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Students Parliament Calls For Reinvesting In Neighbourhood Schools, Warns Against Dangers of Centralisation

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A Virtual Students Parliament was organised today to discuss issues related to the Indian education system, with a particular focus on the new National Education Policy. It was jointly organised by Students Islamic Organisation (SIO) and Centre for Education Research and Training (CERT).

The Virtual Parliament was divided into two sessions. The first session of the Virtual Students Parliament saw submissions from 13 state delegations on issues and challenges of their respective state’s education system. These states were Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, West Benga, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and a combined submission from states of the North East.

The delegations discussed important indices like literacy rate, dropout rate, number and spread of government schools, number of colleges and universities for higher education and budgetary allocation for education in the state budget. The delegates also spoke of their important interventions, including education awareness campaigns, movements for better implementation of Right to Education, targeted interventions to improve enrollment in particular areas, publishing school text-books in mother tongue, working with school drop-outs and campaigns for higher education institutions in educationally backward districts.

The concluding session was inaugurated by Labeed Shafi (President, SIO) and addressed by ET Basheer (MP and former Education Minister, Kerala), Shams Tabrez (Member, Central Education Board, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind) and Ambarish Rai (Education Activist and Campaigner for Right to Education).

ET Basheer called for a wider discussion on the NEP in Parliament, and also expressed his concern at the social agenda of the BJP government which is apparent in the policy. Shams Tabrez related the NEP’s proposals with the ground realities of education in India, and questioned the limited meaning of ‘Ancient Indian Knowledge’ in the policy. Ambarish Rai questioned the policy’s claim of extending universal education to all children from the age of 3-18. He pointed out that unless the government makes it a legal entitlement with appropriate allocation of resources, the claim of providing universal education would have no meaning.

The following memorandum was passed by the Virtual Students Parliament:

1. The idea of a public neighbourhood school equipped to teach every child has never seriously been implemented by any government in India. The current NEP seems to have abandoned that ideal altogether in favour of private education. It also includes a vision for ‘low-cost’ private schools to cater to economically marginalised sections. This is a dangerous idea that seeks to formalise and sanction sub-standard schools and inadequate education for the most vulnerable sections of our society. We firmly believe that the central and state governments and all stakeholders in education must fully commit themselves to investing in and realising the goal of a publicly funded school in every neighbourhood to cater to the needs of every child.

2. The reforms in higher education need to concentrate more on the spread of institutions rather than cosmetic changes in course structure. The priority must be to increase the geographical spread of the number of premier institutions to the most marginalised districts.

3. While the policy pays lip service to the ideals of equity and inclusion, it fails to put in place any concrete measures for ensuring adequate representation for marginalised sections of the society as it lacks an unambiguous commitment to the policy of reservation.

4. The Centralisation of education which is envisioned in the New Education Policy (NEP) will be a disaster for the whole nation. The proposed centralised bodies such as RSA, NTA, NRF, etc., will be inimical to the federal structure of Indian Union. Such centralised bodies under one command will inevitably fall prey to the political expediency of ruling parties, hence these bodies must be very limited in jurisdiction, autonomous in functioning and insulated from political interference.

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