REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE FOR REVIEW OF NATIONAL POLICY ON
EDUCATION 1986, FINAL REPORT


 
PREFACE
 


When on the 7th May, 1990 the Government of India announced the appointment of a Committee 'to review the National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986, there were people who asked why this hurry in instituting a review even before the expiry of the stipulated period of five years.

The question is legitimate. But the reasons that ,influenced the decision of the Government have been given in the resolution of the Government itself. It says:

"Despite efforts at social and economic development since attainment of independence, a majority of our people continue to remain deprived of education. It is also a matter of grave concern that our people comprise 50 per cent of the world's illiterate, and large sections of children have to go without acceptable level of primary education. Government accords the highest priority to education both as a human right and as the means for bringing about a transformation towards a more humane and enlightened society. There is need to make education an effective instrument for securing a status of equality for women, and persons belonging to the backward classes and minorities. Moreover, it is essential to give a work and employment orientation to education and to exclude from it the elitist aberrations which have become the glaring characteristic of the educational scene. Educational institutions are increasingly being influenced by casteism, communalism and obscurantism and it is necessary to lay special emphasis on struggle against this phenomenon and to move towards a genuinely egalitarian and secular social order. The National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986 needs to be reviewed to evolve a framework which would enable the country to move towards this perspective of education."

obviously, the basic concerns mentioned here are:

one, provision of education of a minimum quality to all children;

two, removal of illiteracy;

three, struggle against petty parochial passions and prejudice;

four, social transformation towards equality;

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five, orientation of education to work and employment.

These concerns are not new except the Right to Work now being sought to be enshrined in the Constitution. They were there when The Challenge of Education was written in 1985 and The National Policy on Education formulated in 1986. While The Challenge of Education felt that 'the present scenario is an indication of the failure of the education system', the Policy On Education stressed the need 'to make education a forceful tool' for its two roles I combative and positive During the four years since 1986 the situation has grown much worse. Everywhere there is economic discontent, cultural decay, and social disintegration. The youth are in revolt. Violence is fast becoming a way of life. But, in spite of concerns expressed from time to time,. not much success has attended our feeble efforts to arrest the descent downhill. The nation is faced today with a crisis of many dimensions. Its very survival is threatened. In the total crisis of the nation, along with Politics, Business, and Religion, Education has its full share. Why has failed to play the role that every Commission or Committee appointed since independence has assigned to it is the first question.

One fundamental reason for failure has been that while we go on making radical protestations, our education to this day continues to be governed by the same assumptions, goals and values that governed it in the days of the British Raj. The British believed in the 'downward filtration theory' under which education and culture would inevitably flow from the classes to the masses. They kept the common people away from education, and education away from life. But things have not much changed since they left. Even today the principal beneficiaries of our education are the upper and middle classes. To them also we give a wrong education. Our formal system remains confined to the f our walls of a school or college. It is tied down to textbooks and examinations. Even then the books are unreadable and the examinations totally unreliable. The courses of study are so framed that the students are not equipped with any productive skills. Whatever education they receive cuts them off from their natural and social environment. They become aliens to their own community. They lose faith in life itself. What Jayaprakashji wrote in 1978 still holds true. According to him ,it also converts them into a parasitic class which perpetuates and even intensifies the poverty of the masses. The system has failed to promote individual growth. It also becomes more of a hindrance than a help to bring about an egalitarian transformation'. If this be true, can we say that we have basically departed from the Macaulay tradition? And, if this is what our education has done to us, one may well ask, is not no education better than bad education?

The other important reason is that our education has been a routine sectoral activity left to the initiative and judgement of specialists at the desk, controlled and , guided by those far removed from where people live and work. The whole system is so completely centralised that little, if any, initiative is left to people even at State or district levels.Education co-related to life has to be linked to clearly defined social objectives and comprehensive strategies. But the whole approach of government activities is sectoral, so much so that the different policies of the Government such as educational agricultural, industrial, forest, water, or even a policy for scheduled castes and tribes, do not refer to each other, and are often even mutually contradictory. They are, in fact, designed to attain objectives internal to their respective sectors, and not to any fundamental social objectives. The result is that the only option left is expansion without proper thought to quality or relevance. So, our education has expanded without thought to quality or relevance.

One may admit that for this situation education alone is not responsible. During the last forty-three years we have pursued a model of economic development that has led to the creation of two Indias - one of the rich, the other of the poor. A new privileged class has come into being. It holds monopoly over political and economic power and sources of wealth. It controls culture and education. It is firmly established everywhere. It is this class whose interests our education is made to serve. The result is that as in economy so in education, two parallel systems have come into being one for the rich, the other for the poor. No wonder, a divided education finds itself totally devitalised, and incapable of meeting the challenges of independent India's national life. To the rise and growth of this class, holding sway over the whole range of national affairs, can be traced most of the ills we are faced with - the erosion of social and moral values, weakening of democracy, the partisan character of our development, corruption and a number of other elitist aberrations. It is responsible for the impoverishment of the nation's very soul. It is, therefore, time the nation, most of all education, took serious note of this phenomenon, and guarded against further damage to national life.

It is clear that the present system of education, in terms of education for the people, has outlived its utility, whatever it ever had. But before we have a new pattern of education we must have a new model of development. In a country like ours, with vast areas of backwardness, economic, social, educational, development, democracy, and education have to go together. They have to be woven together in an integrated programme of transformation and reconstruction. Peaceful transformation is an organic process in which economy and education cannot work in isolation with each other. Take for example the Right to Work. Even if it is enshrined in the Constitution, it is the economy alone that can create

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opportunities of employment; education can only empower people for work. This is the principal reason why, despite, growing unemployment, vocational education has not become popular. Economy failed to create jobs, so vocational training became meaningless. If people have to be equipped for self-employment there must be a national policy to decentralise processes of production, guarantee wages and incomes, safeguard the interests of the small producers against the onslaught of centralised industry and metropolitan economy, and ensure growth with-equity. Similarly if education has to make worthwhile contribution to national unity, it must be accompanied by a, programme I of strengthening local communities down to village or, muhalla levels. It is at those levels that people have to learn to live and work together. Real stable unity can be achieved only through a process of cooperation and sharing. The lessons and values of co-existence are not learnt through exhortations. So also, strengthening of local communities is linked with the development of a common or neighbourhood school system. Life at the community level is inter-related. It cannot be cut up into compartments. Similarly the education of harijans, adivasis, or other backward communities must go along with such measures to end poverty as land-reforms, cheap housing, and village industrialisation so that in a plan of agro- industrial rural economy a dependable means of livelihood could be guaranteed to every family. A struggle against poverty is fundamentally a struggle against ignorance and injustice. It includes a struggle against parochial passions, inequity, ill-health and illiteracy. For the poor development, democracy, and education should mean emancipation.

Once the fact of the inter-relatedness of our life and its problems is recognised, the need for developing a holistic and participatory approach becomes clear, not only in education, but in development and democracy also. Participation must go beyond government departments and reach the people in villages and muhallas. While there should be understanding and coordination among departments, there should be active participation among the people themselves. The NPE '86, and before it the Kothari Commission, have repeatedly referred to development and democracy in relation to education. The problem is how to inter-relate them into a programme and deliver it to the people as a package.

Let us take an example. The way to do it would be to treat the village itself as a unit for an integrated programme of education, democracy, and development. The Panchayati Raj Bill, 1990 proposes that each village will have a Gramsabha composed of all the adults in the villages male and female. It will have wide powers and functions. As a representative of the village this Gramsabha may be asked to prepare a plan of development including education for the village with its own priorities. As part of the village plan, each family will have its own small plan. The Gramsabha will make sure that its whole village plan provides for each family a dependable means of livelihood - land for agriculture, cattle for dairying, tools for crafts, or other

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means of gainful employment. The Gramsabha itself will be responsible for implementing the plan. As for resources, the funds available for all the different development and education schemes - there is quite a number of them - may be pooled and placed at the disposal of the Gramsabha which may form its own committees to look after different activities.

Inspite of 'narrow domestic walls' separating people the village is an organic whole. When its Gramsabha as a planning and implementing body starts functioning it will provide an object lesson in participatory, face-to-face, democracy. In the discharge of its responsibilities it will soon know how to agree inspite of differences, how to quarrel and resolve conflicts, and how to mobilise resources for common good, and so on. People will also learn from experience that virtues like tolerance, honesty and openness are not only good but useful too. As the work progresses and development mindedness grows and problems arise the village people will realise that without education and training progress is not possible. Writing the muster roll, keeping records, handling money, measuring dug earth, calculating wages, repairing the pumping set or implements, protecting crops, increasing the yield of milk, first-aid to simple injuries, and a lot of other problems will create a situation in which there will be a compelling demand for know-how, for information, for literacy, functional and general, and training in a number of skills.

It will be a challenging situation. Our present-day administrators and teachers are not equipped to meet it. They have thought that the village itself could become a school for which all the intellectual and productive resources available in the village itself and its neighbourhood would have to be mobilised. In a village becoming a school those who are educated will teach; those who have skill will train; those who have experience will guide and enlighten. The engineer, the doctor, the accountant, the mechanic, the social worker and others, retired or serving, will have their place in a scheme of education that a situation like this demands. It will be participatory education for life through life. It will be fully co- related to productive work, and natural and social environment. Otherwise it will be no education at all.

one may ask, how will the children be educated? They will be formally educated in the regular village school which may be called a Gramshala. The children will work with their parents according to their capacity. In the afternoon or in the morning as convenient, they will attend their Gramshala for two to three hours for formal and graded education. The Gramshala will hold separate classes for youngmen and adults in the evening. For an hour the adults may discuss their common problems. Another hour may be devoted to literacy or something else. The nearest middle or high school will be equipped with a science laboratory and a workshop for special courses in subjects like mechanical skills, functioning of the Gramsabha and Panchayat, development planning, Anthyodaya, mobilization and use of resources,

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accounting, and number of other related subjects.

India lives in its villages. That is the great mantra that Gandhiji gave us. It is there that our producers live, voters live, the poor and the illiterate live. It is the villages that hold the key to the country's problems. So vision of future India can be greater than to rebuild its half-a-million villages. The irony is that in terms of the teeming millions inhabiting these villages our development, our democracy, and our education have all become irrelevant. But once we decide to approach them in the right spirit they are bound to respond, and rise to end their suffering. It may be that in the first phase selected homogeneous SC/ST and other backward villages may have to be taken up. In case whole villages do not come forward in the beginning, then mutual-aid teams may have to be formed. Naturally in the whole process of rebuilding villages education will have the most vital part to play, because it alone can prepare people's minds to receive new ideas, and accept new tools, new relationships, and new forms of organisation.

When, in 1937, Gandhiji presented his Scheme of education he called it NAI TALIM, New Education. He knew that a new India would need a new education. His Nai Talim was education transformed to build a new social order based on truth and non-violence. If we do want our education to become a 'forceful tool' for social transformation there is no way except to adopt the essential features of Nai Talim with such adaptations as may be necessary to meet contemporary needs. One obvious need is to arrest the almost complete erosion of social and moral values. Truth and non-violence are everlasting spiritual values that we have inherited from our past, but when applied to real life, they come closest to the values of modern science and democracy. There are sure indications in the world of thought that sooner than later ground may be prepared for an integration between science (truth) and spirituality (unity of life). Democracy (non-violence) may be a link between the two. That may well lay the foundations of a new culture, far different from the one in which we are living. For a brighter India of tomorrow we need a new culture which combines the best in both science and spirituality. Let our transformed education show the way.

Participatory education, participatory development, and participatory democracy will be possible only when we decide upon a policy of planned decentralisation. Decentralisation does not mean merely devolution of certain functions from the centre to lower levels of administration. It is, in fact, concerned with the role of the State vis-a-vis the civil society. It involves a clear shift of power from the former to the latter. There is no denying that during the last forty years there have been failures both in centralisation and decentralisation as forms of governance. But in a democracy people have, after all, to be trusted. The future lies with them. If democracy has to live, it is their power that has to be developed, and not of the State. For this the necessary objective conditions have to

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be created. To ensure social justice and other democratic values local communities have to be strengthened, and their social processes regenerated. They must be left free to decide and run the whole show of local life. one great advantage of doing so will be that local conflicts - there is no end to them will become more manageable. Centralisation has proved divisive, and if persisted in, it will create more divisions, and will ultimately break up our society, and destroy the unity of the country. Less of state and more of civil society is the answer to many of our political, social and moral ills. We have trusted the voter and he has not betrayed democracy,. Let us trust the citizen, and he will not betray the values of a civil and humane society. We have spent forty-three years on building the state, let us now start building the nation. In this process education must attain primacy. It must become Power. Education as Power is. too important to be left to specialists alone.

In the body of the report, under decentralisation, we have suggested the formation of Educational Complexes. The fact is that all the agencies working in rural areas - the panchayats and gramasabhas, voluntary organisations, the educational institutions and government departments, as also enlightened citizens in the greater cause of building the nation. It should not be difficult to do so at the level of the local community.

Our people have so far depended upon the State alone to bring about the needed educational and social transformation. The result has been far from happy. The experience of the past forty- three years has shown that the State in India still represents, by and large, the haves and the upper and middle classes and that the representatives of the weaker sections play only a minor role therein. This has led to growing alienation between the masses and the elite in all spheres of national life. That explains why there is resistance to all changes that would affect the position of the privileged classes, e.g. the introduction of the common school system or increase in fees, or again emphasis on elementary education in preference to secondary and higher education. The contradictions produced by politico-economic and educational systems are too glaring. The situation is fast is fast becoming explosive, if not reversed in time, the consequences will be tragic.

      

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