Indian education needs creative imagination
by Raghav Mittal on 14 Dec 2014 5 Comments
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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