How Modi Govt has Saffronised Education
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WITH the formation of the RSS-BJP central government under the leadership of Narendra Modi in 2014, a national level saffronisation campaign in education began in right earnest. After returning with a huge majority in 2019, this campaign reached its pinnacle. In this second phase, the National Education Policy (NEP) was implemented in the entire country by bypassing the parliament amidst the calamity of Covid pandemic and ensuing lockdowns.
The basic purpose of this National Education Policy-2020 is the policy of centralisation, commercialisation and communalisation. It is also a fact that the policy of centralisation and commercialisation started being implemented first during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) 2 tenure. However, Manmohan Singh's government was not very successful due to lack of majority in both the houses of the parliament and all the five bills related to it could not be passed. Nonetheless, an active effort to change education was launched across the country through the University Grants Commission (UGC), Delhi University being the first experiment. Semester system, four year undergraduate programme, Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) as well as central evaluation system were introduced throughout the country. Ranking and grading of colleges and universities was started by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). All this was opposed by teachers, students, employees as well as civil groups from all over the country. All major political parties except Congress supported this movement and also gave it a prominent place in the 2014 election manifesto. After Modi became the prime minister, the four-year programme of Delhi University was also withdrawn. But soon the real character of the RSS-BJP government came to the fore. First CBCS and then in the name of National Education Policy, all those educational changes that had been withdrawn were once again imposed on the whole country.
CENTRALISATION BECOMES THE BASIS FOR SAFFRONISATION
It needs to be stated that the organised force behind the BJP is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The aim of RSS is to make India a Hindu nation. For this purpose, it opened a chain of schools, Saraswati Shishu Mandir being one. This franchise of school has years of experience in spreading Hindutva consciousness in society through school education. After the formation of the government at the centre, in the last decade, the RSS got the opportunity to aggressively spread such consciousness across the country. Keeping this in mind, Modi first pushed through the intervention of the central government in education portfolio on all the state governments by bringing the National Education Policy.
Keep in mind that education was earlier a state subject in the constitution. During emergency, it was changed and included in the concurrent list. The Modi-led RSS-BJP government through NEP-2020 has now reduced the powers of the states to a bare minimum. In school education, the entire format of school education has been changed through NEP-2020 and National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2023. A new structure of 5+3+3+4 has been brought in place of 5+3+2+2. And now uniform NCF-2023 has been brought for the same.
Historically, India has celebrated unity in diversity. This formula was recognised by everyone from the freedom fighters to the policy makers of independent India. Today the same diversity is being suffocated with the politics of Hindutva. In NCF-2005, it was clearly understood that a broad framework should be kept on the basis of which curriculum, syllabus and textbooks can be prepared in different states. But in sharp contrast to this, NCF-2023 is a highly detailed document of 625 pages, in which even small details have been elaborated.
In this new curriculum, a new area of inter-discipline has to be studied in any one subject. In it are included family and community science (present form of home science), knowledge of India, Indian knowledge, traditions and customs; in other words, there is an emphasis on so-called Indian knowledge systems. In fact the UGC has recently released the National Credit Framework which incorporates ‘Indian Knowledge Systems’. To this has been added a list of lore, arts, applied sciences and vocational crafts which will be counted for earning credits during school education.
If you look carefully, once again new textbooks will be written on all subjects. Its preparation has started by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). This is the area through which countrywide efforts to saffronise schools are going on.
For the last one year, reduction in school syllabus in the name of reducing the burden on the children has been significant. Chapter related to Mughals from history textbooks, reference to Gandhi's assassination and ban on RSS from political science, references related to Gujarat pogrom from Sociology textbooks, chapter on democracy from 10th class social science, Charles Darwin's evolution theory, naxalite movement, etc have been removed. Looking at them carefully, a pattern is clearly visible. The plan to blunt the logical-intellectual-scientific thought process for saffronisation and to replace the values based on liberty-equality-fraternity with the traditional Indian feudal values.
ATTACK ON HIGHER EDUCATION
In 2014, the Modi government appointed RSS cadre in premier educational institutions on war footing. Be it UGC, NAAC or institutions like ICHR and NCERT – RSS people were appointed everywhere. The process of implementing NEP 2020 was then expedited through these institutions.
A new framework of 4+1 was implemented by abolishing the 3+2 model of higher education through UGC, in which a new format of multiple exit and choice based system was brought. In this, the core courses were reduced and replaced by courses like skill enhancement (skill development) and value promotion. The preparation that is going on in this context, the form that is being prepared by the RSS pracharaks – if that is not saffronisation then what is? All syllabus is being drafted by the UGC. Only 20-30 per cent change is allowed in them. It is imperative to implement this not only for the central universities, but also for the state universities. It is not known who is preparing the syllabus in UGC. But of course, the fact is that everything is being prepared through RSS.
By eliminating the importance of school education, a new formula of dependence on coaching was given in this NEP. Be it BA or MA or NET exam – all are being decided by central examination system. It consists of multiple choice questions instead of analytical questions. The politics of Hindutva is clearly visible in the questions asked. People associated with the RSS are there in these central institutions. In such a situation, students of different states will also prepare for the exam from the same perspective.
Today, be it JNU or DU or central universities located in all the states of the country – RSS people were first appointed to the posts of VC and then teachers were recruited with the entire RSS machinery. 100 per cent saffronisation politics through recruitment is a common practice in the campuses today.
Even in the states where there is no BJP government, the BJP-RSS is continuously interfering in the appointment of VCs through the governor and in the recruitment of teachers. Be it Kerala or Bengal or Rajasthan – this conflict has come to the fore everywhere.
Ever since the Modi government came to power, RSS pracharaks are sent to educational institutions as chief guests of government programmes. In recent times, the process of sponsoring Hindutva politics in the campus in the name of Amrit Mahotsav or in the name of G-20 programme is going on. Be it the programme 'Mann Ki Baat' or other similar programmes – by ending the autonomy of the universities, they are forced. The format of these programmes is kept completely saffron. Organising Saraswati Puja in educational institutions by the administration has become common today.
ATTACK ON HISTORY
Immediately after the formation of the Modi government in 2014, the RSS organisations insisted on writing history from the perspective of Hindutva politics. One such organisation is the All India History Collection Scheme (ABISY) which aims at 'writing the history of India from an Indian perspective'. Their aim is to prepare a compilation of the history of India from the point of view of Hindutva in four volumes by 2024. Many people from this organisation were also appointed in the ICHR. The RSS is trying to impose its own beliefs in the context of Aryans and Saraswati river civilization, medieval history and freedom movement etc. Their aim is to get these concepts recognised on the basis of State patronage and to make them a part of school and university syllabus. For the last few years, crores of rupees are being spent on these schemes through research and government projects. These so-called historians are being sent as subject experts in the process of appointments and research in various universities.
Be it Allahabad or Gorakhpur University, departments of astrology, vastu, rituals, etc have been opened in many central universities. Superstition is being given place in universities in the name of value promotion programme. What is laughable is that this is being touted as employment opportunity for youth.
The damage that has been done so far by saffronizing education in the last decade is unimaginable. The challenge of reversing this is a major one. This cannot be rectified by merely removing the RSS-BJP government from power. Be it the Congress or the Aam Aadmi Party – the use of religious rituals in public political life, a tendency towards appeasement of the majority religious identity is common. In such a situation, conscious struggle against communalism and expansion of public consciousness will be the only way to impart scientific and critical thinking.
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