Sutanu Guru, Executive Director, C Voter Research Foundation
Changes in the education system will have far reaching consequences for India that will be felt for many generations. Pity the media is not giving it more attention.
For news junkies, the last few weeks have served up platefuls of controversies. First came the dispute over the Gyanvapi Mosque being actually the original Kashi Vishwanath temple that was destroyed by Aurangzeb. Then came the huge controversy over the unfortunate and irresponsible remarks of former BJP spokesperson on Prophet Mohammed. No doubt she was goaded and provoked, but as a national spokesperson of the party ruling India, she could have displayed more restraint. Then came the headings and killings of innocent people who supported Nupur Sharma by Islamist radicals. Then came the sudden and shock change in Maharashtra where Shiv Sena chief and former chief minister was literally dethroned in a palace coup by dissidents led by Eknath Shinde. In between, TeestaSetalvad and Mohammed Zubair have been arrested, triggering massive protests by liberals. Of course, how can one forget the three days of madness and violence after the new Agneepath scheme for recruitment of soldiers was announced. The old refrain is back: India is regressing into an era of intolerance, communal violence and instability.
But what is the most fundamentally important news staring at India; something that will have an impact for generations to come? The real, transformative news is that the New Education Policy that was unveiled in 2020 is finally getting implemented. This week, the common entrance tests for admissions to undergraduate courses in all central universities will begin. These tests will be like the entrance tests for admissions to IITs. The most significant change is that the percentage of marks scored by a student in class X11th board exams will no longer be a criteria for admissions to central universities. In the future, all universities will follow this model. Just imagine the impact on tens of millions of students and their parents who often found that even scoring 98% in class X11th board exams was often not enough to get admission in a good college or university. The common entrance test will vastly reduce the relentless pressure on them and level the playing to a large extent. Any transformational change comes with pros and cons. For instance, the new model will encourage the “coaching” industry in India to flourish further even as they lure students to prepare for the common entrance tests, just like they do for IITs, NDA, IAS and myriad other exams. Besides, some teachers and parents are worried that since class X11th board exam results will no longer count, students will neglect classes and studies. It will be a while before all the consequences are actually seen. But there simply can be no doubt that this will change India for the next few decades.
The changes will be even more transformational when other elements of the National Education Policy are implemented. For instance, students from senior secondary school to the post graduate level will not be tightly confined to arts, commerce or science streams. They will be allowed to pick up subjects and courses of their choice as they pursue higher studies. So a student doing an undergraduate course in physics can pick economics as one of the subjects she wants to study. This will have a tremendous impact on the ability of students to acquire multi-disciplinary expertise as they go into the job market. Another bonus is that a student can keep credits even she drops out of a course mid way and need not stat again from scratch if she wants to come back and finish her course. Another significant change will be the introduction of vocational education that will include actual internship in organisations. This will start from class sixth. Now, “formal’ sector jobs like doctors, engineers, professors, managers et al account for less than 10% of total jobs or livelihood opportunities in India. The bulk of livelihood opportunities are in the informal sector where people work as drivers, plumbers, technicians, electricians, beauticians et al. Vocational training beginning at school level will help tens of millions of Indians acquire the skills needed to pursue a career that doesn’t necessarily need a graduate or post graduate degree.
So why is the media ignoring news that is so fundamentally and vitally important? Well, that is the media worldwide: it revels in controversies. If a bunch of students launch a protest movement against the new entrance test model in Delhi and disrupt traffic, then it will become news. Besides, there is a tendency among liberals who dominate media to indulge in gloomy forecasts about the future of India. Though the 1991 economic reforms received widespread media coverage, it was buried in less than a year by the Harshad Mehta scam and then by the events that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 which triggered widespread communal violence and then the horrific bomb blasts in Mumbai. Many were convinced Indian society had no future. Similarly, media was obsessed with the Kargil war (justifiably), the IA 814 hijacking, the terror attacks and the Gujarat riots between 1999 and 2002. While coverage was given, few grasped the long term implications of changed telecom policies and the massive highways expansion bid. Even then, liberals were convinced Indian society was doomed. Just as they are convinced now.
About the Author:
After his masters degree in economics, Sutanu Guru has been a journalist for more than 30 years in media outlets like Times of India, Economic Times, Business Today, Business World, Business India & others. Currently, he focuses more on research and writing.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with those of prameyanews.com.