There is no gainsaying that India is in dire need of a refurbished education policy, but not the kind proposed by the nine-member K Kasturirangan (former ISRO chief) committee in its draft report on the New Education Policy. The committee has prescribed a uniform syllabus for maths and science, local content in social sciences and promotion of skills, which makes perfect sense; and also developing a Devanagari script for tribal dialects. There was a buzz around the three-language formula, with Hindi compulsory till Class 8 across the country. But in what comes as a relief, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar has cleared the air, claiming that the report had not recommended making ‘any language’ compulsory. The clarification comes in time. A strain of divisiveness will not serve the cause of education; it will alienate the entire South India and the Northeast.
While reworking the education policy, both the macro and micro aspects need to be examined minutely. A panoramic view is required to effect progressive changes that are in step with the modern times, and in harmony with a formal learning structure that should prepare students for the competitive job and innovation market. Developing a syllabus for up to Class V in local languages like Awadhi and Maithili may boomerang. Where are the teachers? What our schools need today are motivated teachers, smart classrooms, a relevant but lean syllabus, and quality contemporary education. The language of instruction can be secondary, but not the learning outcomes.
While the report is all for ‘India-centric’ education and cultivating a scientific temper, there should be no scope for any transgressional subtext inference. Espousing outlandish notions at the Indian Science Congress, for instance, does nothing for science or the golden era of the mythical exploits of our ancestors. The quest for a ‘scientific past’ is misleading, unending and fractious. This RSS imprint on the education policy will not do. India doesn’t begin and end at the door of the Hindi heartland. That is lesson one.