What should Mr. Kapil Sibal do now?

Last week has been abuzz with Indian HRD Minister Kapil Sibal's controversial proposals for School Reform and Higher Education Reform. Mr. Sibal's proposals are said to be based on the recommendations of a committee headed by a Prof. Yashpal - officially called The Committee to Advise on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education. The committee's report is available on The Hindu's website, while apparently no Govt. website has deemed it necessary to host it.

At BANAVASI BALAGA, we studied the Yashpal committee report in detail. We have come to the conclusion that the recommendations of the committee, if implemented, may show temporary improvement in Higher Education but the new system will run out of steam or even backfire in the long run. In any case, Higher Education will certainly remain un-reachable to most of India if the proposed reforms are implemented; they will also do nothing to remove class divisions which the committee itself is rightly concerned about. This is because the committee has displayed the much-too-common Indian disability to fathom Higher Education in a language other than the language of our erstwhile colonizer, i.e., English. Hence, we urge Mr. Kapil Sibal to form a new committee to come up with ways of making Higher Education in Indian Languages possible. Such a move would be towards a far more sustainable, wide-reaching, inclusive, efficient and uplifting system. This committee too, should focus on decentralized administration: centralized planning will drive India towards self-destruction and undo whatever development the little decentralization has brought till now.

[We direct those who ask "Very nice! Why is this blog in English then?" to the right sidebar of this blog where we explain the reason.]

The committee's brief commentary on School Education is even more disappointing. It lacks serious thinking and stinks of centralized planning (which is a bad-word for a mind-bogglingly diverse country such as India). The Yashpal committee mindlessly neglects the fact that nearly 90% of India's children attend Indian Language schools which are run in atleast 20 different languages and administered by the states even to this day. These schools cannot and must not be administered by a central body. Nor can they or must they be converted to English or Hindi medium schools. Mr. Kapil Sibal's statements on School Education seem unfortunately to be inspired by the Yashpal Committee report which bases itself on such mindless assumptions. Mr. Sibal should reject the committee's statements in this regard in the interest of the future of India.

We should also mention that Mr. Sibal's behavior in this respect resembles that of a colonial master rather than that of a servant of a federal government of a free country. This nearly dictatorial behavior has already drawn flak from many state governments - Karnataka, Kerala, West Bengal, Orissa, Rajasthan - to name a few. You're in a federal setup, Mr. Sibal, and you should behave accordingly. And yes, next time - before you go to press, we urge you to upload your proposals on Govt. websites and also seek advice from state-governments before making decisions. In a federal setup, you don't tell the states. You ask 'em. In a federal setup, you don't make decisions. You federate 'em.

We do agree that School Education in India needs a revamp. But not the kind of mindless destructive revamp being talked about by the Yashpal Committee. We do agree that Higher Education needs a revamp. But the Yashpal Committee's recommendations don't look like a revamp; they merely seek to restructure the same old vamp.

It is a pity that Education is placed in the concurrent list - making room for all this nonsense. Education should be made an entirely state subject, leaving the center with subjects such as defense and maintaining one currency.

We will post follow-up articles on the Yashpal Committee report. Keep reading.

Cross-posted in Kannada on ENGURU and KALIKEYU.

23 comments:

raghu turuvekere said...

Excellent post Banavasi Balaga !
Since the day I heard this news, I was really thinking how can such a stupid decision gets such media hype. Remember, English media was going ga ga over Sibal's comments and even bringing some school kids to debate room asking their opinion about abolishing board exams at 10th std.

I always thought it is only BJP which thinks India progresses well only when Centre has more and more power, but I am utterly wrong. Even, the Congress is totally anti federal. It's a well known thought everywhere in the world that education becomes effective only when it is thought in mother tongues, but the Sibals of India think, it is English which will elevate India to the stature of a developed nation. What can we expect from some harward or stanford grads ?

Why don't you write this to the minister himself?

shantaram hallihole said...

If Yashpal committee report becomes a law, then days are not far, when the kids of Karnataka will only learn about what is national to Congress ( hindi, bollywood, glorifying freedom fighters) and definately nothing about ( kannada, the history of karnataka nor the ekikarana chaluvali ).. This is alarming..

Every linguistic group of this country should get united to thwart the attempt to make this mindless suggestions a law.

bharath shastri said...

>> In a federal setup, you don't tell the states. You ask 'em. In a federal setup, you don't make decisions. You federate 'em. <<

+10

dandapinda said...

@Editor,

Very well said! I have been having long and heated discussions about this with my friends, my colleagues and my family members over the last few days. I have been telling them exactly what you have said here but unfortunately they are not willing to buy it.

This is a calculative move by the centre (esp Congress) to take away the powers of the state government as Education is and will be a hugely lucrative sector in the coming years. Reforms are definitely needed in the education sector but definitely not this way.
First step would be to improve the education infrastructure by building better schools, provide better facilities to the teachers in rural areas, higher wages, improve the quality of the syllabus esp Mathematics and Science.
Secondly, prepare the students to tackle any competitive exam instead of doing away with exams.

Most people do not understand that as soon things are handed over from state to centre it can be blindly accepted that Hindi will take supreme position.

So my humble request to organizations like Ka Ra Ve is to boot this idea out or boot the governments which accept this idea.

Ramesh Rao said...

Bravo Karnatique for posting such an article. The proposals made by Mr. Sibal are extremely detrimental to a federation like India where people of Karnataka will be thought about Hindi as a National language and Kannada is nothing in this Union.

And History of Karnataka which is already a paucity in the history textbooks of Karnataka will be erased totally and Kannadigas will be made to feel inferior in every which regard.

My suggestion is, education which was in State list eons ago, should come back on the same from where it is at present; concurrent list.

sharan CTC said...

If this becomes a law,, then days are not far when kids in Karnataka will bang their head to tell the difference between 'Canada' and 'Kannada'..

Bravo Banavasi Balaga,, it's a wakeup post !

Avi said...

I am not sure that accepting the proposals would be detrimental to Kannada language. I believe that English is the global language accepted now, and we should come to terms with it. Of course, we are proud of our language and culture, but that does not mean that we close ourselves off from the outside world. I believe that having Kannada as one of the languages being studied is sufficient for any kid to understand/learn to write/read and appreciate Kannada - it is not necessary that higher education needs to be in Kannada, unless the subject itself is Kannada literature, or some such field! I am quite happy with the proposals of a national unified board, with one single exam for entrance to professional colleges throughout India! A progressive minister, a far cry from Arjun Singh...

Jockey said...

Avi,

As far as I can see, the article does not claim that "accepting the proposals would be detrimental to Kannada language". It's a pity you look at Kannada language as an "end" rather than a "means". Long way to go, dude, you've got a long way to go.

Ramesh Rao said...

Avi,

Long way to go as said by Jockey. Well you may start with this

http://karnatique.blogspot.com/2008/07/what-medium-of-instruction-ruckus.html

dandapinda said...

@ Avi,

If English is the global language, how is it that the people of France, Germany (and most other European countries), Japan, Mexico, Chinese to name a few non-English speaking countries manage without English?

Avi said...

@dandapinda,

A country cannot be self-sufficient in all terms. When people from the aforementioned countries (if they do not have a proper English training in scientific terms) go out of their countries into the world, they would find it really hard to cope. I myself have seen instances of a few Chinese/French colleagues in my lab finding it hard to communicate!

Anyway, I personally am of the opinion that we should strike a balance between globalisation and conserving our culture. In some issues like this, I feel that adopting or continuing to adopt the progressive language accepted universally in the world might be better (one of the advantages Indians have is that we have much better English conversational skills). At the same time, we do need to conserve and develop our culture/language...

I also read in a news article that they are not allowing English medium schools in Bangalore anymore (not sure how authentic the news is)... if true, it is a very sad state of affairs! I supported BJP, but if this is what the state of affairs comes down to, well I feel that I have a lot to think about. Being overly conservative is more detrimental to the country in the long run! Anyways, this is my personal belief/opinion...

Jai Veerupaksha said...

It must be made mandatory that before coming up with such one man finding committees and commisions, such issues are brought to public notice and debated in Parliament to discuss the focus of such committees and commissions. Then only such commissions should be allowed to proceed with their findings against the desired objectives.

It appears that Kapil Sibal is in a hurry to do his bit within the 100 day deadline set to various ministries and hence doesn't seem to have applied his grey cells which would have greyed hopefully with a thorough understanding of the federal strcuture of our country. Attempts to revamp education is welcome but the basic direction itself seems to have gone haywire and hopefully this reamins grounded as it is a potential weapon of Self destruction for the federal set up of India.

Maha said...

BASICALLY WE ARE A'LOES !!! FIRST OF ALL WE ELECT JOKERS WHO ARE FIT TO ONLY LICK ITALIAN A..., THEN WE MAKE A "DETAILED STUDY" TO SAY WHAT THESE MORONS WILL HARM OUR FUTURE !!! I FEEL LIKE TO LAUGHING AT US THE GREAT INTELLECTUALS, a simple kannada saying is there - maadiddunnu ....if some folks know hindi , one more saying is there - pairke uppar khuladi maarna (strike the foot with axe)...this is not even that, IT IS CALLED - khuladike ke uppar pair maarna (STRIKE THE FOOT ON AXE ..) ENJOY NEXT FIVE YEARS OF INTELLECTUALISM !!! Long Live Democracy...Long Live CONGRESS !!!

dandapinda said...

@Avi,

If a person wants to move out of his country, it is his personal choice and it should be his prerogative to learn the tools needed to survive in the new country or place to which he is planning to move. Just to enable ease of conversation with some country, asking every one on the planet to learn English does not seem to be the solution.

Ramesh Rao said...

Avi,

I have roamed Europe and what I see over there that they are not being conservative. They learn other languages too. For eg: A French will have the options to learn English/German/Spanish as additional languages. But, yes they don't become a medium of instruction. The medium of instruction in France is for sure French. Like wise, in Karnataka too the medium of instruction must be Kannada and English can be learnt as a language. And if you think learning English is Globalisation, then we don't become anti-global ;)

Avi said...

@dandapinda,

Yes, that is true - if someone needs to go outside his country, he could pick up the necessary skills. But one would still need the skills to be able to communicate/express in the global language, which happens to be English (if history had run a different course and Indians had colonised the world, maybe Sanskrit or whatever language was used at that time would have been the global language... but we have to deal with what we have now). It is more a necessity-based issue than anything else.

And we all know that communication is a very important thing in this ever-developing small world. We cannot rely on just our language to communicate with everyone. Come on now - if we cannot communicate the concept of "Huffman coding", or say, "ideal gas" (something random) in Kannada to someone from even our neighboring state, how can we expect that we can communicate the same to a wider audience?

@Ramesh Rao:
I am not saying that "learning English" is globalisation... what I am saying is that English is a medium for globalisation - we cannot attempt to globalise using Kannada - how many people would understand me if I try to explain a solution to some issue at work, in Kannada? When we try to communicate with a wider audience, we should try to use a globally spoken language. If we start questioning the need to communicate with others, well... I do not have much to argue then - it just is not logical to stay cut-off!

All I am saying is that we need to accept that it places us in an advantageous position to have English as a medium of learning. We should definitely learn Kannada, but it doesn't help much to have Kannada as the medium. This is just my opinion.

Ramesh Rao said...

@ Avi,

Now we have to get to the basics.

It is a proven fact that learning in ones mother tongue is the most beneficial way of learning. If you want invent, innovate, log IPs and prosper; learning in mother tongue helps. It enhances your thinking ability.

Please go through all the postings here listed under education.

http://karnatique.blogspot.com/search/label/Education

And, I have repeated twice already that I am not against learning English as a language, but the medium of instruction must be Kannada for the reasons mentioned above.

If you cannot go through all the posts, I strongly advise you to read this and should you have any doubts, you may comment.

http://karnatique.blogspot.com/2008/07/what-medium-of-instruction-ruckus.html

dandapinda said...

@Avi,

But one would still need the skills to be able to communicate/express in the global language, which happens to be English

I beg to differ here. If that someone plans to go to Germany or Japan, I do not think he needs to know English which means we come back to where we started.

Of course it is a necessity but necessity for that person not everyone. If a person wants to communicate 'ideal gas' or 'Huffman coding' or whatever that is to his/her neighbour, he/she would be doing that for a reason and not for fun.

I work for a IT firm which deals with French, Germans and Japanese clients. None of these guys feel the need to know the 'global language' and I am pretty sure they have developed fantastic technology and an amazing country.

Avi said...

@Ramesh Rao,

I am not sure if a comprehensive study has been made on the no. of inventions/innovations/IP's made in our mother tongue, as opposed to the number made by people having a different mother tongue but having the inventions/innovations/IP's in English. It might definitely be easier to understand a concept in one's mother tongue but I do not feel it would be a big hassle to do so in another language (English), since the learning/grasping ability is quite high at a younger age.
I did go through the blog, but felt the tone of the post was more fundamentalist, than scientific/progressive. I definitely agree that we should conserve and improve our Kannada, but that does not mean that we should completely stop using/teaching English. We live in today's world and we need to look forward and understand the way the world is heading.

@dandapinda,
Yes, if someone plans to go to France/Germany/Japan, knowing English definitely helps; though it might not help as mush as it would had the person learnt French/German/Japanese, but definitely knowing English helps more than just knowing our mother tongue. The probability of a French/German/Japanese scholar to understand/converse in English is much higher than that of being able to understand our mother tongue. This is what I meant to convey when I said one would need the skills to be able to communicate in the global language which just happens to be English (I am not against my language, not am I a big fanatic for Englis: just seeing the practical aspects here... as I said earlier, had history taken a different course, some other language might have been in vogue as the global language and we might have had to learn that)
Also, it is true that the French/Germans/Japanese have invented fantastic technology, but they need to know English in order to market it to the other parts of the world. Again I go back to my earlier premise that no country can be completely self-sufficient - it needs to have relationships with others in this ever shrinking world... and in this scenario knowing English definitely is an advantage.

Jockey said...

Oh yeah, it's a big hassle to move to a different language. When you say it's not a big hassle, you exhibit a serious disconnect with ground realities.

As the @Editor clarified on the Prof. Yashpal post, our workforce should obviously know very good english. Knowing good English for interacting with the rest of the world is different from studying everything in English. This is where the French and Germans differ from us.

dandapinda said...

@Avi,

Colonial rule created awareness of most European languages and not just English. If we were to speak of languages in vogue, French would get a tick and not English.

I travel a lot on my job and I have been to all the countries which we have been discussing and I have experienced first hand that knowing English does not help and even if one feels it does it will be as good as managing without knowing it.

On the lighter side, when I was in Rome and could not find directions to my hotel, initially I tried speaking to a local restauranteer in English and when that did not work, I tried Kannada which did. :) I do not know how but that guy gave me clear cut directions.

I work for a company where we receive Design documents in French, Spanish, German, Japanese etc. to customize the products we build (unfortunately or fortunately in English). We have been doing this for years and one thing is for sure they have not learnt English but we have hired translators and some of my colleagues have picked up bits and pieces of these languages. Most of these guys who design applications hold Master degrees and Ph.d's and I am pretty sure that makes them scholarly enough in their fields.

Communication problems can be solved through technological advances which if not now will definitely happen in a few years.

Also, it is true that the French/Germans/Japanese have invented fantastic technology, but they need to know English in order to market it to the other parts of the world.
I am damn sure that this will not work and I can say this from my work experience esp in a product company. If our company needs some technology we get it translated to the language we want and if they want to sell it to us they will do it as we want. It is just plain business.

But the topic of discussion here is about medium of instruction, education system & Kapil Sibal & Yashpal report. If we were to take the best practices from Germans, English, Japanese or French it would be to learn in our language.

Ramesh Rao said...

@ Avi

I definitely agree that we should conserve and improve our Kannada, but that does not mean that we should completely stop using/teaching English.

Anna, ad bidde. When did I ever say that I want to completely stop using/teaching English?

English can be taught as a language for that matter.

Guruprasad Kini (Guru) said...

There seems to an interesting discussion there out here. Here are my 2 cents:
a) It is true that most of the European and Asian countries have a strong local language educational base and they are not dependent on English. However, we must remember that in most of the countries, they do not face the challenge of dealing with 25+ major and scores of minor languages. At the most they have some dialects and strong variants (Cantonese and Madarin, e.g., who share a common script). India is probably the only nation in the world to have a HUGE amount of recognized languages.
b) The amount of text books and other educational literature available for school-children in the vernacular languages is quite limited unfortunately. It would either force the young students to refer books in their language + translate stuff from English books OR there needs to be a huge drive to translate all possible reference and text books to various vernacular languages. I am sure you all agree that the latter option is quite a waste of time and effort. The former option will just increase the stress on the students, which is one of things these reforms (try to) address.
c) I completely agree that one's mother tongue would be the most effective way to learn however in the context of India, how many mother tongues will be able to address? There are several languages fostered within Karnataka that do even have a script (Konkani, Tulu, etc.). So what medium these kids learn in?
d) Continuing the above example: I think there are several communities that use endemic languages (Konkani, Tulu, Kodava Takka) - they have adopted Kannada for nearly all their needs for decades now but still have maintained their own culture and their language. How did that happen?
So, my point is that there are bigger things to worry about than pushing one's language as the educational medium.
If we have to do something, then let's elevate the way our schools teach secondary and tertiary languages.
As long as a language is taught like a subject and not a medium to express and communicate, the question of which should be the teaching medium is entirely inconsequential.

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