सार्वजनिक शिक्षा के बचाव में
For just service conditions
& social justice
Elect Rajib Ray as DUTA President
Shri Javadekar had candidly announced that “the Government is striving to introduce a liberalised regime in the education sector and emphasis is on linking autonomy with quality”. The Draft NEP (DNEP) has proposed a Board of Governors (BoG) for every Higher Educational Institution (HEIs) which will have unrestricted freedom to compete in this liberalised higher education market. Not only will teachers have no say in governance, they will merely carry out tasks assigned by the respective BoGs which will have the power to decide all their service conditions.
Restructuring of academic programmes, empowerment of the BoGs and a “light” (liberalised) regulatory regime are to be put in place to help transition to a decentralised free market regime. The Draft NEP argues that currently private players are discouraged while public institutions are inefficient and non-performers. Instead of equality of access and social justice, the agenda will be to promote self-financing and privatisation. Reservation for SC/ST/OBC, PwD are not mentioned. Neither are the problems of the differently-abled and women. The main emphasis is on more private investment which means exclusion of these underprivileged sections. A highly centralised Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA), directly under the PM, is to oversee this transition and keep the doors open for governmental/ political interference. At one stroke, the idea of university autonomy as autonomy from both the Government and the market is to be turned on its head.
The Draft is to become the NEP soon. Committees are working to operationalise it, the Centre has had meetings with the states and has persuaded many states to consent. The speed with which bills, such as the disastrous Medical Commission Bill, are being passed in Parliament should wake us up to act now rather than later. Failure to mobilise public opinion against DNEP will mean the complete subjugation of teachers to BoGs engaged in turning education into a commercial business.
Some of the central features of the DNEP
The DNEP proposes conversion of the existing 40800 universities and colleges to 15000 large unitary, autonomous and multidisciplinary HEIs of three types: research universities (Type 1); teaching universities (Type 2) and colleges with degree granting power (Type 3). Mergers, closures and takeovers are inevitable requirements for consolidating the existing institutions into much fewer large ones. All public funded institutions are to have BOGs by 2020 while private institutions are given time till 2030. The BoG of each institution will have full academic, administrative and, eventually, financial autonomy. The DNEP proposes academic restructuring such as multidisciplinarity, greater choices for students, introduction of academic programmes like FYUP, and controlling research by making the National Research Fund the only channel of research funding through competition.
Does institutional autonomy mean autonomy for academia in managing institutions?
Just the opposite. Academia is to be kept out completely. Institutional autonomy takes the form of an EMPOWERED Board of Governors (BoG): “This will include the freedom to start and run programmes, decide curricula, decide student capacity, decide resource requirements and develop their internal systems, including governance and people management systems.”
Each BoG will enjoy the following powers: to decide the outcomes (goals) the institution is to pursue; decide academic programmes; appoint the Chief Executive; constitute other bodies such as AC, decide their composition, and choose their members; full control over people management systems – determining qualifications of teachers and other employees, pay structure, recruitment norms and procedures, promotion criteria and procedures, disciplinary measures including termination of services, and a decisive say in recruitment, promotion and termination; all other service and working conditions; and the arbitrary powers to appoint teachers as HODs, Deans, Chief Executive, etc, not based on seniority or academic qualifications. Membership of the bodies created by the BoGs will not to be based on seniority or rotation while elected teacher representation is expressly prohibited.
The specification of pay or promotion scheme and their periodic revision by regulating bodies like the UGC will end. Teachers’ pay may vary across and within institutions. Tenure track (permanent) recruitment system only after 5 years of probation is stipulated. For existing teachers, only salaries on the day of transition are to be protected. Their “future trajectory” will be decided by the BoG.
Why has the BoG been given so much power? It has to optimise (make efficient use of) resources to attain the outcomes which it has set for the institution!
What changes are being made to the regulatory regime?
The new regulatory regime is to complement this autonomy to do business. There shall be no regulations about “inputs, resources, processes, conditions, etc.” for those decisions are left to the BoGs. No specifications will be laid down in regard to infrastructure, student teacher ratio, qualifications of teachers, pay structure, recruitment and promotion norms and processes. Regulations shall not specify outcomes which institutions are to pursue. They shall only lay down a “Good Governance” framework, demand financial solvency and stability, and ensure that BoGs have specified some educational outcomes as goals and have publicly stated those goals. The only restrictions on the institutions (BOGs) are: (a) public disclosure of all information (b) accreditation on assessment of specified outcomes and of compliance with public disclosure of information.
What about funding?
BoGs of public funded institutions have to draw up development plans and approach the funding agency. The funding agency will decide the quantum of funding based on the plan and performance evaluation report of the institution. “Adequate”, not full funding is promised. Each institution must set up a Development Office to generate further revenue/resources.
Will federal arrangements as in Delhi University survive if the affiliation system ends?
The DNEP holds the system of affiliated colleges and small size of most existing institutions to be mainly responsible for poor quality and proposes ending the affiliation system.
The NDTF wants us to believe that our colleges can continue to remain with DU as constituent colleges! The DNEP classifies a college as constituent only if it is merged with the parent university. Hence, a college not directly governed by the BoG of the University will have to be an autonomous institution.
Laws have to be amended to replace current governance structures with new ones. Since all institutions are to have identical governance structures, there is no need to amend the Acts of various universities. All that is required is to repeal all existing Acts and passing of a Common Act.
Will the DUTA as we know survive?
If we allow Delhi University to be fragmented as proposed by the DNEP, DUTA’s continuance will be in jeopardy as teachers are placed at the mercy of BoGs of separate autonomous institutions. Getting rid of unions challenging authoritarian administration and government education policies is an intended part of the liberalisation policy in the education sector.
The NDTF is too scared to enter into a discussion on DNEP, let alone take a critical view and join the urgent task of drawing attention to the disaster awaiting education as well teachers. It kept away from the DUTA committee to examine the DNEP and prepare a critique for feedback. It tried diverting attention away from the core liberalisation framework in the DNEP. When questioned, the NDTF has mostly chosen to remain silent or to get away by claiming that the policy document is only an academic exercise!
Succumbing to the government is going to cost us. We are at a critical juncture. The task before the DUTA is to reach out to students, teachers of other universities and anyone willing to stand up for public education. That was the only way we could thwart the attempt to increase workload and cut down the number of teachers, the imposition of the 70:30 formula that made pay-revision conditional on private resource generation, attempts to make DU colleges autonomous, the insistence on the API scheme and the prevarication on the Reservation roster.