Education needs a revamp not reversal: Why subjects like banking and finance have been replaced by Gita and Vedas?

By Sadhan Mukherjee*
With the massive electoral victory of saffron forces in UP and UK, and the stitched up seat majority in Goa and Manipur, the intolerance level in our country is bound to increase. The arena of rational debate has already begun to shrink. Frank and open discussion is going to be more difficult.
One of the major fields of attack is our education system that had already become stereotypical, devoid of any original thinking. Rajasthan University is in the forefront where not only history is being sought to be re-written but foreign authors do not figure in the curricula any more. Now for master’s degree dissertations, subjects like banking and finance have been replaced by Gita and Vedas.
Any talk of freedom is being counterpoised against nationalism as was seen in JNU and Delhi University. Campuses that are areas for germination of new ideas and free thinking are being restricted imposing only one particular type of idea.
Though it is the fringe groups that are responsible for the situation, their number is growing. Where is the concept of “argumentative Indians” going?
Who is right or who is wrong cannot be the true measure of any frank discourse on freedom of expression. The limit of free speech remains undefined, legally and otherwise, even today. Opinions are bound to differ and a one-view platform is dangerous for democracy. Today, even sedition is being invoked to throttle differing voice, giving a go-bye to the Supreme Court decision on what constitutes sedition.
State minister for Home Kiren Rijiju’s has asked: As you can abuse even the PM today, what more azadi you want? Mr. Rijiju should understand that that azadi was not given to India by NDA II; it has been the bedrock of our democracy since long. It will be endangered if it is sought to be restricted and any attempt to restrict it can only stem from intolerance of other views.
There is another line of reasoning as well; that a student should only study, not dabble in politics. Too much politicking diverts students from their main focus on academics, it is argued. There are again two sides to this logic. All our political leaders minus the saffronites have been in national movement and freedom struggle from their student days. That did not thwart their later day flowering of talent in other fields. This also holds true of many political leaders of today cutting across party lines. It is also true at the same time that our students in their large majority have failed to excel in their academics. That may not be their own fault or due to student politics.
The fact is that after independence we simply continued the colonial education system inherited from the British. We are excellent copycats and that is what has deprived us of original thinking. We love to be no-changers and our general attitude is that of chalta hai.
Even the British themselves have changed with time but we have not. Look at even small countries of Europe that have changed their education systems to meet the contemporary needs. The Finnish education system is now deemed to be the best in the world. Why, because the teaching is quite commensurate with the need of the hour. Add to that the lack of resources and untrained teaching staff that permeate our education system, you get the general picture of the state of its health.
Apart from the paucity of teachers, those who undertake the job of teaching are mostly untrained. They come from the normal run of the mill educational institutions. The village primary schools are the first stepping stone where the education of the students begins. How many of these have trained teachers or teachers at all?
Students who pass out from these institutions have weak bases which in later years continue to remain so. Those who graduate from various higher educational platforms, especially in arts, learn some lessons by rote to pass exams but after passing find themselves unsuitable for any professional employment. They generally become file-pushers and users of official verbosity.
In a huge country like ours, how many Indians have won Nobel Prize? Only five, Rabindranath Tagore (1913), C V Raman (1930), Amartya Sen (1998), Kailash Satyarthi (2014), and Mother Teresa (1979) who became an Indian citizen. While Tagore got his Nobel for literature, Raman and Sen got the same for their achievements in Physics and Economics respectively. Satyarthi is a joint winner with Pakistani education activist Malala Yusufzai. Satyarthi got the Nobel for his work in education and child rights.
Not a single person born and educated in Independent India has won this honour though several Indians educated abroad and becoming citizens of other countries have won this coveted prize.
What does it speak of our education system? That it does not help growth and independent thinking. Quite obviously their latent talent is not nurtured on a fertile ground here to flower which later blossoms elsewhere. Shall we try to improve that nurturing process forgetting the bid to impose restrictive measures? Shall we try help them with open thinking and make them forget learning by rote?
*Veteran journalist