NEP: panel expresses concern over move to abandon reservation

KSHEC constituted committee submits report to Kerala govt.

The expert panel constituted by the Kerala State Higher Education Council (KSHEC) to study the impacts of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has expressed concern over the Centre’s purported plan to abandon reservation in the higher education sector.

The committee, which submitted a 49-page report to the government on Wednesday, emphasised the need for Kerala to continue to follow the policy of reservation in both admissions and appointments. This, they held, is necessary to ensure social justice and excellence.

Speaking while releasing the report, Prabhat Patnaik, chairman of the committee, pointed out that the NEP was silent on the issue of reservation and this paved way for fear of withdrawing from affirmative action.

Affiliating system

The panel also termed unjustifiable the attempts being made to dismantle the affiliating system on the ground that it existed only in India. Steps should, instead, be taken to correct the flaws in the system so as to ensure greater access for all marginalised sections, especially the rural poor and SC/ST sections, to higher education. The affiliating system, in spite of its systemic weaknesses, had increased gross enrolment ratio (GER) in the country, the panel noted. Besides, the proposal to provide degree-granting powers to colleges also could not be implemented without the concurrence of State governments.

Against universal education

The committee faulted the manner in which the NEP sought to bifurcate the student community in two groups — vocational and general education. Opining that such attempts went against the principle of universal education, the panel called for ensuring a minimum amount of general education for all students.

Prof. Patnaik also feared the policy legitimised dropouts in colleges as several points of free entry and exit were built into the structure of higher education programmes. The emphasis of private, philanthropic investment in the sector was bound to make education expensive and thereby adversely affecting socially and economically weaker sections.

Another problem area

The six-member panel also flagged the “immense emphasis” on centralisation of education which, they felt, was evident in the policy. Such efforts, envisaged to be implemented through the proposed central agencies such as National Research Foundation and the Board of Governance of Higher Education Institutions, was “feared to kill the democratic spirit of universities and their autonomy.”

The KSHEC executive committee approved the report on Wednesday. Other members of the expert panel are council vice chairman Rajan Gurukkal P.M., member secretary Rajan Varughese, academicians Gangan Prathap, Kumkum Roy and writer K. Satchidanandan.

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