Analysts and commission members were quick to point out that the new policy has disregarded almost all of the commission’s recommendations, mainly the part where private schools were required to be transformed from ‘for-profit’ to ‘not-for-profit’.
Findings of the commission are important documents that need to be out in the public discourse. The reason is clear. It is imperative for the parliamentarians and authorities in the education sector to have a clear idea of the objective of drafting an education policy in the first place. Because only then they can understand what kind of individuals policymakers are envisioning for the country and how education can help complement that vision. And these are heavy duties which require extensive deliberations and cross-cutting experiences.
It is no secret that the state of education, especially public education in the country, is in shambles. From physical features like maintaining the infrastructure to intangible ones like the quality of education—all are in a state of despair. It is perhaps owing to this fact that constitutional provisions were enshrined that ensured certain rights to the people. Schedule 8 of the Constitution explicitly ensures that local governments have the authority to manage school-level education. Article 30 (2) of the Constitution gives every citizen the right to free, and compulsory, education up to the basic level (till grade 8) and free education up to the secondary level (grade 12) from the State.
The right to free and compulsory education from the state is a positive right, wherein the state is obliged to fulfil this provision by making changes in the education sector. But regrettably, for a year now, this particular feature has been a bone of contention, putting the owners of private schools and government officials on a collision course. As of now, private schools have around 20 percent share in the entire school education, where around 7 million students are enrolled from pre-primary to grade 12.
Despite its global commitments, the government’s investment in the education sector is decreasing. The share of the education budget, which once reached 17 percent of the total, now is down to just 10 percent, and that is not something we should be proud of. Improving the quality of education and producing youths who are educated in the truest sense—meaning children having the capacity to differentiate right from wrong and having a presence of mind—is the best thing that can happen to a country. It is only then that a country can confidently march towards prosperity and be better than what it was.
But understanding this vital component of education and its importance in the development and growth of a country requires visionary leaders who are educated themselves. Unfortunately, barring a few exceptions, ours is a country led by thoughtless leaders who never forget to tout the importance of education but have never felt it first hand to envision and implement an education policy that will bring about a positive difference in the lives of the people they claim to serve.