Manifesto Check: How Do The BJP And Congress Plan On Improving India’s Education?

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC) have both released their manifestos. While the Congress promises “to deliver,” the BJP is promising a “sashakt and sankalpit Bharat.”

The Congress has millions of Indians, the citizens on the cover page of their manifesto; BJP has Narendra Modi on the cover page of what they are calling the “Sankalp Patra.” Without taking a dig on what that says about their priorities, and what they are choosing to represent, the manifestos represent what both parties are promising if they’re elected to power.

There hasn’t been a social issue that hasn’t tapped into the education system. Name it, and we have dealt with it. With the education system already battling the evils of politicisation, privatisation, casteism, curbing of dissent, entry of religion in academics, and sexism, better policies in education will prove to be a battleground for political parties. Following is a breakdown of what the parties are each pitching in terms of educational development.

What Is The Congress Promising?

The Congress is majorly promising the following:

1. Transferring school education under the State List, while retaining higher education in the Union List.
2. More importance to “learning outcomes,” after ASER (Annual Survey Education Report) highlighted poor quality of education and poor learning outcomes.
3. To restore the autonomy in campuses, and also restore the 200-point roster system in colleges.
4. The Congress will pass a Students Rights Bill to codify the rights and obligations of students in colleges and universities.
5. Increase in teacher training institutes and a scheme on the “continuing education of teachers” which would entail mandatory participation.
6. Increment of education GDP to the ideal 6% from the current 3%; increase in the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in Higher Education from the current level of 25.8 to the level of at least 40 in a period of 5 years.
7. Scrapping of the NEET examination and incorporating a state level examination of equivalent standard
Increase in funding and grants to colleges, and scholarships to students
8. Expanding the Education Loan programme, making it more efficient, accessible and smooth for students and waiver of outstanding interest dues on old education loans as of March 31, 2019.
9. Include guest, temporary and contract teachers in the regular establishment of universities so that they receive the benefits due to them.
10. Better infrastructure, technology-enabled teaching, compulsory vocational training from classes I-XII, more universities, more Kendriya and Navodya Vidyalayas, among important things.

Where The Congress Won

The Congress’ manifesto is more definitive, clear and specific in issues it wants to address.

1. Working towards guest and contract teachers getting their due is a big win, because they have been grappling with the lack of a permanent status and pay for a while.
2. With education being a privilege in India, making the ‘Education Loan Programme’ more efficient and wide-reaching is a great step in working towards accessibility of education.
3. Especially after the numerous fund cuts at JNU and TISS, and fee hikes in various universities, increase in funding is an issue that needed to be addressed.
4. The state of education in a country speaks volumes about its development as a nation, and a 6% budgetary allocation would be the best means to achieve the end. The waiver of the outstanding student loans would be a great step, too.
5. Students across the country have suffered the most struggling for the most basic freedoms and issues of moral policing, gender bias and lack of freedom to dissent. A Student Code Bill would help in addressing all these problems collectively to a great extent.
6. Transferring School Education to State List would help tackle a lot of issues that need immediate attention and get delayed because of the hierarchy and the institutionalization.
7. Restoring the 200-point roster would be a big relief from the chaos and dysfunctionality the 13-point roster has caused.

Where The Congress Lost

While the Congress focuses on mending a lot of things and lacunas that crept into campuses in the past few years, the manifesto isn’t too vocal on some long term goals that it seeks to achieve. While it’s great that higher education has been given more preference in the manifesto, school education should have also been more attention to, given that schools are where the cracks and fault lines begin to develop and appear.

Photo: Subin Dennis/Facebook.

What Is The BJP Promising?

The BJP is promising the following:

1. After having identified the learning outcomes, the party now promises to work towards achieving them; also ensures ‘teachers’ training’ and ‘capacity building.’
2. Establishment of national institutes of teachers’ training with four-year integrated courses that would set standards for quality teachers in schools.
3. More smart classes; 200 more Kendriya and Navodya Vidyalayas by 2024.
4. Launch of the ‘Prime Minister Innovative Learning Programme’ which will bring together children from all over the country, at a place, for a period of time, and provide facilities and resources to excel and encourage innovation.
5. Increment in seats in all law, engineering, and management institutions by 50%.
6. Development of online courses as a major resource for higher education.
7. Incorporation of arts, culture, music universities and state-of-the-art tourism and hospitality university to also promote arts.
8. Increased autonomy in institutions; 50 Institutes of Eminence (IoE) by 2024, more Indian institutes in top 500 world ranking by 2024.
9. Expansion of their launched ‘National Digital Library of India’ to also provide access to leading journals free of cost; promote a ‘Study In India’ programme.

Where The BJP Won

1. Increment in seats by 50% for all courses would be a great step in addressing other related problems of reservation.
2. Opening arts, music and tourism universities would be a great way to assert the equal importance of arts and humanities as vocations and professions, instead of solely focusing on science and management.Having said that, while opening new colleges provides a great boost, it’s essential to pay attention to the already existing colleges which are established names but face neglect and lack of funds.
3. Imparting education through online courses would enable access and equity to a lot of students throughout the country. What remains to be seen is how it’ll be made a reality, as a lot of online courses were scrapped last year due to change in policy.

Where The BJP Lost

An overall analysis of how the manifesto covers education is highly disappointing and massively lacking in substance. It talks about achieving numerous high-end goals, but clearly lack the scheme and measures to achieve the goal. Instead of unfound promises and meaningless assurances, they should have focused on increasing budgetary allocation for education, increasing funding for universities and state grants. Political parties like AAP have already implemented more than half of what BJP is promising, with optimum utilization of minimal resources. Furthermore, the government has been extremely inconsistent with their criterion for exams like NET, NEET and others.

1. BJP begins the education section with the far-fetched claim saying “having achieved access and equity in school education…” then going on to enlist how they want to achieve quality education. Reports from India Today, Oxford Humans Rights Hub say otherwise.
2. Providing four year integrated courses for teachers’ training is a vague promise, and a huge time investment, given that most of our teachers choose academics because of the absence of any other option. The same holds true for the ‘Prime Minister Innovative Learning Programme.’
3. ‘Capacity building,’ ‘teachers’ training,’ ‘identified learning outcomes’ are vague, yet fancy phrases that only highlight the lack of a definitive scheme to tackle the sorry state of education in India-both in schools, and universities.
4. Programmes like ‘Study in India’ sound good on paper, but are an impossibility given the fact that our universities are not in great shape, and are still struggling with the most sensitive issues of gender, patriarchy, funding and quality. We need policies that understand the nerve of the problem and trickle down to the smallest unit and address it.
5. Promising more autonomy? It’s quite ironic given that the government has actively tried to curb it at every possible instance. Institutions have lost independence, more so in the last five years. “In the past five years, a number of our institutions have figured in the top 500 institutions of the world,” the manifesto states. Only five institutes have found place in all of 500 around the world. It doesn’t make sense to present a flowery picture when it doesn’t even exist. Development can really be planned only when the present state is honestly acknowledged.

Our colleges haven’t seen many “achche din” in the last five years. The focus needs to be on picking up the pieces and bettering India in its current form, instead of wanting to revamp the entire structure and routing for a ‘new India.’

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Keshav Singh for Hindustan Times via Getty; Prime Minister’s Office, Government of India/Wikimedia Commons.
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