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Centralisation in decision making in education

Why in news?

Decentralisation and active encouragement was the principle in the initial years of independence. Recent trends show a growing emphasis on centralisation in university education.

Government support and the rise of educational institutions

  • In the initial decades after Independence, the government was conscious of various social, economic and financial challenges. So, the government strongly supported universities.
  • The IITs and IIM along with institutions of academic excellence like the IISc, Indian Statistical Institute, and JNU emerged as model institutions.
  • The institutional and academic autonomy offered was crucial to their development as premier institutions.
  • Other universities revised curricula and set about the task of reforming the themselves as a space for healthy academic engagement.

Rise of decentralisation in collective decision making

  • The above changes were marked by the growing importance of various large representative institutional bodies.
  • For example, institutional bodies like faculty committees, committees of courses, board of studies, university senates, academic councils and executive councils grew in importance.
  • These bodies oversaw the administrative and academic functioning of the university and ensured collective decision-making.
  • Debate over ideological positions, scholarly beliefs shaped the process of nation-building in independent India.

Policy changes and its impact (2005-15)

  • Administrative and academic decisions were imposed from above.
  • Discussions within various academic bodies were discouraged.
  • The imposition of the semester system and a four-year undergraduate programme in many public and private universities were hallmarks of this new era of bureaucratic centralisation.
  • The academic achievements of scholars from Indian universities were undermined.
  • Those in positions of authority within the universities were encouraged to undermine academic bodies and limit their role.

New government intervention after 2015

  • Choice Based Credit System was introduced and there were renewed attempts to privatise higher education linked to an emphasis on rankings.
  • The government started to look into minute details pertaining to academic curricula, the teaching-learning process and the parameters that governed academic research within the university.

Centralisation in Covid-19 pandemic

  • The centralisation trend intensified with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Central government and the University Grants Commission have imposed themselves on the daily functioning of all higher educational institutions.
  • This represents a new government-oriented bureaucratic centralisation.
  • Decisions about the conclusion of academic term, the modalities for evaluation and the conduct of the teaching-learning process have become exclusive government prerogatives.
  • The various academic bodies that had original jurisdiction over these matters have been made redundant.
  • How and whether examinations are to be conducted has become an issue of contention between State and Central governments.
December 2023