Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Perilous prospects

By K.N. Panikkar
The Hindu Monday, Nov 17, 2003
In recent times, Indian society has witnessed the emergence of an anti-liberal and authoritarian ethos in almost all social, cultural and political practices. It is well pronounced in the field of education, both in content and organisation. The changes in the education system mainly target two areas.
  • First, the content of the curriculum in order to redefine the character of the nation in religious terms. Privileging the indigenous system and knowledge are its defining characteristics. It appears to be a part of a revivalist agenda, which essentially seeks to indigenise the system by foregrounding the knowledge linked with Hindu religious tradition, which though historically important may not have much relevance in contemporary times. The indigenisation, however, is not the same as incorporation of indigenous knowledge, which is necessary and desirable.
  • The second feature of the changes is enclavisation, which is an inevitable legacy of colonialism. There is an overwhelming section of the population that is deprived of higher education for social and economic reasons. In a country like India only the state can provide them the opportunity. Most Indian universities have become stagnant pools, starved of funds and facilities and are unable to keep abreast with the explosion in knowledge taking place in almost all fields.

An enclavised, commercialised and communalised system of education, rapidly gaining currency, can be countered only by strengthening the public system, the revitalisation of which depends upon a variety of issues, more important among them being quality assurance, democratisation and autonomy. None of them is on the agenda of the state, even if they form the themes of officially sponsored seminars. The ground reality obtaining in most institutions, however, is totally inadequate to ensure even minimum quality.

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