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For Now, Little Scope for New Education Policy in Delhi

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By Sidharth Mishra

In all his public discourses ever since the notification of the New Education Policy (NEP), Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank has insisted on having the state governments onboard. He has been generous in saying that since Education was part of the concurrent list, the states have to be persuaded to adopt the policy.

In saying so, however, Nishank hopefully is not conveying the message that each state could go its own way. It’s not to be forgotten that there are autonomous central agencies which lay down the roadmap for education and their guidelines have to be adhered too. For example, University Grants Commission (UGC) is the regulatory body for higher education and the state universities have to follow its guidelines.

However, during Covid19 pandemic, a point of friction came where the state governments-run universities refused to conduct final year examinations despite clear guidelines from the UGC to hold examinations. It was only after the Supreme Court direction that the state universities are now holding the examinations.

We have had typically confused scenario in Delhi, where the under-graduate students of Delhi University, which is a Central University, have finished their examination held online under an open book scheme, whereas students of the state-run Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (GGSIPU) are still uncertain about their future. It’s a tortuous situation for such students who have been offered admission by the foreign universities but in the absence final year examination results they have not been able to avail off it.

If we make a case study of Delhi, implementing NEP would indeed be an onerous task. State Education Minister Manish Sisodia on several occasions has said that he was not amenable to the idea of implementing the NEP, which he finds deficient on many a counts.

While Sisodia has the prerogative of expressing his opinion based on his valued understanding of the matter, however, it should also be not lost on the people that the positioning of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on the matter has more to do with politics than philosophy. Even under the existing system, AAP government in Delhi has on several occasions has entered into chafing with the Centre.

We have discussed in these very columns the issue of funding the 12 Delhi University colleges which are financed by the Delhi Government. Since the state government has almost abdicated its responsibility of running these colleges having failed to release any funds since May this year, these colleges are on the verge of closure.

However, there is a bigger instance of the Delhi Government having challenged in the UGC guidelines itself. It pertains to the autonomy of the colleges. The NEP lays special emphasis on making colleges autonomous in the long run and has also set a deadline for it.

This is not the first time the UGC has brought out the scheme of converting university affiliated colleges to autonomous bodies under the aegis of their respective academe.  In the past few years UGC invited applications from colleges, possessing essential qualification like high grade from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), to get inspected for autonomous status. The inspection team which recommends the case also has a nominee from the affiliating university as member. 

Several colleges across the country took the opportunity and many a leading institutions are today enjoying the autonomous status. Similar applications were also made by a few colleges of the GGSIPU. At least three colleges were recommended for autonomous status.

The Delhi Government, however, decided to not agree with the UGC recommendation. When these colleges went to court to seek direction to abide by the UGC recommendation, Delhi Government, as an afterthought, moved a larger bench questioning validity of the UGC rule itself. Given the circumstances, it can be safely said for NEP, “Dilli Door Hain (Delhi is at a distance).”

(First published in The Morning Standard: https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/delhi/2020/sep/12/for-now-little-scope-for-nep-in-delhi-2195848.html)  

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