Growing shadow of Sangh Parivar on National Education Policy

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images-1By Qaiser Shamim

In one of his articles in a national daily, Prof. Harbans Mukhia has recently suggested that, having no standing at the national level in historical research, the Sangh Parivar is trying to pollute the textbooks of history at the local level where Marxists and liberal historians have not done enough work. The gap thus remained in the local history is being used by the Parivar for ideological penetration. The observation of Prof. Mukhia is substantiated by the pronouncement of the Education Minister of Rajasthan that students should now be taught about “veers” of Rajasthan. This is part of the negation of “undesirable part” of the history, particularly of medieval period, and based on the glorification of “us” versus “them” with the description of people entering India from other land as “videshi” and “videshi aakarmankari”. Ghaznavi and Khilji have been declared as destroyer of temples and Aurangzeb who hated Hindus. People fear that after making changes in the NDA ruled states now the Union government wants to do the same at the national level.
In this light anyone having a look at the draft New Education Policy, 2016 will not be surprised that in the very first three paragraphs, the cat comes out of bag when it talks high of the ancient Indian achievement in various fields of sciences but in the last sentence of the 3rd paragraph it suddenly switches over to the modern period; as if nothing happened during medieval period. Even in that it forgot the chronology that historically Ram Mohan Roy has to be placed before Gokhale. While highlighting the achievements of ancient period it ignores its cast basis. Even if it wanted to come straight from ancient to freedom struggle, one cannot avoid certain educational developments leading to our period. England had passed compulsory education laws in 1870 and 1880. This gave impetus to the same demand here. After various demands from public platform, it was Ibrahim Rahimtoola who raised the issue in the Bombay Legislative Council in 1902, proposing that a beginning be made from Bombay city. After that Gopal Krishna Gokhale, in 1906, tried to get a resolution on this passed in the Imperial Legislative Council but did not succeed and then he had introduced a bill in a better form, in the Imperial Legislative Council on 16th March, 1911 which was finally defeated on 19th March, 1912[1].
Glorious past always boosts the morale of a nation. However, ignoring any portion of one’s own history because of religious bias is never in the national interest. When we review the past it is a more important to know the educational status of India at the advent of British raj in this country, than knowing about remote past. Reports after reports prepared by them indicate that there was a network of educational institutions throughout the country. Adam talks of more than one lakhs schools in Bengal itself during 1835-38[2]. In 1826, Sir Thomas Munro reported about Madras that on every one thousand population there was a school; apart from the private arrangement made by wealthy people for their wards at their own residences[3]. Similar reports about other parts of the country is available in achieves. If one does not have time to go through them, the easiest way would have been to at least consult Dharam Vir’s, “The Beautiful Tree” published in early 1980’s. Apart from that in 1837, R. M. Martin placed India’s literacy at much higher rate than Europe[4]. Ignoring all that would not help understand the reason for educational backwardness. Jumping straight to our time to say that at the time of independence literacy rate was 12% does not convey the reason as to why India became so illiterate. The draft shows the intention to ignore the legacy of Mughal India as if it is not part of Indian history.
Development of scientific temper mandated by the Constitution has been given a goodbye not only through such biases in the social science books but also through teaching of mythology and recitation of certain prayers in the schools. Without defining “value” and the path of “nation building”, the NEP document talks of “need to shift from the information-based education system to a value-based education system imparting life skills which can contribute to man-making and nation-building”. However, it is silent on the fact that all tradition and values need updating with the time; and also that uncritical acceptance of values and myth is a barrier in the development of scientific temper. It will be in the interest of the Muslim community to emphasize development of scientific temper. Teaching of non-secular material in secular schools will always provide scope to majority communalism to penetrate. In this one should not be swayed by the slogans of Sadbhawna. Slogans like Sadbhawna always have an intrinsic concept that I respect every religion and all religion is equal but my religion is more equal. Here it differs from secularism, which confines religion to the personal life of an individual; State and its polity has to treat each of them equally. Emphasis on secularism in education is in the interest of Muslims and other marginalized section.
Other biases
With so much religious bias, the draft talks of the history of Commissions since independence and the development of legal frame work from the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976 to insertion of Article 2-A by Eighty sixth Amendment in 2002; leading to the RTE Act, 2009 (paragraph 4-7), in paragraph 5, it talks of National Policy on Education 1986 (revised in 1992) envisaging a National system of education which implied that “up to a given level, all students, irrespective of cast, creed, location or sex, have access to education of a comparative quality”. However, it does not provide any reason as to why the country has failed to develop such a National system of education since 1986; and why the RTE Act, 2009 granting legal entitlement of free and compulsory education in neighbourhood school to every child of the age group 6-14 has not shown the desired result. Every child not having access to school within walking distance, lack of required infrastructure and insufficient number of trained teachers are the main reasons for RTE, 2009 not showing desired result. Lack of financial support for the family below the poverty line for sending their wards to school instead of engaging them in money earning is also one of the reasons for the failure. It is meeting the same fate met by earlier policies which ruling class and the bureaucracy is trying to ignore as they have done in the case of Educational Policies of 1968, 1986 and 1992 (revised policy). The marginalized sections, the Dalits and Muslims, are worst hit of the Callousness with which the constitutional commitment is being implemented.
Since the ruling class is not interested in highlighting the real reason, from selective educational history it switches on, in paragraph-8, to discuss changes because of which “the educational activities and learning process are no longer confined to the classroom, and therefore, the domain of education is no longer limited to formal schooling or higher education”, because of media, information and communication technologies, books and journals etc. Accordingly, the document concludes that “Learner today have access to more current knowledge through non-institutional means”. The statement appears to be very sound but beneath this are the stark realities of the life of masses going to schools without toilet, with broken furniture, and in many cases with single teacher responsible for everything. How many of them have access to internet to be benefited by information and communication technologies. Naturally it is not talking of common citizen of India but of the class which have all the privileges. A very thin creamy layer of Dalits and Muslims fit into that. Therefore, when it is said, “education is no longer limited to formal schooling or higher education”, one can easily conclude in the interest of which class it is being advocated. Should the marginalized section be satisfied with “functional literacy” and “skill development”?
Paragraph-8 can be analyzed in more than one way. Gaining of information through various information channels is not always gaining knowledge. The “teaching” and “learning” has already given way to “coaching” and “rot” to gain maximum centum in the faulty examination system for “success” in life; which means phenomenally higher salary in the job market. The institutions teaching the entire syllabus and linking the knowledge to the environment of the child cannot compete in this rat-race. Only those are permitted to participate in the rat-race who can bear the cost and resultantly get back in the form of phenomenally higher salary. The marginalized section should be satisfied with “functional literacy” and “skill development”; the non-formal education is meant for this class.
The document has intentionally ignored the reasons and to hide that it has talked in paragraph-9 about “the need to promote the acquisition by learners of knowledge and skills on a life-long basis to enhance their capacity to adapt to changing skill requirements”. This requires building an educational system which would produce individual with maximum awareness and with fundamental knowledge of frontiers of Natural and Social Sciences and of Humanities with his own skills and specialty in a particular field. The Government has failed to develop such a system for the masses. National Achievement Survey (2014) reported that “less than half of class V students correctly answered reading comprehension and mathematics question posed to them”. PRATHAM Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 2014 informs that 51.9 percent student of class VIII cannot read the text meant for class II. Even in class VIII, 25.4 per cent student cannot read the same text meant for class II. It reports that reading level in class V even in private schools is also not very high. However, the gap is growing. 20 percent children in class II cannot recognize numbers up to 9. More alarmingly, around 39 per cent students in class VIII can recognize numbers till 100. Almost half of the children in class V cannot do double digit subtraction which they are expected to know in class II. Quality education is available, but at a higher price which marginalized sections, Dalits and Muslims cannot afford. Then for which class the document is talking of “the need to promote the acquisition by learners of knowledge and skills on a life-long basis to enhance their capacity to adapt to changing skill requirements”.
Government is not ready to include the children below the age of six years in The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, which is an important demand of the democratic movement. UNESCO has recently released “State of World Children Report- 2016” which informs that out of 74 million children in the age group of 3-6, about 20 million children mostly belonging to marginalized section do not have access to Preschool education. Religion wise, 34% from Muslim families, 25.9% from Hindu families and 25.6% from Christian families are out of preschool education system. This is the age when a child learns to listen attentively and express what has been learnt. Their fingers are trained to draw lines and join dots properly. Such training helps them in the succeeding classes. Not surprisingly the children without such training have a higher dropout rate in primary classes. Government’s National Survey for Estimation of Out – of – School Children, conducted in 2014, informs that 36 percent of the enrolled children leave the school without completing Elementary Education almost half of them are from marginalized section. Its religion wise analysis reveals that Muslims have the maximum proportion of out of school children in India (4.43%), followed by Hindus (2.73%), Christians (1.52%) and Others (1.26%). Every religious group consists of different economic classes. The Report analyses this further but one can easily observe that among Muslims, they mostly belong to the peasantry, the sharecroppers, the landless labourers and small shop keepers; a large chunk may be from house hold manufacturers, where child after attaining the age of 9-10 years is required to help the family in daily earning.
With the economic “liberalism” and “reforms” beginning in the nineties of the 20th century, the role of the government itself has undergone some basic change which has given flip to privatization in education also. It was no more the protectionist Government of the 1950s, 60s or 70s. Opening of economy entailed flow of not only foreign capital but also goods and services, which was to be provided security by the State in order to gain confidence of the international capital. The focus of the government shifted from saving indigenous trade and institutions to guaranteeing the capital investment and its profit. In the run up, it was forgotten that all reforms are meant for the public welfare and are not an end in itself. Resultantly, government stopped the measures to protect the public institutions against encroachments by private; both foreign and indigenous. In the sloganeering of removing quota/permit raj, licenses and permissions were granted “liberally”. Indigenous corporate also flourished under this arrangement. Corporatization became a way of life in itself. It made its influence in education also. Now no one think of opening schools for the educational development of the Community. The minority institutions also cater to those who can afford the cost of education. The benefitted class emerging from this process also wants “quality” education which can help gain phenomenally higher salary in the job market, whereas the marginalized section should be satisfied with “functional literacy” and “skill development”. The goal of education has practically changed. The democratic goal emerging from the long freedom struggle has been silently said goodbye. It is now commercially maximum earning; both for the learner as well as for the institution. Ultimately “teaching” and “Learning” has given way to “coaching” and “rot”, in the rat race of competition where marks obtained in the examination is key to “success” in life. State has lost its interest in quality mass education. The effect of the process is alarmingly visible in the last twenty five years and the worst affected are Dalit and marginalized section among Muslims who can neither pay high fee nor can compete in the rat race. NEP, 2016 talks of remedies which do not touch upon this root cause. However, it desires to fulfill the unfinished task with the slogan of developing “a credible education system capable of ensuring inclusive quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all and producing students /graduates equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that are required to lead a productive life, participate in the country’s development process, respond to the requirements of the fast changing, ever-globalizing, knowledge-based societies, and developing responsible citizens who respect the Indian tradition of acceptance of diversity of India’s heritage, culture and history and promote social cohesion and religious amity”. This they want to achieve without fighting commercialization in education.
The draft has also recommended certain institutional changes to make them more efficient, but is silent as to why the recommendations of earlier Committees and Commissions on the reforms and restructuring of these institutions were willfully ignored. Even if the case of NCERT, in the light of the recommendation of the Task Force headed by Madhuri R. Shah is discussed it may require another long note. Therefore, for the time being, I conclude it here

3 COMMENTS

    • Hindu religion is an oldest religion of the earth. Our scriptures are very vast & it is not practically possible for any human being to understand all hindu scriptures in one life. The scriptures involve vedas, upanishadas, puranas, bhagwatgeeta, Bhagwatam etc.. its extremely vast.
      However, for you guys Islam is made which is much simplified in terms of religious books Quraan, Hadith etc. So it is easier to understand & follow Islam.. We believe Islam has very basic knowledge about universe & it was made for human beings who used to bury baby girls alive. So keep it up with your nursery level religion.

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