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Centre vs States on Education

Context: The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu urged the President of India to transfer education to the state list of the Constitution, escalating the tussle with the Centre over the NEET Exam.

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  • In September 2021, the Tamil Nadu Assembly passed a bill seeking to exempt students in the state from NEET, for which the governor’s assent is still pending.
    • NEET is the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test conducted in India for admission to undergraduate medical courses.
    • It is an all-India examination that is taken by students who have completed Class 12th or equivalent.
    • NEET was introduced from the academic year 2013-14 and has replaced the All-India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT).
  • Why is Tamil Nadu against NEET?
    • Critics argue that NEET’s mechanical focus on marks disregards the importance of student quality and aptitude.
    • The introduction of NEET has also dismantled the state’s in-service quota for medical graduates in the government sector, which, according to critics, has undermined quality healthcare.
    • Critics also argued that NEET has favored mainly the affordable and affluent sections of the society and thwarting the dreams of underprivileged social groups.
    • Also, Tamil Nadu opposes NEET by saying that it undermined the diverse societal representation in MBBS and higher medical studies.
  • Can any state legislate against NEET?
    • Admissions to medical courses are traceable to entry 25 of Concurrent List, Schedule VII of the Constitution.
    • Therefore, the State can also enact a law regarding admission and amend any Central law on admission procedures.

Education in the Indian Constitution

  • Article 45 under Directive Principles of State Policy: It laid down the foundation stone of free and compulsory education in the country.
    • The article states that “the state shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years”.
  • Article 21A: The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine.
    • Accordingly, the Centre enacted The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009.
  • Education under Concurrent List: In the original Constitution, education was placed under the State List under the 7th schedule, which meant that the responsibility for education primarily rested with the individual states.
    • Later, the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution moved education from the State List to the Concurrent List and thus both the Parliament and the state assemblies can legislate upon it.

Role of Center in Education

  • Policy Formulation: The central government is responsible for formulating national-level policies and guidelines related to education.
    • NEP 2020: The central government approved the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 which aims to bring about significant changes and improvements in various aspects of education, from school to higher education.
  • Funding Allocation: The central government allocates funds for various educational initiatives and programs.
    • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA): SSA is a flagship program that aims to provide universal access to quality elementary education. The central government allocates funds to support infrastructure development, teacher training, free textbooks, and other educational resources for primary and upper primary schools.
    • Mid-Day Meal Scheme: The central government allocates funds for the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, which provides nutritious meals to schoolchildren to improve enrolment, attendance, and nutrition levels.
  • Regulatory Framework: The central government establishes regulatory bodies like the UGC and the AICTE to maintain and regulate the quality of higher education institutions and technical education programs across the country.
    • University Grants Commission (UGC) is a statutory body charged with coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education in India.
    • The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) is a statutory body, and a national-level council for technical education, under the Department of Higher Education.
  • National Curriculum Framework: The central government, through bodies like the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), develops a national curriculum framework that serves as a guideline for curriculum design in schools across the country.

Role of States in Education

  • Implementation of Policies: State governments implement the educational policies and guidelines formulated by the central government by tailoring them to suit the specific needs of their state.
  • School Governance: State governments oversee the management and governance of schools, including government schools and aided private schools.
  • Curriculum Development: While the central government provides a national curriculum framework, state governments have the authority to adapt and develop their own curriculum based on the needs of their students and the local context.
  • Teacher Recruitment and Training: State governments are responsible for recruiting and training teachers in government schools.

Advantages of Education being in the Concurrent List

  • National Integration: While states have the flexibility to tailor education to their cultural and linguistic contexts, the central government’s involvement ensures a certain level of uniformity and promotes national integration.
  • Resource Sharing: It facilitates resource, expertise and infrastructure sharing between the central and state governments.
  • Best Practices Dissemination: With education being in the Concurrent List, successful policies and practices implemented in one state can be observed and adopted by other states.
  • Quality Standards: The central government can set minimum quality standards for education, ensuring that even in diverse regions, certain fundamental educational benchmarks are met.
  • Cross-State Mobility: It allows students to easily move from one state to another without significant disruption in their education, as the basic curriculum and standards remain somewhat consistent.
  • Addressing Complex Challenges: Issues that transcend state boundaries, such as promoting research and development in emerging fields or addressing environmental challenges, can be more effectively tackled with central coordination.

Challenges and concerns associated with education being in the concurrent list

  • Policy Fragmentation: Having education on the Concurrent List can result in fragmented policies that may not be fully aligned with the needs and aspirations of individual states.
  • Undermining diversity: National-level policies like the National Education Policy (NEP) might not adequately consider the diverse regional and cultural contexts of individual states.
  • Adverse Impact on State Autonomy: Education being on the Concurrent List might result in states feeling that their autonomy in education matters is compromised.
  • Coordination and Implementation Challenges: Ensuring coordination between state and central policies can be challenging, leading to administrative and implementation difficulties.
  • Duplication of Efforts: Both central and state governments might invest resources and efforts in similar areas of education, which can lead to duplication of projects and wastage of resources.

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