'Govt has vested interests': Ex-cabinet secy Subramanian on new education panel
Former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian has lashed the Narendra Modi government for creating a new panel, headed by ISRO scientist Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, to draft the New Education Policy (NEP).
Subramanian headed the previous panel on the NEP, set up in 2015, which submitted its report to then-HRD Minister Smriti Irani in May 2016.
Subramanian told Catch: “The recommendations that our panel made did not adhere to the strong vested interests of the current government in higher studies and school education. I don't know how the new committee will be able to tackle that.”
He added: “I have a lot of respect for Dr Kasturirangan, but I don't how one can make radical new changes in education when the government is on a political whim. What we can clearly see is a politicisation in our education system.”
Why were Subramanian's recommendations disregarded?
This is the second NEP panel the HRD ministry has formed in the BJP's three years in power. This time, it is a nine-member panel, headed by Kasturirangan.
Many have suggested that the previous panel's recommendation to school boards to teach a foreign language as third language went against the BJP's desire to promote Sanskrit and Hindi in non-Hindi-speaking states, and led to differences between the HRD ministry and the Subramanian-headed panel.
The ministry has now decided to treat the Subramanian committee's recommendations as mere 'inputs'.
Composition of the new panel
Along with Kasturirangan, the panel includes former IAS officer KJ Alphonse Kanamthanam, agriculture ministry official and Baba Saheb Ambedkar University of Social Sciences vice-chancellor Ram Shanker Kureel, Karnataka State Innovation Council former secretary MK Shridhar, language communication expert TV Kattimani, Guwahati University Persian language professor Mazhar Asif, Uttar Pradesh's former education director Krishan Mohan Tripathi, Princeton University mathematician Manjul Bhargava and former SNDT University vice-chancellor Vasudha Kamat.
According to the ministry, the selected panelists in the new committee are experts in various fields of education, come from wide-ranging backgrounds, and belong to different regions.
“This diversity would help the committee understand the varied issues that have to be kept in mind for the formulation of such a key policy document,” read an official statement.
Kanamthanam was one of the people responsible for ensuring 100% literacy in Kottayam and Ernakulam districts of Kerala. He told Catch: “I was asked by the HRD ministry if I wanted to be a part of the NEP panel, and I accepted. It is a wonderful opportunity as I have had a lot of experience in the field of education, especially in Kerala. But I cannot comment on why a new committee needed to be formed. I have not read the earlier panel's reports or recommendations, so I am not the right person to talk about it.”
Kanamthanam, who is a special invitee to the BJP's executive committee, added: “The work by the panel will start immediately. We are expecting official communication from the ministry soon. The aim is to improve the quality of education and we plan to do just that.”
Paucity of time
The new panel has been asked to make the Indian education system more contemporary, improve its quality, and internationalise it. It could also provide a roadmap for the entry of foreign universities into India.
According to an official in the HRD ministry, the new committee could take six to seven months to prepare the final draft of the new policy.
Given that the BJP govt has less than two years left in its tenure, and the NEP was one of the electoral promises made by the party, all eyes will be on whether the govt will have the time to deliver on it.
The new policy introduced by this government is expected to be followed over the next two decades or more. The last policy change on education was made in 1986, almost three decades ago.