It is double think to suggest that the Four-Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) format proposed in the draft education policy would either lead to significant change or no change at all. It seems that our educational policy-makers have reached a dead-end.

When the first National Education Policy came into effect in 1968, based on the recommendations of the Kothari Commission (1964-66), it had called for a radical restructuring of education. However, in its attempt to be comprehensive it generated considerable confusion. It was assumed that in 1947, there were two major streams of thought and policy that could have influenced education. The first was Gandhian in which the dismantling of colonial education was of uppermost importance. During the struggle for Independence, the Mahatma not merely denounced the education system introduced by the British in the interest of the national struggle; he started a parallel system. The other was Nehru’s “imitation model”. He thought it right to retain the colonial system and use it for modernisation. However, he failed to generate a movement for mass education through which he could have undermined the domination of the colonial elite.

It is generally believed that though education has expanded as an instrument of upward social mobility, there is something seriously wrong with the system. The more common refrain is that of stagnation and the gap between educational expansion and the needs of society, the economy and the polity. The theoretical content of education has been overloaded with the result that everyone is bewildered about the real purpose.

We have been told that the objective of education is to impart reading and writing skills, and to train the analytical faculties of a child; to equip him mentally so that he can make independent judgments about problems and issues; to learn the techniques of sophisticated analysis ;to prepare the youth to be strong in a world of tough competition;to be a good citizen ; to preserve and enrich the Indian tradition ;to countenance the challenges of the modern world; to contribute to economic development; to generate a sense of social commitment; to imbibe those values which the education system thinks are worthpursuing; and to help the country find a respectable slot on the world map.

Education can be work-oriented in two aspects. When a student is taught the skill and dexterity necessary for a certain profession, his education or training is in a certain sense job oriented. But education can be work-oriented in a distinctly different sense. One can feel that our education, particularly higher education, is marked by abstractions, that it ignores training of the senses to a greater extent than is good for the all-round development of personality, and further, that it does not take enough care to acquaint the students with concrete social problems. Work education may be one of the methods to address these deficiencies. This, however, is very different from training a student for a job. Here the objective is to correct an excessive one-sidedness in general education. In fact, work education and job-oriented training are two very different disciplines. Our education policy risks being miscarried unless this is taken into consideration.

In India, there is a rush for higher education. By diverting students from general education to the vocational during the school years, a new education policy can ensure general welfare. It can benefit both the vocation and higher education as well. It is not the proper function of universities to prepare students for jobs. Those who graduate with medicine and engineering may indeed be eligible for jobs corresponding to their expertise. A Master’s degree may carry some weight in terms of teaching and research. For most other jobs, there is no rational ground for preference to a university degree holder. This should be the implication of delinking jobs from degrees. Shorn of the verbiage emanating from the NCERT and its mentors at the Centre, the “10+2+3” system intended to change the paradigm handed down thoughtlessly since the day of Macaulay and gears it to the country’s present-day requirement. The objective of this was two-fold ~ to give students a broadbased education upto class X, to vocationalise education after the ‘10’ stage in order to meet the needs of our overcrowded universities so that what passes as higher education may become a bit more farcical. In theory, the scheme is unexceptionable and deserves sympathy as the first genuine attempt to reform the education system. In practice, unfortunately, what is attempted to be done is ill-conceived when one reflects on the severe limitations of the facilities available and the deeprooted socio-economic values that pervade our society.

Morarji Desai once told the education conference: “I do not know how it(10+2+3) is going to yield any benefit. It has only disturbed the whole thing for the worse. This kind of change in education is not change. It only misguides the people into believing that we are making something better.” The former Union education minister, PC Chunder’s earlier criticism of the system made people hope that it would be given the short shrift. The state education ministers too found much good in it. And after having done the traditional duty of condemning the system, the powers-that-be decided to continue with it. It was intended to be a uniform system all over the country.

The fact of the matter is that no system can uniformly suit all parts of the country with our infinite diversities, tradition, stage of advancement, languages, regional peculiarities and political outlook. The 42nd Constitutional Amendment, by making education a Concurrent subject, attempted to put education into a centrally devised straitjacket. Authoritarians everywhere are interested in brainwashing the younger generation through an education system of their choice. Moreover, we were left to believe that there was previously no real change in the switchover ~ “10+2” was only a change of nomenclature from the old Matriculation and Intermediate and “+3” was the old BA extended by one year. Time was sacrificed to facilitate the transition to a perceived “radical” reform.

It is doublethink to suggest that the Four-Year Undergraduate Programme ( FYUP) format proposed in the draft education policy would either lead to significant change or no change at all. It seems that our educationl policy-makers have reached a dead-end. They have condemned the old system, but are yet to devise a novel system which would be widely welcomed. The new system is not exactly new; the format was in fact tried and scrapped in 2014 following a spat between Delhi University and the UGC. Despite the fact that DU adopted the traditional three-year programme in preference to the ambitious FYUP, the UGC has goofed up once again. However, the draft has recommended the replacement with multiple exit options. Students will have to spend an extra year which would certainly inflate the cost of the entire course and as such the poor students would face difficulties in pursuing the new programme. Thus the students from the socially and economically backward classes will get marginalised.

The biggest structural change in the form of FYUP will have implications ranging from the financial to the infrastructural, on the character of the university as also on higher education. The essential feature of the new format will be the multiple exit points where students will have the option of leaving after 2 years with a diploma, after 3 years with a Bachelor’s degree and after 4 years with an honours degree. By introducing multiple exit points, the risk of dropouts will be institutionalised. The recent increase in college enrolment has already exerted pressure on the quality of the teaching-learning process. An additional year will create problems in accommodating the huge numbers in many institutions. It has also been argued that by adopting FYUP our higher education system is in the process of emulating the American system of majors and minors without preparing a climate for it. In America, two-year courses are offered by community colleges while undergraduate colleges with four-year programmes are in a separate category. It is feared that the move is aimed at fulfilling some vested interests such as pushing the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill,which is pending before Parliament. Presently, foreign universities have to collaborate with Indian partners to set up shop in India.