New National Education policy to go to Cabinet soon; Proposes single higher education regulator

After two rounds of a threadbare review by the Prime Minister’s Office, it is finally decided that the country’s higher education system will have an overarching single regulator to regulate in a ‘light but tight’ and ‘facilitative’ manner, and not multiple bodies.

The draft National Education Policy, set to go to the Union Cabinet soon, has been reworked to moot “one common regulatory regime for the entire higher education sector, eliminating duplication and disjunction of regulatory efforts”, people aware of the development said. The earlier draft had proposed a four-tier regulatory structure.

The human resource development ministry has already identified setting up of a regulator –National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA) or Higher Education Commission of India – as a key priority item, they said.

This single regulator will look at important matters such as financial probity, good governance, and full online and offline public disclosure of all finances, procedures, faculty/staff, courses, and educational outcomes.
The rest will be left to the “judgment of the HEIs (higher education institutions), which is essential to institutional autonomy, innovation, and pursuit of excellence”, the proposed new national education policy reads.

Under the overarching single regulator will be a ‘meta-accrediting’ body National Accreditation Authority (NAA), a new General Education Council (GEC) to frame expected learning outcomes for higher education programmes, and a Higher Education Grants Commission (HEGC) to take care of funding and financing of higher education based on transparent criteria.

Professional councils such as Indian Council of Agricultural Research (Icar), Veterinary Council of India (VCI) and National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) will be referred to as Professional Standard Setting Bodies (PSSBs), and will be invited to be members of the GEC to specify the curriculum framework, and set the standards in particular fields of learning and practice while having no regulatory role.

The idea is to ensure clear separation of functions with a single, empowered, responsive, but minimalistic regulatory authority and each body in the regulatory system run by independent boards consisting of persons having high expertise in the relevant areas, according to the draft policy.

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Regulatory regime apart, as reported first by ET on February 20, the new education policy’s latest version will also drop two other irritants red-flagged by state governments during consultation.

Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog, which was originally proposed to be chaired by the prime minister, will be dropped altogether, and instead existing apex education body Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) will be strengthened.

Also, proposed state-level school regulatory agencies will be dropped and replaced with State School Standards Authority (SSSA) set up by states to ensure that all schools follow certain minimal professional and quality standards. Transparent public disclosure of all regulatory information, including on the contentious issue of school fee, will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability.

The new policy will stick to the three language formula and the need to implement it, keeping in mind the Constitutional provisions, and the need to promote multilingualism and national unity while providing for ‘greater flexibility’. It will also propose that states may hire teachers in large numbers from each other, to satisfy the three-language formula in their respective states, and also to encourage the study of Indian languages across the country.

Another sticky point – on who will address issues of early childhood education – has been addressed in the new policy document which suggests that education of children up to the age of five will be largely taken care of by the women and child development ministry, while after that education will be the domain of the school education department under the HRD ministry to ensure continuity of curriculum and pedagogy from pre-primary school to primary school, and to ensure due attention to the foundational aspects of education.

The two ministries, along with ministries of health and family welfare and tribal affairs will set up a special joint task force for continuous guidance of the integration.

Courtesy: Economic Times

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