Debate on Education Placement: State List vs. Concurrent List Explained

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • Status of Education– Historical Background
  • Prevailing international practices
  • Way forward

Why in News?

The NEET-UG exam faced controversies with issues like grace marks, allegations of paper leaks, and other irregularities. The UGC-NET exam was cancelled after being conducted, and the CSIR-NET and NEET-PG exams have been postponed.

Against this backdrop, there has been ongoing debate about transferring education back to the state list.

Status of Education– Historical Background

  • Early phase - Education in Provincial list
    • The Government of India Act, 1935 during the British rule created a federal structure for the first time in our polity. 
    • The legislative subjects were distributed between the federal legislature (present day Union) and provinces (present day States). 
    • Education, as an important public good, was kept under the provincial list.
  • After Independence 
    • After independence, the trend set by the GoI Act 1935 was continued and education was part of the ‘State list’ under the distribution of powers.
  • Recommendation of Swaran Singh Committee
    • During the Emergency, the Congress party constituted the Swaran Singh Committee to provide recommendations for amendments to the Constitution. 
    • One of the recommendations of this committee was to place ‘education’ in the concurrent list in order to evolve all-India policies on the subject.
  • 42nd constitutional amendment and status of education
    • The 42nd constitutional amendment (1976) by shifting ‘education’ from the State list to the concurrent list.
    • No detailed rationale was provided for this change.
  • Attempt to bring back education in State list
    • The Janata Party government led by Morarji Desai passed the 44th constitutional amendment (1978) to reverse many of the controversial changes made through the 42nd amendment. 
    • One of these amendments that was passed in the Lok Sabha but not in the Rajya Sabha was to bring back ‘education’ to the State list.
    • Since then, education remains in concurrent list of the Constitution.

Prevailing international practices

  • In the United States, educational standards and standardized tests are set by state and local governments, while federal oversight focuses on financial aid and key educational policies. 
  • Canada delegates education entirely to its provinces. 
  • In Germany, educational legislative authority resides with its states (Länder). 
  • South Africa has national departments for school and higher education, with provinces implementing national policies and addressing local educational needs.

Way forward

  • Arguments for 'Education' in Concurrent List
  • Uniform Education Policy - Advocates argue for a unified approach to education across the country to improve standards and ensure consistency.
  • Synergy Between Centre and States - Central coordination is seen as beneficial for aligning national goals with state-level implementation.
  • Corruption and Lack of Professionalism - Critics cite concerns about inefficiencies and ethical issues within state-level management of education.
  • Arguments for Restoring 'Education' to State List
  • Recent Issues with Centralisation - Events like NEET controversies highlight that centralized control does not eliminate problems, challenging assumptions about governance efficacy.
  • Autonomy and Tailored Policies - States argue for autonomy to tailor educational policies to local needs, especially concerning syllabus, testing, and admissions for professional courses.
  • One size fits all approach can not work - Considering the vast diversity of the country, a ‘one size fits all’ approach is neither feasible nor desirable.
  • Financial Distribution – A significant amount of education expenditure is borne by the states, suggesting a need for productive discussion towards moving ‘education’ back to the State list.
    • According to the Ministry of Education's 2022 report on education spending, out of the total ₹6.25 lakh crore spent by education departments in 2020-21, the Centre contributed 15%, and the States contributed 85%. 
    • When including all other departments' spending on education and training, the breakdown shifts to 24% by the Centre and 76% by the States.
  • Way forward
  • Hybrid Model - Experts suggest maintaining central oversight for regulatory frameworks like medical and technical education while devolving policymaking autonomy to states.
  • Collaborative Governance - Emphasis must be given on productive dialogue between central and state authorities to achieve balanced educational reforms and efficient resource allocation.

Q.1. What is Concurrent List of Indian Constitution?

The Concurrent List of the Indian Constitution is a list of subjects under the Seventh Schedule where both the Central and State governments have the authority to legislate. Laws made by the Central government on these subjects prevail over those made by the States, in case of any conflict. This list includes matters like education, marriage and divorce, bankruptcy and insolvency, and criminal law, among others.

Q.2. What is CSIR-NET?

CSIR-NET is an Indian national exam conducted by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to determine eligibility for Junior Research Fellowship and lectureship positions in science and technology fields.

Source: Should education be brought back to the State list? | Explained