Protest against WTO interference in higher education
New Delhi, 09 Dec 2015: Hundreds of people, including academicians, jurists and activists from across the country are protesting near Jantar Mantar here against the possible entry of foreign players in country’s education sector under WTO-GATS regime.
Foreign Direct Investment will be allowed in the higher education sector, under which foreign universities would establish universities and colleges here and professors and teachers will come here and collect service charges for rendering service in institutions.
The protest, which was organized by All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) started on December 7th and will continue till December 14th. Madhu Prasad of AIFRTE accused the government of treating education as a market commodity.
“We are protesting against the decision of the government to allow the World Trade Organization in higher education,” said Prasad, who was also a professor in the University of Delhi.
Several educationists, academicians, jurists, and activists, including Justice Rajinder Sachar and educationist Anil Sadgopal are part of this protest. A statement distributed by the AIFRTE warned that the government should ready itself for strong opposition for allowing the WTO-GATS in the higher education sector.
“If our education system is brought under the WTO-GATS regime, even the people’s right to struggle for quality education for all, for which government is constitutionally accountable, will be taken away,” a statement from the rights panel said.
Organizers announced that they will hold similar protests in other parts of the country. They urged people, especially students and teachers to unite against allowing WTO in the higher education.
“Education has been made a tradeable service under GATS. We are treating education like services such as hotels, pubs etc. Instead of universities, academic councils and Parliament, education policy will now be determined by WTO norms,” Sadgopal had earlier said.
He feared that the entire exercise will hit our education policy very hard. The World Bank had mooted the idea of an independent regulatory authority. This will be a single window for the global market, instead of several institutions like we have (such as the UGC, the AICTE, the NCTE, the Bar Council of India and the Medical Council of India among others).
The BJP led central government has already started propaganda to discredit these institutions so as to build up a case for an overarching body named in the Yashpal Committee Report as The National Council of Higher Education Research. The National Knowledge Commission of India has also recommended a similar body.
In its 2014 election manifesto the BJP talked about setting up a highly empowered central institution "to improve the quality of higher education", instead of having too many bodies.
“This is scary. It will threaten the sovereignty of our higher education.
If our governments - state or central - want to a new scheme, they will have to get it vetted by WTO's Trade Regulation Council. A trade policy review mechanism will annually review the policies of member countries and "suggest" changes. Even accreditation will be determined by them,”Sadgopal said.