Govt’s Greed For Privatisation: The Hidden Link Behind “Chaotic” Academic Reforms

Posted on August 19, 2015 in Campus Watch

By Sunand Singh:

Students of Delhi have given a resounding ‘NO’ to unplanned, chaotic and disastrous academic reforms that are being imposed in the last few years, the latest of which is the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS). In the referendum organized by Students’ Federation of India (SFI) in 18 colleges of Delhi University (DU) and in Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) – 91.89% out of 12769 students in DU & 93.97% out of 1813 students in JMI voted against CBCS. Referendum as a mode of policy level intervention is unique since it gives numerous individuals to have a collective say in processes to which only a privileged few have access to. This referendum was preceded by intensive campaign ever since the new academic session started. The increasing appeal of the campaign invited attacks from organizations like Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) in many places during the campaign.

student protests cbcs fyup
Photo credit: Akhil Kumar

Daily Experience Of Student Life And Policy Level Linkages

The result is only a reflection of the students’ own experience in which ‘choice’ has proven to be a farce. Even after nearly a month of the new session, there are no syllabi and books available for most of the courses, and there is an utter sense of academic chaos. It is also a reflection of the fact that students indeed want ‘skills’ and ’employability’, but they are not ready to accept diluted courses in the name of this.

A few days ago, fresh guidelines were issued which give complete authority to the V-C to decide the syllabi of courses. Further, the college principals have been given authority to decide the Generic Electives (GEs) offered to students, effectively eroding ‘choice’. The duration of each teaching period for 1st year students will be now 1 hour, while that of 2nd and 3rd year students will continue to be of 55 minutes each. This will mean that all timetables will have to be made again and there will be utter chaos. There are indications that the end-semester practical exams for science courses will be scrapped, which will lead to further dilution.

Engineering A Rupture In The Neoliberal Consensus

There exists a perfect consensus among the various ruling class political parties in our country on the logic that privatization is the only solution to higher education requirements. Even though the apologists of ‘reforms’ might claim that FYUP and CBCS are different things, the fact remains that Semesterization, FYUP, meta-colleges and CBCS are all part of the overall neoliberal agenda to achieve a homogenous higher education system and ensure mobility.

These processes are intrinsically linked to Indian government’s plans of providing a ‘level playing field’ to private and foreign educational providers in the light of ensuing Nairobi rounds of WTO-GATS talks in December later this year. UPA1 had already shown its willingness to offer higher education as a ‘service good’ under GATS in 2005.

It is interesting to note that right now except ABVP and Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS); all students’ and teachers’ organizations are against CBCS. While ABVP is in support of these ‘reforms’, CYSS claims to be ‘neither for CBCS, nor against it’. If we see the trajectory of the anti-FYUP movement, then one thing becomes clear that correct intervention can force even staunch supporters of the neo-liberal model to come against it even though it is for their own temporary political gain. During FYUP, ABVP was against it throughout, while NSUI changed sides when the government changed at centre.

It was possible only because of the sustained campaign that eventually FYUP had to be rolled back. Yet, the same ‘reforms’ are again back after one year, albeit in a new package this time. What does this tells us? This tells us that even though the movement was strong enough to highlight one specific and temporary aspect of the ‘reform’ agenda; it was not able to make popular the comprehensive critique of the whole process. It was not able to link the changes in the university to the large changes in the labour market or in the school education at a scale which can create a rupture in the neoliberal consensus on education. It is with this perspective in mind that we must move ahead and work towards channelizing the collective mandate of the student community. The momentum from this referendum will be taken forward in the form of vibrant student resistance starting right from the classes and departments of the students. We resolve to carry forward this momentum through concrete and consistent actions that expands the students’ unity at every step.

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