Former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian and Union HRD minister Smriti Irani and their war of words, over making the draft on National Education Policy public, is far from over.
Earlier this month, Subramanian, who had been appointed by the HRD ministry to head the panel for evolution of NEP, however, insisted that the committee report as well as inputs of the states must be put forth in public domain. Subramanian wrote to Irani and asked her to make contents of the report public or else he would do it himself.
Speaking to Shishir Tripathi of Firstpost, Subramanian said, "It was not a threat; they have put it in a different manner. We advised the ministry that report should be in the public domain. It has no secrets involved. It was a suggestion. The fact is that I told them that this should be in the public domain....but, I've not said 'or else' kind of thing. I said I hope you'll do it; otherwise I'll have to do it."
According to The Indian Express, the 217-page report contains close to 90 suggestions including reinstating detention of students beyond Class V, setting up an all-India cadre of educational services on the lines of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), inculcating values and nationalistic pride in school students and allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India in collaboration with Indian institutions, among other things. The main issue, according to this report in DNA, started when Subramanian raised his objection to the three-language formula, and objected to Smriti Irani's ministry using the word 'tolerance' towards Indian diversity.
"How can anyone say that we should tolerate Indian diversity? It should rather be that we 'accept' the Indian diversity," Subramanian was quoted as saying in his final draft to the HRD ministry. The draft education policy also challenges the ministry's intention and its stand on Right to Education Act and University Grant Commission (UGC). In fact, Smriti Irani's ministry has faced public flak over controversies related to radical changes made in educational institutions.
In fact, when asked what did he think were the pressing concerns in the education sector, Subramanian told Firstpost, "The first of two key problems we had to address was quality of education. There is a deterioration of quality over time, so we had to address that. In fact, the quality is pathetic, the data about education was not correct. During our research startling numbers came out. We have a serious issue with quality. The second was a more subtle nuanced kind of problem: inclusivity. We found that those coming from regional language stream were not pursuing higher education. There were unequal chances for them of getting acceptance in higher education. We found out the problems being faced particularly by three groups – below poverty line (BPL), economically and socially backward class and scheduled caste (SC) and tribes (ST) and other backward castes (OBC).
In an exclusive report, Shishir further spoke to the former cabinet secretary and reported that the committee believed there is no possibility of improving the quality of our school education unless we restore the credibility of our teachers.
The Minister's remarks came a day after Subramanian, who headed the government-appointed panel which drafted the report. Smriti Irani was not going to sit quietly after all this and in a solid rebuttal, the Union Minister said that the draft report will be made public only after its recommendations are shared with states and "not just for the sake of headlines."
This education policy will not become a legacy of one individual who seeks a headline," she replied. "It is the property of one lakh ten thousand villages, over 5000 blocks, over 500 districts, over 20 states that have given it to us with the confidence that any recommendation that comes to us will be shared with them before it is made a draft policy," the HRD minister added.
She said when the process of drafting NEP was initiated, it was promised that before putting anything in public domain, the opinion of states would be taken.
She was asked about Subramanian's letter in which he wanted the report to be made public.
Clearly unhappy with Subramanian's demand, Irani said that when the process of drafting NEP was initiated, it was promised that before putting anything in public domain, the opinion of states would be taken.
"It is true, that on 27 May we got some recommendations, but still state governments have to express their opinions. So to present an incomplete thing before the people, I feel, would be an injustice. More so because we have been working in cohesion with the states, and to break this bridge just for the sake of a headline (is not proper)," Irani replied.
The Minister asserted that she would not "renege on her promise to state governments" that they will have a voice in the policy, before it is dedicated to the nation. When contacted for his comments, Subramanian said the views of the states as well as the committee report were all inputs for drafting of the NEP and he strongly felt that "all of them should be in public space".
He, however, emphasised that the Centre is the only entity competent to prepare the policy, the PTI reported.
The Subramanian panel had last week submitted a 200-page report containing about 90 recommendations to uplift the standards of in primary and higher education sector. Subramanian said that the committee started started working on the draft report on 1 November and before that, the ministry had an assessment exercise, listing 33 issues in the education sector, asking various institutions to organise seminars etc. "So, this was the preparation by the ministry. We got those documents and around 5000-6000 responses; most were grievances. However, there was also a large number of positive, detailed suggestions from various quarters which we used as the base. We were given two months time to go through them but we felt we needed more time because before forming the policy and before assessing the documents we had to go behind what was those documents premised upon as we couldn't have used their conclusions. We had to derive our own conclusion. So we got an extension till March. We met 400-500 people — professors, academics, vice chancellors, NGOs, industry associations, education associations, charity organisations, press secretaries and more during the entire exercise to get their view points."
With inputs from PTI