In the historic general elections of 2014, the saffron wave took over the country. With a promising manifesto, an over- enthusiastic PR team and a leader with humble beginnings, BJP was the government elected at the centre. Today, after one year and three months of Mr. Modi assuming the office, we list the most remarkable decisions, proposals and ideas put forward by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) regarding education.
- Delhi University’s Four Year Undergraduate Program scrapped:
What was introduced in 2013 as an inter-disciplinary programme was scrapped on grounds of violating the National Policy of Education. Cited as the most ambitious reform when introduced, it was challenged by the student bodies, teachers and politicians that were allegedly aided by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and backed by the government at the centre. Accused to be a haphazard move, FYUP was criticised for its chaotic structure and laughable low standards. Despite the roll back the confusion initially prevailed for long, especially for the students of B.Tech and BMS.
- Announcement of new IITs:
Upholding the promise made in the election manifesto, five new IITs were announced in 2014. To be set up at Jammu, Chattisgarh, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, the government allocated 500 crores for the move. While the Institutes at Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have begun with their sessions, the others are expected to embark theirs, by the next academic year. Further, in 2015, another IIT was announced in Karnataka, along with the upgrading of the Indian School of Mines at Dhanbad, to an IIT.
- Yoga introduced as a part of the school curriculum:
In a bid to imbibe this ancient discipline as a mainstream practice, the MHRD proposed, that Yoga be included in the choices offered to the students of classes 6 to 10, under physical education. Based on an evaluation that gives 80% weightage to the practicals and the rest to the theory, it is apparently a reform that would not burden students. A move pertaining only to the government run schools for now, the Ministry gives the states the freedom to implement or reject it.
- Choice Based Credit System introduced in Delhi University:
Described as the ‘cafeteria’ approach by the UGC guidelines, the system allows students to take courses of their choice, undergo additional courses different from their majors and hence facilitates their employment and mobility across institutions. While the university considers it to be ‘better’ and ‘desirable’, it is viewed as an attempt of sheer commercialisation and Americanisation of the Indian Education by many. Or worse, the next blunder after the FYUP. Nevertheless, it has embarked as a practice with the current academic batch.
- MHRD to be informed about future MoUs:
In what can be considered as an infringement of the autonomy of higher educational institutions, the MHRD has proposed that while signing any Memorandum of Understanding for collaboration with foreign universities, Indian institutions must refer to the Ministry of External Affair’s advisory, so as to keep the ministry ‘informed’. Interestingly, there existed similar guidelines until August 2004, which were then withdrawn by the UPA government on grounds that it was an unnecessary interference with the autonomy. The notice that reinstates the guidelines was released by the ministry in January 2015 and comes after the controversial IIT Delhi’s MoU with the Mauritius Research Council that the ministry claimed to be a violation of the IIT act.
- ‘Bhagwad Gita’ incorporated as a part of academics:
For the students of Haryana and Mumbai, ‘Bhagwad Gita’ is now more than a scripture. It is a part of their syllabi. While it is to be taught to students of class V to XII in every school in Haryana, only the municipal schools will adopt it in the latter state. While the proponents of the move consider it an attempt to boost the morale and impart knowledge to the students, the critics view it as an attempt to saffronise the education.
While the educational reforms of the past one year have been continuously criticised by the opposition for their saffron touch, the BJP leaders have actively plunged in defence. Saffron or not, there have been reforms. And a lot more are expected in the future. While the politics over it may continue, the education sector can but only hope that the Modi led government rolls out practical and balanced educational policies, giving the education system the much needed overhaul.