Published: 14th January 2020
Over 2 lakh responses to NEP, but none significant enough to rattle it: Dr K Kasturirangan
The Chairman of the NEP Drafting Committee talks about how protests aside, the policy was acceptable enough to raise the bar in Indian education
Dr K Kasturirangan is undoubtedly somebody who wears many hats. This former ISRO Chief and JNU Chancellor is also the Chairperson of the committee that drafted the ambitious National Education Policy. A speaker at TNIE's ThinkEdu Conclave 2020, we caught up with him for a quick chat about the policy which has been at the heart of plenty of discussions and the state of the Indian education system.
Excerpts from the conversation:
The NEP has faced a lot of praise and criticisms. We have had student organisations openly reject the NEP and protest against it. How do you take these responses?
This is not a policy of an individual. It is rather developed by people who know their subjects really well. They are educationists, academicians, policymakers and strategists. They have gone deep into issues and have understood scientific bases and what is right and wrong. We have sought opinions across groups. The policy hasn't been created with any view apart from providing Indians with a good education. Differences here can occur due to a number of reasons. Some are experts in areas that we may have missed and then there are people who would have skipped these 400 pages and viewed it with a certain judgment. They'll comment (on it) for the sake of commenting. There is one more group that starts these protests keeping their political differences in mind. We can easily see this. Apart from these, we also have attention seekers who want to be part of the picture. They can either say that it is good or bad without any rationale.
How do you deal with them?
Thankfully, we have been able to separate these and take the fruitful inputs into account. We have got around 2 lakh responses, but they were not of significant value to rattle the policy itself. But they did suggest that more than 80 per cent of the policy's content is acceptable. This shows the country's acceptance, cutting across ideologies, religion, culture and languages. I'm satisfied with the response that we have received until now.
Also, to make it clear, the government never interfered in the committee's working. If the people who oppose the policy have a serious problem, they can talk to us. Burning the policy is not the right way to go about it.
How much time did it take to draft the policy?
It took us over 2 years. The intermediate 1 year here was very demanding. I faced a lot of health problems. My colleagues too were stressed. Despite this, they worked relentlessly. We have always thought that India should enjoy the same prestige that it enjoyed during the time when Nalanda University and Takshashila existed. Back then, thousands came to India to study. We have to translate that in the modern context.
Will that be possible with the current expenditure?
There is nothing impossible for this country. The question is resolve. It must come from the government. But a substantial contribution comes from other institutions too. For instance, here at the conclave, you had SASTRA Deemed to be University. They have been doing a lot in education. Azim Premji University and Ashoka University are also doing well. Similar is the case with our IITs and IISERs, AIIMs. Our law schools are good too. We have enough aspects that have to be brought to world standards. We're not shooting in the dark. We're going to build on that. We're also a global economy. Our tradition, past and present which will lead us to a prosperous future. Never ask if we can do it. The point is, we must do it.
Don't always blame the government. They'll come up with a way. You propose something, the government will give money.