Lok Sabha Election: BJP vows digitalisation; Congress, CUET, NEP review; education loan waiver

BJP manifesto follows five years of reform and NEP 2020. Congress promises to reconsider NEP, CUET; restore autonomy to institutions.

Lok Sabha Election: BJP vows digitalisation; Congress, CUET, NEP review; education loan waiver. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)Lok Sabha Election: BJP vows digitalisation; Congress, CUET, NEP review; education loan waiver. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Shradha Chettri | April 18, 2024 | 08:33 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Despite 50% of India’s population being below 25 years of age, education still seems to not be on the agenda of any political party – and that gets reflected in their manifestos ahead of the Lok Sabha elections 2024.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has nothing much to offer other than “digitalisation", say experts. The Indian National Congress (INC) in its election manifesto fails to mention allotment of 6% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to education but talks about “education as public good” and includes proposals on extension of Right to Education (RTE) till Class 12 and increasing scholarships.

Tanvir Aeijaz, associate professor of political science at Delhi University’s Ramjas College, said, “Education, per se, has never been an important political agenda, like health. The simple reason being that the outcome from education is a long term one. The dividends from it are not visible fast, unlike the ones with infrastructure development, where governance is quite visible.”

In the BJP’s case, the manifesto promises for the Lok Sabha election 2024 come after five years of frantic reform. The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, adopted in July of that year, sets new goals for school and college enrolment, vocational and skill education, research, and education governance. The NEP’s deadlines for achieving various goals in education are set well into the future – 2030 – to achieve 100% school enrolment, and 2035 for 50% gross enrolment ratio in higher education.

Also read Post NEP 2020, scholarship, fellowship funds cut by over Rs 1,500 crore

The first of the seven-phase elections is on April 19. The final phase is on June 4.

BJP manifesto 2024 on education

Mentioned at the end of their “Sankalp Patra”, the guarantee for quality education has six points listed. It is classified under broad headings – “Establishing New Institutions of Higher Learning”, “Using Technology for Access to Quality Education”, “Ensuring Quality School Education”, “Ensuring Future-Ready Youth”, “Implementing One Nation, One Student ID” and “Expanding Skills Training for Youth”.

Aeijaz pointed out, “If one looks at the Congress manifesto, it identifies the private sector as a supplementary rather than a substitute to public education. Whereas the BJP is talking about initiatives like Swayam and PM e-vidya – all these digital infrastructure development takes place either through the private sector or in PPP mode.”

Aeijaz added that as BJP talks about access to quality education, it should have actually been called “accessibility to technology”.

The manifesto states, “We will promote the usage of education stack for personalised and flexible learning management systems through initiatives under PM e-Vidya such as SWAYAM, SWAYAM PRABHA, etc”.

“Access to technology should have been more important as without it there is no level playing field. It is more important to talk about accessibility to digital infrastructure, institutional infrastructure,” added Aeijaz.

BJP Sankalp Patra: ‘No commitment’

Anita Rampal, an educationist, said that the BJP manifesto has a lot of “rhetoric” and very little “commitment”.

“The manifesto talks about the existing institutions and states the extension of new higher education institutions with no details. There are words like personalised management of learning, dynamic learning curriculum – what do these even mean?” questioned Rampal.

She also expressed disappointment on how the one point of school education just talks about strengthening the PM SHRI and Eklavya schools.

The manifesto states, “We will ensure that every student gets the opportunity for high-quality school education. For this, we will strengthen the network of PM SHRI Schools, Ekalavya Schools and other such schools as per NEP to make them world-class. We will work towards a 100% Gross Enrollment Ratio from pre-school to secondary level.”

"It's completely deceptive to speak about "work towards 100 percent GER". Already every child age 6-14 years has a fundamental Right to Education. Instead of implementing and extending RTE to class 12, the NEP is actively undoing RTE, closing thousands of schools," she said.

To be fair to the BJP, the Congress manifesto, too, promises more centrally-run schools such as Kendriya Vidyalayas. Education is on the concurrent list of subjects over which state and centre share governance, with the states exercising greater control.

Some feel that the implementation of NEP by the incumbent government has already set the ball rolling on the commitment towards quality education.

A senior professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said, “The reforms of NEP are already being implemented and it will be carried forward. In the last few years we have already seen changes taking place in the education sector.”

He did not want to be identified.

Congress manifesto on education

Congress has the disadvantage of having to react to the past five years of reform and the NEP, as well as remind the public of contributions made a decade ago.

The Congress election manifesto 2024 lists 25 points under the heading of “youth, jobs, education and sports”. These include major promises such as waiver of outstanding education loans and extension of the Right to Education Act till Class 12.

The manifesto also promises to revisit recent reforms. It says the Congress will revisit the NEP 2020 in consultation with the state governments as well as the policy of holding centralised exams – both important aspects, said experts. Plus, it will “ensure that all central textbooks promote a scientific temper and are aligned with India’s constitutional values….Textbook revisions will not be done arbitrarily or driven by political motives”.

Rampal, added, “It is very heartening to see the kind of details that have been spelt out without too much fluff, very focussed, both in terms of overlap that is they reinforce each other. What is understood in terms of affirmative action, understanding marginality, what comes under youth.”

Also read Lok Sabha Election 2024 for Teachers: ‘Pious duty’ to fear and fatigue

The proposal of setting up a diversity commission, implementing the Rohith Vemula Act, restoring the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) are some of the points which experts feel are significant. MANF was discontinued by the BJP government in 2023.

“The manifesto not only talks about restoring the fellowship but also doubles the amount being given. There seems like a serious commitment in identifying the importance of scholarships for SC/ST students, free education for nomadic and denotified tribes, including more languages in the 8th schedule of the Constitution, right to apprenticeship, abolishing application fees for government exams. It is a deeply nuanced and sensitive way of looking at what is affecting a young person’s life,” said Rampal.

Nyay Patra: Will revisit NEET, CUET

A significant poll promise in the Congress manifesto is that if voted to government, they will revisit the policy of holding centralised admission tests such as the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for medicine – vigorously opposed by Tamil Nadu – as well as the Common University Entrance Test. This has been welcomed by some.

A senior professor at a university in Himachal Pradesh said, “If one party is identifying the problems being faced by universities with centralised exams like CUET, it gives us some hope. The NEP is being centrally-enforced without understanding the local and cultural context of the diverse country.” He did not want to be identified.

Even Rampal spoke on how the centralised system of admission is affecting the diversity of a central university like DU.

Congress manifesto: Community colleges

“Another important point in the Congress manifesto is the setting up of government community colleges in every block. The Radhakrishnan committee in 1948 had mentioned it and members had even travelled to Denmark to see the system,” said Rampal.

While the NEP 2020 does not mention community colleges, it has sections dedicated to vocational and skills training.

The Congress manifesto states, “We will assist state governments to establish one government community college in every tehsil/taluk for students completing Class 12. These community colleges will offer a broad range of degrees/diplomas suitable for jobs in the service industry (e.g. hospitality, tourism, digital marketing, paramedical, paralegal, etc.) and for jobs in the manufacturing industry that require basic technical skills.”

The promise to regulate private school fees and to fill all teaching and non-teaching posts in central institutions are being scoffed at.

A teacher at a government school in Delhi said, “It was during the Congress regime that the process of contractual hiring of teachers started leading to adhocism, be it in schools or colleges. So I am very sceptical about this.”

Focus on research missing

Aeijaz said, “Neither manifesto talks about research. Whereas research is the only thing which will make India a knowledge economy. Even if we look at the interim allocation, there has been a massive cut on research grants.”

The Congress manifesto states, “We will restore the autonomy of colleges and universities. Higher educational institutions will have academic freedom and will be encouraged to experiment, innovate and promote research. We will protect and preserve students’ freedom of speech and expression and the right to have elected student unions.”

The BJP manifesto says, “We will operationalise the Anusandhan National Research Foundation to build robust Research and Development infrastructure across the country. We will set up an Anusandhan Fund with an investment of ₹1 lakh crore to provide loans to promote scientific research.” This is part of the technology and innovation section of the Sankalp Patra.

Follow us for the latest education news on colleges and universities, admission, courses, exams, research, education policies, study abroad and more..

To get in touch, write to us at news@careers360.com.

Download Our App

Start you preparation journey for JEE / NEET for free today with our APP

  • Students300M+Students
  • College36,000+Colleges
  • Exams550+Exams
  • Ebooks1500+Ebooks
  • Certification16000+Certifications