Education and Politics

I usually steer clear of writing here in the blog on matters which are overtly political. However, this is something on which I feel so strongly, that I feel duty bound to make an exception. The following story is a tragedy to my mind, on at least two levels:

India Today – RTE Budget Slashed

Firstly, we have a government in power here who staked their reputation (supposedly) on what they described to be the most important legislation to impact education in the country in 60 years, but who then callously fail to allocate adequate budgetary funds, and then cut them even further. This is a completely cynical act when you consider that they are bending over backwards to fund things like Aadhar and cash in hand transfers in the short term, believing that with these they will be able to buy the loyalty of voters enough in the next 12 months to retain power in the next election.

Education policy for a country, especially when it’s a country the size of India with an education system so desperately in need of change, has to be a matter for long term planning and commitment from a government that genuinely cares about whether or not the country provides something approximating decent education, as a matter of right, for all. However, here’s all the evidence that the current government are neither serious or genuine in their intent to support the necessary changes in education.

One of the reasons for the passing of RTE (besides a tool for petty local officials to use to manipulate and torture those in the private education sector) was to move India closer to complying with its commitments and obligations under the United Nations Millenium Development Goals. However, this cynical slashing of the budget carries all the hallmarks of lip service and a lack of genuine commitment to meet the needs of the population (even if they are in the best interests of the nation in the longer term)

There’s a second level on which this story disturbs me. It was published on 17th December and yet I have heard barely a whimper in protest from my peers in the education fraternity or from the public as a whole. It’s an over-used saying that you get the leaders you deserve. I have to wonder whether a country that couldn’t even summon the energy to debate and discuss the RTE when the Act was first passed, will sit idly by while the government reneges on every commitment and promise they have made to change and improve the education system to ensure movement towards a fair and reasonable education for all may indeed deserve the government it has got.

The news since 17th December has been dominated by the uproar over the Delhi rape case. Even as the uproar and outrage continues, rapes continue to happen across the country and atrocities against women continue unabated. Discussions of death penalties and chemical castration are not going to provide long term solutions. Just think, anyone committing a rape, sexual assault or even ‘eve teasing’ today is doing so in the full knowledge of the anger and hatred being expressed across the country towards the perpetrators of the Delhi attack. Education does have the potential to bring long term change, to effect long term attitudinal adjustment and gender parity. However, are either the politicians or the population ready to engage in anything more than sticking plaster solutions and knee-jerk reactions? Whilst I can understand that it might take some time for the public mass dialogue on education to become serious and genuine, where are all the voices of the educators, the people in the country who claim to be the ones who both care about children and their needs as well as having the knowledge and skills to bring meaningful change?

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