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Leaving Karnataka education system in crisis, govt 'responsible for range of devastations'

Counterview Desk 

Bahutva Karnataka, a forum for justice, harmony and solidarity, has released a report on the state of education on the incumbent State government’s policies over the past 4 years. Introducing the report, the forum says, it will enable the public to not just hold the government to account, but also to make an informed choice as they choose the next government.
The report card finds that the government has been responsible for a range of devastating failures, leaving the state’s education system in crisis. "Our children face a bleak future because of the neglect of the education system by the Karnataka government. The Government has received a ranking of E — a fail grade", the NGO states.

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What is the state of education in Karnataka?
Karnataka was the first state to endorse and implement the New Education Policy (NEP) in the orientation and restructuring of education at all levels. Inadequate consultation and preparation has resulted in confusion and chaos on the ground. For example:
→ Std V & VIII exams were announced, then cancelled and later rescheduled,
→ The decision to introduce 4 year undergraduate programmes without adequate infrastructure and trained faculty has overburdened colleges.
Since 2019 funds allocated for education have declined by nearly 1 percent of the State Gross Domestic Product (SGDP). This despite the Covid induced ‘education emergency’.
57.7% of teaching posts are vacant in government schools, the highest in the nation, and plans for fresh recruitment continue to be deferred. Instead, unemployed engineers are allowed to take the Teacher Eligibility Test, and apply for jobs in Government schools, where there are more than 15,000 vacancies.
Only 23% of Karnataka’s government schools have basic infrastructure facilities mandated by the Right to Education (RTE) Act. While a majority of government schools lack basic facilities, the government has sanctioned a program of ‘ Viveka Classrooms’ which are to be painted in saffron colour ostensibly for ‘architectural’ reasons at a cost of ₹992 crore!
Twelve years after the Right to free Education was guaranteed up to the age of 14 in 2009, the Karnataka Government issued a circular permitting collection of Rs 100 or more monthly for school infrastructure from the parents of school going children, almost an attempt to undo the Fundamental Right in the Constitution through a Circular. This circular has been withdrawn after protests from parents.

Politicisation of education

A circular was issued by the department of Education to remove the Chairpersons of School Development and Monitoring Committees (SDMC) in all the Karnataka Public Schools and appoint local MLAs. This is against the Constitutional mandate and violates the Right to Education Act. This is encouraging MLAs to misuse school funds and will also politicise educational institutions.
Students across the State have been protesting against the delay or non-payment of several types of scholarships. Scholarships for SC, ST, BC and OBC students at post-school levels have either been delayed for prolonged periods or ceased to be paid. Pre-Matric scholarships have also been delayed. Scholarships for Beedi workers’ children have ceased as have the Maulana Azad National Fellowships which were fellowships for Muslim students.
Several hostels run by the Department of Social Welfare are underfunded and mismanaged. Protests against poor food and facilities in these hostels have led to the rustication of students in Bengaluru, Mysuru and Bellari.
Instead of developing Bangalore University into a high grade university, the Minister has announced the construction of a statue of the deity Bhuvaneshwari on the campus.

Communalisation of education

The Government’s attempt to promote vegetarian or ‘sattvic’ food in schools, despite criticism from civil society, nutritionists, the food commission, etc., goes against the interest of disadvantaged children.
The sudden hijab ban in government Pre-university Colleges has led to communalisation of educational institutes and caused violence across the state. The ban has violated multiple rights (to education, freedom, dignity, freedom of expression, right to non-discrimination, and freedom from arbitrary state action) of Muslim girls.
The government itself admitted in the Assembly that 1,010 students had dropped out of high school and college. Another report indicates that approximately 17,000 Muslim girls have dropped out of college as a result of the tensions created around the hijab issue.
The Government has aggressively communalised secondary education curriculum and text-books through its directives to introduce Bhagvad Gita teaching in schools (in December 2022) and yoga (in 2023), and by seeking the advice of (largely Hindu) religious heads in advising on morality and ethics as well as nutrition in the classroom.
Members of the Sangh Parivar with inadequate professional expertise in education, have been selectively appointed as heads of committees and chairs to revise school textbooks. Significant contributions by Dalit and leading progressive litterateurs have been replaced by articles that distort history.
For instance, the Class 9 social studies lesson on the 12th century social reformer Basavanna was amended to remove Basavanna’s historical rejection of the rigid Vedic practices of the time to found the Lingayat faith.
Similarly, the emergence of neo Buddhism has been attributed to growing antipathy to animal sacrifice, rather than a reaction to the prevailing oppressive Brahminical order. Moreover, huge costs have been incurred in disposing existing printed textbooks. The entire revision process was undertaken without an official government order by the state.
There has been a legitimisation of unproven pedagogies in the name of promoting Indian Knowledge Systems. The position paper on Curriculum and Pedagogy: Committee, chaired by Dr Hariprasad GV, senior lecturer at DIET, Shivamogga, elaborates: “There needs to be a clear stand from Karnataka to adopt the age-old memorisation practices without hampering the development of brain cells”.
An attempt was made to introduce Vedic Maths for (Dalit) school children using Gram Panchayat Funds (September 2022) by the private AVM Academy of Hiriyur, Chitradurga. This has been temporarily withdrawn.

Privatisation

The government’s plans to shut down 3,000 plus government schools, on the basis of low enrolment, will severely affect the access to education of disadvantaged groups and regions. Such a move promotes privatisation of school education which is unaffordable to people from the poorer sections. This indicates the dereliction of the state government’s duty to provide education as a fundamental right.
The government has permitted six new private Universities to be set up in the state without adequate discussion and review in the Assembly. As a result, private universities (29) will outnumber the state run (conventional) universities (23).
In addition, valuable land outside Bengaluru has been granted by voice vote in 2021 for the establishment of a private university (Chanakya University).
Universities with a proven track record of good education, such as the University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering (UVCE) has been expected to generate its own revenue and the institution is currently in a dire state. Similarly, Kannada University is on the verge of closure due to lack of funds.

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