India: Education Policy in India and the legislative framework around it (Problems & Solutions)

Last Updated: 23 January 2019
Article by Shubham Borkar and Nayanikaa Shukla
Most Read Contributor in India, January 2019

Introduction

Education is essential for the development of intellect and knowledge of a person as well as for the growth of economy of a nation. Enhancement in the education sector directly results in advancement in the economy of a nation, as it enhances the skill-set of the workforce which can make better use of the available technology. However, to the our utter dismay, currently, the Indian education system faces a number of setbacks, the primary one being lack of standardisation in both school and university/college level.

To understand the situation better, we should first enlist the problems that circumscribe the Education Sector in India.

Problems in the current system

  • The existence of different boards that govern education in schools results in divergent syllabus in the same grade. For example, the course material prescribed by Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE board) for 9th grade mathematics contains a chapter called commercial mathematics which is not prescribed in the books of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE board). Apart from these two, there are various state boards with different subjects and syllabus which in general are relatively lower in standards than the CBSE and ICSE's. A standardised curriculum for students of same age is imperative, but there is no such standardisation due to the existence of these different governing bodies.

    Even in colleges, due to lack of a regulatory body and autonomy given to institutions, the course varies significantly. A student of law in one college is taught the law of torts and jurisprudence in the first year, whereas in some other university, these subjects are taught in the later years of the course.

    Homogeneity in curriculum is essential because a course material needs to be made by carefully evaluating the mental ability of a child of the said age, and such evaluation must apply to all children of the same age, there must be no disparity, otherwise this may hamper the development of the child and impact the process of learning which in the long run will hamper the India's growth.
  • Unregulated Autonomy (Deemed Universities)

    Unregulated and unfettered autonomy has been given to universities and colleges by the University Grants Commission. The universities recognised by UGC have very limited set of rules and regulations governing them and are majorly unaccountable for their conduct.

    Some universities are not even UGC approved but are deemed or to-be-deemed universities accredited by the Department of Higher Education of the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

    Such difference in accreditation by different bodies and minimal set of rules governing the institutions gives these institutions unregulated discretion in deciding their mandates, and changes the standard of education offered by these institutes. Moreover, the independence of these institutes renders no higher authority for the redressal of the grievances of students.
  • Qualification and Status of the Educators

    One of the major problems that arise due to non regulation of educational institutions is that of qualification and status of educators. Since the institutions are free to decide upon the qualifications required for the post of a teacher of a particular subject, they may not give regard to the credentials of an applicant and the post may be given to a non deserving candidate due to connections. This is arbitrary and also a compromise with the quality of education.

    Further, since there is no binding mandate for the salary of teachers, it completely depends on the discretion of the institution, and therefore, in most places, the educators are underpaid. This directly and severely affects the standard of education as best brains don't opt for teaching.

    The global ranking of Indian institutes, of both the school and university level is far below satisfactory. In 2018, India did not even participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) organised by OECD for evaluation of education systems across the world. According to the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University rankings 2018, IIT Bombay which ranked 162nd is the highest ranking Indian University on the list.1

    Different medium of teaching available to school students of different states poses a problem later as the university level education is majorly imparted in English, so a working knowledge of English language is necessary, but studying in vernacular language medium hampers this to a certain extent and puts the students in a disadvantage. By this statement , I do not want to mean in any manner that one should not learn his Vernacular language, however special attention should be given in learning basic English, Hindi. Further, local institutes also display parochialism, narrow-mindedness making them incompatible with other institutes.
  • Fees

    The lack of funds or improper distribution mechanism thereof is a major reason for the sorry state of education in India. There is no body which is solely responsible for collection and distribution and proper utilisation of funds. The problem increases even more in rural areas which are largely out of reach of the administration of any governing body.

    This also results in a chasm between fees to be paid by students in different institutions. The fees of a primary school student may vary from a few thousands per year to few lakhs per annum. To bridge this gap, there needs to be a set of rules governing the fees being charge by these institutions and to ensure that such fees is not exorbitant.

Vyapam Scam – The Epitome

The Vyapam scam was a humongous corruption scam that came in light in the year 2013 in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It involved a number of universities, colleges and government job placement offices and included fixing results of professional examinations, among other incidents of cheating, bribery etc. This scam proved that corruption in India has grown from an anomaly to a way of life; it is so deep-rooted that it can be referred to as a culture. No decision of a court or no scam has questioned the system as much as the Vyapam scam. So it is imperative to include this in the study of education system of India.

  • The Aftermath

    In the aftermath of this scam, in order to uproot the widespread corruption and in national interest, the courts took stringent measures and a plethora of doctors who took admission in their college by paying bribes were punished heavily, as the court cancelled their degree and put them behind bars, pushing their future into dark. As their actions constituted acts of deceit, it was deemed to be unacceptable. Apart from students, the police arrested many people involved, including bureaucrats and politicians, and other members heading the institutions which accepted the bribe and admitted undeserving students. Fingers were also pointed to the Ex-Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
  • The Mistake

    While on one hand the court was more harsh upon the students and lesser on others bureaucrats and politicians involved, it failed to take into consideration the doctors who although entered the college by giving bribe to the Management of the college, however, they did well and earned their degree without any fraudulent means. They are qualified doctors. Such students did not deserve as harsh a punishment as they were given. Instead, their degrees could be put to some use for the society.
  • The Reformative Theory of Criminology

    The court should've given these doctors a mandatory term of serving the society by providing their services in rural places which suffer from a constant deficit of medical assistance. The court rightly applied the deterrence theory of criminal justice to the administrators involved in the scam, but to the students, the implications should have been little onerous. It is understandable that to prevent more such scams in future and to maintain the quality of education, it was necessary to lay down a bottom line, but the justice would have been truly achieved when the society would have ultimately benefitted through the Reformative theory of Criminology.

    According to this theory, the object of punishment should be the reform of the criminal, through the method of individualization. It is based on the humanistic principle that even if an offender commits a crime, he does not cease to be a human being. He may have committed a crime under circumstances which might never occur again which fits in the present case to the fullest. Therefore an effort should be made to reform him during the period of his incarceration. The object of punishment should be to bring about the moral reform of the offender. While awarding punishment the judge should study the character and age of the offender, his early breeding, his education and environment, the circumstances under which he committed the offence, the object with which he committed the offence and other factors. The object of doing so is to acquaint the judge with the exact nature of the circumstances so that he may give a punishment which suits the circumstances. After all they were not habitual criminal offenders (which the society should be afraid off )and were mere students who in the greed of getting admission into a good college paid bribe to the college .The court here was harsher on the students while more lenient on the administrators, while it should have been the other way around. It was the College management, administrators, politicians and the ones in power who enticed these students to pay the bribe.

Mentioning the problems will be of no use unless and until the solutions are proposed.

Potential solutions to the problems

  • Laying down the Basic Structure of Education

    The first and the paramount step towards solving most problems with the current education system of India is that the legislature must enact a legislation which lays down certain basic regulations that have to be followed by all educational institutions across the country. This legislation must aim at bringing uniformity in education provided by various institutions.
  • Powerful Central Body

    A powerful central body governing all schools should be set up. This body should have power to make by laws and regulations applicable to all schools. A proper syllabus based on the abilities of a child of a particular age must be made, which applies uniformly. All other boards like state boards, international boards etc must be abolished and a standard medium with standard curriculum must be set in place. A standard medium should not result in neglect of local languages; they should be recognised, but to bring all students on equal level, they must be taught in one medium of language. But it should be borne in mind that creating a central governing body does not necessarily imply that the schools will not have any amount of autonomy vested in them. The limits of an institution shall be defined in a fashion similar to memorandum of association of a company. They are accredited by the governing body but will be free to make decisions for the smooth functioning of the institution within the bounds of powers granted to them.

    Such body will be solely responsible for collection and management of funds given by central and state governments. The biggest problem of unrecognised institutions like madarsas that claim to be educators, etc can also be solved as for a degree to be recognised, the institution imparting such degree must be accredited with the said national body.
  • The International Inspiration

    More incites on the legislation can be taken from education systems of other countries like Poland, USA and Japan. In these countries, there is no distinction in the curriculums and the schools are on the same level.

    Similarly, the UGC must govern all universities and colleges, and all universities must be accredited by it. There must be no titles such as deemed or to-be-deemed universities and the power to give accreditation shall be vested only with UGC and no other authority. The curriculum for a particular course must be strictly laid down and followed. To ensure implementation of all guidelines, every university should have personnel presiding over its actions.

Conclusion

With the low standard of educational institutions, India still has a far way to go. The problems are multiple and too huge to be solved in a short span of time. A number of factors have to be employed simultaneously to improve the system. The unified system as proposed here in this article will allow equal growth of all students. It will also lead to better governance. It will also reduce parochialism and discrimination. Further, with equal opportunities given to every child irrespective of his caste, class or social background, the government will get an opportunity to review the reservation system and its need in the society. The government needs to take careful consideration of all facets before enacting any legislation, but ultimately, the unified system will benefit the students. This will further advance the global standing of Indian institutions and bring them at par with the leading institutions of the world.

Footnote

1 https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2018

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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