New Education Policy: Lack of clarity on students’ role in decision-making processes in college, universities

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May 3, 2020 3:53 PM

The JNU student agitation against the increase in hostel fees lasted over three months, forcing the Union government to step in and even result in the transfer of R Subrahmanyam, then Secretary of Higher Education.

The change is significant as it comes in the backdrop of a fierce face-off over university administration between JNU and its students.

The final draft of the New Education Policy (NEP), circulated for input among ministries last month, is silent about student involvement in a university or college’s decision-making bodies, committees and institutional processes, The Indian Express reported.

The final draft policy is limited to providing students with many opportunities to engage in athletics, cultural or art groups, activity groups, community service projects. It also talks about developing a “systematized structure” to help rural students, including increasing hostel facilities as required, the report further said.

However, the provision on developing systems and frameworks to enable students to engage in the institutional processes of higher education institutions is missing from the document shared by the HRD Ministry with ministries for their input, prior to the approval of the Union Cabinet.

This clause in the NEP draft was presented to the HRD Ministry in June last year by a group of experts led by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan, and it was also uploaded for public feedback online. It was also present in the revised draft prepared by the ministry in December 2019 based on the Government’s two lakh suggestions.

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

The final policy document also dropped the proposal to create a Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA), as suggested by the Committee on Kasturirangan. The RSA was to be led by the prime minister, to replace the Central Education Advisory Board (CABE).

Following state governments’ opposition to this plan, the HRD Ministry initially agreed to make the HRD Minister the head of this Committee. But the plan has now been completely scrapped. Instead, the proposal circulated between ministries speaks of strengthening CABE and giving it a bigger mandate.

The NEP’s final draft also dropped the proposal for the creation of a permanent Indian Education Service (IES) system comprising a bureaucracy professional cadre. This proposal was there in last year’s December NEP draft prepared by HRD Ministry.

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