National

National Education Day: Celebrating India’s Schooling System With A Pinch Of Salt

While new policies in schools and higher education systems can be appreciated, the primary goal of education is that it should be accessible to all and devoid of political or religious influences. Until that is done, is celebrating National Education Day of any significance?

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Student parliament organised by Student Union AISA demanding to roll back NEP 2020
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Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, had once said, “Only through right education can a better order of Society be built up." He believed that education was the most important factor contributing towards social change. Afterall, a good education is the cornerstone of a country’s growth and prosperity. 

Every year, on November 11, India celebrates National Education Day to mark the birth anniversary of the first education minister of independent India, freedom fighter Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad. The day is celebrated to mark the importance of education and how far, as a society, we have come in terms of learning.

The education system in India has seen much growth since the Britishers left, as Nehru and other stalwarts envisioned. It has evolved through the decades with many remarkable achievements, alongside some challenges, that have shaped the country’s youth.

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However, over the past decade, the question of “right education” has come up in debates with several curriculum changes in schools and colleges that appear to be erasing certain facts, rewriting several details, and changing entire schooling patterns, ultimately changing the way a student consumes knowledge.

Erasing Historical Facts

Every year, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) comes up with a plan to revise the syllabus for school textbooks to be implemented in the next session. These changes are intended to keep up with important developments, making corrections and incorporating necessary changes for better learning.

Lately, however, the NCERT has faced criticism for deleting entire chapters, editing out and omitting key portions of social science and history lessons. It has been accused of making political interference in the education system and curriculum.

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A few months back, the NCERT faced backlash when it removed references to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad from its latest syllabus revision for the new class 11 political science textbook, in whose honour we celebrate Education Day. Similarly, as part of its "syllabus rationalisation" exercise, the Council had dropped certain portions from the course, including lessons on Gujarat riots, Mughal courts, the Emergency, Cold War, Naxalite movement, among others from its textbooks, that it considered "overlapping" and "irrelevant".

But NCERT is not the only one. The Delhi University has also faced severe backlash for dropping works like Tamil Dalit writers Bama Faustina Soosairaj’s ‘Sangati’, Sukirtharani’s ‘My Body’ and Bengali author Mahasweta Devi’s ‘Draupadi’ from an undergraduate course. The varsity claimed that the decision was taken through a democratic process but faced protests over it.

It must be noted that similar attempts to erase historical documentation from textbooks have been made in the past. But with the dominance of far-right in Indian politics in recent years, its influence has become more pronounced, underscoring the need for a closer examination of its implications.

The Many Challenges Of India’s Education System

One of the most controversial moves made by the Centre was the introduction of the National Education Policy (NEP). A new education policy was part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto ahead of the 2014 general election. The policy raised many doubts among academicians’ minds, especially due to the controversial imposition of Hindi as a compulsory language for all schools. Several states, especially in the south, protested against it. 

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Moreover, the policy it introduced in 2020 aimed to emphasise “conceptual understanding rather than rote learning and learning-for-exams.” However, given India’s strict traditional structure of schooling, many students have complained that this has yet to happen as the competition is far too big not to ‘fear’ failure. 

While the NEP 2020 is in effect already, debates around its implementation and implications continue to grow. One of the biggest challenges of India’s educational growth is proper infrastructure. There are still many rural districts that do not have proper facilities, funding or resources to implement all the changes being introduced in the new policy. The NEP also intends to cover a broader range of topics, which require teachers to be trained in the new set of skills, and a majority of the schools do not have the infrastructure for the same.

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While new policies in schools and higher education systems can be appreciated, the primary goal of education is that it should be accessible to all and devoid of political or religious influences. Until that is done, is celebrating National Education Day of any significance?

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