This Article is written by Savio P. Xavier, student of SVKMs Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Navi-Mumbai Campus.
Education is very important in a person’s life. It is one of the main weapons used to improve one’s life. A democratic society cannot be stable without a widespread acceptance of a set of rules and values and for a minimum level of literacy and knowledge on the part of its citizens as well. Education begins from home for a child and will end with his death as it is a life long process. Thus, education not only develops someone’s skills but also contributes to the welfare of the people by promoting a stable and democratic society.
Modern schooling, including the English language, was brought to India by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay in the 1830s due to which teaching was confined to classrooms and the link with nature [also including the close relationship between the teacher and student] was broken.
As per the Constitution of India, the state had full control over the policies and implementation of education systems in their respective state as it was considered as a state subject. Due to this, the Government of India only had limited control to decide the standards of higher education in India. With the Constitutional Amendment of 1976, education came under the purview of the concurrent list. Due to this reason, the policies and programs governing school education are to be suggested from the national level by the Government to the State Government.
The National Policy on Education,1986 and the Programme of Action,1992 contemplates compulsory and free education to satisfy the quality of education for all children who are below 14years before 21stcentury. 6% of Gross Domestic Product is used up by the Government for education, half of which is used solely for primary education. The expenditure percentage increased from 0.7% in 1951-52 to 3.6% in 1997-98.
Article 21A was inserted to the Constitution of India under the Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment] Act, 2002 solely to provide free and compulsory education to all children between the age group of six to fourteen years was made a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine. The consequent legislation envisaged under this Article 21A is the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education[RTE] Act, 2009, according to this every child has the right for the full-time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school satisfying the required set standards and norms.
Currently, the Indian system of education comprises four levels: lower primary[age 6-10]which is divided into five standards, upper primary [age 11-12] which is divided into two standards, high [age 13-15]which is divided into three standards and higher secondary [age 17-18]which is divided into two standards. In the higher secondary level, some amount of specialization is possible and the students in the entire country have to learn three languages which are English, Hindi, and their mother tongue [except where Hindi is their mother tongue]. There are three main streams of school education in India out of which two are coordinated at the national level i.e., Central Board of Secondary Education [CBSE] and Indian Certificate of Secondary Education [ICSE] and the third stream of education in India is the State school system where each state has its own Department of Education, which has its own schooling system as well as their own textbooks and evaluation system.
One Nation, One Education.
School education in India as said earlier has been divided into 4 boards of education. The education provided under these boards is also different as they have their own syllabus. This creates a knowledge gap between students studying in the same standards of different syllabuses. The sole reason for bringing a single curriculum or syllabus is to curtail this knowledge gap between the students and thereby bringing syllabuses of every board at par.
Importance of a Syllabus
Syllabus for a course is a directional map for a student to proceed his way of learning. Basically, it is an instruction providing a standard of what is expected to happen during the entire course session. It mainly contains topics and concepts on which students will be tested for their final examination assessment. A syllabus helps a student to have a clear understanding of the course content and knowledge they will gain from that specific course.
It establishes a connection between a student and teachers by imparting the sole objectives and goals that will be achieved at the end of the entire course. It provides a rhythm for the course by streamlining the content of the course. It thereby helps in the academic success of a student as it informs the goal, course structure, and learning outcomes. Thus, a well-structured syllabus is important for a proper system of education as it entrusts teachers with the responsibility of the overall development of the students and success.
Advantages of a Common Syllabus
Article 21A of the Constitution provides the Right to Education and the RTE Act provides that every child between the age of 4-6 should be given free and compulsory education. The main criticism of this said Act is that even though every child is getting an education, the quality of it is questioned. The only way to check on this issue is to have a common syllabus throughout the country. This will not only ensure education but also the quality of it as well. If there is a common syllabus throughout the entire country, no student will lag in education and there will be no knowledge gap between the same standard students of different boards. This will certainly facilitate students to prepare for competitive examinations and admission tests beyond the school level.
If there is a common syllabus then there will be no discrimination regarding the quality of the education provided based on caste, religious beliefs, or economic backgrounds. This surely provides an unbiased ground for the learning and development of the youth. This will be very beneficial in the future. In the scholastic level, if there is a common syllabus, it can be used for the development of the Uniform Civil Code.
In the current scenario, many state boards do not update their syllabus frequently as per the changes in society. This big problem can be solved if a uniform or common syllabus is introduced in India. The race for marks and grades will be given a fair look and even opportunity of a common syllabus is adopted. The probability of scoring different marks in different boards of education will be lessened if a uniform set of the syllabus is at play.
In some cases, politics influence the education system which is unfair on the side of the students. This is said because some state boards prefer students from their own state and deliberately reserve seats in colleges and universities for the students passing 12th standard from their respective state boards. This can be curbed with the introduction of a common syllabus, then neither the political parties nor the state boards will get much preference because students from all over the country will get an equal chance for scoring grades and thereby to engulf knowledge in equal proportions.
Disadvantages of a Common Syllabus
The main advantage of a state board is that they not only promote their mother tongue but also promote their specific region and their culture. If a common syllabus is set up, then the students may miss learning about their region and their respective cultures. This can be a threat to diversity as India is known for its vast diverse society. The present students may get affected or can even stress out when a sudden change in the syllabus is declared. So an abrupt change in the syllabus may hamper the stability of a student concerning his academics which will be fatal.
With the introduction of a new common syllabus, the only grave problem that a student will face is that they can no longer rely on previous year’s question papers while preparing for the examination. This is because most of the students depend on the previous year’s questions papers before appearing in an examination.
This change in the syllabus will affect the teachers as well as parents as this will bring more workload for them. This is because they will have to modify their old usual notes, prepare new questions especially during examination season, have to go through the new syllabus all over again to be familiar with it, and so on. These aspects will be a problem as they are time-consuming.
Legal Interpretation for having a Common Syllabus
In Tamil Nadu & Ors. Vs. K. Shivam sunder & Ors1. three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, in an appeal filed by the Tamil Nadu Government, the Panchal Bench held that a uniform syllabus especially for students between the age of 6 to 14 will achieve the “Code of Common Culture”. The judgment further said that a child’s right should not be restricted only to free and compulsory education but also quality education without any discrimination on the ground of social, economic, and cultural background.
As a result, in 2011, the SC was in favor of ‘one nation, one education’ due to which Tamil Nadu was the first Indian state to have a common or uniform syllabus throughout. In this state, they had 4 boards. It is only after a long legal battle that the TN government managed to merge all the boards. The common curriculum is called ‘Samacheer Kalvi’ which is framed on the lines of the National Curriculum Framework. Even though, this did not include national boards like CBSE and ICSE, this was the first initiative of its kind.
Therefore, in 2011 the SC had held that a common system of education will achieve the ‘code of common culture’, depletion of discriminatory values in human relations, and removal of disparities.
In 2017, a similar writ was dismissed by the SC, when a primary school teacher Ms. Neeta Upadhaya filed a writ seeking for the introduction of a common education system throughout the country which will advance the objectives behind the RTE Act. But, the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar, and D Y Chandrachud held that a common syllabus is not possible.
Again in July 2020, in the case of Ashwini Kumar UpadhyayVs. Union of India2the court refused to entertain a plea seeking a uniform curriculum for school students between the age of 6-14 across the country instead of having different boards having different syllabus. The PIL filed by Adv. Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay was dismissed by the 3-Judge bench comprising of Dr. DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra, and KM Joseph. They believed that it does not come within the domain of this court under Article 32 of the Constitution to direct the National Education Council or National Education Commission. The court directed the petitioner to approach the Government with his prayer instead. As a consequence of this case, the Government came up with a new policy known as the National Education Policy[NEP] Act, 2020.
National Education Policy [NEP] 2020.
It was on 29th July 2020, the new National Education Policy[NEP] was approved by the cabinet with an aim to introduce several changes to the existing education system in India.The NEP is said to replace the existing National Policy on Education which was formed in 1986 and was modified in 1992. Under this new policy UGC, AICTE and, NCTE are combined to form one regulatory body with an effort to bring unification in the system. This single body regulates all the higher education institutions except medical and legal colleges.
Notable Changes at the school level.
The New Education Policy covers children of ages from 3 years to 18 years [ previously it was from 5 years only]. Their primary goal of learning from a very early stage with less workload in the school education curriculum is the reason behind reducing the starting age of schooling. This policy proposes a 5+3+3+4 [previously 10+2] structure as this would bring India at par with other leading nations of the world when implemented with its true vision in mind.
Board exams will be low staked and re-designed solely to test a student’s actual knowledge and core competencies acquired from that year. Board exams will be conducted twice, one main examination and another one for improvement. According to the policy, the medium of instruction upto class 5 will be in mother tongue, regional language, or local language. As per the new changes, the school will have the right to choose the language of instruction they wanted till class 5. Another notable ingredient seen is the freedom of choice i.e. a student can mix and match their subjects of interest like chemistry can be combined with history in college and senior schools. Last but not the least is the feature of report cards which includes self-assessment by students along with the existing teacher’s evaluation sheet. PARAKH [Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge of Holistic Development], a new National Assessment Centre, is to be set up as a standard-setting body.
Changes in College level.
The duration of an Undergraduate Degree will be either 3 or 4 years which will have various exit options. A student after one year can exit with a diploma or an exit after 2 years with an advanced diploma. The bachelor’s degree will be awarded to students completing the prescribed tenure of the course i.e 3 or 4 years. It will be applicable from the 2022 academic session. An Academic Bank of Credit [ABC] will be set up which will help to digitally store the academic credits of students earned from various recognized HEIs which can be transferred and counted for the final degree. The syllabus of all HEIs will constitute credit-based courses, valued-based education, and projects in fields of community engagement and service.
National Mission for Mentoring will be established which comprises senior and retired faculties. Due to their ability to teach in Indian languages, they will provide long-term professionals support and mentoring for college and university faculties. This policy aims to increase Gross Enrolment Ratio[GER] for higher education to 50% in 2035 from 26.3% in 2018. It is assumed that 3.5 Crore new seats to be added under HEIs and Centre along with the respective States will collaborate for helping to increase the public investment in the Education sector thereby reaching 6% of the GDP.
Even though, the Government is trying to bring equality in education, the barriers have been unavoidable up to date. A uniform curriculum may be a wise option but it is yet to be implemented in the entire country. Uniform education will achieve the code of common culture, depletion of discriminatory values in human relations, and elevate the thoughts of children.
Even though there are a few disadvantages in implementing a common syllabus, in the long run, all these hurdles can be crossed very easily as it benefits society at large.
- State of T.N. v. K. Shyam Sunder, (2011) 8 SCC 737
- Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 580
- One Nation One Education Board| SC refuses to entertain PIL; Says it’s not the function of the Court, 1st August 2020, scconline
- One nation, one education board, 31st July 2020,https://www.iasabhiyan.com/one-nation-one-education-board/
- SC dismisses plea seeking one nation, one syllabus for kids, 1st July 2020, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/sc-dismisses-plea-seeking-one-nation-one-syllabus-for-kids/articleshow/61988457.cms
- What is ‘one nation, one education board, 2nd August 2020, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/8-what-is-one-nation-one-education-board/articleshow/64292147.cms
- National Education Policy, 2020, 2nd July 2020, https://www.mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/Draft_NEP_2019_EN_Revised.pdf