Speaking at an event organised by RSS linked body Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal (BSM) and pro-BJP think tank Bharat Niti, Union HRD minister Javadekar said that education should be accessible, affordable and of high quality. It should encourage research and innovation.
Dismissing speculations of saffronisation of education in the New Education Policy (NEP) the minister said, “I was invited here so I came, if others invite me I will also go there,” he said. “After all, what we need is good education in the country, which can provide a strong foundation for life,” he said, adding “this is not at all a BJP-Congress issue”.
“We need views from all ideologies. We need each and every suggestion because I believe education is a national mission to take the country ahead,” Javadekar said.
“Long-run development in the country can only happen through innovation. Education should promote innovation,” he said.
“We want all kinds of feedback for the education policy. Please send by July 31,” he added.
Javadekar said the quality of education remained a challenge. He talked about a gram panchayat in Madhya Pradesh that he had adopted for development.
The minister said that the village school used to have only 28 per cent pass rate in board exams. But now following cooperation from teachers who took extra classes and other initiatives like ensuring regular midday meals, it had risen to 82%.
Bharatiya Shiksha Mandal, an education body attached to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has been actively engaged in formulating the new education policy, had held nationwide consultations and has sent over 1.5 lakh suggestions to the ministry.
At the event organised by the BSM, speakers pitched for reviving Sanskrit, encouraging regional languages, and criticised western education.
Professor J S Rajput, former director of NCERT and a member of the committee that drafted the education policy criticised western education and Macaulay. He said if education has to improve it should consider reaching out to schools in villages. “This is the only way class distinction will be removed,” he said.
He also stressed on teaching basic values of all religions. He emphasised on teaching in the mother tongue, and touched the issues of reducing content load, addressing teacher vacancies, greater autonomy for institutions, transparent appointment of academics and continuation of the three-language formula under which students of Classes VI to X learn three modern Indian languages, including English.
The T.S.R. Subramanian led panel’s draft education policy has recommended full freedom for state governments to deviate from the three-language formula and decide the languages, including any foreign language, to be introduced in schools.
BJP General Secretary Rao spoke about a “colonial hangover” in the field of education that he claimed we are unable to come out of.
“We need to revive Sanskrit otherwise, we can’t connect with ancient knowledge,” Rao said adding the diversity of the language has to be protected and maintained.
Rao claimed there is a statue of Saraswati, goddess of learning near the White House in U.S. and quoted another instance where a Muslim vice-chancellor in Indonesia prays to the goddess. “In India with more than 100 crores people are Hindus, can a vice-chancellor think of doing this?” he asked.
“Saffronisation is a name that always crops up during a discussion on the debate but I don’t want to get into the details. We cherish the diversity of this nation and the education policy should reflect this. Exclusivity religion has no place in India,” Rao said.
He also that the said education policy should celebrate diversity with the feeling of oneness. He said any exclusivist religion will not work in India.
BSM leader Mukul Kanitkar also said that the “issue of saffronisation is raised, it is said that Sangh has suggested this or that. It is generally about content.”
“But I think the most important thing is Indianisation of the methods of education,” Kanitakar said.
Mukul Kanitkar said India should make efforts to contribute to the world rather than imbibing from outside. He gave the example of Massive Open Online Course being launched by HRD ministry and said not only courses from foreign universities but also from India should be adopted.
He said that education should be teacher-centric, learning-centric and should lead to knowledge which gives joy. Kanitkar lauded the ancient Indian education system where an ‘acharya’ could look after a 1000 and a Kulguru after 10,000 students.
Kanitkar also said that teachers should be given control of the educational administration. He said it is in the culture and ideology of India to provide solutions to global problems. We need to look towards world leadership, he said.
Sharma, the former NCERT department head, said the council’s 2005 National Curriculum Framework stressed on learning by connecting to real-life situations. “In the NCERT books, we have introduced values by giving life stories of historic personalities, other stories, and poems, etc. This government may be thinking of giving more emphasis to value education,” Sharma said.
The last time the council had revised its textbooks was in 2006-07. Most school boards follow NCERT books with certain modifications.
Javadekar has welcomed all the suggestions on value education and has accepted the idea of the ancestral guru-shishya (teacher-student) tradition. He also hinted that all the good and constructive suggestions will find a place in the NEP.
“I agree with (Mukul) Kanitkarji that education should be teacher-centric. Textbook teaching is not teaching. Spreading human values is true education,” he told a discussion organised by RSS outfits Bharat Niti and Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal (BSM).
Javadekar then talked about an incident when he was in Class IV. His mother, then a primary teacher in the same school, had evaluated answer papers, including her son’s, and given him two marks less than what he deserved.
“I quarrelled with my mother for giving two marks less. She said she gave lesser marks to avoid possible accusations of being liberal in marking my paper. This is the value I grew up with,” Javadekar said.