On February 21, 2022, the Indian ministry of social justice and empowerment revised the guidelines prohibiting the students applying for the National Overseas Scholarship (NOS) from pursuing courses related to Indian culture, history, heritage, and social studies in foreign niversities.
The move has drawn criticism from both the teaching and opposition parties. However, the government maintained that the decision was made to allow more practical expertise to be pursued in Indian universities. According to the government, the objective of the move was to allow more students to pursue studies related to social sciences and humanities in Indian universities.
The NOS aims to support marginalised students in pursuing post-graduation or PhD degrees abroad. The agency aims to provide financial assistance to those from marginalised sections, such as scheduled castes, nomadic tribes, and landless workers.
To qualify for the scheme, candidates with an annual income of fewer than INR 8 lakhs must meet the minimum income requirement.
The opposition parties argued that the decision would affect academic autonomy and expose students to different kinds of discrimination in Indian society. History professor Maya John said that education policies should reflect society's needs. "We should not treat education policies as mere extensions of the ruling elite's ideology or whims."
The concept of National Educational Opportunity scheme was conceptualised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to provide educational opportunities to the most backward students in the country. The decision to exclude certain subjects from the scheme shows the government's fear of independent-minded students and critical scholarship, the opposition parties added.
Apoorvanand, a professor from Delhi University, accused the government of targeting the SC/ST community in order to keep them away from the international scholarship. The ministry argued that allowing more practical expertise to be pursued in Indian universities would give students a better understanding of the subject.
R Subrahmanyam, social justice and empowerment secretary said the decision was taken after taking into account various factors. He noted that the country has more than the required resources to provide quality education to Indian students. Since studies in India require extensive fieldwork, it was not feasible for students to study abroad.
This means that they would spend most of their time in India conducting research. This scholarship would not be used. However, he clarified that the department did not take social studies out of the National Open School. Students can still apply for fellowship opportunities at Indian universities.
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