Indian education needs creative imagination

At  a time when the country is witnessing a spree of creative  interventions on almost all fronts of governance, be it the  interlinking of various ministries and departments through a thematic  classification and functional deliverance point of view, or the  domain of geo-political relations which have been overhauled and  catapulted to forge a new world order, or the drive to get bank  accounts opened for all using the existing machinery and reposing  trust in the integrity of the masses which was reflected in the  self-attestation regime as well, or the bold usage of  biometrics-based Unique Identification to rein in government  servants, or the masterstroke of engaging the entire nation in the  ambitious drive of cleaning India and transforming national holidays  to days of active participation in national service, or the  structured approach to plug in institutional loopholes to prevent the  drain of wealth from the country or the simplification and  consolidation of the statue book, or the clarion call of Make in  India to the resilience of ensuring the creation of a substantial  indigenous Defence Industrial Base, you name it and you have it.

There  is one or other creative intervention in every walk of governance.  There is so much productive action all across and not even an iota of  controversy could be ignited in the last 180 days even by die-hard  detractors of the current disposition.

In  stark contrast to this stellar performance of the Rest of Government  of India, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has somewhere  got haunted. Is it by design or by destiny however, needs to be  analysed and evaluated.

Distinctions  have always been the hallmark of public life across the globe.  Degrees have little relevance or importance in public discourse.  Nobody is particularly concerned about Prime Minister Narendra Modi  or his Council of Ministers, barring the Minister of Human Resource  Development. The simple reason is inconsistencies in the  technicalities of affidavits presented to the electoral authorities.  They say you get inconsistent when you are not convinced yourself, an  iota of reaction remains in your deeper self, and this is what the  media is expert in igniting.

There  are electoral promises to be met. Some quick actions have to be taken  symbolising the change of guard. However, populism in the domain of  education is the antithesis of the entire process of itself. Change  and Transformation in Education must therefore be gradual and subtle.  It needs greater thought, sensitivity and above all vision.  Politicisation of Educational Governance is best avoided as it has  far reaching implications which can be measured only over long  epochs.

The  sudden awakening of the sleeping giant, the Universities Grants  Commission (UGC), over the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP)  created unwarranted furore. The legal and technical pretext chosen by  the UGC simply presented evidence of irresponsibility on its part.  But for the incumbent Minister’s propensity to drive headlines,  this utter inaction of the country’s higher education regulator  could have been duly reprimanded. When a District Magistrate or  Superintendent of Police fails to maintain the law and order in a  district, they are generally shunted out. Then, why not the UGC which  failed to regulate the legalities and technicalities of a Central  University under its very nose? Since the degrees under the FYUP had  no legal sanction, they should be scrapped outright without  considering the pros and cons of the same.

It  has always been the imperative of the leader of a nation to address  any section of its citizenry. The Prime Minister addressing the  children should therefore have been a cause of elation, signaling the  importance accorded to the younger generation. But, the so-far  innocuous and highly respected Teachers’ Day drew flak due to  over-enthusiasm and adventurism. In a country where there is a long  tradition of learning on all dimensions - spiritual, social, secular  - and corresponding events and celebrations to mark them, juxtaposing  one over the other was probably not a good idea. We have Guru Purnima  to pay reverence to the Spiritual Masters, the Gurus. The Teachers  had their special day as well. But the bid to rename the same  complicated the message, and thereby the controversy.

Then,  according a single policy doctrine as THE SOLUTION for all the woes  and challenges faced by a domain as pervasive as education is  therefore incomprehensible. The needs, importance and direction of  primary education would be quite different from that of secondary and  senior secondary education. Higher Education post-school is  compartmentalized into vocational, professional and technical, which  again have their own dynamics.

In  a government which is led by a doer, who believes and has  demonstrated that the desired outcomes can be accomplished within the  existing framework itself, is it really worthwhile to look forward  for a single policy doctrine whose deliberation would start next year  and is projected to be an exhaustive exercise involving all  stakeholders, besides academicians and experts, who are directly  impacted by it.

Generally,  endeavors taken up with such fanfare get mired in undue controversies  and merely add to the dust of policy decks. There can be good  academic exercises with lesser ground level impact, which is probably  the greatest need of the hour. The review of the Indian Constitution  taken up under the last NDA Government is one such example. Instead  of waiting for an all encompassing, all enabling, all redressing  policy, a spree of creative interventions taking the various  stakeholders on board would have yielded much more. The feedback of  the action interventions could have kept this action policy framework  live and relevant. The Indian Constitution which took 2 Years 11  Months and 18 Days to see the light of the day has also been amended  over hundred times.

Classics  have their own relevance in national life. Classical languages and  knowledge traditions stored in them are a national treasure. Instead  of creating innovative ways to unravel the same, undue controversies  were created by supplanting a classical native language with that of  a classical foreign language in mid-session. Much more could have  been done to serve the cause of Sanskrit by acting more  responsibility and creatively. The defence was a hollow garb of  legalities and technicalities (interestingly of the bygone era).  Political activism and intellectual reasoning are two different  spectrums; their origins, methodologies and end-goals are entirely  different.

When  Prime Minister Modi came out of the fabled Pashupatinath Temple as a  devotee, it drew tremendous respect and reverence for the man. He  never let the camera crews enter and watch his personal worship. But  when the elated and exuberant Minister for Human Resources goes for a  private astrological consultation in a far-off town of Rajasthan, the  entire media somehow gets tipped. It covers the entry of the Minister  to the astrologer’s home and gets access to shoot the most private  of moments with the Minister showing off her palms. The learned  astrologer forgets his onerous responsibility of keeping private  consultations to himself and goes into a media blitzkrieg. The onus  of keeping private affairs strictly private somewhere rests with the  protagonist herself. Rather than showcasing oratorical skills by long  complex phraseology in chaste Hindi, an iota of sincerity on her part  would have helped the cause of the science of Astrology and protected  her private rendezvous.

To  be in the news for all the wrong reasons can be an accepted strategy  in tinsel town. But being a Union Cabinet Minister has its own burden  of responsibility. Being entrusted with the task of nurturing and  educating over half a billion minds is a much more sensitive and  responsible task than even bringing the national economy back on  rails, creating a sound defence industrial base or restructuring  foreign relations.

A  nation of such antiquity and wisdom needs a much more mature approach  to handle the future of its knowledge traditions. The intrinsic  propensity of keeping ideological mentors happy through cosmetic  interventions leading to undue controversies needs to be curtailed as  it will do more harm than good. There is enough intellectual spectrum  to defend and propagate it all. But it needs a creative imagination  and commitment to the cause. MHRD needs to function in synchronicity  with the rest of the Government of India and work with due  sensitivity, avoiding all controversies for national resurrection.

The  author is an M Tech from IIT Kharagpur and currently a research  scholar on Public Policy-Corporate Strategy-Indigenous Studies at  Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida

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