Is there a way forward for the proposed National Education Policy (NEP)? This is a serious question that many academics are pondering over now. Mired by controversies from early days, it was with great trepidation that the draft NEP was made public online in June 2016.
Also, as T.S.R. Subramanian, former Cabinet Secretary and the head of the Committee on NEP 2016, kept reiterating, the published draft was not the complete one (the Committee says it submitted 95 recommendations). Nevertheless, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, with an aim to encouraging feedback and consultations from the grassroots, sent out a request on their website asking for suggestions / inputs on the draft NEP by September 30.
A copy of the draft was also sent to various bodies / departments in the States asking them to hold consultations with stakeholders and submit their recommendations by the stipulated time. The HRD Ministry held various online / video conference consultations at the zonal levels.
Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar during his recent visit to Coimbatore was keen to get the message across that the NEP was not a political agenda, but a national one, and hence all parties and stakeholders would be involved in forming the new policy. He was also hopeful that the ‘Education Dialogue’ with all members of Parliament that he called for on November 10 in New Delhi would help take the process forward.
But the ‘dialogue’ turned out to be almost a no-show with only some 40 MPs attending it, and with not very positive outcomes.
The Minister has decided to hold another such meeting in the near future, according to reports. There is also talk that a new Committee is in place to formulate another draft, which will be placed in the Cabinet. But all this is expected to happen only after the Minister gets a consensus from all involved, as he promised.
In the light of such developments, educationists are sceptical about the NEP becoming a reality in 2017. A majority believe that 2018 might be a realistic possibility. Though the Government of India had embarked on an ambitious course of coming out with the third NEP with the focus on five pillars — accessibility, equity, quality, affordability and accountability — it has met with roadblocks from the beginning.
But in the midst of all this, what is encouraging and heartening is the response and feedback given by the non-political fraternity. Once the 43-page draft was uploaded on www.mhrd.gov.in, people have been talking about it, various consultations have been held and several levels of feedback have been sent to the MHRD. Some have written at firstname.lastname@example.org, while 5,933 submissions have been made at secure.mygov.in.
In Coimbatore, for instance, the Education Sub-Committee of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) called for three meetings on different days — one with school representatives, another with college representatives, and the third with present and past vice-chancellors and university representatives — to get suggestions. It also visited some schools and colleges to get first-hand suggestions from students and teachers. All this was consolidated and made into a 33-page booklet and sent to the MHRD as Coimbatore’s response to the draft NEP.
Similarly, various educational institutions and individuals have sent in their feedback. Now, one can only wait and watch to see if the same enthusiasm will be shown by the political fraternity to make NEP a reality soon.