Changing education landscape in Karnataka: 2023

While there were some bumps along the way, the government fulfilled its promise of extending the midday meal scheme to classes 9 and 10 students.
Image used for representational purpose. (Express Illustrations)
Image used for representational purpose. (Express Illustrations)

BENGALURU: Looking back as the year draws to a close, the education sector in 2023 underwent significant changes to set the tone for the newly elected Siddaramaiah government for the coming years.

The government aims to improve the functionality of schools, colleges, universities and the department as a whole. Staying true to their manifesto promises, the government scrapped the National Education Policy (NEP 2020) and introduced the State Education Policy (SEP), leaving not just the students but also the administration confused and in a state of disagreement at many levels.

The state government issued an order constituting a 15-member SEP Commission, headed by former UGC chairman Sukhdev Thorat. The much-awaited report, expected to be out in February 2024, aims to be a ‘comprehensive and futuristic’ education policy for Karnataka addressing both short- and long-term challenges of the education system in the state.

The Higher Education Department, however, faced much more severe push-back from the universities in the state.

Minister for Primary Education and Literacy Madhu Bangarappa took over the department with a renewed vigour and announced three board exams for students in Grade 10 and Grade 12, doing away with the Main and Supplementary Examinations and issuing orders for changes in textbooks.

It will be implemented in the coming year when the exams will be held between March and April 2024.

While parents and experts reserved their opinions, the department said it is a “student-friendly” system, and that the new rules would help students improve their scores and retain the best marks from the three board exams.

While there were some bumps along the way, the government fulfilled its promise of extending the midday meal scheme to classes 9 and 10 students, and providing eggs twice a week for students in government and aided schools in the state.

The year also saw many protests from students and teachers on several issues, like the five guarantee schemes affecting student scholarships, guest teachers and midday meal workers going on strike against low remuneration and controversies around the ChatGPT tool impacting education.

The NEP-SEP debate also brought about conflicting views among academics. Other issues such as high dropout rates, the digital divide, and some questionable practices coming to light with the Police Sub Inspector (PSI) recruitment scam, made the year for education a roller coaster ride.

Despite some hiccups, the state tried to give importance to teaching and research, as well as making education more accessible to students in rural areas through several initiatives.

Higher Education Minister MC Sudhakar, putting an end to the hijab controversy, allowed students to wear them during examinations. Blaming the previous government’s haphazard work in building new universities with no growing demand, Sudhakar said the focus will be on improving infrastructure and regulating mushrooming engineering colleges in Tier-1 cities.

The Karnataka High Court also sought a change in school timings in Bengaluru given the traffic congestion but was turned down by all stakeholders.

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