The Union Minister for Human Resources has informed the Rajya Sabha that the department has received more than two lakh suggestions on the proposed New Education Policy (NEP) and the same are being examined. The Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal has also stated that the Ministry has also consulted all the state education ministers, besides secretaries and experts are being consulted before the final draft is released for public debate. Fine.

Ramesh Pokhriyal

But then we have to pause for a moment and look back how long the NEP is being talked about. The first term of the current dispensation also announced such a policy. Why then no final draft even now; after a year or so of the new term of the government, there is still the consultation going on. One wonders what is holding up. We at the journal are engaged in education discussions and debates for a long time.

We also take this occasion once again to reiterate our stand that education is a dynamic process and it is always evolving the very process of imparting education to a wide variety of people whatever they think their education needs are. There was a time when the governments decided what good education is for and how to bring in new segments of people, the poor and disadvantaged sections brought into education process. Now, there is a radical change.

Everywhere there is awakening. The poor and the middle class, the educated families, the first generation families all want not only good education but also the very poor want to educate their children in English medium. As a result, we see in many states, in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, mother tongue medium schools are turned into English medium schools.

How these sorts of new problems turn out, we can’t say at this point of time. But now, the new government also has some ideological issues like changing the curriculum, what to prescribe and what to delete. The Hindutva ideology is what is currently holding up some topics like what to delete from Indian history and what to add in the new version. So, what is holding up is not lack of expertise in education goals and processes but how to change the radical aspect of a Hindutva ideology.

So, a government in power has to take all segments of public opinion. Also, we like to say that education is a serious business. All want good education. There are issues in public and private schools. Already the new, very expensive and exclusive private schools are coming up as commercially viable enterprises. Why, even the very education is converted into commercial, profit-making businesses.

From professional college like engineering and medical colleges to universities, big money is proving to be a menace to any law-abiding education activities. If you start reforming the current education scene you will find yourself into deep trouble.

All successful education entrepreneurs are also successful politicians. So, corruption in education is the big threat to any sane mind. So, from bureaucrats drawing up policy now not many are interested in education policy making. So, we take our own views here as a public policy. Our goals in education should be first to create a good quality education so that foreign students come to India, not Indian students migrate to foreign shores with lots of money wasted in foreign campuses.

Also, never bureaucrats can draw education policies. Education and culture are very critical and only creative people, intellectuals, artistes and others outside the bureaucratic circuit; this circuit is highly entrenched in the New Delhi Lutyen’s zone! So, an education minister must travel around and seek out talents in academia and social services, in NGOs and other areas of new
endeavours. Also, invite some foreign experts. Of course foreign experts can’t give a country its ethos. It is for us, from within us that a new and evolving dynamic process of self-realization can come to people and the country.

More Indian students still go abroad for higher education
When will the foreign students come to India for education?

How are our freedoms and creative energies threatened? Our universities, seniors and intellectuals are failing the common man.

As I type these lines, I see on the TV screen, scenes of protest by JNU students in Delhi and the police lathi charge in which so many students were wounded and following which the police filed FIRs and there is still a continuing protest and various stake holders taking positions. All are not of course talking objectively, the scenario is highly polarized and it is not clear how the students’ agitation would wind through. Distantly in the far away Hong Kong a much more serious agitation by the citizens had taken to street for a very longer time and there too the agitation for democracy had taken a very highly controversial political and ideological colour.

The Chinese government has just now replaced the long-serving police chief with a new incumbent. Of course the two students’ protests are not in any way comparable and yet, being student protests they impinge upon your imagination in different ways.

Back in Delhi there is one more visual scenario that is about the functioning of our democracy. The two Houses of Parliament, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabah met on the same day after a long break. The Parliamentary scenes are not better. There were absent chambers this time in a much more accentuated manner and the empty seats and the empty promises as one commentator put it is much more disturbing.

Where is our democracy? Is it functioning? If so in what manner? It was a debate on the much sensitive pollution issue and when the debate on this is highly priority issue, there hon’ble MPs, more so those from the capital, Delhi, were absent. Why even the previous day when the panel of MPs were called to discuss the highly poisonous issue the hon’ble MPs were mostly absent! So too other issues.

A country must have some sense of peace and relaxation and there must be a sense of free atmosphere so that people can have a sense of freedoms and a sense of spiritual comfort and security. What about the other sectors? Unemployment scenario. The education and job creation policies. Who are doing what? No way to find out.

As for youngsters, there are much deeper issues. We need a very enlightened education policy, why even such frontier areas like IT and technology and innovation policies are in doldrums.

The Chennai-based US Consul General notes with certain pride and complacency that Indian students still travel to the USA for their higher education, he cites a 2.9% jump in the number this year as a proof.

While it is also a fact that this year the number has dropped from the previous year. In the USA an unprecedented 10 lakh foreign students are there for education. Why this trend? When do we, as Indians would like to see this trend reversed. May be, next, China might see a rush of foreign students. There the Universities are getting higher ranks in quality. But is there any hope that this would happen in the near future?

Very unlikely. Given the state of universities in recent times, we have to have a brave heart to imagine so. See, where is the education minister? The Governors who are the chancellors of state universities?

The routine norms of appointing, why even searching for talents are bedeviled by so much corruption and poor selection of talents, and the absence of real academic talents on the platforms of convocation addresses, some obscure officials grace the stages everywhere! Degrees are handed out as if it is a mechanical event. All so artificial!

This is no education, please! This is a sort of politics of knowledge! The less said the better! Please let us learn to respect real talents. Politics is not everything. It doesn’t justify power as such, all the time. Real talents would reach the point where there is honesty, humility and integrity. May be it would take some more time.

So, education, let us take very seriously. Let the elders show the path. If you stick to power, chairs for 25-30 years, be it Rajya Sabha or other posts that draw much of the retired officials, then there will be revolts and much else, as in our current education agitations! Let us hope we learn to live like a great nation.

The Abhijit Banerjee trio winning this years’ Nobel Prize for economics gives hope

From the multiple challenges that the children face today! And India faces these multiple challenges with this year’s UNICEF report’s dire warning to India in particular. The children under five are the most affected in the world and India doesn’t stand out as a shining example. What has gone wrong with our policy making and policy implementation? These are questions that should hit our collective conscience.

Educators! Wake up! Speak out! Anybody who matters have spoken out? No! The Global Hunger Index reveals India in a pretty low status. At 20.8 % this is the highest ratio in the whole of the world. There is acute malnutrition in India and this needs urgent attention.

Children’s education is perhaps the most difficult of all challenges before this government. Malnutrition is a subject for experts in health, nutrition, education and a multiple of fields. Over the last four years India has slipped nine ranks, to 102 out of 117 nations. Who were in charge of these departments? Any enquires were made?

Media is now cowed down. So, no one dares to question the persons in charge. Now, there are many important related issues in children’s well-being, from health to nutrition to the very quality of education. We also read the other day the new illness, the mental health of youngsters. It is suggested that we need to appoint mental counsellers and also attend to the overall education and cultural needs of children who are now all driven by exam results and also more tuition and less teaching in the old-fashioned ways.

Also, there are now new ills. Corruption and tax raids! One school in one small city, not even city, a town with a school had multiple locations where it has operations in impersonating candidates and getting converted government quota seats for medical colleges into management quotas and there by sealing the quota seats for the highest bidders,.

There are other issues like out of school children. Has any government spoken of the out of school children? How the RTI ACT is working? Has the Compulsory 25% admission to neighbourhood schools working? And in the state of mass lynching, namely UP, we have the spectra of malnutrition in six of the ten districts with the highest rates stunted in UP alone. So, we have to also think of children left as orphans whose parents were subjected to lynching! So, society and policy is changing and we have disinterested or disobedient bureaucrats sitting in chairs from which they don’t budge. So, there is a summary sacking of secretaries!

So, education is no more a noble profession, it is sheer business activity and you don’t think of any humanitarian virtues in your education services! However, the stunted children, the orphaned children of the mob lynched victims are faces and pictures that would haunt the civilized sections of society and we, the helpless public might have to wait for the day when final relief would be forth coming! The children of such affected go through indescribable trauma and the faces and the pictures in daily newspapers and TV visuals continue to haunt us, the public and hopefully the policy makers as well!

Macaulay Ghost again!
Let us not impose Hindi on non-Hindi states as of now!

Let us leave education and much else like culture and literature better to educators, thinkers and intellectuals. Certainly, the current political scenario is not conducive to promoting Hindi language. Other Indian languages have equal claims for recognition and promotion.

Much has to be done in promoting regional languages and literatures also. The current atmosphere is fraught with not so liberal outlook nation-wide. Better we devote more attention to other developmental issues. The second term of the current government created a tremendous bout of energy and expectations. The energy and expectations still remain. But also suddenly there is a sort of great let down by the economic slowdown and other developments as in J&K.

In the midst of other new developments came some ghosts, the Macaulay ghost of English medium invasion across schools in the country; schools in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in particular that has opened thousands of English medium schools. This led to a cry of killing the mother tongues and educators and scholars called for new fights and pressure on the state governments to introduce local language medium in schools.

In the meanwhile enters Mr. Amit Shah, the Home Minister whose call for introducing Hindi, the most spoken language by Indians (some 40% of the people), as a national language which Mr. Shah said could unite the country! This raised a hornet’s nest and a spate of voices arose in the South to halt this indirect imposition of Hindi, which in the eyes of the Southerners is an alien language. English language growth is now not in any one country’s domain. English language skills of Indians are propelling the country and economy in an Internet-connected world.

The place of Hindi in the formation of Indian culture and ethos is a highly sensitive issue and it is politically wise to leave the place and growth of languages to a natural evolution and not impose it as a government policy. And we better improve our education standards by all other means. Education itself needs a very deeper intellectual creativity and the government better leave it to experts and thinkers.

Mr. Shah must have his own reasons and moreover timing to talk of Hindi as a national language. Given Mr. Shah’s status and skills as a powerful politician and given the way the governance parameters are drawn today the Hindi language issue might not blow over, it might rather escalate, it seems. Of course, there is a long history of anti-Hindi agitations in the South and given this perspective it is very likely that the question of national language is at the core of the Hindutva agenda and the days to come are likely to be controversial when the larger agenda of new education policy is put to implementation.

Already there are reports that the status of education in India is not so high. The latest report of the rankings of Indian Universities by the Times Higher Education Supplement doesn’t find a place for Indian universities. The status of Indian higher education is very patchy, no Indian university is in the world’s top 300 universities and with this pathetic record what the new all-powerful Modi government is going to achieve in Indian universities education. Also, already the PM had initiated many new schemes like declaring some 25 universities are of national excellence, even some other institutions (promised by some corporate houses) were given this tag.

What is the progress of already so declared central universities? See, education, like any other sector is not an easy one, it requires lot of dedication and determination to bring about quality improvements and given the state in which we find our education progress, a lot needs to be done and it takes time and also some sustained efforts to turn out quality education.

Also, the news comes about another controversy, this time by the Labour Minister Mr. Santosh J Kumar Gangwar who said the other day that there is lack of quality education for students in North India and that is why there is not enough employment generation in the Northern states.

Of course it is often easy to take offence at such remarks and so came the Opposition criticism on the minister’s remarks.

It is very difficult to bring about reforms in education, especially Indian education that has a colonial past gave us what we have still today, namely, the Macaulay Ghost-driven English medium of a low quality. Indian educated classes from the very beginning were clerical -minded peon pushers of a very low motivation and that stream only contributed to so many of our inherent national traits like inferiority complex, a submissive citizenry, a low self-esteemed and subservient mentality.

It is in this big picture we are advocating a very radical change in our outlook when we come to effect any reforms, if at all! Of course, there have been many developments in Indian education. First, there is the tremendous explosion in numbers who attend schools. There are so many new radical and timely changes in new laws like the Right to Education. Today no student of any status can be denied entry into quality schools and even the most prestigious schools can’t deny entry into their portals.

India is a diverse country with diverse socio-economic and cultural variations and so many discriminations and so we have to see things in broader perspectives. Girls education has also seen an explosion and so too the many new innovative welfare schemes like free uniforms and free cycles and even nutrition schemes. Let the parents’ aspirations educate their children in the medium they want.

English language is a universal medium and there is also much social status attached to English and so given the rising awareness about the prestige attached to English we have to retain English as a medium of instruction. Yes, there are academic discussions about the poor quality of instruction; teachers are not there to meet the demand for more teachers. There are a host of other problems. Given the Hindi medium education has rendered even the post graduates in the North Indian states, we have to go slow in the introduction of Hindi as a medium of instruction in more courses.

The IT revolution has given new technologies to impart education online and let us hope, given some more years, let us not tinker with our language policy. Hindi is a great language and given the time and space it would spread wider. So, imposition of Hindi on non-Hindi states is not a wise move as of now.

Why and what drives them to such drastic steps?

Idealism of the youth confronts the gross realities of corruption and fall in governance standards. The issues are complex and they invite an in-depth debate!

India is a country with a lot of aspirational youth. We say we are a young nation. There are millions of aspirations in every one of the youngsters. In sports too, P.V.Sindhu and other women athletes have come to catch our imagination as a successful nation of achievers. And when it comes to education attainments and jobs and careers there is such a vast pool of talents in diverse fields and employment opportunities are also emerging in diverse fields.

Our very education has been turned into commercial hubs and the very many career training institutes have completely changed the educational goals. India has a history of job seeking education and that is how the Macaulay Ghost has come to symbolize all that is good and equally bad in our national trait and character. And Indians were also turned into low-aspiring clerical careers and that is one reason why we are still a nation of job seekers at all times.

In this long history of serfdom and low aspirations, the one career much sought after was once the ICS career and now the IAS. How many IAS training Academies are there? May be as there are any numbers of small and big streets where you can spot an IAS training Academy! In this heaven-born IAS Academy are made the current crop of youngsters. It is a welcome development but there are critical issues.

Recently some four or more young and aspiring and idealistic IAS officers in their start of their careers suddenly came forward and resigned their jobs! This made headline news!

When education has become a trade and an outright business where you see in many of the prominent universities, as in TN, degrees are for sale and no more education qualification is taken seriously, what sort of idealism you can see in youngsters?

First it started with engineering colleges in the state where there are even now more than 500 odd colleges of this poor quality where the degrees go a begging! Next, big corruption scandal in education may very well be in the much more lucrative medical education sector! The latest resignations of young IAS officers in Karnataka and elsewhere show the undercurrents of large scale corruption in administration and politics.

Now, the new recruits in the IAS cadre, one can imagine, might very well face the many hurdles like political interference. For those of us who live in the villages or in touch with rural India, the first thing a new IAS recruit is likely to face is about dispensing with favors with the rural realities. There is outright corruption in some states, outright in the sense; the district Collector – the supposed boss has to interact with the district level political boss.

Only those who had lived and interacted with these political strong men would realize that even if you are an IAS in the administrative hierarchy you have to take orders from the political bosses, sometimes the very minister representing the district, or his party colleague as secretary or even at the still lower level the minister has to interact with the political party cadres who make a combination of the good, not so good or plain undesirables in the traditional society.

Once the district level officials, be they the revenue or police or other sectors. Even here, there is the block development officer who is running the local government agencies like allocation of funds to develop the roads, electric supply or drinking water; these are all at the mercy of the Collector.

The IAS, we are sure very well will soon learn to bend and oblige some unreasonable requests, most often these requests for favor would be unreasonable, sometimes, plain corruption! How, then the idealistic new IAS recruit, as found in the just resigned ones who said that they came into the service with the building blocks of democracy and democratic institutions would function as they expected but alas! They soon realize they have to turn a blind eye! May be many IAS recruits might soon learn to fall in line! But surely there would be a few idealists who might consider giving up altogether these sorts of corrupt practices.

So, to cut the story short, there would be more and more heartburns and the society might see more of the breakdown of law and order, more resorts to more corrupt practices. TN is one state where we have seen Chief Ministers climbing up the steps of courts of law and also spending time in jails. So, education is now no more than exclusive domain for exclusive experts. Education is now part of the larger democratic practices.

Populist politics has taken a toll of all values of truth and honesty and had become another form of social corruption. You enter an education portal with a bundle of currency to pay a bribe, yes, let us be honest enough to call this a bribe and what is the use to cite valuable statistics on education progress.

Unemployment is very high now. 2.5 million jobs are vacant and everywhere there is this cry of too many job seekers changing the vacancies from teachers jobs to various private and public and government jobs.