The relationship between education and politics is as old as democracy itself. Education and politics are enmeshed in the network of overlapping and interlocking strands that form society’s fabric and cannot be taken out of each other. Our Cover Story attempts to analyze this symbiotic relationship between education and politics and look over how politics determine many aspects of education and vice versa.
The nexus between education and politics can be perceived at several levels. Let’s have a brief overview of a few of them.
Education as a tool of political propaganda
Education should be ideology neutral. But political parties see education as one of the major means to spread and achieve the idea of the sort of society they envision. It’s undeniable that ruling parties often try to inject a heavy dose of ideology into the curriculum to firm up their political grip on young minds.
“Education can be viewed as a political bureaucracy based alone on the constant changes in curriculum strategies,” says Dr. Nishad PM, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Application, MACFAST Thiruvalla.
Educational censorship has precedence in India. Textbooks and curriculum have been used for specific political purposes by different ruling parties.
This has to be seen in conjunction with recent controversy sparked off by NCERT board when they initiated the process of revising textbooks which critics have slammed as yet another extension of the saffron agenda of ideological cleansing.
“The textbooks are designed by NCERT which is a government undertaking. Thus, a government so elected politically can have a major impact on what is taught, when and how much.” enunciates Ms. Greeshma, Research Scholar, Kerala Forest Research Institute, referring to the ongoing process of controversial textbook revision.
State governments in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are also have been accused of reflecting the political views of the party in power in the respective states.
After all, as Joseph Stalin has said “Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hand and at whom it is aimed”.
One of the education’s purposes is to inspire students to take a greater interest in civic responsibility. And politics allows students the opportunity to gain connections and involvement in social activities.
“Campus politics is a miniature of the polity outside as the students hail from the family and society.” delineates Dr. Nishad PM, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Application, MACFAST Thiruvalla.
“However, campus politics often becomes a weapon for the parent organizations with vested interests. It leads to unnecessary hatred and violence within the students,” he adds.
When asked if universities and colleges should be apolitical spaces, a student from Calicut University said: “Education is important and let’s say it’s primary, but politics too is an important aspect of college life. I won’t say that everyone should get involved with politics and should hate other political ideologies. But each and everyone on the campus should be aware of what’s happening in the campus and should protest when our rights are being curtailed when you feel you are being exploited and when you are discriminated.”
Parents are against student politics because politics is often considered dirty and polluting. But the reality is that politics shapes society to a large extent, both positively and negatively.
There are multiple aspects that play a key role in shaping political values in students. For instance, students with more developed cognitive functioning are more likely to take an interest in politics. The socio-economic status of the student’s family also plays a factor in their political intelligence. Finally, the curriculum to which students are exposed will directly affect their interest in political issues. These aspects need to be discussed in detail by the student fraternity.
Educational Policy and reforms are essential elements of a country’s progress. From time to time, the government revises these policies to make them more relevant and compelling for the prevailing education ecosystem.
The NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the new National Education Policy (NEP 2020) on July 30, 2020, replacing the National Policy on Education, 1986. While the government claims the New NEP brings in ambitious changes that could transform the education system, some experts have raised questions and concerns over the policy’s lackadaisical attitude towards a matter as important as education.
Describing the flaws of the NEP 2020, Salih Kottappalli, President, Student Islamic Organization, Kerala, says “The policy line upholds not the academic interests of the country, but that of the Hindutva Political agents. What is the prime objective of advancing the new education policy? A copy of the policy is available on the Ministry’s website, hardly reading the preface throw some serious insights. The core of the policy line is to restore the legacy of Bharatiya knowledge and to rebuild the knowledge tradition and educational system in ancient India.”
While Dr. Reeta, Director – Early Childhood Education, Ampersand sees the National Education Policy 2020 as a game-changer on many grounds. “However, there is a need to address a few gaps on which the policy remains unclear,” she denotes.
Apart from these mighty political problems which directly or indirectly affect its progress, our education system is beset by several other political challenges, ranging from policy changes to frequent blockades and strikes to reservation and much more. Most of them are overlooked by the authorities because of their vested interest and it is students who continue to suffer the consequences.