People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 27

July 05, 2009




Education : Don't Bypass States


THE union minister for Human Resources Development, Kapil Sibal, has made a number of major announcements while presenting the 100-day plan of his ministry.  Among the measures proposed are the scrapping of the Class X examination or making it optional and the holding of an all-India Class XII examination through a single board as a basis for admission to universities.  Earlier, the minister also made remarks on implementation of the recommendations of the report of the Yash Pal committee on �Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education�.


School education is the primary concern of the states.  Education was included in the concurrent list under the constitution during emergency.   Since then we were adopting several measures.  The union government has centralised the system of higher education with little flexibility available to the states.  But, as far as school education is concerned, it is the prerogative of the states to frame courses based on the social, cultural, geographical and other objective factors existing in the state.   The school examinations are conducted through the state boards.  The proposal to the unilateral announcement made by the HRD minister violates the rights of the states and is an encroachment on their powers in the sphere of school education.  The holding of an all-India Class XII examination through a single board will adversely affect the diversity  found in the various states of our country and will encroach on the autonomy of the state to administer education at the school level in accordance with their culture and conditions prevalent therein.  These moves, if undertaken, will further marginalise the states at the school level. 


As per government statistics (2005), of the students who took admissions in Class I only 31 per cent (35 per cent boys and 27 per cent girls) have been able reach Class X. Almost half of them, 16.6 per cent (18.6 per cent boys and 16.6 per cent girls) drop out or leave after Class X. Many of them take vocational courses run by it in polytechnics etc., on the basis of their Class X scores. Only 8-9 per cent of our youth in the age group of 17-23 are able to reach higher education at the college/university level.  Whether the class X examination should be scrapped or made optional or any such measure should have been placed before the state governments and the matter should be discussed in the Central Advisory Board for Education (CABE) in which all state education ministers are represented. 


The minister has further talked about corporate investment in school education, joint ventures and public-private-partnerships.  Alongwith this, the minister has expressed his eagerness to bring in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the education sector. In this connection, he has stated: �FDI must come into India.  Entry into the education sector must neither be limited nor overregulated.�  What the minister prefers seems to be corporatisation of education  combined with the entry of foreign educational institutions.  


Almost one-third of all students (over one crore) in India study in private institutions.  Many  of these institutions are exploiting the students. The CPI(M) and other Left parties have been demanding a central legislation to regulate these institutions in relation to fees, course content, infrastructure, academic standards, examinations, etc. The draft of such legislation, though very weak in its purpose, was issued in 2005. Despite repeated demands of the Left, the UPA refused to take it up.  This should be taken up.


The FDI in the education sector will be guided by  profit and market principles  alone. In the field of higher education, Foreign Educational Institutions (FEIs) would design courses which the market needs, create a false impression about their courses through advertisements and charge exorbitantly high fees for courses which have immediate employment potential.  By their money power foreign educational institutions would be able to attract the best teachers and financially well off students from local institutions affecting them adversely.


FDI in education would impede the development of indigenous and critical research within our university education system, aggravate the tendency towards commercialisation and strengthen the stranglehold of neo-liberal ideas in our academia. The FEIs would be concerned about their profits and not about our culture and society.  The UPA government must not proceed with the legislation to open up the educational sector to FDI.


Yash Pal Committee�s recommendation that there should be GRE (Graduate Record Examination) type examination at all India level for admission to universities is also no solution to the kind �trauma� that the students face. The only difference is that the boards examinations are annual while GRE is offered more than once in a year. What is necessary is to reform the pattern of examination and increase the number of seats at higher level with adequate facilities and infrastructure.


The various recommendations of the Yash Pal committee, including the setting up of a National Commission for Higher Education and Research replacing bodies like the University Grants Commission, need further discussion.  Above all, the central government and the HRD ministry should refrain from taking any measures which encroach on the rights and the sphere of the states. 

(July 1, 2009)