the news about indian education this year has been remarkably banal despite a huge shift that has picked up momentum. it affects a lot of people and raises questions about the global economic order that makes us a colony all over again because of the necessity as per this order, that we be in the good graces of foreign (primarily european and american) investors. not least, it also makes me wonder about the government’s real politics, and what the hell the fourth estate is doing in its naive (at best) or complicit coverage.
after being colonised by the british we were pulled into formal classrooms based on the western model. the foreigners decided education policy, infrastructure and the languages we learned.
skip ahead to independence. we continued in a confused manner (as unclear as our love-hate for the british) with the same model, perpetuated and valued the choices made for us, developed on the by-now internalised notions of what was desirable. governmental policy was incoherent, on the one hand emphasising the need for education to facilitate national development and therefore allocating increasing amounts of the budget in each 5 year plan. on the other, we declared that the responsibility of ensuring literacy and access to education wouldn’t be driven by the center, but rather suggested for consideration by the states. education was only part of the directive principles of state policy, and therefore there was no enforceable accountability for states’ failure in upholding the so-called national priority.
fast forward to the 90s and liberalisation. the hindutva brigade yell about the evil west brainwashing and corrupting us, but their notion of indianness and identity is rooted in the previous millenium and has pretty much no contemporary relevance. this rhetoric hasn’t changed 20 years later.
textbooks taught a dubious version of reality. the narrative of history was and continues to be a farce. you had civics up to middle school but in higher secondary, it was evidently no longer important to learn about citizenship and the framework on which the country was built. economics in higher secondary and college levels was hilariously skewed, as the textbooks supported the liberalisation move by singing praises of private sector efficiency and free market democracy, while condoning the public sector in its failure to perform its duties as well-intentioned but bumbling. in management education we learnt again a skewed reality that clearly discriminated between white collar and blue collar workers and taught us the hierarchy was natural, purely based on ability and totally equitable.
and now the present. well, deja vu.
we still have our fixation with catching up to the foreigners (funny how that’s implicitly about the americans and europeans, not say, africans, chinese, russians…). in our careers, a foreign university certificate has more prestige and commands better job prospects. we have the hindutva brigade still yelling about western propaganda and corruption of indian values (still no clarity on what this “indian” is like), the government has failed continuously and spectacularly to meet its targets for literacy and access to education. it is again inviting corporatisation in the name of efficiency. – we’re again pretending that the corporations that are jumping at the opportunity because it’s pure market sense are doing so only because of altruism. foreigners are again trying to tell us what languages to learn. we’re inviting the marketplace into infrastructure building. we’re again pretending scientific progress will substitute for social development by insisting that digital education will open access (to whom really? what happens to people who can’t afford computers and internet connections?). and we still have kids swimming across swollen rivers to get to their schools… in the richest state in the country.
are. you. kidding me.
ETA more links.