One of the first things that BJP-led NDA government announced in education sector was formulation of a New National Policy on Education. And the exercise continued literally all these five years but eventually nothing came out of it as the country moves into the election mode to elect a new government at the centre by May last week.
Four extensions and two committees, consultations and public talk by ministers in charge of the concerned ministry (Human Resources Development) that New Policy will be announced, all, at the end fell short of a widely anticipated realization. It is not that work hasn’t gone into the mammoth exercise of policy making; the truth is the policy document draft had been prepared by end of last year itself but in all probably the government didn’t want a certain national narrative to derail its own poll narrative.
If the short debate on policy inputs in 2017 in upper house of Parliament and outside was any indicator, the poll managers would have well advised the government not to make the policy announcement. The ideological issues perhaps are the cause of major divide between right and left on national education goals. BJP and its ideological fountainhead, the RSS, has long been wanting to make changes into the education culture in the country and is under microscopic lens of vigilant left learning academics and commentators, who see a threat to secularism coming through ‘nationalist’ infusion into education apparatus.
The Sang Parivaar, which enjoys a near complete control over BJP ministers, saw coming of Modi-led BJP to power in 2014 as the golden opportunity to push its education agenda into the education system of the country. And, in a well thought move, policy making was made part of election manifesto. In the first two years, they were quite hopeful that it can be done. But soon the government realized that it is not a cake walk as education is the most invested social good and the concepts of modern education are well-trenched in the society. The constitutional values, national development goals and changing technology-driven world order, in fact make education a vehicle of national aspirations. So, it disbanded the original T.R.S. Subramanian committee and appointed another committee under former Indian Space Research Organisation chief K. Kasturirangan. The later reliably has addressed many of the concerns raised earlier and even widened consultations. However, even then, it appears there are issues left, which made the government to skip and defer this important announcement in the hope that it will again return to power and then announce it. In any case, the important take away is, government is on a sticky wicket on education as no disruptions here or really big impact achievements. Conversely, it may also be that education is not seen as any important as Andhra CM Chandra Babu Naidu feels Gujarat is not a great model because the 21st century is about knowledge economy.
The BJP will have to do a lot in canvassing about education, if at all it thinks it is worth it.