NEW DELHI: The Union Human Resource Development Ministry has given a go-ahead to set up state-level regulatory bodies to ensure standardised levels of quality, safety and ‘rationalized fee structures’ in schools in every state.
The clause which was part of the original draft national education policy (NEP) prepared by a panel headed by former Indian Space Research Organisation chief K Kasturirangan, has been retained in the version of the NEP that is set to be sent for the Union Cabinet’s approval, despite resistance from some states.
The proposed state school regulatory authorities is meant to ensure minimum levels of safety, security, basic infrastructure, the number of teachers across subjects and grades apart from also regulating fee structures in private schools. The parameters for these specific areas will be prepared by the State Council for Educational Research and Training, the policy document says.
“During consultation with states on NEP sometime ago, some states had opposed such a body saying the existing body of department of school education (DSE) is sufficient, but the Centre did not agree with that,” a ministry official told this newspaper.
Currently, all three main functions of governance and regulation of the school education system — the provision of public education, the regulation of educational institutions, and policy-making — are handled by a single body — DSE or its arms, district and block level education officers.
“This leads to harmful conflicts of interest and excessive centralised concentrations of power; it also leads to ineffective management of the school system, as efforts toward educational provision are often diluted by the focus on the other roles, particularly regulation that the DSE must perform,” the modified NEP says.
The tweaked and shortened version of the NEP says that the current regulatory regime also has not been able to curb the rampant commercialisation and economic exploitation of parents by many for-profit private schools, yet at the same time it has all too often inadvertently discouraged public-spirited private or philanthropic schools.
“There has been far too much asymmetry between the regulatory approaches to public and private schools, even though the goals of both types of schools should be the same: to provide a quality education,” the NEP says.
School education experts, meanwhile, pointed out that no concrete suggestions have been made in the policy to explain why promoting private schools - philanthropic or otherwise - is needed. "The focus should have remained on strengthening government schools. The stated intention of the policy to address commercialisation of education is welcome, but it is not clear how the policy seeks to ensure that," said educationist Anjela Taneja.
"All schools are, by law, already expected to be not for profit, but research, CAG reports and experience points towards widespread manipulation of accounts to hide profits and other financial irregularities," Taneja added.