a New transparent system for approval, affiliation and regular evaluation of new institutions, with transparent processes, based on clearly established principles, with full public disclosure.
It has also sought bringing accountability at each level of operation and appropriate use of Information Technology in governance of the sector.
The panel questioned why no research or regulatory institution or national level statutory bodies attached to the HRD ministry has openly researched these matters, and validated or dismissed these allegations.
“It is a measure of the pusillanimity of the national institutions attached to the MHRD, with full time senior academics and professionals, being unable to openly comment on the current state of affairs, without which remedies are not possible,” the committee said.
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