India has more than 50 recognised boards — all India boards such as CBSE and ICSE, state-level boards, international boards such as IB and IGCSE, and open-schooling boards such as NIOS — each modeled on different curricula, pedagogy and set of instructions. The National committee prescribes the NCERT syllabus, while the State Council stipulates the SCERT curriculum design in their respective states. The UP government has taken the decision of implementing the NCERT-prescribed syllabus on its Uttar Pradesh Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad (UPMSP) board from the academic year 2020-2021 by considering the fact that most of the national entrance and competitive exams, including the UPSC exams, follow the NCERT-based syllabus.
Petition For ‘Uniform Education System’
Earlier in 2020, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, consisting Justice Indu Malhotra, Dr DY Chandrachud and KM Joseph, rejected the public interest litigation seeking directions for a uniform and common curriculum in place of diverse ones across the nation for school students in the age group of six to 14 years. The Court said it was a “matter of policy” and the judiciary could not “command” the government on the subject (Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union Of India, (2020), S.C.580 (India)).
What Was The Plea Before The Supreme Court?
The petition for a uniform education Board was filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, a politician of the BJP. The petitioner pleaded before the Court the following points:
The petitioner urged to make compulsory the study of standard textbooks with chapters on fundamental rights and duties, directive principles and the golden goals set out in Preamble throughout the country.
The petitioner pleaded that the prevailing education system does not provide for equal opportunities as each Board has its own syllabus and curriculum, while entrance exams are based solely on the CBSE Board syllabus.
The petitioner added that a uniform education Board with a common syllabus and curriculum would accomplish the code of a common culture, removal of disparity, and depletion of oppressive qualities in human relations.
This petition is not a new phenomenon that seeks for the establishment of a National Education Council/Commission and requests the following of a ‘One Nation One Board’ system in which the ICSE should merge with CBSE. Here are a few petitions on the similar phenomenon filed earlier.
In 2011 in Tamil Nadu, a three-judge Bench headed by Justice J.M. Panchal, wherein the petition was filed by the Tamil Nadu Government, held that a common syllabus and curriculum, especially for children aged between six and 14 years, would achieve the “code of common culture” (State of T.N. v. K. Shyam Sunder,(2011) 8 S.C.C. 7137.) This decision had even viewed the idea of a common syllabus as “a progenitor to the Uniform Civil Code and an antidote to fanaticism and seclusion.”
On 8th December, 2017, a three-judge bench headed by the then Chief Justice dismissed a petition by Nita Upadhyay, a primary school teacher, for ‘One Nation, One Education Board ‘ to replace the existing multi-board system.
From Constitutional Prescriptive: Why India Needs Uniform Education
The Constitution is not implied for the ruler, but the ranker, the tramp of the road, the slave with the sack on his shoulders, pricked on with the urge, the man with too heavy a burden, too tired a heap. The Right to Education under Article 21A of the Constitution must be perused in conformity with Article 14, 15 and Preamble of the Constitution, and there must be no distinction in the quality of education throughout the domain of India. Thus, a common syllabus and curriculum are required.
The right of a child should not be limited only to free and compulsory education, but should be extended to having a uniform education system throughout the territory of India, without any discrimination related to the child’s social, economic, religious and cultural background.
Fundamental Principles Of The Indian Constitution
Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity are pillars of our democracy. Socio-economic justice is essential for gradual growth and development of the poor, the weak, the vulnerable and the downtrodden in society. The State seeks to reduce inequality in income, status and opportunities among citizens of India under Article 38(2). Socio-economic justice is guaranteed by Article 39, 46 and Preamble of the Constitution to promote a more balanced growth among all members of society, while Fraternity guarantees dignity to an individual, and Equality of status assured to them would become meaningful and real.
Uniform education for all children aged 6-14 years will not only secure socio-economic equality, but will also promote brotherhood, individual dignity and ensure unity and integrity of the nation. The greatest example of this already in practice is the Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya educational institutions, where not only the syllabus and curriculum, but even their school dress is common. Socialism and secularism remain ambiguous until there is uniformity in education.
However, children are vulnerable, they need to be valued, nurtured, supported and protected. A democracy depends on its very life on high standards of general, professional and expert training. Education connotes the process of training and developing knowledge, skill, mind and character of a student through formal schooling.
Arguments In Favour of A Uniform Education Board
Educational boards have different schedules: For example, in Maharashtra State Board schools, the academic year starts in June, while CBSE’s academic year starts in April. Students migrating from one part of the country to another due to their parent’s job transfers or any other reason often face problems while changing their schools.
Policies regarding language subjects: There are many variations in the number of languages taught and the way in which they are taught. For instance, CBSE has a norm of three language up to Class 8 and two languages above Class 8. On the other hand, state boards usually follow a three-language formula that includes English, Hindi and the state language throughout the academic year.
ICSE vs CBSE’s English: While the ICSE English syllabus provides exposure to classics including the works of Homer, Ovid and Shakespeare, the CBSE syllabus focuses more on the communicative aspects of the language.
Marking schemes of boards differs significantly: While some boards are lenient with students scoring in the higher 90s, in some boards, crossing the 90% bar is quite an achievement. This creates a problem for students seeking admission in colleges for courses that are not based on entrance exams but on the Class 12 Board result.
When it comes to entrance exams such as NEET, students of state Boards are placed at a disadvantage vis-a-vis CBSE students, as most entrance exams are more or less based on the NCERT syllabus.
Separate education facilities are inherently unequal and disregard the convention of fairness. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a milestone of the United States Supreme Court in which the Court proclaimed state laws setting up separate government schools for black and white students as unconstitutional. The sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn (Board v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483,60 (1954)).
It was held that racial segregation in state-funded schools was unconstitutional. It was concluded that the doctrine of “separate but equal”has no place in the US education system. (Ian C. Friedman, Separate Educational Facilities Are Inherently Unequal, WORDS MATTER ( July 22,2020,4:00 PM).
State Board fees is lower than that of CBSE and ICSE. This makes it easily affordable for students who hail from economically weaker backgrounds.
Multiple Boards spark competition among them. The incentive for each Board is to be able to capture and receive as many schools affiliated under it as possible.
CBSE additionally does not turn out in flying colours. There are more than 15,000 CBSE schools across India. For what reason does India rank so low in international exams including PISA, TIMSS, which benchmark school students of different countries? Why does the corporate world constantly harass the unemployed youth in India? Some recent surveys show that “Indian youth are not very hopeful about their employment prospects due to theoretically based subjects.”
Students in different state Boards get the opportunity to learn about their region, language and culture. If a uniform educational board comes in place, the uniform Board will be a threat to our diversity.
The sudden change of syllabus may affect and disrupt the stability in academics for a student. A new syllabus would bring more workload on teachers as well as parents.
Recently, the New Education Policy, 2020, introduced the 5+3+3+4 curricular structure on the recommendation of K. Kasturirangan Committee with the intent of integrating the Indian education system with the global pattern. This has been done to equip the child with 21st-century skills by replacing the rote learning system and instil confidence and nationalist pride among students. The uniform education system with a common syllabus and curriculum would accomplish the code of a common culture, removal of disparity of knowledge, and depletion of prejudicial qualities in human relations that could be possible through a “common school system”. However, the NEP does not talk about “common school system”.