4 Years of Systematic Destruction of Education System under the Modi Regime- I : Vikram Singh

Socialist India is happy to publish a two-part detailed article on the state of education under the Modi regime, which completed four years few days ago. 

 

Introduction

“Education must create minds free from superstitions, hatred and violence and become an important vehicle to cement national unity, social cohesion and religious amity. Our endeavour should be to inculcate moral, ethical and humanistic values in the individuals and the society.” These words are from BJP’s elections manifesto for the 2014 LS elections. Now, four year down the lines, it seems that either these words have a different meaning in BJP’s dictionary or these too were jumlas like everything else. The last four years have seen authoritarian assaults on our educational institutions- HCU, JNU, FTII, IIT Madras, BHU and the list never ends- aimed at crushing the democratic culture and destroying every single voice of dissent. However, the assault on democracy is only one part when one begins to look for the ‘achievements’ of the four years of NDA regime in education.

The BJP led government at centre has aggressively pursued the policies of commercialisation, centralisation and communalisation of education. BJP is accelerating the neoliberal educational policies of the previous UPA government, which are aimed at deregulating the education sector and increase the avenues of profit maximization for the private capital. However, at the same time it is destroying the federal character of Indian education and is attempting to control the entire sector from the centre, as part of the designs to push the Hindutva agenda. This is reflected in appointing RSS personnel in the key administrative bodies, rewriting of history, abrupt and irrational changes in syllabi, propagation of pseudoscience, so on and so forth. The brunt of these attacks is falling upon the students from the socio-economically exploited and oppressed section.

 

Whatever happened to the New National Education Policy?

Modi government had announced adoption of a new National Education Policy within 100 days of it taking oath. The hype created around it led people to believe that the new policy document will be instrumental in addressing the problems of the education system and will help rejuvenating it. However where do we find ourselves after four years? While the adoption of the new policy is nowhere in sight, the various draft documents that have come clearly portray the agenda behind the new policy document- the agenda of privatization, commercialization and communalization. The proposed draft available on MHRD seems to be an effort to formalize the communalization of education as policy. Further the proposed NEP is in clear contradiction with the Constitutional vision of a common education system. There is already a sanction to private education institution for open loot of students through different kind of fees. The student community has been demanding for long to bring a central legislation to monitor the admission process and fee structure of private institutions, however, there is no mention of such provision in the draft.

Only tall claims without adequate budgetary allocation

The budget allocation for education completely punctures the tall claims and propaganda of BJP. BJP’s election manifesto had reiterated the long standing demand of spending 6% of GDP on education (something which has been repeated by various education commissions starting from the Daulat Singh Kothari Commission). However, the actual outcome has been in completely opposite direction.

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Public spending on education by central and state governments combined come to only 2.7% of the GDP (as of 2017-18 budget estimates, according to the Economic Survey 2017-18). The rate of increase in budgetary allocation for education ever since the BJP came to power has not even kept up with the rate of inflation in India. The central government’s budget allocation for education has declined sharply as percentage of both the central budgetary expenditure and the GDP.

The neoliberal dogma continues

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Along with these visible attacks, there is a silent conspiracy to completely dismantle the public education system in India. In the last four years, the policy paralysis of the government has gone hand in hand with the attempts to dismantle all decision making bodies, ignoring the stakeholders and taking policy decisions through the notification route.  The Rashtriya Uchhtar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) was a UPA flagship programme which has been carried forward by the BJP government. It replaces the pre-existing multiple funding mechanisms with one centralized mechanism. The funding is linked to a set of conditions failing which the institutions/states won’t be eligible to receive funds. These conditions include implementation of Choice Based Credit System (CBCS), semesterisation and compulsory accreditation among others. The same document makes it clear that the funding under RUSA will be norm based as well as performance based. This basically means that the state governments or universities won’t have any room to modify the system according to their specific conditions and all powers to determine their education are snatched away from them. The recent decision to grant graded autonomy to 60-odd educational institutions is in line with this policy direction. Decisions like introducing objective question in semester exams and hiring private agencies for preparing examination results are reducing higher education to merely a system of issuing degrees.

New Conspiracy in the name of Autonomy

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Government’s latest decision to provide autonomy for 60 higher education institutes (5 central universities, 21 state universities, 24 deemed Universities along with 2 already private universities and 8 autonomous colleges) through UGC notification is another move to push the higher into the further heights of privatization. This allows universities to do innumerable activities like opening new centers, new disciplines, new off-campus centers etc, however, no fund will be provided by the government for any of these experiments. It clearly means that hefty fee hike is in the offer. This will make premier higher educational institutions into degree minting shops which will become the reserve of the rich and the poor will be permanently excluded. Autonomy is nothing but a code word for unbridled commodification through self-financing courses and fee hikes.

( This is the first part of a two- part article.)

About the Author:

Vikram Singh is the General Secretary of Students’ Federation of India (SFI).

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