academic freedom index

Context: India’s dull score on the Academic Freedom Index reflects the issues troubling the country’s education system.

What were the findings of academic freedom index?

  • India has scored noticeably low in the international Academic Freedom Index (AFI) with a score of 0.352, which is closely followed by Saudi Arabia (0.278) and Libya (0.238).
  • The AFI of India has dipped by 0.1 points in the last 5 years.
  • Countries like Malaysia (0.582), Pakistan (0.554), Brazil (0.466), Somalia (0.436) and Ukraine (0.422) have scored better than India.
  • Uruguay and Portugal top the AFI, with scores of 0.971 each, followed closely by Latvia (0.964) and Germany (0.960).
  • The AFI has cited the ‘Free to Think: Report of the Scholars at Risk Academic Freedom Monitoring Project, to suggest that the political tensions in India may have something to do with declining ‘academic freedom’.
  • The police brutality against students at Jamia Millia Islamia University and Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, and their being labelled as anti-nationals, has raised concerns about the state of academic freedom.

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What are the claims in NEP 2020?

  • The NEP 2020 claims that it is based on principles of creativity and critical thinking and envisions an education system that is free from political or external interference.
  • For instance, the policy states that faculty will be given the “freedom to design their own curricular and pedagogical approaches within the approved framework, including textbook and reading material selections, assignments and assessments”.
  • It suggests creating a National Research Foundation (NRF), a merit-based and peer-reviewed research funding, which will be governed, independently of the government, by a rotating Board of Governors consisting of the very best researchers and innovators across fields.
  • The new education policy aims at repairing the educational system in the country and making “India a global knowledge superpower”, with a new system that is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal-4 (SDG 4).
  • It also emphasises universal access to schools for all children, raising the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), and ending the rise of dropout rate in India.

What were the components used in evaluating AFI scores? Examine India’s performance.

  • The AFI used eight components to evaluate the scores:
  • Freedom to research and teach
  • Freedom of academic exchange and dissemination
  • Institutional autonomy
  • Campus integrity
  • Freedom of academic and cultural expression
  • Constitutional protection of academic freedom
  • International legal commitment to academic freedom under the International Contract on Economic ,Social and Cultural Rights
  • Existence of universities
  • India has not done well in components like institutional autonomy, campus integrity, freedom of academic and cultural expression and constitutional protection of academic freedom.
  • Most universities in the country are subjected to unwanted interference from governments in both academic and non-academic issues.
  • Majority of appointments, especially to top-ranking posts like that of vice-chancellors, pro vice-chancellors and registrars, have been highly politicised.
  • Such political appointments choke academic and creative freedom, and also lead to corrupt practices, including those in licensing and accreditation, thus promoting unhealthy favouritism and nepotism in staff appointments and student admissions.
  • This reflects a ‘rent-seeking culture’ within the academic community.

Way forward

  • The NEP 2020 aims to de-bureaucratise the education system by giving governance powers to academicians.
  • It also talks about giving autonomy to higher education institutions by handing over their administration to a board comprising academicians. This may help de-bureaucratise the education system and reduce political interference to an extent.
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