NEW DELHI: The Human Resource Development Ministry’s proposal to revamp the higher education regulatory regime is back to the drawing board after a detailed review of the draft national education policy by the Prime Minister this week. ET has reliably gathered that each issue of the policy was discussed threadbare at the PM’s review meeting on February 19. Several tough questions, sources said, were raised on the viability of the fourtier higher education regulatory regime.
One of the concerns which seems to have emerged from the meeting was that it may be impractical to restructure higher education regulatory system as proposed in the draft policy. Those aware of the deliberations told ET that the key issue was whether it would be feasible to have new structures without the requisite leadership and human resource in place. The discussion also veered to the possibility of reworking the existing regulatory regime instead of a creating a new institutional edifice.It was agreed that based on the lengthy deliberation, the HRD ministry will now rework the final policy document. The idea is to have the document ready for cabinet approval soon enough for it to be placed before Parliament in the Budget session which goes on until April, senior officials from the ministry confirmed.
The final policy is also likely to make it explicit that while the three language formula will continue to be implemented, there will be flexibility without imposing any language on a state. The recommendation to bring all pre-primary education from age 3 onwards into the ambit of the HRD ministry may also be reworked. Currently, early childhood education is within the purview of the Ministry of Women & Child Development (WCD) through its anganwadi network. The proposal is now likely to be revised to keep the age group of 3-5 years in WCD and from age 5 onwards with HRD, ET has gathered.
Restructuring the higher education regulatory regime is a key reform proposed in the draft education policy. A single higher education regulator has, in fact, been on the agenda for nearly a decade now.
After the UPA government’s failed efforts, the NDA government attempted its own version with a Bill in Parliament in late 2018 but dropped the idea amid strong political opposition.
The draft education policy- put together by an expert committee headed for former ISRO scientist K Kasturirangan- envisages a National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA) as a sole regulator but also recommends three other separate and independent bodies- a General Education Council (GEC) which will set academic standards and define learning outcomes, the National Assessment & Accreditation Council (NAAC) to look at accreditation functions and the Higher Education Grants Council to allocate funds to universities and colleges.
The four bodies are recommended to ensure a ‘clear separation of functions to enable adequate focus on each essential role while eliminating conflicts of interest’ through checks and balances. The PMO, it appears, had doubts over the feasibility of running four bodies efficiently and whether it may become unwieldy. The other issues of concern discussed at the review included the proposal for setting up state-level school regulatory agencies in the policy. It is also likely to be off the table now with several states registering their objection to it.