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.
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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.