ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Higher Education

We the teachers’ and students’ organisations, grass-roots groups, academics and social activists from 16 different states representing the All India Forum for Right to Education (AIF-RTE) are deeply distressed at the policies of systemic withdrawal of the State from higher (including professional) education being pursued ruthlessly by the central government. These policies are clearly designed to increase the pace of privatisation and commercialisation of higher education, resulting in rapid increase in the cost along with fall in the quality of education. At the root of such policies is the alarming decision of the government to make education at all levels, including school education, a tradable commodity and, therefore, a source of profit. At least in the case of higher education, these policy measures seem to be a consequence of the “offer” made by the government in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) to bring higher education under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime as a tradable service.

We note that the post-independence policies and the education system had already strayed significantly from the vision evolved during the freedom struggle. In higher education, this resulted in restricting access (now touching hardly 12% of the relevant age group), inequality of opportunity, generally substandard institutions (except, of course, a handful of high quality institutions in various disciplines) and, more importantly, in uncoupling education from the needs of India’s economy, challenged by impoverishment, disparities and questionable direction of development. Yet, the policies focused on developing an independent, critical system of higher education in the social sciences and humanities and promoting self-reliance in the areas of science and technology. The State has now apparently decided not to pursue this unfinished task of fulfilling the aspirations of the people through a primarily state-funded but democratic and decentralised system aimed at equitable social development. Instead, the neoliberal shift is embedded in a market-oriented, instrumentalist approach to knowledge designed at producing a cheap, skilled but slavish workforce to serve the corporate-controlled global economic agenda of appropriation of people’s natural resources, habitats and livelihoods for profit, subjugation and hegemony.

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