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India

Kapil Sibal’s brand of Education Reforms

Reforms suggest learning Hindi by all and moots for abolition of X’ th standard Board Examinations.

The Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal has announced the so called educational reforms and has satisfied himself that he has fulfilled a promise made in UPA election manifesto to go for educational reforms within 100 days of assuming office.

The announcement includes imposing Hindi language and suggestion for taking X’th standard Board Examination as optional with grading system for assessment in class room.

At the outset the picture drawn by our poet intellect Kapil Sibal is very rosy to the elite section of the society and they try to project that the reforms are beneficial to all. But Kapil Sibal has provided enough opportunity in his proposed reforms for us to explore whether his ideas are applicable to poor, downtrodden and illiterate section of Indian population . We regret to say that the reforms proposal falls short of the requirement of this great country. Our minister is feeding only pop corn to an elephant which is starving for more than six decades.

As envisioned by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in 1950, Article 45 of the Indian Constitution stated, “The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of the Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.”

Why the state under the brilliant leadership from Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru to Mr. Manmohan Singh has not endeavored to provide free and compulsory education to Children even after six decades will never be discussed by our learned leaders.

Only in 1993 Supreme Court of India recognised primary education as an important aspect of one’s personal life and liberty and accepted it as a fundamental right within Article 21 of the Constitution. Oh, until then our Governments neglected this because it was not a fundamental right? What happened afterwards?

Later in 2002, the government through the 86th Constitutional Amendment arrogated the right of providing free and compulsory education to itself, thus making the guaranteed right by the apex court dependent on the state. This amendment was was also one more paper work and false promises about education to Indian people continues in this year 2009.

No one from any political party seems to be ashamed about the presence of only a handful of MPs- 54 MPs, hardly enough to present a quorum for the house, when “the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2009″ seeking to provide education to children aged between 6 to 14 years, was passed in Parliament in August 2009. That shows how much our representatives in Parliament are concerned about eradicating illiteracy.

People are not yet fully informed on the modalities of implementing Education for all. The Government itself is in dark about the financial and human resources required. They do not know how to fix a time frame. Will it take few more decades? In fact they have no plan at all. But they keep on propagating their general idea of educating all, as if this is another press release or a hollow election manifesto.

The persons concerned should point out the gravity of the situation that every third of illiterate in this planet is an Indian and we have millions of illiterates as on date and we stand at 147’th rank in literacy out of 170 countries in the world. There is no concrete proposal to address this disease of illiteracy in a massive scale

On April 22, 2008, Indian anti-poverty network Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA) gathered experts from civil society, academics and government to discuss and inspect the national programme outcomes and the right to education. Experts felt that insufficient resources, lack of political will, bureaucratic complacency and pervasive social exclusion have kept over half the country’s children from completing a meaningful basic education: A wide gap remains between enrolment and completion rates, especially for children from poorest households and marginalised groups in rural areas and urban slums.

Under such circumstances it is only an insult to the nation, talking about reforms for the existing beneficiaries in CBSE schools while neglecting millions who can have no smell of a class room. What does it mean to the illiterates of this country? They already do not know anything. The reforms add nothing to them.

Mr Sibal in a recent educational conference also stated that Hindi being the national language should be taught in all schools in the country and this was the right time to take steps in this direction.

This is ridiculous, proposing Hindi to the rest of India while most of the illiterates are hailing from Hindi belt where the poor people do not know even how to read and write Hindi which is their mother tongue. Why there is no plan to improve the literacy rate of Hindi belt on par with the states of South India ? And we want to know why this is the right time to impose Hindi? Is it because the Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu have become tooth less as demonstrated in Ealem Tamil issue?

In fact the people of Tamil Nadu will accept Hindi if it means granting official language status at Centre to Tamil along with other languages of big states and provided when the people of Hindi belt go for learning a third language so that there is equality in learning languages throughout the country. But the politicians in cow belt hate English itself and they travel towards localization instead of globalization, misleading the nation.

Advising learning of Hindi is like lighting a candle to the rich people in daylight while leaving the poorest of the poor in darkness.

Moreover the best advocated policy of providing education through mother tongue at Primary and secondary level is not given enough attention as it deserves. All the educationalists, Psychologists. nation builders have stressed the importance of education through mother tongue. There are politicians and media menwho confuse the medium of education with National language, Official language, Link language etc.

As long as we study Science and Mathematics through a foreign language we will not develop creative brains and the number of inventions in our country shall be poor. We will continue to be servants knowing English and we will never become a master of our own.

The real reform will improve the quality in education by implementing compulsory primary education through mother tongue and a bill should be passed in Parliament specifically for this so that the courts do not come and dictate in this important issue. But it seems our reformer is not interested on this aspect of real education.

Another announcement suggests for taking X’th standard Board Examination as optional with grading system for assessment in class room. This has evoked mixed reactions.

Some people including our Honorable Minister and his admirers are happy that it saves the students from the burden of one board examination. ( They are also happy to burden our students to spend time in learning additional languages ). They say that the grading system to assess the performance of the students shall take care of overall learning and performance.

At the same time the critics want to know whether it is possible for assessment at class level where the class teacher is assumed to be impartial especially in a society where divisions based on caste, class and religion are still visible? How about the uniformity of assessment throughout the country? Compare this with a board exam based on a set of syllabus and the answer papers corrected by teachers who do not know any identity of the student.

R. Govinda, professor from the National University of Education Planning and Administration says . “We don’t have schools in India, but social ghettos, each defined socio-economically.”

Vinod Raina from Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS) says that the casteism exists even within government schools, ranging from the respectable Kendriya Vidyalayas to the makeshift rural Education Guarantee Centres (EGCs) that lack bare minimum infrastructure and teachers for quality learning.There is a need to define quality of education, delivery mechanisms and inclusiveness.

In such a situation assessment of academic performance in a class room through grades will not be free from partiality.

The right approach will be to uphold the present system of Board examination and go for grades in extra curricular activities such as arts, music, sports etc, with a weightage to be given for such grades at the entry for the next level of education.

Then one may wonder why this option for skipping the board exam at X’th standard level be allowed?

There lies the secret of facilitating the elite students to prepare for the Higher secondary examination at XII’th standard because that alone is essential for entry in to University education. These elite people are not interested in going for Polytechnic colleges or ITI s for which passing of the Xth standard examination is essential. And those in CBSE stream are from the progressed sections of the society and they want to take a route suitable for them and impose such a system to everyone, a glaringly selfish plan.

Some of the schools in Tamil Nadu teach X’th standard portions in IX’ th standard itself and similarly they teach XII’th standard portion in XI’ th standard itself, the casualty being the portions of lessons of IX’th standard and XI’th standard, left untaught and unlearned – a wrong practice of giving importance to lessons of Board examinations only. The idea of abolition of X’th standard examination is similar to this wrong practice leading to students concentrating XII’th examination only.

Now it is said to be optional but once the ultimate intention of total abolition of X’th standard board examination is implemented in future, that will be a question mark to the millions of poor students who are either incapable or ill equipped financially to continue education beyond X’th standard. Moreover that will create confusion in admissions to Polytechnica and ITIs. A necessity will be created to conduct entrance examination even to polytechnics and ITIs for selection in the absence of marks in S.S.L.C.

It is unfair to lead the poor students to a system which is created for the convenience of selected few. Therefore the intention of this so called reform is at serious doubt considering the past observations of our Honourable Minister.

In 2006 few medical college students protested in Delhi against reservation for OBCs In the institutions of higher learning. The media propagated the news as if those students were representatives of the whole nation.

At that time Kapil Sibal the Union Science and Technology Minister was in Hannover, Germany, attending a Technology Fair, said that the Govt. might not initiate any measures that could dilute India’s excellence and ability in the Global Economy. No policy initiative should be taken to dilute the level of excellence in research and development and educational institutions which would negatively impact our ability to compete in the global economy.It was for this remark, Sharad Yadav a leader advocating OBC reaservation demanded dismissal of Mr. Kapil sibal from ministry.

Unable to prevent reservation for OBCs, Kapil Sibal pressurized the then Congress Government to implement the reservations in a phased manner and succeeded much against the wish of Mr Arjun Singh the then HRD Minister who wanted to implement at one go. By that act, Kapil sibal exposed his real intentions although he denied that he was not against reservations.

Later when he became the Minister for HRD he talked about reservation in private institutions as if he was in favor of such proposal and left it saying that we need a consensus. Every one now understands what should be the meaning of consensus- just put proposals in a cold storage for decades..

Such is the track record of our minister about social justice. He tried to stall the opportunities to OBCs in the name of Excellence, global economy etc. He is not in favor of inclusive growth policies declared by the Government. Based on his own reported policies and activities we have a serious doubt whether Kapil Sibal is having any hidden agenda in his educational reforms.

Our minister should understand that he is not in charge of Education by examinations only but for the comprehensive portfolio of Human Resources Development. He should treat all the people equal. India is a country like a house where half of its population is locked up in a small room starving and the remaining half celebrating a party in the living room. Our minister should release the people in dark and serve them a cup of gruel first. He should not act as a delivery boy carrying ice cream to the party hall. Please give top priority to eradicating illiteracy first.

If Tamil Nadu refuse to accept Hindi and majority of CBSE students decide to opt for taking examination in X’th standard in the next academic year, all these discussions will go waste.

Our minister should not follow the foot steps of Mr. Murali Manohar Joshi of NDA Government who concentrated only in changing the History lessons in text books, to suit a communal policy in the name of cultural nationalism

To be fair with him we can stop short of calling Kapil Sibal, RSS implant within the Congress party.

Let him who thinks inequality be warned
That ruin awaits him

( ThiruValluvar 116 )

“Everyone has the right to education”
– Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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