Government may drop plan to set up PM-led national education commission

The Union government is likely to drop its plan to set up a National Education Commission (NEC), which was to be led by the Prime Minister, after objections by several states, including Gujarat.

During a meeting with the human resource development ministry, education ministers from several states opposed the idea, saying it will centralize power with the Centre and it runs against the federal character of the country, according to the official records of the meeting, a copy of which Mint has reviewed. The development was also confirmed by two officials, who sought anonymity.

The draft national education policy had proposed setting up of a Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA), or the NEC, as the apex education body with the Prime Minister as its chairman, and the human resource development minister as vice-chairman.

“The proposal has hit a roadblock after some states, including Gujarat and Kerala, opposed the idea in the central advisory board on education meeting. The main contention is centralized decisionmaking on education is not welcome and nor implementable at the state level,” said the first official.

The second official said since NEC was part of the draft national education policy (NEP) and proposed by a drafting committee, it should not be construed as final. “The draft NEP is being fine tuned at the HRD ministry before being sent to the union cabinet for approval. NEC’s idea may not be pursued in the best interest of all,” he added.

During the meeting, Gujarat education minister B.M. Chudasama “stated that there was no need to constitute the national education commission, RSA and state school regulating authority”, the HRD ministry’s record showed.

Similarly, C. Raveendranath, general education minister of Kerala, said the RSA will promote centralization of power and should be withdrawn.

“Emphasizing federal structure of the country he (Raveendranath) raised serious implications of this policy, which is leading towards centralization, and against the fundamental structure of the country…RSA will finally result in concentration of power so this should be withdrawn,” the official record showed. Manipur’s education minister said any RSA plan has to be in accordance with the Constitution.

As per the Constitution, education is a concurrent subject with most of the responsibility in the hands of states and Union territories.

In the draft education policy prepared by the K. Kasturirangan committee, RSA, or NEC, has been proposed as the “highest body…under the responsibility of the prime minister himself/herself so that in his/her role as the highest functionary of the government of the country, the prime minister can bring his/her authority to create the necessary synergies and provide direction to this national endeavour, as a part of the country’s overall vision of a knowledge society”.

According to the draft policy, the current governance of education in India is not effective and “against this backdrop, there is a need to revisit the existing system of governance, its structures and leadership mechanisms”.

“In this context, the (draft) policy envisages the creation of a NEC/RSA as an apex body for Indian education. As the highest level functionary of the government, the prime minister will chair this body and bring to bear the vision of education and the authority of the office in directing the educational endeavour. Also, such a step would ensure the necessary cohesion and synergy between the multiple dimensions of education in the country,” the draft policy added.

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