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Divide and rule

Divide and rule

Author: Udayan Namboodiri
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 25, 2006

This is crossroads time for Indian education. In just a couple of weeks from now, a bizarre format will be in operation in India's schools, one that is totally out of sync with the needs and aspirations of this country. The National Curriculum Format (NCF-2005), was developed in secrecy and passed with the help of brute force by a Government which owes its survival to the same elements that once backed India's partition and lobbied for support for the Chinese invasion of India.

To its cheerleaders it is immaterial that the new system violates the National Policy on Education in letter and spirit. Arjun Singh and his cohorts have so managed to sex up education that issues like developing national temper, environment awareness and awareness of heritage are immaterial. The only aspect that matters is whether the minorities are being appeased. Or whether the "load" (whatever it means) is reduced. All kinds of frothy, peripheral questions which nobody ever imagined could enter the world of the schoolgoer, are set to become the summum bonum of education.

Even India's erstwhile colonisers would not have dreamed of imposing a pedagogy as spurious as the one that Arjun Singh and his jholawalla backers have designed for the new generation. They would like Indian children to know more about Ho Chi Minh and Count Cavour than Adi Shankaracharya and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. A Government that professes to uphold the interests of the Aam Admi has introduced a format that gives a natural advantage to children going to schools with well stocked libraries and returning to homes fitted out with internet-enabled computers.

Therefore, it is important at this juncture to recall the educational vision of Mahatma Gandhi, the searchlight for the future developed by the famous DS Kothari and the Chakravarthy Rajagopalachari's emphasis on didactic matter based on India's spiritual tradition. Nobody is better in interpreting those high ideals for a contemporary context than Jagmohan Singh Rajput, the writer of this week's lead article. He wanted to end the anarchy of a value-devoid educational format and wanted to link India's present generations with their rich tradition. The Communists hated his guts even though the Supreme Court upheld the validity of his enterprise. UNICEF decided to confer on him its highest award, but the loonie Left succeeded in thwarting it by clamping outlandish charges against his service record, knowing full well that the culture of procrastination in the Executive and Judiciary would serve an automatic sentence on their enemy.

Citizens of every right thinking nation have the duty to ensure that the cherished ideals inherited from their founding fathers are not abandoned. "Nation above all" is the guiding principle while determining what their children must learn in school. There can be no scope for overstating the importance of this goal. Developing a nuclear doctrine or an energy security policy are relatively simpler affairs. For, in the case of education, there are no clear-cut models to emulate, no question of roping in foreign experts to supplement indigenous talent. This is about minds, not tangible things like bombs and oil tankers. Only people with a good idea of their nationhood and a clear-cut conception of what should be the goal over the next millennia should be involved. Tragically, Arjun Singh has roped in only like-minded vote bankers for the all-important purpose.

The Rajiv Gandhi Government, which developed the National Policy on Education (1986), designated NCERT as the nodal agency to deploy all the expertise at its command to evolve a new curriculum every five years. But, as Sudharshan K. Kapur writes ( see The Other Voice), NCERT had been finished off as an institution by the Communists during the Emergency. It had been reduced to a shell of its former self by self-seeking academics who danced to the tune of Moscow and had little concern for promoting true professionalism in pedagogical research.

When Rajput, as NCERT's Director at the turn of the 20th Century decided to honour Rajiv Gandhi's commitment of renewing the 1988 curriculum, he found to his surprise that not only was the exercise overdue by 12 years, but even books written three decades earlier were in circulation. The reason for that is not hard to seek. As Kapur points out, there was big money involved. The Marxist historians were not only enjoying an undertaking given to them by Indira Gandhi of non-stop flow of royalty against minimum labour. That is why books informing students that the Aryans were "outsiders" to India and that the Soviet Union "intervened" in Afghanistan were in circulation till as recently as 2002, that is, a year before NCF-2000 was implemented.

Writing in these columns, the noted educationist and BJP Rajya Sabha Member, Bal Apte ( The soul goes out of education, September 10, 2005) drew attention to a draconian plan to reintroduce the colonial strategy of mutating India's cultural unity.The emphasis on minorityism and tribalism, the ill-concealed sub-text promoting distinctiveness among ethnic and religious groups, and above all, the provocating remarks against the so-called "upper castes", point to a plan to atomise Indian society by planting seeds of divisiveness in the minds of schoolgoers. This would have stunned even Thomas Babington Macaulay.

No previous educational policy adopted by a government of free India has invited as much scorn as this one.The NDA-ruled States have already announced that they would not allow the implementation of NCF-2005. It won't be long before the Leftists too reject it because the Marxists, once the loyal Alsatians of the Congress, are now a bitter lot. Their disenchantment is not so much over flaws in the policy, but over the encroachment made by Singh on turf they long considered their exclusive domain - the right to interpret India's past.

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