Dialogue  April-June, 2011, Volume 12 No. 4

Educational Philosophy of the Indian State : Contribution of State Commissions and Committees

Sharad Behar*

Commissions - Permanent and Transient

Of late, in India, there has been a spurt in the establishment of institutions of permanent nature with nomenclature of commissions, councils and authorities to perform some of the functions that legitimately belong to the sovereign body, the State. The number of permanent Commissions can be considered as an indicator of the health of a Democratic state. There are two contrasting interpretations possible one of them positive and the other negative. The larger the number of such commissions, the greater is the desire of the government to develop statutory countervailing forces to guard against the deviations, distortions and arbitrariness creeping in the established institutions of democratic functioning of the State. In this view of the matter it will be indicative of a healthy democracy. The negative interpretation suggests that the democratically elected government is shirking its responsibility of functioning in a principled, norm-based, fair and non-partisan manner and creating Commissions (an expression, we will use to cover also bodies) to pass on the buck. One can also suspect that the commissions are only masks under which the government itself operates without being accountable. The recent appointment of the head of such a body that had to be finally struck down by the Supreme Court of India can be seen as an example of this strategy.

While establishment of plenty of permanent commissions may be a recent phenomenon, the device of appointment of commissions and committees to consider and recommend on certain specific issues within a specified period has been in vogue as a part of the modern statecraft. Commissions and committees of this nature serve as important corrective to one of the major fault-lines of governance in which immediate and urgent matters are accorded priority over matters of great significance and far-reaching, long-range  and vast implications. Those immersed up to their neck in day-to-day governance and attending to urgent and immediate matters cannot be expected to do justice to the consideration of such issues, even though they may have the capability. Moreover, consideration of such matters by a number of persons provides space for a number of perspectives to interact with one another and arrive at consensus that is ordinarily not possible in the rigidly hierarchical governmental structure. The possibility of use of the device of such commissions to divert public attention or to defuse seemingly explosive situation cannot be ruled out. Judicial commissions to enquire into certain incidents often perform this role. In the educational field where policies always have long-term, wide-ranging and far-reaching impact, commissions and committees (in this paper the expression ‘commission' will henceforth also cover ‘committee', wherever the context permits or requires) are essential and had immense utility.

Philosophy and Policy

Usually educational policy, not philosophy, is discussed in the context of the State. The unstated assumption is that ‘policy' instrument of governance with which the State can be attributed but ‘philosophy' has much wider and deeper connotation and an institution like the State, however important, cannot be credited with having a philosophy. This is unfortunate. It provides a convenient alibi to those who use the instrumentality of the State and its essential attribute Power to pursue their social, political and economic philosophy in the name of educational policy. It should never be forgotten that the concept of the State, and its manifestation in a certain form and functioning in certain manners have philosophical underpinnings. Although delving deeper for a discussion of the nature of the State and its spirit Power will be extremely useful, for want of space, will confine it to clarifying the relationship between the educational philosophy and educational policy. Every component of any educational policy derives its strength from, and is a reflection of, the educational philosophy of the policymakers. That is why in all important matters of educational policy it becomes  necessary to constitute a Commission or a committee which can weigh policy options and evolve programmes based on comprehensive understanding and consideration of the underlying philosophy. It is always possible for analysts to arrive at this philosophy from the philosophy and programmes of the government of the time. That is the task we seek to undertake. We propose to take it in two stages. In the first stage we will look at the relationship, in general, of the State and education. The second stage will briefly trace the role of Commissions in modern Indian education.

State and Education -- Universal Philosophy

Education in all the past civilisations of the world has been studied by Dr Meyer under the guidance of Arnold Toynbee, the pioneer in the study of world civilisations. The lesson we draw from this monumental work, "Education in Historical Perspective", is that the State leaves the domain of education to the society at large without any attempt to control it until it can be used as a tool to serve its own need of maintaining and enhancing Power and effective governance. In the Greek city- State of Athence, education was not controlled by the state. There was a thriving educational enterprise. Sophists were charging high fee but were extremely popular because they taught oratorical skills and competencies useful to leadership in that kind of democracy. Socrates also was allowed to follow his style of education. He was sentenced to death for this not on the ground that he was violating any educational regulation but on the ostensible ground that he was spoiling and misleading the youth while he was actually providing the best possible education by helping them develop questioning and analytical mind. Education that could challenge the authority, the Power, the State was not tolerated.

Educational activity was taken up directly by the State in civilisations characterised by empires. The State needed well-trained and efficient but loyal officers to manage and administer the far-flung empires. Chinese empire was probably the first to use education in this manner.

May we venture to draw a simple and straightforward principle of relationship between the State and education from the above? Education in the hands and under the control of the State can only be and must necessarily be an instrument, above all, of serving the interests of the State -- the powers that be. Education of the Socrates model will never be tolerated -- let alone be promoted -- by a State. This, in effect, is the essence of educational philosophy of the State -- as an entity, the seat, centre and institution of Power. This is a universal rule applicable to all the States of all the times. It can be argued that in a democracy the interests of the people and the State are the same. This may be true of the abstract concept of or ‘the Idea' in the Platonic conceptualisation. Perfect democracies of this kind are still in the realm of ideas. Currently all over the world the extent of overlap between the interests of the people and the ruling elite that is in the saddle and that in real terms means the State, varies considerably but seldom is it anywhere c1ose to substantial. The corollary of this principle is that Commissions can be used to deliberate, work, make recommendations and suggest programmes on their terms of reference based on any educational philosophy they choose but the unarticulated implicit ultimate boundary line stated above cannot be transgressed. Whenever and wherever a Commission ignores this basic principle, the State structure innovatively and inevitably dilutes its recommendations so much at the stages of  “processing”,  “examining", “policy formulation", “programme design” and many other steps which the ruling elite introduces before their implementation that the original spirit is completely lost or may be even reversed. The recommendations of the Yashpal Committee set up to lighten the burden on the students met this fate. Even the recommendations of the Education Commission, the only one in the history of modern Indian education to consider comprehensively at all the aspects and all the stages of education fared no better.

Commissions in Modern Indian Education - the Colonial Period

The British East India Company acquired the status of the ruling power in the 1765 A.D.  A company established only with the purpose of trading and earning profit can hardly be expected to have any educational perspective. Despite demand from some well-meaning officials of the company, its Court of Directors refused to be drawn into the educational arena. They had before them the model of the British State which despite the parliamentary form of democracy claiming to represent the people believed at that time that the State has no obligation in respect of education of the people. It needs to be underlined that the decision is taken by a body of persons, not an individual. Interestingly the Directors of the Company indirectly expressed an educational perspective which can be called Progressive today. They did not want religion and education to be mixed. Therefore they followed the policy of not allowing Missions of different denominations of Christianity working or trying to work in education apprehending that their proselytising activities may adversely affect company's commercial interests. {Page v --vi, A Students' History of Education in India, Syed Nurullah and J.P. Naik, Macmillan & Co Ltd, 1962}.

Through the Charter Act of 1813, for the first time, "the education of the Indian people was definitely included within the duties of the company". The Indian State had now to evolve policies to take up educational activity in this scenario where fierce controversy was raging about the nature of education -- Western or Indian, the medium of instruction -- English or classical languages like Sanskrit and Arabic or modern Indian languages, and allied matters.Following the general principle that whenever there is a controversy, avoid responsibility by appointing a committee, on 17 July 1823, General Committee of Public Instruction was appointed consisting of 10 members that included H.T. Prinsep and Macaulay, both representing diametrically opposed views. The deliberations of the committee were marked by passionate advocacy on both sides. Macaulay's strategy was interesting. He did not take sides because he was aware that the matter will come up finally for consideration in the ExecutiveCouncil of which he was a member. When the papers dealing with the dispute were placed before the Council, he wrote his famous Minute on 2-2-1835. His opinion finally prevailed. He triumphed because he propagated a philosophy that was totally in the interest of the State. He favoured imparting of western knowledge and English literature, and British education system, English medium of instructions and employment of the educated in the company for better governance. The basic philosophy was to use education for social and cultural change which is apparent from his suggestion for the kind of education that will create a class of persons who would be "Indians in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect." Obviously such people would be loyal to the state and very useful in governance. He seems to have succeeded not only in making the state adopt this philosophy but also in the long run westernising the people of the country -- a process that is still going on and probably more vigourously as a part of the process of globalisation which seeks to replace the Western culture and values for whatever is left of the indigenous culture.

The General Committee of Public Instruction is the first one in the history of modern Indian education constituted to deliberate on controversial issues. The first full-fledged commission, the Indian Education Commission, to deliberate and make recommendations on several highly controversial issues was constituted in 1882. The controversies had arisen since the official educational policy approved by Lord William Bentinck on 7 March 1835 based on Macaulay's note and largely reiterated by the Despatch of 1854, sent by the Court of Directors - widely known as Wood's Education Despatch because it was written at the instance of Charles Wood who was then its President -- was being interpreted differently by the missionaries on the one hand and the officials and enlightened Indian citizens on the other. Predictably, the Commission generally favoured the official position. The missionaries interpreted the policy of the 1854 dispatch as requiring the state to withdraw from the field of education completely in their favour. The commission did not accept this view and recommended that the government should not withdraw, that Indian enterprise in education should be encouraged and given a more prominent place and that the missionary educational enterprise can only occupy a secondary place in Indian education. The official policy on religious education was of complete neutrality which also was being challenged by the missionaries who wanted freedom to preach Christianity. On this issue or so the Commission favoured the existing approach and laid ~permanent foundation in favour of secular education as against religious education, an approach that continues even today.

The Indian Universities Commission constituted by Lord Curzon in 1902 was the first one to assist the government to think deeply and carefully on the issue of university reform which was accorded top priority by him in his ambitious programme of educational reform. The Commission recommended the model of the London University to be adopted in India on the basis of which the Indian Universities Act of 1904 was passed. It had an indirect bearing on the controversy regarding consolidation and quality improvement and greater and stricter control of the government on the private educational institutions, favoured by the officials and expansion for greater educational opportunity along with improvement of quality to the extent possible but with emphasis on expansion, favoured by the Indian nationalists. Predictably, its recommendations favour the official line in higher education which was its mandate. However that did give an edge to this approach in secondary and elementary education also. To that extent our basic thesis that Commissions are only a device to buttress official position gets further support.           

The Calcutta University Commission appointed in 1917 was designed to provide correctives to the situation created by the Indian Universities Act of 1904, in the light of the developments in the field of higher education in England. Usually called Sadler Commission as it was decided over by Dr Sadler, it was the first commission to extend its mandate originally given for higher education alone to make very significant and useful recommendations on secondary education on the ground that any improvement in higher education is not possible without appropriate foundation in the secondary education. Its recommendations both on higher education and secondary education, although made in the context of only Calcutta University, were so significant, far-reaching and relevant for the whole country that they were used for educational reform. It recommended establishment of new universities, greater attention to the training of teachers, professional and vocational education, science and technology education, and for education the girls and women, and to the education of Muslims. It also initiated a regime of liberal grants to the universities and colleges as also secondary schools. The major purpose of this Commission to assist the government to think and plan on improvement of higher education was fully served. It should ever be incomplete if we do not mention that one of its peak purposes was also to undo what Lord Curzon had done which was neither popular nor palatable to his successors. To that extent even this Commission was a device to undertake something that without its recommendations would have been embarrassing for the successors of Lord Curzon to undertake.

The Royal Commission, presided over by Sir John Simon, appointed in 1927 was also asked to report on the growth of education in British India, steps for the purpose it appointed in 1929, the' Auxiliary Committee of the Indian Statutory Commission " presided over by Sir Philip Hartog. Since it was appointed in the context of the nationalist movement and widespread dissatisfaction with the government of India Act of 1919, it enquired into and made wide-ranging but controversial recommendations on all stages of education. While generally appreciating the advances made in education, the committee pointed out towards  several weaknesses and suggested to make the universities "a more fruitful and less disappointing agency in the life of the community", vocational education and the secondary stage, improvement in the training and service conditions of secondary teachers and consolidation, rather than expansion, of primary education. The story of this committee is no different. Its report was warmly received in official circles and influenced the official thinking in action during the following period as it proved to be the triumph of the official point of view. Expectedly the nationalist leaders and non-officials in education were severely critical of it since they were clearly in favour of expansion as against consolidation and emphasis on quality improvement alone.

By 1940s, the independence of India was clearly on the horizon, particularly towards the end of the Second World War. All the wings of the government were engaged in preparing Post-War Development Plan. The Central Advisory Board of Education prepared and submitted a detailed report on Post-War Educational Development in India, popularly known as the Sargent Report because it was prepared by John Sargent a very dynamic and forward looking officer. It aimed at "creating in India, in a period of not less than 40 years, the same standard of educational attainment as had already been admitted in England". It was comprehensive and generally met with the approval of the people although the period of 40 years was unacceptable and severely criticised by the nationalists. In retrospect it is possible to say that probably the plan was not less ambitious because we have not been able to achieve the goal set therein even now. This is the only report during the colonial period which properly appreciated and incorporated the feelings and ambitions of the Indian people and to that extent did not tow the official line. Even then it cannot be considered as an exception to the general rule of use/misuse by the State of the device of commissions and committees to buttress their own position and for getting controversial issues sorted out by them and to that extent shutting the responsibility because this is the report not of the commission or committee constituted for this specific purpose but of a permanent body on education with much wider representation.

Colonial Period: A Committee with a Difference

The Government of India Act, 1935 provided for Provincial Autonomy, in which substantial and effective powers were given to the Ministers who were responsible and accountable to the elected legislature, that came into operation in 1937 in 11 provinces of British India. Elected governments came to power in the provinces, seven of which had Congress ministries. In 1937 itself, Gandhiji placed before the public the revolutionary proposal of basic education which was considered and deliberated upon in the First Conference of National Education at Wardha on October 22 and 23, 1937. This conference appointed a committee under the presidentship of Dr Zakir Husain, who later rose to be the President in the independent India. The committee submitted its report within a period of two months. It presented the basic concept of Gandhiji in educational and pedagogic terms. The report was adopted in the seven provinces where Congress was in power and also in the state of Kashmir.

This was a committee not appointed by the government but by a conference convened by Gandhiji. To that extent it is different. However since the conference was attended by the relevant ministers of the Congress, it was known and hoped that its recommendations will be accepted by the Congress governments. In this view of the matter it can again be seen as a  committee to assist the Congress or state governments, in thinking through, articulating suitably in the format of the policy and detailed program designing and planning the implementation strategies of the new and highly original and revolutionary concept of basic education. Without this kind of exercise Gandhiji's alternative philosophy of education would not have become feasible and implementable. It was not appointed by the resolution of the government but by the decision-makers in their informal capacity, not even by the Congress party which is not unusual in a multi-party democracy.

Post-Independence Commission

After independence the country has witnessed three Commissions on education. The first was on University education, the second on secondary education and the third on education in totality. It shows the relative priority accorded to the different stages of education by the Indian State. University education received the highest priority because, in the words of the Commission, "Democracy depends for its very life on a high standard of general, vocational and professional education". It was also felt that development of the country at a fast rate required massive industrial development for which scientific and technical capability be provided by the University education. Appointment of secondary education commission was necessitated both as a high-quality feeder to higher education and to provide for vocational education, which, though recommended during the British rule by many committees and commissions, had not made sufficient progress.

The University Education Commission was appointed in 1948 under the chairmanship of Dr S. Radhakrishnan, who later adorned the office of the President of India. Its terms of reference were very wide and included everything conceivable in the context of higher education. Higher education, it suggested, should lead to the democracy visualised in our  Constitution. The basic approach it propounded was the synthesis of "the best of what modern advancement has to offer" “and our cultural heritage from the past" on the rationale that "no nation is healthy that parts company with its traditions" and that "social development is an organic process" in which "the continuing influence of the past on the present cannot be ignored". With this perspective, it made recommendations on improvement of the standards of teaching, the selection, working conditions and status of the teachers, coaches of study, postgraduate research, professional education and medium of instructions. It also recommended establishment of Rural Institutes and Rural Universities on the model of the People's Colleges of Denmark as an extension of Basic schools. It was the first exercise for realigning education with the needs of a democratic country. The two subsequent commissions also focused attention on the contribution of education to democracy.

The Secondary Education Commission was appointed on September 23, 1952, under the chairmanship of Dr A. L. S. Mudaliar. It studied the status and problems of secondary education and made recommendations on all important aspects of secondary education including its relationship with primary and University education and the common pattern of secondary education for the whole country. It believes that the aim of education should be to produce ideal, virtuous citizens imbued with national spirit and leadership qualities. It suggested changing the duration of secondary education and also establishment of multipurpose schools where in the higher secondary education groups like industrial, commercial, agriculture, fine arts, and home science could be introduced. Like every commission it also turns up on the teachers, their status, training of teachers, management and administration, finance and infrastructure etc.

Both these Commissions were appointed soon after independence, when there was political stability and the Congress party was firmly in power. Having been established with the clear objective of educational reform to suit to the needs of a new democracy that has ambition to develop fast, their recommendations were supportive of the State agenda. Their recommendations were either at an exalted philosophical level which could be accepted without threatening the power-structure or functional in nature leading to expansion and diversification of education and improvement in quality to meet the manpower needs for industrial growth. The government, that assigned the task to them, therefore, had no difficulty in accepting and implementing the recommendations to the extent they were feasible.

Education Commission: a Case-Study

The decision to appoint the third and so far the last Commission -- the Education Commission -- was taken in 1964 before the sudden death of the first Prime Minister and the architect of modern India, Jawahar Lal Nehru although the Resolution of the government of India constituting it was issued on July 14, 1964. It was unique in two ways:

1. The Indian Education Commission of 1882 dealt mainly with school education. The Indian Universities Commission of 1902 confined itself to re-organisation of Indian universities. The Calcutta University Commission had a broader scope and covered both secondary and higher education in Bengal. The University Education Commission of 1948-49 concerned itself only with higher education. Similarly the Secondary Education Commission of 1952 had a restricted mandate to make recommendations on only secondary education. The terms of reference of Education Commission included all the stages and aspects of education.

2. It was also asked to consider and recommend on creation of a national system of education, a need first expressed in 1906 in a resolution of the Indian National Congress. It called for taking up "the question of national education for boys and girls, and organise a system of education, literary, scientific and technical, suited to the requirements of the country, on national  lines, and under national control, and directed towards the realisation of the national destiny." Since then attempts to take up conceptual clarification and also tryout some experiments outside the official system controlled by the British were made. However the matter required a comprehensive look and clear-cut recommendations, the unique tasks taken up by the Education commission.

The report of the Commission was submitted in 1966. What followed is a remarkable lesson in the political and bureaucratic dynamics operating implementation of report of any important Commission or Committee. Its member- secretary J.P. Naik, who is generally considered to be its author as well as the moving spirit behind it, laments and chronicles this in his last book, written before his death, (The Education Commission And After; A.P.H. Publishing Corporation, 1997). Ironically, after the submission of the report, he was appointed as Educational Adviser to the government of India to make sure that the recommendations are implemented in true spirit. That gave him the unique opportunity to be closely associated with everything that went on for almost 12 years -- until 1978, when he finally quit that office. Let us briefly look at the tortuous experience he had to go through and witness the erosion of the spirit at every stage until its virtual demise. This will be useful case-study which will also serve to highlight the relationship between a Commission and a personality who is able to decisively influence it.

In a press conference the main recommendations of the report were highlighted and simultaneously a summary was made available to the press for wider dissemination that initiated a nationwide debate. Copies of the report were sent to the state governments and the universities for their information and necessary action. This was necessary because at that time education, except maintenance of standards in higher education, was a state subject according to the constitution and action had to be initiated primarily by the state governments. The key and important step the government of India could take was to issue a national policy on education as per recommendation of the commission given in paragraph 18. 58, "to provide guidance to the state governments and the local authorities in preparing and implementing educational plans in their areas" This had to be followed by in-depth discussion in the Central Advisory Board of Education, the conference of vice chancellors, and both the houses of parliament before a National Policy on Education could be finalised. General elections were round the corner. It was therefore decided to take up the steps after the elections. Fortunately one of the dedicated and committed members of the commission, Dr Triguna Sen was appointed as the education minister after the elections. This combination of a member being the Minister and the member secretary being the adviser ought to have made the follow-up smooth and prompt. Instead of the absence of the political base of the Minister was essentially an academic, the huge size of the report and the commission's suggestion that its recommendations should be considered together and taken as a package deal, a step that was necessary to create a national system of education, came in the way of its appropriate consideration. Both the official missionary and the stakeholders found it convenient to consider the recommendations in piecemeal, particularly favouring those in their interest and modifying or rejecting they considered unfavourable to them. In order to prepare a draft of national  policy of education, a committee of the members of the parliament representing all political parties was constituted. The committee could not do justice because, a) they had no experience of working together, although belonging to different parties, b) at that time for political parties education was not such an important subject and therefore they had not applied their mind or developed their approach to education, and c} some of the controversial recommendations particularly relating to language became the focus of the discussion as if it was not a commission on education but on languages. It also adopted a populist rather than educational approach to the recommendations. The committee focused its attention only on three items -- medium of instruction, neighbourhood school and 10+2+3 pattern of education. The report prepared by this committee had dissent notes from 9 out of 30 member running into 23 pages as against the report of only 26 pages. This report was considered in a special Conference of the Vice-Chancellors of universities and The Central Board of Education. The discussions were repetitive and non-productive.

A drafting committee in the ministry had prolonged discussions and what JP Naik calls "the rather tame draft that finally emerged was approved by the Cabinet and released in 1968". (ibid, page 47). The basic approach adopted by the members of the drafting committee, largely consisting of bureaucrats, in preparing the Statement "was to make it non-specific, non-committal and as innocuous as possible with a view to avoiding controversies or shirking responsibilities." (ibid, page 48). JP Naik goes on to identify the recommendations that attracted wide attention, those which were opposed and rejected and also those which were completely ignored. The National Policy of Education issued in 1968 had already lost the main spirit of the Report of the Education Commission. The implementation of the selected recommendations also was far from satisfactory. As a result, an extremely significant report prepared by the Commission comprising internationally renowned educationists became only an important reference book for the posterity.

One should not be under the illusion that only the report of this Commission met this fate. From the British days to today many important reports, resolutions and policies of the government remained pious declarations or rhetoric alone. (A glaring example, in respect of the policy of elementary education can be seen in (Universalisation of Elementary Education: Rhetoric Legitimising Status quo, Sharad Behar, in Elementary Education in India: Issues  and Challenges, Uppal Publishing House, New Delhi, 2009.)

After Education Commission

No Commission has been appointed in education after the disastrous experience of Education Commission. It may or may not have been on this account. The story beyond this is characterised by political instability and frequent changes in the political party in power. It therefore, provides a lesson of how political changes hamper educational reform by repeated change in the major policy-thrust depending upon the choice made by the party in power. It also indicates a lesson learned by the political parties that education ought to be an integral part of their ideological moorings and therefore they cannot leave education alone only in the hands of educationists.

That is why we find that in 1979 the education Minister under the Janata Government at the Centre declared a National Policy on Education. The government had appointed no commission or committee to prepare this. It drew its inspiration from a document prepared by the Citizen for Democracy, a forum established during the Emergency under the guidance of Jai Prakash Narayan. Interestingly, this document entitled "Education for Our People", also authored by JP Naik. He was requested to take up this assignment by Jaj Prakash Narayan. It is a revolutionary document that aimed at transforming elitist Indian education to education of the people and the deprived and down-trodden. It covered not only educational reform but also social and economic reform on the belief that without the latter two, no educational reform on its own can become a reality since social and economic structure and processes decisively determine the nature of education. This policy of 1979 which had not done adequate justice to that radical document could not see the light of the day. Before it could be taken up seriously by the then government, it fell on account of its inner contradictions, being an uneasy and strategic merger of ideologically different political parties that had one common agenda of opposing the emergency and replacing the Congress government of Indira Gandhi that had imposed the Emergency.

The tardy, half-hearted and insincere implementation of the recommendations of the Education Commission had left the education system, broadly as it was, with only cosmetic changes. Problems had therefore multiplied. This became amply clear also from the two review committees, appointed again by the Janata government, in 1977 and 19 78. In June 1977 Ishwarbhai Patel Committee was appointed to review the curriculum, including syllabus, textbooks, teacher involvement etc of the school stage. It found that the spirit of the education commission's recommendation to link learning with life had been neglected and therefore suggested the introduction and streamlining of Socially Useful Productive Work as an integral part of curriculum and pedagogy. A similar exercise for the higher secondary stage, with emphasis on vocationalization of education was undertaken by the Review Committee appointed in 1978 under the chairmanship of Dr Malcolm Adiseshiah. It came to the conclusion that the scheme of visualisation had not succeeded and made recommendations for better implementation with a view to remove unemployment, destitution and poverty and for rural development. Like the earlier committee, it also laid great stress on Socially Useful Productive Work and also suggested methods for popularising vocational courses.

After the Congress government came into power in January 1985, it decided to frame a new policy because the previous rival government had attempted a new policy in 1979 and also because the educational situation was crying for reform that could not be ignored. Accordingly it announced that a new policy on education will be formulated. No commission was appointed for the purpose. A very frank and provocative document, "Challenges of Education: A Policy Perspective" was issued by the ministry of education, government of India which formed the basis for a countrywide debate on educational reforms. A new National Policy on Education 1986 was prepared which was approved by the parliament in May 1986. Some of the persons behind drafting the policy had closely worked with JP Naik and drew subsquent inspiration from the broad approach in recommendations of the Education Commission. It can be called a second version of the National Policy, based on the recommendations of the Commission taking into account the development since then. A detailed programme of action also was prepared to implement the Policy.

In the next election the Congress party was voted out of power and the National Front came into power in December 1989. Having realised the importance of education and its integral relationship with political ideology, it had promised in its election manifesto that the New Education Policy of 1986 of the Congress government would be reviewed and revised. Accordingly the new government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Ram Murti. Its report entitled Towards an Enlightened and Humane Society was presented to the ministry on December 26, 1990 and was tabled in the Parliament on January 9, 1991. It emphasised education for equality and social justice, decentralisation of education at all levels, establishment of participative educational order, centrality of work in learning and inculcation of values essential for the creation of Enlightened and Humane Society. The report of this committee is very exhaustive, probably the most important after the report of the Education Commission. However, before the report could be seriously considered and the 1986 policy could be revised in its light, there was again a change in the government, Congress party coming back to power.

Since the Report of the Review Committee had already been placed before the Parliament, the new Congress government could not fully ignore it. It therefore, found it convenient device of appointing in 1992 another committee under the chairmanship of Janardan Reddy in order to make its detailed examination and to suggest appropriate revisions in the 1986 policy. On the basis of its report, the 1986 policy was revised by the parliament in 1992. There are no substantial or substantive revisions. They are peripheral and cosmetic. This is a political way of dealing with a report which is not acceptable to the party in power but the ritual of revision has to be undertaken.

Another important committee that needs to be briefly mentioned was appointed in the light of the 73rd and 74th Amendment of the constitution which provided for Democratic decentralisation and delegation of powers to the Panchayati Raj institutions and urban local bodies. The Central Advisory Board of Education got it examined by a committee under the chairmanship of Shri Veerappa Moily, then chief Minister of Karnataka. It gave detailed recommendations for delegation of powers.in education to the Panchayati Raj institutions and the local urban bodies. It also suggested mechanisms to enable these bodies to effectively and efficiently manage the educational effort and institutions in their jurisdiction.

Taking note of the fact that there is very heavy academic burden compared to even many developed countries, a National Advisory Committee was appointed in March 1992 by the ministry under the chairmanship of Prof Yashpal. Its report entitled Learning Without Burden Low Limit, was submitted in July 1993. It suggested decentralisation of curriculum framing with greater involvement of teachers, doing away with the tradition of homework, making books available to the children in the school without requiring them to carry them to home and back. The main thrust was on children's comprehension and thinking ability in the place of cramming and learning facts.

This report was again examined by a group, which effectively negatived all its major recommendations since their implementation would have implied radical and dramatic pedagogic transformation which was not acceptable to the Conservative educational bureaucracy and the teachers alike.

Now that political parties have realised the need to align educational perspective with their social, economic and political ideology, every government has much greater attention to education. It is in sharp contrast with the experience and observation of JP Naik, when he had found that the members of the Parliamentary committee constituted to consider the report of the Education Commission had neither interest nor understanding of educational issues and therefore focused only on populist emotive issues. The parties have also realised that constitution of a committee or a commission to undo what the previous government has done and to realign education to their ideology every time they come to power is a time-consuming and difficult process. Taking advantage of the provision in the National Policy on Education 1986, a simpler method of developing a national curriculum framework is being adopted. The first such framework was developed in 1988. In 2000 and new framework was prepared under the direction of the government of the National Democratic Alliance led by the BJP. It has pronounced ideological overtones consistent with the perspective of the BJP. In May 2004 the  United Progressive Alliance led by the Indian national Congress came to power which wanted the NCERT to prepare a new framework keeping in view the report entitled' Learning Without Burden' of the Yashpal committee. A National Staring Committee was constituted under the chairmanship of Prof Yashpal. The framework prepared by it was discussed in September 2005 by the Central Advisory Board of Education in which the state governments were BJP was in power raised several objections. On pressures of the chairperson that their views will be considered while preparing the syllabi and textbooks, the framework was approved. It's an extremely important document and had become the basis for educational reform ever since. In many respects it also deviates from or modifies the National Policy on Education 1986 as amended in 1992.

Although both the 2000 and 2005 frameworks are couched in a similar pedagogical and educational framework, they have been interpreted differently and the text books and syllabus prepared under them have raised eyebrows of the opponents. This new development shows that education is likely to be an important area of ideological struggle between political parties.

Even this development supports the places we have been advancing that ultimately Commissions and Committees are constituted to serve the interest of the powers that be that represent the State at the time. It should also be remembered that despite the change in the governments, the nature of the state as a centre of power does not change and that is why  each political party in power wants to use the operators of the state for its ideological ends and unfortunately also in the interest of the party and its personnel disregarding many times national interest. These distortions in political processes and institutions are now being noted sharply by people who seem to be a restive for appropriate corrective measures.


*   Sharad Behar, IAS (Retd.) is the former Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh.



Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

                                               Astha Bharati