Dialogue  April-June 2007 , Volume 8 No. 4

Editorial Perspective

Education in India

India has long tradition of education since the remote past. We had Gurukulas. In special cases, the students also used to go and stay with the teachers for the expert knowledge. We had morungs in the tribal areas for educating the youth. The skills were learnt at home. The parents used to teach the same to their children. The temples were not only the worship places and the centres of pilgrimages, but also the centres of learning. We had also the famous universities of Nalanda, Takshashila, Vikramashila, Vallabhi and at several other places. The temples and the universities were destroyed and many excellent libraries were burnt during Turk invasion and the Muslim rule.

Our education and literacy graph was higher when the Britishers came than during the British Raj period. The British destroyed the support base of the indigenous education; introduced their own system of education. The colonial system of education prevails even after sixty years of independence and the ruling elite have developed vested interest in maintaining the same.

 India had many ‘Education Commissions’ during pre- and post-Independence periods. The Commissions produced excellent documents. The same is the case with the ‘National Policy on Education’ documents of 1968, 1986 and the modified document of 1992. The recommendations of the same have never been implemented sincerely. The Constitutional provisions about the eradication of illiteracy and universal education for the age group from 5 to 14 are yet to be fulfilled. The revised National Education Policy formulations of as late as 1992 has to remind us of the unfulfilled task. The document said:

“The new thrust in elementary education will emphasise three aspects: (i) universal access and enrolment, (ii) universal retention of children upto 14 years of age; and (iii) a substantial improvement in the quality of education to enable all children to achieve essential levels of learning.”

GoI formed National Literacy Mission, re-pledged to eradicate illiteracy, particularly in the age group of 15-35, the blot is yet to be removed. It needs no emphasis that much is yet to be done in every field of education, be it School Education, Vocational Education, Higher Education, Technical and Management Education, improvement of the libraries or in any other field related to the education. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan launched by GoI is making halting progress. The scheme implementation has many flaws in quality and management, though the flow of money is ensured.

 The GoI has yet taken another positive step. It has formed a National Knowledge Commission under the chairmanship of Sam Pitroda. It has come out with recommendations, such as, creation of 1500 universities by 2015, establishment of National Translation Mission, National Commission to prepare a census of libraries, to make Right to Education justiciable, bringing vocational education entirely under HRD. It has recommended that English should be introduced, along with the first language, in Class I and graduates with high proficiency in English should be inducted as teacher. It has come out with the proposal to reform higher education. The Commission over-emphasises English education, ignores mother-tongues as the medium of instruction. It totally ignores Hindi as the link language.

In spite of all the efforts, the over all scenario is not rosy. The State and status of education in this country, in no way, may be said to be satisfactory. The scenario, especially in the fields of humanities and social sciences, is very bleak. The liberal education does not liberate. The University degree holders, today, are rejected and dejected lot. There is high demand for the unlettered un-educated, but not for the degree-holders. Statistically speaking, the system produces highly confused individuals, who neither get employed, nor are employable. It produces mercenaries and cyber-coolies. Most of the Ph.D. dissertations lack originality and are not even worth publishing.

The teachers in government run schools and colleges are comparatively better-educated and well-paid. Yet their performance, in most of the cases, is unsatisfactory. There is need to ensure quality education through government run institutions. To tide over the resource-crunch and growing need of more and more schools and colleges, private endeavour should be encouraged and facilitated. There should be no regimentation in the field of education; transparency should be maintained at any cost. The segregation on communal lines in education is going to be too costly for the nation, and any attempt towards that needs to be resisted.

Politicization of education has created many problems of us. The short-sightedness of the governments – Central and the States - is largely responsible for the same. The academics, who claim to be liberal and politically correct and who never fail to take benefits of their linkages, always insist on prescriptions and control. Nothing goes unchallenged unless things are decided under their hegemony, unless they have a decisive say in prescribing syllabus and textbooks. Anybody, who does not toe their line is a communal and non-secular person.

The leftist scholars wanted the change in NCERT school curriculum. Accordingly, UPA government appointed Yashpal Committee. It prepared National Curriculum Framework (NCF) -2005. Yashpal, an eminent scientist and former Chairman of the University Grants Commission, and Professor Krishna Kumar, NCERT Chairman, were severely criticized by left-academics and SAHMAT activists. According to them, it “skips the issue of communalization of text books prepared on the basis …”; is “obscurantist”; that the two have been trying to accommodates the Sangh Pariwar’s views. Irfan Habib, the leftist historian, was of the view that “The document has nothing to say about the communalization of textbooks after 2000.” The report’s emphasis on “local knowledge” and “local belief system” was equally disliked. For another left-wing historian, the document glorified “local knowledge traditions” and it amounted to “another retreat of reason”. Yashpal had to remind the critics that he does not need their certificate and that “The criticism of the document is idiotic. It intends to promote creativity in the child, provoke him to ask questions. Let the child ask why is the sun moving, and that is the only way to confront communalism.” According to Yashpal, “People who are discussing education merely in terms of communal-secular vocabulary do not understand education at all.” Yashpal questioned his critics: “Are we to develop a comprehensive education system for students or brainwash them into believing in Indian history as perceived by some political sections?”

 The unending blame games, dominence of the quarrelsome politically correct activist propagandists among our academia have promoted dialoguelessness and intellectual desertification. We have lost capacity to generate ideas, have become consumers in that field. We have failed to give new direction to our social sciences even after six decades of independence. Colonial myths, racist interpretation of the society and culture, colonial history and other social sciences continue to denationalize our youth. Information has become synonymous to education and knowledge; wisdom has taken back seat, the voice of reason gets blunted day by day, the nation is becoming gradually more confused. The challenge is real.

 A maverick art student’s pornographic representations of Jesus Christ and Durga are publicly exhibited with the aid of a teacher of the University. The public sentiment is aroused, the teacher is penalized, the student is arrested by the police. The HRD minister at the Centre asks UGC to intervene; a leftist MP, a communal organization with leftist cover, SAHMAT and others come forward to help the student and the erring professor. The question is: If such act is justified on the name of freedom of expression, then why have we obscenity laws and the Censor Board? Why the society should tolerate goondaism of an artist. In any way, this also exemplifies our degeneration and confusion created by the wrong education of the day.

Aurobindo, Gandhi and Tagore were great educational thinkers. They continue to be relevant as they talked in civilizational parameters and the situation has not changed basically. We need to restore their ideas in the field of education and reduce the emphasis on Marx.

Most of our academicians derive credibility and status from the research degrees/ awards received from the West. However, the Euro-American perception of India and all the things Indian is not free from bias and, therefore, needs change. Here is a volume, Education and Social Change In South Asia. It consists of the papers of sixteen scholars empanelled by scholars of Centre for Modern Oriental Studies (CMO), Berlin at the 16th and 17th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies and the Second International Conference of Asian Studies held in 2000-02. The book, as its name suggests, was supposed to provide macro-perception of the education in South Asia. Contrary to that, it is full of micro case studies with narrow focus, colonial and Christian obsolete views and perspective, obsession with caste and anti-Hindu rhetoric. It does not deal with indigenous education in time depth and spread, and how the Britishers destroyed the same. The book is full of anti-Hindu, anti-culture, anti-tradition bias promoted by the British colonialists. This is only an example; it may be multiplied.

Uttar Pradesh: Lessons from the recent Electoral Verdict

The results of the seven-stage UP Assembly election marathon has come out as expected. The electorate has given a clear mandate after 1991election.to Mayawati and her party. Out of the 206 BSP MLAs, 60 are Dalits, 40 Brahmins and the remaining 108 from all other communities. Mayawati has dislodged not only Mulayam Singh and his Samajwadi Party from power; it has also cut the two national parties – Congress and the BJP – to size. BJP’s vote share came down from 22 to 18 percent; it retained only 50 Assembly seats as against 88 of the 2002 election. The vote share of the Congress was reduced from nine to eight per cent; it could win only 21 seats in this election. Ironically, the Communists could return no MLA to the UP Assembly this time and it happened for the first time. There was seven per cent vote swing in favour of the BSP. The two national parties, ironically could secure less than one fifth seats in the UP Assembly and this people’s verdict came out just within a day after the President Kalam stressed the need to evolve a “stable two-party system” in the country. The conscientious citizens of the country are also of the same view as the fractured polity of this country has taken worrisome proportion.

 I asked a very senior journalist six weeks earlier about the possible outcome of the UP elections. Mayawati shall better her performance, he said. About BJP, his remark was crisp: ‘You may imagine about the performance of the party, whose national chairman is the leader of one of the seven factions.’

. The credit for the change partially goes to the Election Commission and its making the muscle-power ineffective. Though the number of BSP MLAs with criminal background is not less, the people, by and large, believed that Mayawati would control crime, may be able to show mohalla goondas and other highly placed criminals their proper place and lodge them accordingly. The people believe that she would deliver, provide stable government and tough administration. even though she did not issue her party’s manifesto or pronounce any development/economic agenda. When the people unseated SP/Mulayam Singh for rampant corruption, crime and lawlessness, muscle-flexing by radical Muslim outfits, shows of ministerial arrogance and insensitivity, his association with film-stars, crony capitalists and criminals, then it was foolish to expect a vote for the BJP, perceived as the B-team of his party. After all, the ministerial bungalows allotted to the BJP leaders and their dear ones and all other favours showered on them, person like Atiq Ahmed and his men asking people of Allahabad to vote for Kesrinath Tripathi, state BJP president and not to their own party, SP, did not go unnoticed. Many believed the rumour of the so-called Naqvi plan to be true..Needless to say that BJP suffered from the moral default and most of the vote transfer was from the BJP side to that of the BSP.

 There was transfer of Congress vote also to the BSP. The vote to the Congress was considered to be the wastage of vote by a large section of the people. The people enjoyed 106 road shows of Rahul Gandhi; voted for only ten. In some of the areas of the densest campaigning, the party candidates performed very poorly.. The people, however, did not share either the nostalgia, or the myopia of the sycophantic party men. All the attention surrounding Rahul Gandhi’s election campaign and the results exposed not only his inexperience but also an undemocratic mindset which favours family over the party. No wonder the voters did not trust him and his party worthy of governing India’s largest state. Mayawati succeeded in expanding her electoral base from Dalits to all other communities; she moved from Caste collision to caste collusion (not in the usual secretive sense). This was a positive and most desirable step, an excellent feat of social engineering. This made the caste leaders like Beni Prasad Verma, Omprakash Rajbhar and Sonelal Patel ineffective. Mayawati could free herself from the casteist mindset where Mulayam Singh failed. Even BJP could not free itself from the caste politics, as the unsuccessful electoral alliance with Apna Dal for the Kurmi vote illustrates. Mayawati denounced fundamentalist Muslim leadership and yet she got chunk of Muslim votes – of course, cast on tactical lines – especially in Ruhelkhand region of the state.

 Mayawati’s inclusivist politics, her imaginative coining of the slogans keeping in view the prevailing social and cultural ethos have paid dividend. The ritual hierarchy and the caste divide have not come in the way of the emergence of a powerful political leadership. Needless to say that such development was possible due to maturity of the voters and the imaginative and mature handling of the affair by Mayawati. She gave tickets well ahead of the elections to 139 candidates from the so called forward castes, 110 OBCs, 93 Scheduled Castes and 61 Muslims.

 A fact, which needs mention, that the vote percentage of the SP, unlike that of the two national parties, remained almost stable during the last UP elections. This is true in the case of many other regional parties also. Top leadership of the Congress and the BJP need to seriously think about their shortcomings and take necessary steps required. The national parties should restore inner party democracy. Situation should be created to allow flow of opinion, even to the extent of blunt-talking, inside a party. What the national parties need the most today is the introspection and analysis, people-centric politics and abandonment of politics of comfort by the leaders by managing to remain in this house or that. Politics has become a most profitable profession, unlike what it was during pre-independence days and common man is paying heavily the cost.

 –B.B. Kumar