‘Agniveers to be precious community; curriculum should change with time’ – Times of India


Amid massive protests against the government’s Agnipath scheme, Union Minister for Education and Skills Dharmendra Pradhan tells TOI Manash Gohain that the Agniveers will form a highly skilled and valuable community for the country. Referring to the controversy over the rationalization of the school curriculum, Pradhan said that the curriculum should be dynamic. In his first interview as education minister, Pradhan said that DU and Jamia Millia Islamicia are doing a great job and global rankings are not the only indicator of the quality of institutions. Excerpts from the interview:

Is the rationalization of the NCERT school program an attempt to selectively remove content that does not suit the BJP?

NCERT is a government think tank with a rich history, heritage and competent people. This is not the first time such debates and discussions about the curriculum have taken place. No curriculum is static and priorities change over time.

Out of 100 indicators, you are talking about five indicators. But shouldn’t we link mathematics to programming today? Shouldn’t the language be related to information technology and programming? Shouldn’t Industrialization 4.0 be part of the program? Shouldn’t we match global job opportunities? Due to the pandemic, not only NCERT, but almost every state has reshuffled the curriculum and streamlined it based on their priorities. Therefore, you should not look at it through an ideological lens.


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Was there a communication gap in sharing the benefits of the Agnipath scheme?

Before it was placed in the Cabinet of Ministers, the government has been thinking about it in great detail for the last two years. At a certain stage, the Ministry of Education was also involved.

Unlike before, when the armed forces needed a lot of manpower, today’s wars are based on technology. We need to make our armed forces young and focused, and we need to build a big base. Agnipath is expanding the base, so 75:25 is planned in four years. Until then, they will be part of the armed forces. Regarding graduation, if they joined the school at the age of 17 or 18 after graduating from class X, he will automatically graduate as a student with the highest high school score. In addition, Agniveers entry-level and on-the-job training can be converted into credit points, just like in general education. They will be compared within the credit system and will lead to the equivalence of degrees. Thus, a student of the XII class in these four years can receive a degree. Therefore, when they come out, they will have a certificate of qualification, a degree and a service fund.

As in many developed countries, the “People’s Army”, as stated by our Minister of the Interior, will have priority and reserve in the CRPF. States such as UP, Assam, Uttarakhand and Haryana have already said that Agniveers will be taken over by state forces, and the corporate sector has come to their defense. I believe that we will have a highly qualified precious community. Whenever a new scheme is launched, it needs to be reported discreetly, which the government has been doing since day one. This was stated by the Minister of Defense and the commanders-in-chief of our forces, so there was no disconnection. There are some who are politicizing this, as they do every vision of our prime minister. We are not going to respond to these voices.

In recent global university rankings, in addition to IISc and IIT, general universities such as DU, JNU and Jamia have fallen. your views.

It would be wrong to evaluate quality based only on ratings. QS is a well known institution as well as Times (HigherEducation). They have certain parameters, like international students, which are probably not very high at universities like DU. The priority and nature of Indian educational institutions differ from foreign counterparts. DU is a government institution and our priority is to provide quality education to Indian students where universities like DU and Jamia are doing great. IISc growth is not due to QS ratings. For many years, in many of these international evaluations, the IISc has been at the top of the international citations.

Private universities are very popular, as seen in the CUET application trend?

For the government, all universities are the same. Over the past 30 years, stimulus policies have created many good private institutions. In addition to high achievers and middle class students, government agencies also provide opportunities for disadvantaged children due to their affordability. However, for our research activities, quality private universities and their growth are equally important to us.

May 15 was supposed to be the deadline for finalizing the national focus group position papers on the four National Curriculum Frameworks. Why is there a delay?

There was no such deadline. The Steering Committee, chaired by K. Kasturirangan, who also chaired the committee that developed the NEP 2020, held joint consultations with focus groups from the NCF, state governments, state SCERTs, and held discussions at the district level. As far as I understand, for the upcoming Saraswati puja we will be ready with the ECCE curriculum (up to grade II) as well as the textbooks.

Do some states seem to be at odds with the NEP Implementation Center or during the SCF consultations?

On June 1 and 2, we held a national conference of ministers of school education in Gandhinagar. 95% of the states participated. We expected two things from them – NCF status and their best practices in recovering lost learning. All states work responsibly, based on their priorities and requirements. As for the NEP, I read in the papers that there are some disagreements on several issues from several states. In a democracy, we welcome this. The government does not draw up the curriculum, but has entrusted it to an apolitical public intellectual such as Kasturirangan, allowing full independence for consultation and discussion with civil society to prepare a framework with the government’s vision in mind.

What are your views on the internationalization of higher education in India?

There are two aspects to this priority area. The first is the GIFT City project announced in the latest budget, under which any foreign university opening its campus will be outside the scope of existing Indian policy.

Secondly, the NEP has clearly mentioned that existing rules and regulations will need to be amended to allow high-quality foreign universities and institutes to operate in India in various forms – campuses, dual degrees, joint degrees or twin degrees. UGC is working on the necessary rules.



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