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.
On June 13, 2022, the West Bengal government passed a Bill to replace the Governor with the Chief Minister, as the Chancellor of 31 state public universities (such as Calcutta University, Jadavpur University). As per the All India Survey on Higher Education (2019-20), state public universities provide higher education to almost 85% of all students enrolled in higher education in India. In this blog, we discuss the role of the Governor in state public universities.
What is the role of the Chancellor in public universities?
State public universities are established through laws passed by state legislatures. In most laws the Governor has been designated as the Chancellor of these universities. The Chancellor functions as the head of public universities, and appoints the Vice-Chancellor of the university. Further, the Chancellor can declare invalid, any university proceeding which is not as per existing laws. In some states (such as Bihar, Gujarat, and Jharkhand), the Chancellor has the power to conduct inspections in the university. The Chancellor also presides over the convocation of the university, and confirms proposals for conferring honorary degrees. This is different in Telangana, where the Chancellor is appointed by the state government.
The Chancellor presides over the meetings of various university bodies (such as the Court/Senate of the university). The Court/Senate decides on matters of general policy related to the development of the university, such as: (i) establishing new university departments, (ii) conferring and withdrawing degrees and titles, and (iii) instituting fellowships.
The West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022 designates the Chief Minister of West Bengal as the Chancellor of the 31 public universities in the state. Further, the Chief Minister (instead of the Governor) will be the head of these universities, and preside over the meetings of university bodies (such as Court/Senate).
Does the Governor have discretion in his capacity as Chancellor?
In 1997, the Supreme Court held that the Governor was not bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers, while discharging duties of a separate statutory office (such as the Chancellor).
The Sarkaria and Puunchi Commission also dealt with the role of the Governor in educational institutions. Both Commissions concurred that while discharging statutory functions, the Governor is not legally bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. However, it may be advantageous for the Governor to consult the concerned Minister. The Sarkaria Commission recommended that state legislatures should avoid conferring statutory powers on the Governor, which were not envisaged by the Constitution. The Puunchi Commission observed that the role of Governor as the Chancellor may expose the office to controversies or public criticism. Hence, the role of the Governor should be restricted to constitutional provisions only. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022 also mentions this recommendation given by the Puunchi Commission.
Recently, some states have taken steps to reduce the oversight of the Governor in state public universities. In April 2022, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly passed two Bills, to transfer the power of appointing the Vice-Chancellor (in public universities) from the Governor, to the state government. As of June 8, 2022, these Bills have not received the Governor’s assent.
In 2021, Maharashtra amended the process to appoint the Vice Chancellor of state public universities. Prior to the amendment, a Search Committee forwarded a panel of at least five names to the Chancellor (who is the Governor). The Chancellor could then appoint one of the persons from the suggested panel as Vice-Chancellor, or ask for a fresh panel of names to be recommended. The 2021 amendment mandated the Search Committee to first forward the panel of names to the state government, which would recommend a panel of two names (from the original panel) to the Chancellor. The Chancellor must appoint one of the two names from the panel as Vice-Chancellor within thirty days. As per the amendment, the Chancellor has no option of asking for a fresh panel of names to be recommended.