The sensitivities of the Indian diversities can never be ignored in any genuine, non-political and professional attempt to reform education. For the last over one year, too much has been made of the so-called gross misadventure made in the year 2000 when a new curriculum frame work for school education was presented to the nation. What caused much anguish to a select group of left-intellectuals included recommendation regarding making children aware of the basics of all the religions of the people of India; to know the commonalities and learn to respect differences wherever these exist.
The other aspect that alerted the Marxists was the emphasis on values; that truth, peace, nonviolence, righteous conduct and love become an integral part of the entire process of teaching and learning in schools. A sympathetic 'national' media was standing-by in full support. Obviously, some of them had no idea what was indeed the meaning of a curriculum framework or, was it in any way different than the syllabus! There were suggestions in the curriculum framework on the importance of Sanskrit, reference to astronomy and a mention of Vedic mathematics. To those who derive their intellectual sustenance from the creators of now late-lamented USSR, this was a heady cocktail of communalism and a great danger to the very foundation of Indian democracy; secularism!
It was clearly pointed out in the process of curriculum reforms initiated and clearly mentioned in the main document itself that all steps had to be taken to ensure that no personal prejudices, biases or perceptions were allowed to distort the real purpose of bringing in the basics of the religions. Under no conditions, rituals, dogmas and superstitions were to be propagated in the name of basics of religions, which alone were to be focused. The idea was to inculcate respect for religious faiths other than ones own and thus eliminate mutual distrust and intolerance. Not satisfied with the prolonged attack through media and meetings, the issue was taken up in the highest court of India. The Supreme Court analyzed the contents of the proposed educational reforms and delivered a historic judgment on September 12, 2002. The following from this judgment appears relevant in the context: "The complete neutrality towards religion and apathy for all kinds of religious teachings in institutions of the state have not helped in removing mutual misunderstanding and intolerance inter se between sections of people of different religious faiths and beliefs
. Secularism' therefore, is susceptible to a positive meaning that is developing understanding and respect towards different religions
Study of religions, therefore, in school education cannot be held to be an attempt against the secular philosophy of the Constitution."
Religions are a reality, whether one likes it or not. Can any educational reform process deny that India in a multi- religious society, every one of its citizens needs to learn to live together and work together? Everyone has to accept and internalize that Indian State is secular and the Indian society is religious. There is no contradiction between the two. Secularism can surely be strengthened if it draws upon the common moral, ethical and humanistic values, which are a necessary part of every religion. Why should the future generation forget what happened to the USSR which had vanished religions and locked all the places of religious worship and prayers?
The well-identified group of individuals shouted hoarse that the educational reforms initiated in the year 2000 were against the National Policy of Education -1986, revised in 1992. This, of course was a part of the Marxist strategy to repeat a lie till people get fed-up and in disgust, if not for other reasons, accept it! Not a single violation of the Policy approved by the Parliament of India was pointed out in specific terms. No organization, religious or cultural or educational, pointed out any violation or any description that was in favor of one group against any other. A motley crowd of those who were accustomed to the perks of power for decades together and suddenly found themselves out of it, continued to spread venom and lies with resource inputs from their ideological masters. It needs no astrology to predict their great enthusiasm and joy when a sudden turn of events restored them their favorite institutions and the power and authority to manage and administer them. They were in a tearing hurry. Has any one ever heard of a sixth grader being provided for with additional text books of history and expect him/her to correct the 'communal' content of the text book in the bag after consulting the 'secular' text book in the library kept their for this very purpose! Can any country be located which insists on re-introducing text books written four decades ago in any subject and of any grade? Only India-2005 could claim the credit!
History and historians were in the focus of the debate, discussions and dissensions of the last five years in education. To some who reigned for decades together in all aspects of history and institutions dealing with it, it was a question of life and living. Nothing else in education was of any significance to them. This lot was extremely happy when the old history books were brought back. Then there are committees, committees and more committees; no dearth of placements and meetings. Who cares about the Policy and the manner in which it is changed? Otherwise how can those who swear by the name of Rajiv Gandhi become a party to the violation of the NPE-1986, which was one of his most progressive and visionary contributions? Half a page specifically devoted to value education in Rajiv's Education Policy vanishes totally in the 2005 'prescriptions', which deliberately avoid focus on value-based education. NPE-1986 had emphasized the need for research in Indology, the search of the country's treasure of ancient knowledge and relating that knowledge to the modern reality. All this stands totally wiped out. The NPE_1986 shows its commitment to the development of facilities for the intensive study of Sanskrit while the present government's secular educational 'products' betray their animosity to the policy by just remaining practically silent about Sanskrit. While Policy desired inclusion of Yoga in all school programmes, now it shall just remain a term listed along with games sports and health education. The focus of the 1986 policy on learner attainments was reflected in the policy directive that minimum levels of learning shall be laid down stage wise. It was done for primary stage and usefully implemented in various states. Those who opposed it all along have now found it impractical and pedagogically unsound, hence rejected. Fundamental duties have also met the same fate. These were included in the constitution during the times of Indira Gandhi as Article 51(A). Only Rights shall be emphasized. How the two can be separated will have to be determined by some NGO's who would deserve liberal financial support in near future. In that respect the proposed changes in education are certainly future-oriented and reassuring to the NGO's that liberal funding would not be in short supply and they can rest assured of 'better' opportunities to serve the nation.
A blatant violation comes in the form of total neglect of the recommendations of the S.B. Chavan Committee report submitted to both the houses of the Parliament of India in February 1999. It was passed on to the organizations, presently busy in de-saffronizing the 'communal' textbooks, for implementation in May 1999. The much-maligned former Director of the organization had assumed charge only in July 1999! That the Supreme Court had endorsed the recommendations of the Chavan committee could cut no ice with those engrossed in act of secularizing education.
The best that the stakeholders in education can do is to peruse the new proposals in education a bit carefully. The NPE-1986/92 expresses a resolve not to permit new generations to break away from their roots of ancient Indian history and culture and reiterates the determination to encourage young students to discover and interpret in their desired manner and form their own perspectives. This was formulated by a government, which had the biggest-ever electoral mandate to rule the country. It was not dependent on the 'support from outside'. That Education Policy stands totally rejected now. Instead, India is now presented as a multi-national country fragmented on the considerations of religion, caste, groups, class and what not. This is what people get when they throw a fragmented mandated and power comes on the crutches of the 'left'! And when left supports power, it is only a self-support, whatever be the disguise!