No one wants to take up teaching!
Even the education institutions are not driven by any ideals!

eduIt is money, money, all the way! Society and politics is changing. So too the soaring ambitions of the new generation! Also, education today has changed. It is no more a field to seek knowledge and competence! It is the most incompetent field, we mean, the education field and where all and sundry, the lettered and more successfully, the unlettered, the milkman and the film villain and many others they defy descriptions, which are the most successful Chancellors and founders of large number of education institutions, education complexes in the country today.

Take a trip to Tamil Nadu; perhaps in other states too, you see the huge buildings, even for secondary schools that defy your imagination and intellect. So, when we read that just recently a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources Department has expressed serious concern over the shortage of teaching staff and delays in recruitments in higher education.

Of course for outsiders this high sounding committee report might look very powerful. Unfortunately it is not so. Only those who know what is what in HRD ministry and how it is overburdened with issues, from CBSE leak of question papers to corruption in Vice-Chancellor appointments  to the VCs also indulging in large scale corruption!

Again in TN which of course has a high enrollment of students into higher education stream and also at the same time a number of VCs, old and new are caught in corruption trap and arrested and cooling their heels behind the bars! So, how to tackle in education some lowering of standards? Here we need inputs from experts. There are many such enlightened persons in the country. It is a question of calling such experts into action. We have to learn from other countries too.

Of course education in this generation has changed beyond recognition. There is any NUMBER OF NEW PROBLEMS in India. We seem to be tired of too many allegations of bad behavior on the part of society’s teachers and educators. Sexual harassment is a national shame. Also, there is a tendency towards centralization of authority in Delhi. Better learn to decentralize decision making. Even policy making can stop at the state capitals for a range of issues. The universities, more so the central universities, we all hoped, would set the trend for further progress. It seems now it is the reverse happening.

The very same Parliamentary Committee report gives out that the number of sanctioned posts in Central University is 16,600 out of which 9,521 are for assistant professors. But do you know how many are lying vacant? Here is the statistics.  Nearly one third, 5,928 posts in these universities are lying vacant! So to other categories in the professorships!

All these problems in education seem too big to be tackled by the minister or his officials. We need outside talent and imagination and also the new technologies to deliver learning courses online and on other channels. Distance education without corruption, open universities and also some emphasis on innovation and quality are also some of the considerations we have to keep in mind.

Yes, it is so from JNU to Anna University and beyond!

jnuJNU as a Central University is its own fashion. It makes news for politicians.  Fine, but then it must also be a centre of top academic performance. Is JNU the number one University? No one has asked. As far as academic standards in India are concerned, nobody knows which University is on the top.

The IISc, Bangalore is ranked first but then it is mostly seen as a science research centre not a typical academic campus where debates takes place and intellectuals come to make speeches. Delhi University with its campus colleges is fine but then there is too much emphasis on scoring marks for admission has somehow reduced the campus to one of low-key ambitions. In one word, there is no aristocracy of a University lifestyle for students.

Now, the higher education as such is itself in a crisis. State universities, taking the South, TN in particular as an example, are marked with high corruption. Three or more VCs; the ex-VCs, are caught up in high corruption. The latest one at Anna University, the newly appointed one is from Karnataka and the Dravidian parties objected to it!

VCs must be from one’s own states, the Dravidian parties argue. This is absurd. No minister, the hon’ble Javadekar or his counterpart from Chennai opened their mouths. The controversy might die off. There has to be some light, some explanation or some sort of policy clarification must help. Unfortunately, the Indian higher education is marked by multiple crises.

How can you lay down the rule that a VC, the best ones are unlikely from local people, nowadays, the best VCs are somewhere in the US or from some other foreign universities. But who can explain this reality? The higher education ministers are often ordinary mortals!

The reasons how huge corruption take place is often with the connivance of the top leadership. In TN this is like daylight! May be elsewhere too! So, first reform in higher education is about preventing corruption. So, what the TN Governor has done is perfectly right. He engaged the Supreme Court judge in the selection. What else he could have done?

The second reform is to make universities autonomous in true spirit. The state CMs can be informed, not even consulted. For her again TN is an example how the great Madras University has been now reduced to sheer impotence. No news from the hollowed portals is worth reporting. So, Indian higher education is going to be an uphill task. May be one more high-powered Higher education commission with some reputed international experts could advise the Indian government/State governments  about how to go about it. But one thing must be clear. You can’t have reputed universities unless you cast your net for talent internationally.

Best talents are as good as nil! Please, politicians, realize! So too, the Indian media, TV channels report local hotheads, including the film actor-turned new style politicians talk less on higher education!

So, Indian education and much else, culture and also mother-tongue chauvinism  are all turned into heady cocktail and this needs to be realized and  conveyed to all concerned. Otherwise, India would be turning out low-performers in all walks of life and we, in India, have to live a very low caliber citizenship.

exam_inside_032918013131A new committee?

Waste, waste, sheer waste! Of time and money and energies and our own imagination!

Government sets up a committee to probe the leaks! Yes, this is done. It is in our view a big waste! Waste of precious time, energy and our own imagination!  The very structure of the highly centralized CBSE itself is the reason for this mistake. The only time we read about the HRD Minister and the School Secretary is only now after this leak has been blown up as if a big tragedy had hit the country. One of the most sober daily newspapers has reported the constitution of this committee as the front page Headlines news! A pity!

We have converted schools education into a highly priced commodity; the very commercialization process had reached unacceptable proportions. All the major daily newspaper now carries, almost routinely, full-page ads of the top tuition industry bodies. We restrain naming them for they are so harmful for the society to pronounce and repeat and recognize them.
In this mindless tuition industry, business has reached billion dollar valuations. This is not education, this is day time cheating, some of the best minds in education have become powerless. No one has enough courage to call this as a big cheat. This is not education; this is commerce of the worst kind, the debasement of the young minds.

The destruction of the teenage dreams and an idealism that must impart a new energy and a new sense of adventure, adventure of the young minds only can give a nation, the best that would transform our lives and inject the best of man’s history and human evolution. Now, to come to this very listless endeavour to reform our education, we suggest the following: Revamp our education system based on some historic basis.

What should constitute an ideal education? Idealism of the mind and its imaginative power. Take some of the great education systems. The Greek education, its public school system originates from Sparta and we generally associate such a system with Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s ‘The Ethics and Politics’. Of course Socrates’ questions as to what makes for good life are the starting point. So too the others, Plato and Aristotle. Then comes the Roman law and government and the idea of Republic and governance by Senate and Council, the other office bearers. The rule of the people, rule by consensus, the idea of democracy and rule of law are all the origins we inherit in our own modern times.

The British (public schools), French (lycee) and in a way, the German (gymnasium) school system has much to teach us.
Of course there were other streams. We have to have freedoms to experiment and introduce innovations. The many educators whose individual visions are all to be studied! In India, we inherited the British, Macaulay system blindly, even after the independence. It is time, we recognize the historical inheritance. Let there be the old system. But we can distinguish the best from the ordinary, from the classs (though we might deny theoretically) and the mass basis of education.

Now, there are so many new schools, highly expensive and also introducing new innovations. The Baccalaureate is now fancied much. May be, we can introduce languages, other than English too to lessen the vernacular, mother tongue-based education that is much talked about but quietly given a burial! We are a nation of hypocritical people, right?

The point is there must be much freedom in education choices. Let us revive and strengthen the Indian Public Schools Conference and also introduce new subjects like sports and arts in their curriculum. So that this stream is there and valued for producing a leadership style education. Let there be a separate stream of experimental schools, if there are demands. The CBSE must be broken up into, say, four regional autonomous boards; some competition is good in ensuring best practices in school management and curriculum development. Each zone must be managed by a board of governors nominated by the HRD ministry. These are some of our suggestions.

As a journal of education and by extension we include culture and the arts. This also extends our responsibility of the very spectrum of the India’s many languages that are now reportedly facing extinction. The recent reports from expert bodies also names some of the reportedly 40 odd tribal languages, from the Nilgiris hills; we have duty cast upon us to touch some of the government polices in the promotion of India’s classical languages.

The coming to power at the Centre of the BJP party and the hindutva government, the issues of promoting Hindi language too has heated up the debate over the use of Hindi in government administration and education medium in such areas like writing competitive exams. Mr. Prakash Javadekar, the Union HRD minister has observed on his recent visit to Mysore that the Central Institute of Indian Languages for 22 Indian languages would release a Bala Ramayana. May be the purpose is to promote national unity. It is welcome to do so.

balaramaOne more important goal, as we see, was to provide data of the words of Indian languages to major private companies like the Google and IBM for machine translation. This also the minister did. The CIIL would collaborate in providing the words. Over the last eight years the CIIL has collected 10 to 20 million Indian language words and these words are the new data for the machine translation.

Learning multiple languages
The latest developments show that people are learning multiple languages. The Tamil Nadu government pioneered in getting classical language status of Tamil and following which Kannada and also Malayalam and Telugu too got the status. The Kannada Studies Chair at the JNU is now trying to get students to learn Kannada free for want of students! May be in time there would be students, may be from foreign countries too, to learn Indian languages.

The Union minister said in Mysore that Israel, a country with only eight million people, teaches course in its national language. But what the minister failed to enlighten the audience is that in India there is the domination of English language. As the minister said that in India 9.5 lakh students wrote the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) in English, while only 1.5 lakhs students wrote it in Hindi. Only a few students wrote in vernacular languages like Kannada and Marathi.

Mother Language Day
One more development of recent importance is the latest observation of the International Mother
Language Day celebrated in Bangalore by declaring the Bangalore Declaration of the Linguistic Rights.
This was on February 21; this is the day of Mother Language’s day.
The International Mother Language Day on February 21 this year will see release of Bengaluru Declaration of Linguistic Rights seeking to protect the rights of regional languages in India, which has lost 220 languages in the last 50 years.
For linguistic rights activists, Bengaluru came to the limelight when it asserted the Kannada identity during the protest against Hindi imposition. The city will now play host to a national conference on February 19 and 20, where representatives of 30 regional languages from different corners of the country will thrash out issues to prepare the declaration.
In 2010, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) increased the number of endangered regional languages in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka from 17 to 300. Activists say the numbers will only rise further if the language policy continues to marginalise regional languages.
There are 1,652 languages in the country but only 22 get official status. The Sitakant Mahapatra Commission recommended inclusion of 38 other languages in the Eighth Schedule in 2004 but till today no government has done anything to implement it,” he said. Priyank K S from Banavasi Balaga said the goal is to give people the right to decide which language they want. “If Metro comes up in Mangaluru, then people there should have the right to choose whether they want Tulu over Kannada,” he said.

Future of Indian Languages
The Indian languages and literature face a bleak future for the many initiatives taken in earlier years like the Sahitya Akademi Awards, Gnanpith Award and other awards for recognising outstanding creative writers in the Indian languages  who are now caught in regional politics like  the Dravidian and Hindi chauvinists’ – very narrow and very divisive politics. Thus, increasingly we see that after thirty years of the functioning of the Gnanpith Award, the really most classical language or languages like Tamil got only two awards! While some others like the Kannada had won more than seven or so times. Of course, you have to see genuine literary creative outputs purely on merit. But what is not exposed is also the fact that some states like Tamil Nadu had introduced more harmful practices like the gross interference of particular politicians who, in one instance, has repeatedly got himself repeated for many years! Sri Sitakant Mahapatra, himself a Gnanpith Award winner had confirmed this fact in a letter to the editor of this Journal.

Prakash Javadekar’s invitation!

prakash-javadekar_650x400_51449437224The hon’ble HRD minister Mr.Prakash Javadekar has asked people and experts and parents for suggestions as to how to reduce the burden on the 10th and the 12th standard exams which have become a scandal in India. In no other country the bureaucratic hold on the administration of education had reached such ridiculous proportions. Even the Prime Minister takes time off to exhort the students to take the exams in a right spirit.

It is a great pity that in India where the education sector has become one of the fastest growing commercial education sector where money plays such a debilitating role and where the poor suffer a lot and we see the RTE act is drawing a good deal of the poor and the deprived to seek entry into the well-run private schools. More so in urban centers the schools are mushrooming everyday, at every nook and corner with all sorts of fancy or bogus names, the government as the largest education provider is simply letting off things out of its purview.

Also as a comical side we see the ministers talking off hand every time, asking the CBSE to cut by half the syllabus or reduce the burden as if it is a simple task. Education malpractices have become another scam. In UP we saw large scale desertion of exams by the school students.

In some other states the question paper leaks is another of the headache. In the meantime, the deputy education minister has also entered into big time controversies.

We don’t know the qualifications of the hon’ble minister Mr.Satyapal Singh. He takes on Charles Darwin and even Issac Newton! And where are the yesteryear scientists who are all still with us?

They have to fall silent given their own self-respect and self-effacement in the context of these new comedies we are all enacting, be it science or history rewriting and what have you. May be the time and tide will change and a new sense of realism would come to Indian affairs and Indian search for some objectivity and balance in what we want to do with the power we have acquired  for the  first time.

We request the educators and others engaged in education reforms that we have to do something to reduce the education and exam burden on the youngsters. We need experts to come out with their own suggestions. As far as this Journal is concerned the founders of this Journal and a rural high school in a remote village and the founders had education at Santiniketan and Oxford and also after founding the rural school, we found the rural children found the formal exam at the end of the academic year hard and so we introduced what we call an “open book exam”! The children can consult the text books and write their answers. The questions were set in such a way that students have to exercise their own skills in framing the answers! Of course, there was opposition from both the teachers and the students!

But such an education reform has been attempted by many progressive schools in Europe, particularly in Switzerland. We also visited many such schools in Switzerland and many years later in 1971 in some of the French Lycees! The point is that we have to experiment and reform and change. There is no fixed way in a field like education.

May be one new version could be to introduce a continuous assessment system so that the boy or the girl’s whole year’s performance can be taken for final year pass! So that the children don’t feel obsessed with final exam preparations that have now become a scandal of unprecedented nature and scale!