NEP Consultations: Taking Cognizance of the Existing Educational Superstructure in the Private Sector

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superstructureThe Government of India would like to bring out a National Education Policy to meet the changing dynamics of the population’s requirement with regard to quality education, innovation and research, aiming to make India a knowledge superpower by equipping its students with the necessary skills and knowledge. Elets News Network (ENN) peeks into the NEP consultations and how public and private sectors can have meaningful partnerships for transforming higher education

The ongoing consultations on the New Education Policy (NEP) vis-a-vis higher education has included an all pervasive set of subjects: Governance reforms for quality; Ranking of institutions and accreditations; Improving the quality of regulation; Pace setting roles of central institutions; Improving State public universities; Integrating skill development in higher education; Promoting open and distance learning and online courses; Opportunities for technology-enabled learning; Addressing regional disparity; Bridging gender and social gaps; Linking higher education to society; Developing the best teachers; Sustaining student support systems; Promote cultural integration through language; Meaningful partnership with the private sector; Financing higher education; Internationalisation of higher education; Engagement with industry to link education to employability; Promoting research and innovation; New knowledge.

Interestingly, none of these points take into cognizance the existing superstructure of higher education established over the past one and half decade and tends to address none of their key concerns. The articles which seem to be somewhat associated contained in Meaningful Partnership with the Private Sector and Financing Higher Education seem to be entirely oblivious to the existing state of affairs. The article on Meaningful Partnership with Private Sector simply exhorts the long established understanding that

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higher education cannot sustain only through public funding and envisages PPP as the sole redressal for meeting the wide resource gaps, instrument for resource-use efficiency, improvement in service delivery and promotion of excellence. The peans to PPP don’t end here. It goes on, besides supplementing public investments and reducing dependence on public exchequer for provisioning of quality public services, for bringing about:

  • Cost-effectiveness through risk sharing and efficient use of resources leading to higher productivity and optimal risk allocation;
  • Access to modern technology leading to better project design, implementation, operations and management;
  • Accountability through clear customer focus, which, in turn, results in accelerated and improved delivery of quality public service;
  • Institutional autonomy by reducing dependence on public funds and in the process significantly reducing external interference in decision making, as it empowers public institutions by making then financially self-sustaining and independent.

So far so good. The usual visionary and aspirational content contained in any policy discourse. However, the innate intent and directionality of the emerging policy doctrine vis-a-vis the existing higher education superstructure in the private domain seems gruesome when the consultation paper reads partnership with private sector does not mean privatisation, commercialisation and debasement of education, somewhere suggesting the same for the existing spectrum of over 4000+ institutions established over the last decade or so with substantial private investments catering to the bulk of Indian Students.

It’s interesting that even after having such a sizable higher education institutional base dotting over 400 districts of the country, the aforesaid consultation document is oblivious to the same. It still intends to explore possibilities of attracting private investment and participation in decision making within the overall framework of education being merit good, while government continues to be responsible for ensuring quality higher and technical education to all as if nothing to this effect has happened in the country so far.

The key questions posed for discussion are all modeled around the guiding beacon of PPP and CSR aimed at bestowing higher education into the hands of large corporations. The success of private universities set up by some of the largest corporate houses is far from dismal. They are finding due heat from the edupreneurs who have diversified from their conventional enterprises in the MSME space and have invested a significant chunk to give rise to an impressive Higher Education Establishment in the country.

The NEP Consultation should have recognised the due existence of this vast segment of private investors in education and taken on board their experiments and learnings to formulate a much more relevant policy discourse

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