“Empowering the Indian citizen should be at the core of formulating the Vision Document of India.”

The aforementioned words by Bibek Debroy were heard at the recent NITI Aayog conference that took place to discuss the Vision Document of India. Mr. Narendra Modi, at the conference, was quoted saying, “The time for incremental change is long over.”

Well, these words spark a ray of hope in the hearts of Indians waiting for something majestic to happen that shall change the way the country and its people function.

NITI Aayog or National Institution of Transforming India is the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India, providing both directional and policy inputs. While designing strategic and long term policies and programmes for the Government of India, NITI Aayog came into being by replacing the Planning Commission or Yojana Aayog, the esteemed establishment that stood erect amid all policy-making institutions for an impressive period of 65 years. It also provides relevant technical advice to the Centre and States.

The renaissance of the Planning Commission to the ‘Policy Commission’ is formally for the country, to achieve its economic potential and to develop in terms of stability and education.

The Knowledge and Innovation Hub, one of the two hubs of the institution builds the think-tank potentials to promote and improve the quality of education in India. There have been a plethora of initiatives undertaken by the government to promote and improve the quality of education in India.

Last year, soon after the formation of the think tank policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had advised the Ministry of Human Resource Development to seek the Niti Aayog’s opinion on the issue of Foreign Universities setting up campuses in India. The idea of setting up Foreign Universities’ campuses in India sounds absolutely beneficial in transforming the face of education in the country as the students would not have to migrate to foreign countries in search of quality education.

The commission has suggested three ways to grant entry of foreign institutions viz., a new law to regulate the operation of such universities in the country, an amendment to the UGC Act of 1956 and deemed university regulations to let them in as deemed universities and, facilitating their entry by tweaking University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) regulations on twinning arrangements between Indian and foreign institutions to permit joint ventures.

Allowing foreign universities would definitely increase the cost of education in the country and the opportunity might only be applicable to financially stable students. While the government plans to assure financial support to worthy students, it is necessary to fathom whether the country is ready on financial grounds to embrace such a drastic change.

The panel is also set to substitute Medical Council of India (MCI) with a National Medical Commission (NMC). The new commission is expected to fill the voids left by the former council in establishing medical colleges as per need and providing impeccable medical education.  While the NMC’s objective is to end the “Inspector Raj” in the medical education sector, Aayog also plans to look into ways to recast UGC, AICTE including board that looks after the Homeopathy and Ayurvedic education in India.

IISc-Bangalore

NITI Aayog plans to transform 10 public and 10 private institutions in India into world class.

Another challenge taken up is to develop 20 world class institutions (WCI) and to establish Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) with a preliminary capital base of Rs 1,000 crore. Under this plan, 10 public and 10 private institutions in India were planned to be given academic and financial autonomy under a regulatory architecture to transform them into world class.

A beneficial step of the Aayog is the formation of the Atal Tinkering Laboratories, one of the three chief schemes under the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM). The commission plans to fund the formation of 500 Atal Tinkering Laboratories in schools throughout the country in the coming years.  It also aims to establish 100 Atal Incubation Centres and support 10 established incubation centres. Amitabh Kant of NITI Aayog believes, establishing such labs will ensure hands on work activities and development of innovative skills in young minds.

Could these reforms prove to be of paramount importance and take India to new heights in terms of education or will these ideas just remain within the framework of the government and not show any significance in reality?

NITI Aayog is definitely working hard towards bridging the gaps in Indian education. The new commission is probably looking ahead to inculcate the spirit of innovation among Indian students. However, it has a plethora of obstacles in its way of becoming a think tank policy that would prove to be a quintessential reform in the government. The policy is only one and a half year old; having a lot of expectations would be an impractical approach. However, one could wait and see how the things go and if this think tank would live up to the expectations.

Let’s fold our hands and watch the show as it goes, the answers will tumble down our way, soon.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are of author’s.