Skip to main content

Education policy: Few takers for 'utopian' talk about Sanskrit, traditional knowledge

By Sandeep Pandey, Praveen Srivastava*
The Bhartiya Janata Party government did what it is best at in announcing the New Education Policy (NEP) -- high on publicity, low in content, with the country's Environment Minister taking the centre stage and Human Resources Minister, now rechristened as Education Minister, playing second fiddle.
NEP has set universalisation of primary education as its objective. But how will it do it without a Common School System in unclear. The global experience indicates that existence of private schools will hinder the accomplishment of this objective. How will the children who can be found begging at every major intersection in most metropolitan cities of India or others in child labour category reach the schools?
The education policy makers have resigned to the fact that they will never be able to reach out to all the children. The political will is clearly lacking. Hence lip service to universalisation is considered enough. The governments are not even able to enforce the minimum 25% seats allocation to children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections in private schools.
Spending 6% of Gross Domestic Product on education has been a recommendation of the 1968 Kothari Commission and which most governments around the world follow but none of the Indian governments came around to doing that.
Now by making three years of pre-school (anganwadi) part of education programme, the budget of Integrated Child Development Service of the Women and Child Welfare Department gets added to the Education Department increasing it from the claimed 4.3% to 6%. This is similar to the sophistry government resorted to when it promised 1.5 times revenue of the cost of investment to farmers.
Much hype is being created about delivering education in mother tongue. But that is an established principle among educationists. Question is how will it translate on ground? Most private schools will continue will use English as medium of instruction giving two hoots to the policy. Moreover, even the Yogi Adityanath government found it expedient to convert 5,000 of its primary schools English medium after he assumed power in Uttar Pradesh.
It is one thing to talk about Sanskrit and traditional knowledge but another to find takers for it. The fact is if anybody wants to appear for civil services examination, enroll in engineering, medicine or management courses or wants to join judicial services, knowledge of English is compulsory. Without changing this reality it is utopia to consider giving importance to Indian languages.
Three language formula has been a policy since long. Tamil Nadu doesn't follow it. But the other states, especially the Hindi belt states are not honest about implementing it. Which child in north India learns an Indian language other than Hindi in school, except for the ones in Navodaya Vidyalayas?
Sanskrit is used as the third language by some schools but with the scanty knowledge learner is not in a position to make any practical use of it. There are no reasons to believe that there will be any change in this scenario.
In a caste society where manual work is looked down upon, neither the teachers nor the students take any work by hand seriously
Introducing vocational training at secondary stage is also not a new idea. In Mahatma Gandhi's conception it was part of Nai Taleem. However, the school which ran on this idea at his Wardha ashram had to be ultimately closed. Socially Useful Productive Work was part of curriculum in NCERT syllabus, but in a caste hierarchical society where manual work is looked down upon, neither the teachers nor the students take any work by hand seriously. It then reduces to merely a fomality to be completed.
NEP repeatedly emphasizes the ancient (not medieval) culture and pride for civilization while scientific temper is referred to only once or twice in the entire document. It shows the imprint of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh agenda that is known for promoting myths as historical facts, is less objective and more fantasy.
Opening up for top foreign universities is not consistent with the much trumpeted atmanirbhar Bharat idea. This will directly impact the quality of domestic institutions as most talented students and faculty will be poached by the private universities.
However, like the much awaited foreign direct investment it is not clear how many of the top universities would like to set up shop here? Instead of doing the hard work of institution building the government wants to rely on competition from foreign universities to improve quality of its domestic institutions.
The process is likely to backfire hurting our institution rather than benefitting them. In the United States there remains just one public university among top ranking institutions -- University of California at Berkeley. Does the government want a similar situation here?
NEP recommends various regulatory bodies. India already has a bitter experience of these regulatory bodies. These are just centers of corruption and tools for punishment in hands of government. These are white elephants studded with political appointments.
It also suggests use of school premises as Samajik Chetna Kendra, providing a window for interference of socially-politically powerful people or government supported organisations to misuse the school buildings. Already government schools and their teachers bear significant amount of non-academic load, this will be a further distraction from teaching-learning activity.
The crux of the matter is teacher motivation. All the idealistic talk about making education enjoyable for children has no meaning if for the teachers teaching activity is not a priority. The government has no idea how to motivate its teachers who have been practicing the culture of 'work from home' since even before the arrival of coronavirus crisis in a state like Uttar Pradesh, which implies they've been drawing their salaries without teaching.
The only option then for students remains to cheat to clear their examinations, an activity in which teachers fully cooperate. Such ground realities are always overlooked by the policy makers.
---
*Magsaysay award winning social activist, Sandeep Pandey is with Socialist Party (India); Praveen Srivastava is physics teacher at Queen's College, Lucknow

Comments

TRENDING

August 22 to be observed as Apostasy Day: International coalition of ex-Muslim groups

By Our Representative
In a unique move, an international coalition of ex-Muslim organisations has decided to observe August 22, 2020 as the Apostasy Day. To be observed for “the abandonment or renunciation of religion”, the coalition, calling upon people to join the call, said, the decision to observe the Apostasy Day has been taken because of apostasy is “punishable by death in Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, UAE, and Yemen.”

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.