Submitting the Report of the National Commission on Education, to then Minister for Education M C Chagla, its chairman D S Kothari highlighted in his forwarding note: “It is characteristic of a world permeated by science that in some essential ways the future shape of things is unpredictable. This emphasises all the more the need for an education policy which contains built-in flexibility so that it can adjust to changing circumstances.” He went on to emphasise the importance of experimentation and innovation, and also indicated the nature of resistance to be confronted in shaking up the existing system. The urgency of the change was highlighted as: “If I may say so, the single most important thing needed now is to get out of the rigidity of the present system. In the rapidly changing world, one thing is certain: yesterday’s educational system will not meet today’s, and even less so, the need of tomorrow.”
The 1968 National Policy on Education was formulated on the basis of the Kothari Commission Report. The revisions took place in 1986 and 1992. Needless to say that the pace of change is far more alarming than in the Sixties. The curriculum revision for school education was carried out by NCERT in 1975, 1988, 2000 and 2005. Subsequent to these exercises, designated organisations of the state governments prepare their own curricula and syllabi. Two significant points have to be adhered to in each of these cases: local element of the curriculum has to be scientifically delineated and included, and further, equivalence with the NCERT syllabus must be maintained. The point is well understood by all as contents of a textbook on environmental studies or geography for, say, Class Five, cannot be same in Tripura and Thiruvananthapuram, but the learning outcomes must remain comparable. The lack of such equivalence would result in regional imbalances on the national level and that could deprive young persons from the right to equality of opportunity. That also justifies preparation of model curriculum and textbooks at the national level.
The last 10 years are testimony to an all-round deterioration in the system of education. Schools, colleges, universities, including Central and state, stand decimated due to lack of adequate resources, both financial and professional. Do we expect quality improvement in innovations and research in higher education with 40-60 per cent vacant positions in universities? While states clamour for more Central funds, significant percentage of Central funds remain unutilised in most cases. There is reluctance to contribute the state share in Centrally funded schemes.
Now that India has entered the era of great expectations and high aspirations, an environment of faith in effective reforms could be created among the people and teaching community. Major problems and concerns could now be visualised as great opportunities to create a better India. Let it begin simultaneously from schools to universities. Instead of awaiting reforms coming only through the government initiative, now is the time for renewed people’s initiatives to come forward and offer their support and inputs in this reform process. Communities are traditionally willing to assist schools. One of the major factors in the decline of work culture in educational institutions is its rather total isolation from the community. School-community mutuality needs to be recreated. While there are several formal provisions like Village Education Committees and Parent Teacher Associations, their efficacy remains glaringly deficient. These initiatives would get a boost if the newly elected MPs take a pledge to give their electorates functional schools and colleges within the next two years. If basic essentials are not provided for institutions, the efforts to formulate new educational policy and putting forth new syllabi and textbooks would create little impact in reforming the system. firstname.lastname@example.org