The Ministry of Human Resource Development released the draft National Education Policy, 2016 in July this year. The Ministry was receiving comments on the draft policy until the end of September 2016. In this context, we provide an overview of the proposed framework in the draft Policy to address challenges in the education sector. The country’s education policy was last revised in 1992. It outlined equitable access to quality education, with a common educational structure of 10+2+3 years. The draft Policy 2016 aims to create an education system which ensures quality education and learning opportunities for all. The focus areas of intervention of the draft Policy are: (i) access and participation, (ii) quality of education, (iii) curriculum and examination reforms, (iv) teacher development and management and (v) skill development and employability. Through these key interventions, the draft Policy provides a framework for the development of education in the country over the next few years. We discuss the key areas of intervention below.
Access and participation Presently in the country, enrolment at pre-school levels for children between the ages of 3- 5 years is low. 38% of children in this age bracket are enrolled in pre-school education in government anganwadi centres, while 27% of the children are not attending any (either government or private) pre-school. In contrast, the enrolment rate in primary education, which is class 1-5, is almost 100%. However, this reduces to 91% in classes 6-8 and 78% in classes 9-12. The trend of lower enrolment rates is seen in higher education (college and university level), where it is at 24%. Due to low enrolment rates after class 5, transition of students from one level to the next is a major challenge. Figure 1 shows the enrolment rates across different education levels. With regard to improving participation of children in pre-school education, the draft Policy aims to start a program for children in the pre-school age group which will be implemented in coordination with the Ministry of Women and Child Development. It also aims to strengthen pre-school education in anganwadis by developing learning materials and training anganwadi workers. Presently, the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 applies to elementary education only. To improve access to education, the draft Policy suggests bringing secondary education under the ambit of the RTE Act. However, a strategy to increase enrolment across different levels of education has not been specified. Quality of education A large number of children leave school before passing class eight. In 2013-14, the proportion of students who dropped out from classes 1-8 was 36% and from classes 1-10 was 47%.3 Figure 2 shows the proportion of students who exited the school system in classes 1-8 in 2008-09 and 2013-14. Among the population of children who stay in school, the quality or level of learning is low. The Economic Survey 2015-16 noted that the proportion of class 3 children able to solve simple two-digit subtraction problems fell from 26% in 2013 to 25% in 2014. Similarly, the percentage of class two children who cannot recognize numbers up to 9 increased from 11.3% in 2009 to 19.5% in 2014. To address the issue of learning levels in school going children, the draft Policy proposes that norms for learning outcomes should be developed and applied uniformly to both private and government schools. In addition, it also recommends that the existing no-detention policy (promoting all students of a class to the next class, regardless of academic performance) till class 8 be amended and limited to class 5. At the upper primary stage (class six onward), the system of detention should be restored. Curriculum and examination reforms It has been noted that the current curriculum followed in schools does not help students acquire relevant skills which are essential to become employable. The draft Policy highlights that the assessment practices in the education system focus on rote learning and testing the students’ ability to reproduce content knowledge, rather than on understanding. The draft Policy aims to restructure the present assessment system to ensure a more comprehensive evaluation of students, and plans to include learning outcomes that relate to both scholastic and co-scholastic domains. In order to reduce failure rates in class 10, the Policy proposes to conduct examination for the subjects of mathematics, science and English in class 10 at two levels. The two levels will be part A (at a higher level) and part B (at a lower level). Students who wish to opt for a vocational stream or courses for which mathematics, science and English are not compulsory may opt for part B level examination. Teacher development and management It has been observed that the current teacher education and training programs are inadequate in imparting the requisite skills to teachers. The mismatch between institutional capacity to train teachers and required supply in schools results in a shortage of qualified teachers. At the level of classes 9-12, the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan prescribes a teacher-pupil ratio of 1:30. However, some states have a higher teacher-pupil ratio: Chhattisgarh (1:45), Bihar (1:57) and Jharkhand (1:68).3 In various central universities, the total number of sanctioned teaching posts is 16,339, of which 37% are lying vacant. The draft Policy recommends that state governments should set up independent teacher recruitment commissions to facilitate transparent, merit based recruitment of principals, teachers, and other academic staff. For teacher development, a Teacher Education University should be set up at the national level to focus on teacher education and faculty development. In addition, the draft Policy also states that all teacher education institutes must have mandatory accreditation. To ensure effective teacher management, periodic assessment of teachers in government and private schools should be carried out and linked to their future promotions and increments. Skill development and employability It has been noted that the current institutional arrangements to support technical and vocational education programs for population below 25 years of age is inadequate. The social acceptability of vocational education is also low. Presently, over 62% of the population in the country is in the working age-group (15-59 years). Only 10% of this workforce (7.4 crore) is trained, which includes about 3% who are formally trained and 7% who are informally trained. In developed countries, skilled workforce is between 60-90% of the total workforce. The draft Policy proposes to integrate skill development programs in 25% of schools and higher education institutions in the country. This is in line with the National Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Policy that was released by the government in 2015. The draft Policy 2016 focuses on important aspects that have not been addressed in previous policies such as: (i) curriculum and examination reforms, and (ii) teacher development . Although the Policy sets a framework for improving education in the country, the various implementation strategies that will be put in place to achieve the education outcomes envisaged by it remains to be seen. For an analysis on some education indicators such as enrolment of students, drop-out rates, availability of teachers and share of government and private schools, please see our Vital Stats on the ‘overview of the education sector’ here.  Some Inputs for Draft National Education Policy 2016, Ministry of Human Resource Development, http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/Inputs_Draft_NEP_2016.pdf.  Rapid Survey on Children, 2013-14, Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India, http://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/RSOC%20FACT%20SHEETS%20Final.pdf.  Secondary education in India, U-DISE 2014-15, National University of Educational Planning and Administration, http://www.dise.in/Downloads/Publications/Documents/SecondaryFlash%20Statistics-2014-15.pdf.  All India Survey on Higher Education 2014-15, http://aishe.nic.in/aishe/viewDocument.action?documentId=197.  Economic Survey 2015-16, Volume-2, http://indiabudget.nic.in/es2015-16/echapvol2-09.pdf.  Overview, Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, Ministry of Human Resource Development, http://mhrd.gov.in/rmsa.  “265th Report: Demands for Grants (Demand No. 60) of the Department of Higher Education”, Standing Committee on Human Resource Development, April 2013, 2015, http://220.127.116.11/newcommittee/reports/EnglishCommittees/Committee%20on%20HRD/265.pdf.  “Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship: Key Achievements and Success Stories in 2015”, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Press Information Bureau, December 15, 2015.  Draft Report of the Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on Skill Development, NITI Aayog, September 2015, http://niti.gov.in/mgov_file/Final%20report%20%20of%20Sub-Group%20Report%20on%20Skill%20Development.pdf.  Economic Survey 2014-15, Volume 2, http://indiabudget.nic.in/es2014-15/echapter-vol2.pdf.
The Uttarakhand Assembly concluded a two-day session on November 30, 2022. The session was scheduled to be held over five days. In this post we look at the legislative business that was carried out in the Assembly, and the state of state legislatures.
13 Bills were introduced and passed within two days
As per the Session Agenda, a total of 19 Bills were listed for introduction in the span of two days. 13 of these were listed to be discussed and passed on the second day. These included the Uttarakhand Protection of Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (Amendment), Bill, 2022, and the Uttarakhand Anti-Littering and Anti-Spitting (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
The Assembly had proposed to discuss and pass each Bill (barring two) within five minutes (see Figure 1). Two Bills were allocated 20 minutes each for discussion and passing - the Haridwar Universities Bill, 2022, and the Public Service (Horizontal Reservation for Women) Bill, 2022. As per news reports, the Assembly passed all 13 Bills within these two days (this excludes the Appropriation Bills). This raises the question on the amount of scrutiny that these Bills were subject to, and the quality of such laws when the legislature intends to pass them within mere minutes.
Figure 1: Excerpt of Uttarakhand Assembly's November 2022 Session Agenda
Law making requires deliberation, scrutiny
Our law-making institutions have several tools at their disposal to ensure that before a law is passed, it has been examined thoroughly on various aspects such as constitutionality, clarity, financial and technical capacity of the state to implement provisions, among others. The Ministry/Department piloting a Bill could share a draft of the Bill for public feedback (pre-legislative scrutiny). While Bills get introduced, members may raise issues on constitutionality of the proposed law. Once introduced, Bills could be sent to legislative committees for greater scrutiny. This allows legislators to deliberate upon individual provisions in depth, understand if there may be constitutional challenges or other issues with any provision. This also allows experts and affected stakeholders to weigh in on the provisions, highlight issues, and help strengthen the law.
However, when Bills are introduced and passed within mere minutes, it barely gives legislators the time to go through the provisions and mull over implications, issues, or ways to improve the law for affected parties. It also raises the question of what the intention of the legislature is when passing laws in a hurry without any discussion. Often, such poorly thought laws are also challenged in Courts.
For instance, the Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill, 2022 in this session (five minutes had been allocated for the discussion and passing of the Bill). The 2022 Bill amends the 2018 Act which prohibits forceful religious conversions, and provides that conversion through allurement or marriage will be unlawful. The Bill has provisions such as requiring an additional notice to be sent to the District Magistrate (DM) for a conversion, and that reconversion to one’s immediate previous religion will not be considered a conversion. Some of these provisions seem similar to other laws that were passed by states and have been struck down by or have been challenged in Courts. For example, the Madhya Pradesh High Court while examining the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021 noted that providing a notice to the DM for a conversion of religion violates the right to privacy as the right includes the right to remain silent. It extends that understanding to the right to decide on one’s faith. The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2006 exempted people who reconvert to their original religion from giving a public notice of such conversion. The Himachal Pradesh High Court had struck down this provision as discriminatory and violative of the right to equality. The Court also noted that the right to change one’s belief cannot be taken away for maintaining public order.
Uttarakhand MLAs may not have had an opportunity to think about how issues flagged by Courts may be addressed in a law that regulates religious conversions.
Most other state Assemblies also pass Bills without adequate scrutiny
In 2021 44% states passed Bills on the day it was introduced or on the next day. Between January 2018 and September 2022, the Gujarat Assembly introduced 92 Bills (excluding Appropriation Bills). 91 of these were passed in the same day as their introduction. In the 2022 Monsoon Session, the Goa Assembly passed 28 Bills in the span of two days. This is in addition to discussion and voting on budgetary allocation to various government departments.
Figure 2: Time taken by state legislatures to pass Bills in 2021
Note: The chart above does not include Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. A Bill is considered passed within a day if it was passed on the day of introduction or on the next day. For states with bicameral legislatures, bills have to be passed in both Houses. This has been taken into account in the above chart for five states having Legislative Councils, except Bihar (information was not available for Council).
Sources: Assembly websites, E-Gazette of various states and Right to Information requests; PRS.
Occasionally, the time actually spent deliberating upon a Bill is lesser than the allocated time. This may be due to disruptions in the House. The Himachal Pradesh Assembly provides data on the time actually spent discussing Bills. For example, in the August 2022 Session, it spent an average of 12 minutes to discuss and pass 10 Bills. However, the Uttarakhand Assembly allocated only five minutes to discuss each Bill in its November 2022 Session. This indicates the lack of intent of certain state legislatures to improve their functioning.
In the case of Parliament, a significant portion of scrutiny is also carried out by the Department Related Standing Committees, even when Parliament is not in session. In the 14th Lok Sabha (LS), 60% of the Bills introduced were sent to Committees for detailed examination, and in the 15th LS, 71% were sent. These figures have reduced recently – in the 16th LS 27% of the Bills were sent to Committees, and so far in the 17th LS, 13% have been sent. However, across states, sending Bills to Committees for detailed examination is often the exception than the norm. In 2021, less than 10% of the Bills were sent to Committees. None of the Bills passed by the Uttarakhand Assembly had been examined by a committee. States that are an exception here include Kerala which has 14 subject Committees, and Bills are regularly sent to these for examination. However, these Committees are headed by their respective Ministers, which reduces the scope of independent scrutiny that may be undertaken.