Analysis: Plea for ‘One Nation, One Education Board’

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

India has a rich history concerning the education system. It is the birthplace to one of the oldest universities in the world, for instance, the Nalanda University was built in 5th Century BC. Since then, India has come a long way by introducing new pedagogy, syllabus, and education boards to streamline the administration and education provided. Various education boards and statutory bodies are established by the Government of India, to facilitate the working of the education system and provide quality education to every student. There are two major national education boards, the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) & the CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination) under which the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) and the Indian School Certificate (ISC) boards come. Apart from this, most states also have independent State Education Boards. Most boards are under the Government’s control, but some are controlled by private and international entities.

Petition, Provisions, & Facts of the Issue

India hasn’t followed a ‘one nation one education board’ formula. States are given liberty to establish education boards by passing Acts in their State Assemblies. Under point 25 of the Concurrent list given in the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution, education comes under the ambit of the State as well as the Union. A number of boards in India have led to non-uniform and varied standards and systems of education, in every part of this country. State Education Boards tend to give education at less cost, though the quality of education compared to that of a national board or international board is often questioned and criticised. The Public Interest Litigation (hereinafter referred to as “PIL”) filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, a BJP leader and advocate, in the Supreme Court of India, challenged this concept of multiple boards across India.

His Petition has looked into the feasibility of establishing of ‘One Nation, One Education Board.’ The plea sought to merge the two of many existing boards into one, i.e. CBSE & CISCE into one official national board of education. The plea further sought to achieve socio-economic equality and justice. For this objective to mbe met, it is necessary for every school to adopt a similar syllabus and curriculum.It was also stated that entrance exams conducted by the Central Government are based on the syllabus and curriculum of the CBSE board. According to the PIL, a student studying in a State Board school has to face more hardship than the student studying in the CBSE board, because of the education and teaching standards while appearing for entrance exams.

This promotes inequality between standards of education provided to the youth of India. The plea suggested that the official language of teaching may change according to the preference of the States. The main contention of the plea was that the prevailing education system does not provide equal opportunity to students between ages 6 to 14. Even though Article 21A (Right to Education) guarantees education to all children, the standard of education provided by some boards is well below standards of CBSE. The PIL further suggested to the Supreme Court of India, the establishment of a national education council or commission, that can implement the proposed system.

Similar Petitions & Verdicts

This is not the first time a PIL has been filed regarding this issue. In 2017, Neeta Upadhyay, a teacher in primary school and wife of BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, filed a PIL pertaining to this issue. The plea was however, dismissed by the Court by saying merging of education boards is not the court’s job and students will be burdened by addition of more books. This dismissal of the PIL was in stark contrast to another judgement passed by this very court in year 2011. In the judgement of 2011, State of Tamil Nadu and Ors. v. K. Shyam Sunder and Ors., the Supreme Court averred that separate education boards are unequal and violate the doctrine of equality. Coming back to the year 2020, the Apex Court seemed to follow the 2017 verdict, by yet again dismissing the plea and stating that the petition lays no foundation for the Court to issue directions in the favour of the plea.  The Court asked the petitioner to approach appropriate authorities i.e. Government, with this prayer.

Critical Analysis of the Issue.

Positives:

  1. The idea of “One Nation, One Education Board,” strives for making the idea of a Uniform Civil Code come closer to reality. Article 44 (Fundamental Duties) of the Indian Constitution provides that the State should endeavour to establish a Uniform Civil Code which will apply to everyone in India.
  2. A national education board could have made the education system uniform and bearing a standard quality throughout the country.
  3. If this system was implemented, changing schools would not have been a problem, as every school would have followed the same system.
  4. Despite the socio-economic inequalities in the country, everyone would have an equal level of education.  

Negatives:

  1. Education is mentioned in the Concurrent list, which means that both Union and States can establish education institutes and boards. Implementing one national board will mean that the right of State Governments to establish education boards is taken away by the Central Government.
  2. A decent CBSE board affiliated school charges more money than the State board schools. If every school starts following the national board’s syllabus and curriculum then the fees of schools will likely increase. This will lead to students dropping out of schools earlier because of the unavailability of funds.
  3. Taking an example of the Maharashtra State, most of the reputed and established schools and junior colleges follow the SSC and HSC board. The fees are low and faculties are well experienced. Introducing a change in this system will lead to such reputed schools to collapse.
  4. Teaching faculties, writers, and administrators might even have to lose their job or have to adapt to a different system, making their years of experience in the subject and administration worthless.
  5. Currently, parents and students get to choose the education board by enrolling in preferred schools. If the current system is replaced then students cannot choose as per their convenience and abilities, the education board that they can best flourish in.
  6. This might put pressure on students and parents not coming from well off families who cannot afford extra tuition and study materials.     

Conclusion:

The idea of ‘One Nation, One Education board’ seems exciting but it has some drawbacks. The Supreme Court has rejected to entertain the PIL, but the Government may take it into consideration. The current Government has a Uniform Civil Code as one of their agendas might go ahead with the idea. But doing so will cause some real problems for the employed teachers, staff, and students studying in schools. If the government could come up with a concrete plan, then this suggested system of one official national education board can become a success. To achieve that, the Government has to provide subsidiaries, scholarships, and financial aids to students and schools. This will ensure that every child gets access to quality education. across India and no one to be left uneducated or illiterate.

Author: Tejas Kandalgaonkar from MNLU, Mumbai.

Editor: Astha Garg, Junior Editor, Lexlife India

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