Thursday, September 04, 2014

Modi move to address schools on Teachers' Day an official intrusion in educational institutions: RTE Forum

By Our Representative
The All-India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRE), consisting of some of the most reputed educationists, has strongly protested against what it has called the Government of India’s attempt to officially “intrude into the calendar of educational institutions.” Calling the Prime Minister’s decision to address all children across India as nothing but “marginalizing the teachers and the students”, the authoritative organization says, “Misfortunes as they say never come alone. Now Chief Ministers are also joining the race to politically indoctrinate the students/ teachers on Teachers Day.”
“From Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh Haryana and elsewhere, CM’s are claiming their right to pontificate along with the PM. The overdose of official sermons will therefore carry on for hours”, the AIFRTE points out, adding, “Ever since the PM decided that he, and not the teaching community, should be the focus of children’s attention on September 5, 2014, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has swung into over-drive. Circulars, memos, and office orders are being sent to state governments and CBSE schools, to government schools, aided and unaided schools, to ensure that all children hear the PM’s address ‘live’ – all technological equipment required for the purpose is being `generously’ funded!”
The statement regrets, “Unfortunately, the PM’s two-hour address begins only at 3 pm. So students and teachers will not only be deprived of ‘their’ day; they will also have to be in school till after 5 pm! This will cause serious inconvenience in some states, but everywhere it will force the students to have a tediously long day at school. Attendance information from all schools will be sent to local administration, state governments and the MHRD.”
“However”, the statement says, “the problem does not end here. There is a deeper target. Teachers’ Day, the MHRD ordered, would now be celebrated as ‘Guru Utsav’. Despite MHRD Minister’s denials after strong protests erupted in some states, the issue cannot be ignored. For this is a classic example of the BJP’s attempts when in control of government to embark on a process of ‘Sanskritization’ of movements, public projects and campaigns, irrespective of the preferences and linguistic usages of different sections of the people.”
It says, “Recall how Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, names used by the popular movements that led to the creation of these states, were sought to be called ‘Vananchal’ and ‘Uttaranchal’. Recall also that one of the Minister’s first pronouncements threatened introduction of ‘vedic values’ in primary schools. And MHRD has already ensured that schools all over the country recently observed a ‘Sanskrit Week’.”
The statement further says, “These are not merely cases of what nomenclature or language you chose to promote. It is part of a conception and programme to privilege the language and content of Brahmanical texts in an attempt to consolidate and confirm the hegemony of upper castes over the country’s many languages, cultures and belief systems even today. The term ‘guru’ may be uncritically employed in common usage, but that cannot alter the fact that it still stands for a pre-modern pedagogy that extols conformism and subordination to the exclusion of developing the habit of critical reasoning in students.”
The AIFRTE regrets, “Bombastic terms like ‘guru’ and ‘acharya’ can hardly conceal the real status of teachers in the government school system where the practice of overloading them with non-academic and official tasks, and the threatening use of contract and para-teachers, is daily reducing them to little more than cheap labour.”
It recalls, “Teachers Day has been celebrated for decades on 5th September, the birthday of President S Radhakrishnan, a renowned academician, teacher, and chairman of the University Education Commission 1948-49. It honours teachers across the country and is a day for students and teachers to renew their bond through local institutional programmes and personally expressed acts of gratitude. In some institutions students take over faculty responsibilities to better appreciate the teachers contribution to education.”
Among those who have signed the statement include D Meher Engineer, W.Bengal Chairperson, AIFRTE, Ex-President, IASS; Prof Wasi Ahmed, Bihar, Ex-Jt Secretary, AIFUCTO; Prabhakar Arade, Maharashtra, President, AIFETO; Prof G Haragopal, Andhra Pradesh, National Fellow, ICSSR; Prof Madhu Prasad, Delhi, Ex-Faculty, DU, spokesperson AIFRTE; Prof Anil Sadgopal, Madhya Pradesh, Ex-Dean, CIE, Delhi University; Prof K. Shrimali, Delhi, Department of of History, Delhi University; and Dr Anand Teltumbde, W. Bengal, IIT, Kharagpur.

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