Policy is a statement by the regulatory body or the government. It can only be used beneficially if It is implementable smoothly and devoid of the frequent need to revise. Alas, these are being done on an adhoc or even annual basis and sometime even during the course of a ongoing curriculum in universities; just because a different political party has assumed charge. Does it not indicate the inertia or paralysis of the policy? Can we tolerate chaos in education policy when we pay for it at exorbitant price.
And why should it not direct the education system for the good of the all citizens impartially? Haven’t we seen excellent talent in the slums already? Of course, reasonable profit making will not hurt anyone but vulgar ? What we expect the policy to be? Among the others it should define inclusive targets for each level of education. If reservations are required, so be it, but politicians should lay down dates when reservations would stop. If the policy is parochial then that’s the end of it.
The policy will become unwieldy if it attempts to go into the nitty-gritty of the content design, infrastructure, processes of admissions or examinations, the teaching methods or the selection of teachers. For these executive bodies already exist in the country. In the past, political leaders and the executives have been accused of corruption in the recruitment of teachers, their placements, or for allotment of lands; this speaks volumes of disinterest in the purpose of education. It becomes a part of the chaos.
In particular, the policy should lay down rules of engagement for both the government institutes and the corporate conglomerates who undertake educational ventures. The question is what should be regulated and what kept to the discretion of the institutes.
The Core Issues in Policy
The fundamental issue in education is how to manage the large volumes for primary education, and how to fund the expensive infrastructure for the higher education.
Doctrines and Targets – Educating is as much a political consideration as it is socio-economic. Every major change in political regime (perhaps every 5 years) requires a re look at the education policy, particularly for percentage of population inclusion and how the party looks at manufacturing, agriculture or service sector.
Funding Methodology – Universal primary education requires mammoth funding since it must meet the conditions of inclusiveness. Securing funding for this level is more difficult than for the higher levels because corporate doesn’t see any returns from primary schools. Charitable institutions that take of these institution are sporadic and temporary in nature and long-term dependence on them is unlikely. The policy should therefore elaborate on the rules of engagement for subsidies and taxation etc, so that funding can become a win-win situation for all.
Belief System – If the government promotes itself as a secular state then it must ensure that the religious schools are restricted from tuning the young minds towards fundamentalism. A balanced view is required on the modern ethics, morality and law keeping in mind the attitudes of the modern youth. What must be encouraged and what not, must be laid down lucidly.
Polarization – is a menace in our society, but if is allowed to influence the education curriculum or syllabuses it will bring in degradation in character for generations. The polarization factors are religion, language, region and reservations.
Teachers – Primary education needs numerous teachers; able, noble and motivated. The policy must make provisions for recruitment of adequate teachers, with satisfactory compensations and reasonable work timings for them. The role of women in teaching should not be oblivious to their role, commitments and responsibilities as mothers for their own children.
Computers and Internet – Although there is general proliferation of computers and internet in the society, there is still a large scope in deploying these technologies for education. In fact, there is no uniformity in how computers and internet are deployed in different schools, colleges and universities. Things are left to the fancy of individuals who show some inadequate knowledge of the subject. Conservative or fearful approach to information technology will hamper the optimization that we could achieve in resource utilization of teachers, facilities, and other aspects that require funding. The catch is that the knowledge imparted through these devices should be authentic, well paced, creative and not addictive. It should reduce the student’s burden on time, travel and expenses.
Meetings and Conclaves
The process of policy making is important as well. Who makes these policies, what processes are followed for this exercise.
The forums and conclaves, one could call them meetings, seminars or anything else, are generally attended by a lop-sided gathering. In official meetings, one sees the presence of corporate. In commercial seminars business partners are present. The representation from administrators and teachers is generally scanty. The press is always present.
In the end, participants are unaware of the grass root level issues and difficulties therefore their priorities are generally skewed. In one such meeting for primary education, a representative of the tribal area asked the logic for attaching proofs of residences for the tribal students in different application forms, when such a document is not available in general. Another representative demanded the answer for charging the computers with electricity in remote villages where electricity was not available for days. And decision makers, were planning to introduce more automation in education at the remote schools!
In this meeting, Dr Abdul Kalam was also was present!
In such meetings participants have personal axes to grind; mangers looking for ease of implementation, intellectuals wanting to promote a certain subject, businesspersons looking at profit making avenues and regulator too thinking about joint ventures with the corporate. Speakers over stress a particular aspect as if their experience is more relevant and their recommendation, just the perfect fit. The official seminars suffer from the authoritative attitude of those in the chair and hours are wasted for recording minutes. Seminars, if commercial, have no standard method of submitting findings and proposals to the authorities. Imagine if hundreds of such conferences are conducted with hundreds of viewpoints, how can a policy be drafted!
Details and not guidelines
In policy meetings, four issues are generally discussed, content, infrastructure, teachers and methods. Executive thinking of the government focuses on increasing the number of schools, conducting training on teaching methods, formulating innovative syllabi and improving the system of admissions and examinations as the recommended props for good education. They are dead right. It is just that these are details not guidelines. The crux of the educational challenge is not merely dealing with the numbers or techniques, but the question whether our system is able to deliver to the society down there worthy individuals with the required traits of character and the ability to perform professionally, built in.