August 1, 2009 1:39:45 am
It may not be easy for most of us to recall how many reports Professor Yashpal has so far submitted to the government of India and other organisations. His report on Baste ka Bojh: reduction of the curriculum load,submitted in 1992 ,was supposed to be a landmark in reducing stress on children. Even those assigned the task of monitoring its implementation may not readily recall its existence. That is generally the fate of reports in India. It should,however,not discourage anyone from pinning high hopes on the latest Yashpal Committee Report. This committee was appointed to advise the government of India,on the Renovation and Rejuvenation of higher education. Now the new minister for human resources development has explicitly stated that his proposed reforms shall be implemented only after detailed consultations,his proposals must be analysed without any biases and prejudices.
What happened in education during the last couple of years will be an uphill task to repair. Who can forget the manner in which 15 vice-chancellors of the proposed universities were appointed in a tearing hurry,setting up a possible world record? In higher education,one of the foremost challenges is to evolve a procedure for appointment of vice-chancellors purely on the basis of merit and competence. It could be a yeomen service to the cause of higher education if the recruitment of vice-chancellors,heads of national level institutions and organisations could be made without political interference,pressures and connections. It is well known that these appointments are made,exceptions apart,on the basis of political alignments,caste,religious considerations and other non-academic factors. It will not be easy for the minister to bring about drastic changes in the procedures unless a genuine effort is made to evolve a consensus amongst all concerned.
For several decades,the Leftists were permitted to play havoc with institutions of higher learning. In a well thought-out long term strategy,they succeeded in hoodwinking the Congress and did not hesitate to reduce its role in the freedom struggle through their hegemony of institutions like Indian Council of Historical Research and Jawaharlal Nehru University,to mention just a few. Is it possible to ensure that party politics is kept out of the university and college union elections? These may appear as matters of detail to the distinguished,but could make a real difference.
Have money,open a deemed university and become its vice-chancellor it has become as simple as that. It is indeed shocking how regulatory bodies ignored their own regulations,disband committees and dispense with the prescribed procedures to help the private investor! If you fail once,have a new name,and know the right contacts,all you need to do is apply again! The two instances of colleges from Tamil Nadu charging capitation fees,as reported in the sting operation,has only revealed the tip of the iceberg. As the new minister has ordered an inquiry into the entire issue of deemed universities,the regulatory bodies which were so generous earlier are now pretending to act tough! There is a total failure and loss of credibility of the regulatory bodies created to maintain norms and standards,ensure quality of comparable levels and support institutions to become centres of excellence. Everyone now knows what values these bodies follow in their functioning. In such a situation of visible demoralisation,the urgency to open more institutions and move ahead of the enrolment ration of 11 to say 20 or 25 confronts the planners. The shrewd private entrepreneur calculates assured returns and can go to any length to get a professional college or a deemed university approved. In India,it is really tough to regulate the machinations of the investors in education. They have learnt the tricks of the trade and know how to overcome the hurdles that are put just to give right indications.
Reports shall continue to pour in. These keep people busy. The real change shall occur only when the human resources minister is determined to remain free of the operating coteries,listens to all but makes his own decisions,and changes the work culture right from Shastri Bhawan to the primary school in Koraput.
The writer was director,the National Council of Educational Research and Training during the NDA government
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