just a name

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 25 Jul 2018 11:55:35

IT IS difficult to believe the Central Government’s stand that it is creating the new Higher Education Commission (HEC) as an autonomous body to replace the current University Grants Commission (UGC) to be able to cope with increased work load of higher education. For, the Centre could have achieved the same result by refurbishing the UGC as well and making specific changes in its stated purpose, avowed function, current structure, so that it could handle the increased workload in the changed atmosphere. Yet, Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Mr. Prakash Javadekar made a cosmetic statement in Parliament about the new nomenclature of the body and making claims whose verbosity could be sensed easily. Obviously, many Members of Parliament could not understand why the change was being made in the first place when there is no obvious change in the stated purpose of existence of the body, except the change of detail of increased numbers of universities, colleges and students in the country. 

Mr. Javadekar stressed that the new Higher Eduction Commission will have two wings, one handling the financial grants part and the other tackling the issues of maintenance of standard of higher education at par with global levels. In fact, the same goal could be achieved by refurbishing the UGC as well and creating similar two wings and granting it a fuller autonomy, if that was something not available until now. For, the minister’s statement that the new body would be autonomous, could be interpreted as saying that the UGC did not have enough autonomy. The Minister’s statement hints at only a verbal calisthenic aimed at giving an impression that something new is being achieved. In this case, the common people might never understand the difference between the old body and its new avatar.

A similar experience was available when the Government converted the old Planning Commission into the NITI Aayog. No matter whatever explanations the Government offered to justify the change, the common people hardly understood the actual and critical difference between the old and the new bodies. More than three years afterwards, the difference between the Planning Commission and NITI Aayog still eludes the people.

It is unfortunate that our country saw the Government messing up the entire education over the past few decades. In the name of experiments and modernism, the Government kept toying with education at all levels, from the entry-level school education to post-doctoral levels of higher education. Various experiments, confusing goals, chaotic thinking, contradicting regulations, inexplicable schemes, and a willing allowance to brazen commerce in education also added to the overall grand mess the Government pushed Indian education into. All this can be seen and sensed from the marketplace crowded with various competitive examinations that can make even a seasoned educationist and education-administrator faint.

And to top all this has come the proposed Higher Education Commission whose stated purpose does not seem any different from that of the University Grants Commission. It was not without reason that some MPs described the new proposed move as “an old wine in a new bottle”. The tinge of reality in this criticism cannot be wished away. In fact, the Government owes a better and more realistic explanation of its action on the higher education front. It must be stated time and again that the Government must not indulge in senseless experiments with education at any level, let alone higher education.

It must certainly refurbish the present system and make it more suitable to modern challenges. But by any standard, that does not mean a license to keep making changes whose justification is never serious and systematic.