Overlooking, consciously or otherwise, the federal structure of the Indian Constitution, moves are afoot to centralise education in general and higher education in particular, Kerala Education Minister M.A. Baby has said.

He was participating at a meeting organised by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development(HRD) and the Kerala State Higher Education Council here on Tuesday to discuss the draft National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) Bill.

For all practical purposes, things are being done in the education sector as though education is on the Central list and not on the concurrent list. The HRD Minister announced on Tuesday a national examination for admission to engineering and medical courses. There was no prior consultation with States on this. “I am not expected to learn of such things from the media. The Union Minister could have sent a letter ,” Mr. Baby said.

‘Effective system’

Kerala has an effective entrance examination system. That apart, the percentage of reservation is different in different States. It is not clear whether the decision-makers had applied their minds to all these things before taking a call on the matter, he said.

In the case of the Bill also, advance consultation should have been done with the States. Referring to the provision in the Bill for setting up a national registry of persons eligible to be appointed as vice-chancellors of universities, Mr. Baby said such a list would not solve the problems associated with the identification and appointment of vice-chancellors. As a society we must make decision-makers look primarily at academic merit, he said. The provision that any university set up after the establishment of the NCHER can begin academic operations only after authorisation from the commission also runs counter to the spirit of federalism. Now States have the right to set up universities and to allow them to begin academic activities, Mr. Baby said.