NEP Developments, Jan-Oct 2015
Beginning in 2014, the MHRD Minister, Ms.Smriti Irani, had reiterated on many occasions that the New Education Policy document would be based on extensive substate, and state consultations and would be ready by December 2015. With this ambitious goal and deadline in view, by April 2015 MHRD had prepared and circulated among the states a detailed plan – content and schedule of various types of consultations leading up to the production of the 2015 NEP document.
As delineated in the previous section, Official Documents, MHRD visualized a bottom-up approach to the development of the NEP, beginning with village level meetings and then moving upwards with meetings at block, district, state and ending with zonal level consultations. These meetings were to be complemented by other consultations to be organised by academic institutions and other expert bodies at state and national level. Details of this strategy, and also the largely pre-determined themes and content, framing these discussions were provided by MHRD and are delineated in the previous subsection, Official Documents
Vast Majority of these MHRD-Planned Grassroots Consultations Were not Held : Those Held were Completely Behind Schedule
By August 2015, approximately 2.6 lakh consultations at the gram panchayat, block and local urban body level were to have been held. The official NEP website indicated that less than 1% of these consultations had been completed. While the meetings were actually scheduled to begin in June, in most states, the process had just started or was planned to be held, or had provided no information.
An update on the NEP website indicated that by September 2, 2015, when scheduled NEP consultations in all 669 districts were to have been also completed, the August figure rose to less than 8%. Only 7.5 % of all scheduled School Education meetings were held, while the corresponding figure for Higher Education was only 1.1%.
To maximize the number of consultations, MHRD went on overdrive since September’15, which included Ms Irani – the Union HRD minister – holding video conferences and personally traveling to the states. Though, between September and October the number of consultations dramatically increased, almost 75 % of the scheduled meetings were not held by October 30, 2015.
The following table attempts to review the progress of implementation of the ongoing NEP consultations by the end of October 2015
| Type of NEP Consultations
|Schedule of Implementation||Progress of Consultations Implementation|
Gram Panchayat to State Consultations on School and Higher Education
By September end , all 268,403 meetings on School and Higher Education were scheduled to be held, and recommendations posted
The official MHRD website indicates as of Oct. 30, only 25% of all meetings were held – 25.5% of School Ed, and 15.7 % of Higher Ed. Only 3 States reported completing all consultations by October 30. Unclear how many of the commendations of the meetings were actually then posted on MyGov portal as required, but the figure would have been lower than25% of all consultations.
|Six Regional /Zonal Consultations of Groups of States||Oct.-Nov., 2015|| Only 1 Consultation – North Zone – was held despite most of the participating states notcompleting their required gram panchayat to state level meetings
|Thematic discussions||April-Sept.,2015 for 100 State and 12 National Level Consultations||Data on how many held not provided, but are behind schedule as these thematic discussions continued in October and are still ongoing
|Thematic Online discussions||Launched in Jan.26, 2014 and ongoing||29,109 online suggestions posted on the MyGov.in portal as of November 3, 2015.|
Limited Participation of Stakeholders and Limitations in the Quality of Consultations
The task of trying to get about 2.7 lakh local, state, zonal and national meetings completed by the end of October, 2015 and also get all their recommendations posted was always an MHRD exercise in fantasy.
As indicated in the table provided above, less than 25 % of all consultations had been completed, despite the strenuous efforts of the Union HRD Minister and the MHRD Department between September and October. At the field level, the consequences of MHRD cracking of the whip to maximize the number of zonal, state and intra-state meetings has been captured in the October 30 report in the press on the situation in Chandigarh.
Local meetings, whose recommendations were to have been considered at the North Zone conference, were only held the day before this larger consultation. Moreover, SMC members from NGOs were not invited for the local meetings. Most schools were not aware of the themes. Many who attended were not even aware of the purpose of the local meetings. This is partly because even the goal of the NEP is not stated in the NEP documents listing merely questions on various themes for discussion.
Anecdotal evidence indicates a similar pattern for the state and substate consultations held in other parts of the country. The focus of the organizers – state and local government education officials – was to meet new and impossible MHRD deadlines. Consequently, these meetings were orchestrated and dominated by government education officers and other officials, and mostly attended by government school principals and teachers, government invitees and some School Management Committee members.
Moreover, this meeting of new MHRD has involved state and local education officials convening meetings hastily without adequate preparation and then scrambling to finalise the consultation recommendations and reports, as soon as possible, so that they could be uploaded without delay on the MyGov portal.
Since many states had not completed their meetings, another consequence of this delay and lack of preparation was that the 6 key zonal documents to produce the Draft NEP in the original MHRD strategy never materialised. But on the official NEP website, all of the 6 zonal conferences covering every state and union territory was completed in 6 three-hour video conferences between September and October,2016!!
Deficiencies in Other Consultations
Thematic consultations were conducted by the ministry along with institutions like the University Grants Commission, All India Council for Technical Education, National Council for Teacher Education, National Council for Educational Research and Training and several centrally-funded universities and institutions.
The problem with many of these thematic consultations by apex national institutions were that their discussion agendas were straight jacketed, like the grassroots and state meetings, by the MHRD-list of themes and discussion points. Moreover, they were also for the most part essentially in-house deliberations with limited inputs from outside education networks, NGOs, academicians and experts. Finally, they were essentially recommendation-creating exercises on isolated issues, without taking a holistic and critical view of the many challenges confronting the educational system.
The least useful and trivial of the contributions were most of the approximately 29,000 online suggestions posted by the public. Not only constrained by the MHRD themes, the content of their suggestions were for the most part brief and limited, and were the views of those limited numbers of members of the public with access to the Internet.
An entire Section of this blog is devoted to the critiques of the content of the official NEP documents prepared by MHRD in early 2015 to structure the discussions in the meetings that were to follow, and the subsequent processes and outcomes of these MHRD-orchestrated consultations.
The specific subsection is Links/References to NEP Grassroots, State and National Consultations/Process and MHRD Official NEP Documents and Guidelines, May 2015 to October 2015