सारे आतंकी जिंदाबाद: आपत्ति और जवाब

July 29, 2015

[यह जवाब लंबा हो गया है, अतः अलग पोस्ट के रूप में दे रहा हूँ.]

सिराज जी,

आपकी टिप्पणी, सवालों और सलाह के लिए धन्यवाद. आप की बात अभी चल रही बहस के एक पक्ष को संक्षेप में पर मेरी समझ के अनुसार सफाई से रखती है.

आप की कुछ और जान लेने की सलाह तो मुझे मंजूर है ही. और गाहे बगाहे जानने की कोशिश भी करता रहता हूँ. यह किशिश व्यवस्थित रूप से मुकम्मिल नहीं हो पाती और हजार चीजों के चलते. पर मुझे यह भी लगता है की जिन के पास पूरी जानकारी नहीं है वे भी सार्वजनिक बहस में कुछ हद तक तो हिस्सा ले ही सकते हैं. यही सोच कर हिमाकत कर रहा हूँ.

ठीक से समझेने की कोशिश में मुझे आप की दलील कुछ यों लगी (यदि मैं गलत समझा हूँ तो जरूर बताएं):

  • आतंकी कामों और दंगा-फसाद के दोष में केवल मुसलमानों को ही फांसी की सज़ा दी जाती है.
  • बहुत सारे कानूनदां और बुद्धिजीवी फांसी की सज़ा के खिलाफ हैं.
  • बंबई बम ब्लास्ट फसाद के बदले में हुए, (क्यों की फ़सादियों को सज़ा नहीं मिली).
  • फ़सादियों की तादाद के कारण भारत में मुसलामानों को न्याय नहीं मिल सकता. पुलिस, वकील, अदालत सब मिली भगत में सबूत मिटा देते हैं, सब भीड़ देखते हैं, केस की मेरिट नहीं.
  • इस लिए याकूब मेमन को फांसी नहीं होनी चाहिए.

ऊपर बिंदु १ से ४ को आप तथ्यों के रूप में रख रहे हैं और बिदु ५ आप का बिना लिखा पर साफ़ निष्कर्ष लगता है. मेरी समस्या यह है कि मैं आपके १ से ४ तक के “तथ्यों” को तर्क के लिए मान भी लूं तो भी मुझे आप का अलिखित निष्कर्ष (५) सही नहीं लगता.

यह गंभीर मशाला है, अतः मुझे अपनी तरफ से पूरी कोशिश करनी चाहिए कि मेरी बात साफ़ हो सके. तो इसमें थोड़ा समय लग सकता है.

चाहे खाम-खयाली में ही सही मैं दो मान्यतायें ले कर इस तरह के मशलों पर सोचाता हूँ. पहले उन्हें लिख देना ठीक रहेगा:

  • यह कि कानून में और नैतिकता में एकल तथ्य अपने अपने आप में किसी निष्कर्ष तक नहीं पहुंचा सकते. तथ्य केवल किसी सामान्य कानून या सामान्य नैतिक नियम का आह्वान (invoke) करते हैं और निष्कर्ष उस सामान्य नियम के आधार पर निकाले जाते हैं.
  • यह कि “स्पष्टीकरण” (explanation) और “औचित्य” (justification) में फर्क होता है. स्पष्टीकरण केवल यह बताता है कि कोई घटना क्यों हुई, उसके पीछे क्या करण रहे; वह निश्चित तौर पर औचित्य साबित नहीं करता. औचित्य स्पष्टीकरण से तभी साबित होता है जब स्पष्टीकरण किसी सामान्य सिद्धांत का आह्वान कर पाए.

इन दो मान्यताओं के चलते मुझे लगता है कि आप के पूरे तर्क को जांचने के लिए हमें यह देखना चाहिए कि आप के सुझाये तथ्य कौनसे सामान्य सिद्धांतों की तरफ इशारा करते हैं और क्या हम उन सिद्धांतों को मानने के लिए तैयार हैं. आइये देखते हैं कि हम लोग कहाँ तक सहमत हो सकते हैं. (वैसे यह संभव है कि आप मेरी ऊपर लिखी दो मान्यताओं से ही असहमत हों. तो हमें पहले इन मान्यताओं को स्थापित करना पड़ेगा, या कोई और मान्यताएं घड़नी पड़ेंगी जो हम दोनों मानते हों. नहीं तो बात आगे नहीं चल सकती. पर अभी मैं यह मने लेता हूँ की ये दो मान्यताएं आप को भी स्वीकार हैं.)

आप का कहना है कि फसादी और आतंकी अपराधों में केवल मुस्लमान अपराधियों को ही मौत की सज़ा मिलाती है. चलिए थोड़ी देर के लिए इस बात को तर्क के लिए मन लेते हैं. सभी सहमत होंगे की भारत के कानून में तो ऐसा नहीं की केवल मुसलमान अपराधियों को सज़ा मिले, और बाक़ी को एक ही तरह के अपराध के लिए कोई और सज़ा मिले. नाही ऐसा है की मुसलमान अपराधियों की फांसी की सज़ा पर तो अमल किया जाए और औरों की इसी सज़ा पर अमल न किया जाए. इन दोनों चीजों में कानून तो सब के लिए एक सा है. तो इस का अर्थ यह हुआ की कानून को लागू करने वाले लोग स्वयं क़ानून को पक्षपाती तरीके से लागू करते हैं. मुसलमान अपराधियों की फांसी की सज़ा पर तो अमल करते हैं और गैर-मुसलमान अपराधियों की सज़ा पर नहीं. इस जानकारी के आधार पर जब कोई कहता है कि मुसलमान अपराधियों को भी सज़ा ना दी जाए तो वह कौनसा सामान्य नैतिक सिद्धांत काम में ले रहा है? एक संभावना यह है: “अदालत से मिली सज़ा पर यदि एक के लिए अमल नहीं हुआ तो दूसरे के लिए भी नहीं होना चाहिए.” [इस पर ध्यान देना होगा की “अदालत से मिली सज़ा पर सब के लिए सामान अमल होना चाहिए” और “अदालत से मिली सज़ा पर यदि एक के लिए अमल नहीं हुआ तो दूसरे के लिए भी नहीं होना चाहिए” समानार्थक नहीं हैं.]

तो क्या हम “अदालत से मिली सज़ा पर यदि एक के लिए अमल नहीं हुआ तो दूसरे के लिए भी नहीं होना चाहिए” का नियम मानने के तैयार हैं? मनु शर्मा, बहुत से मुसलमान और हिन्दू माफिया सरगनाओं, और राज नेताओं के मामले में अदालत से हुई कैद की सज़ा का ठीक से पालन नहीं होता. क्या आप यह चाहेंगे कि किसी के लिए भी इस का पालन ठीक से ना हो? यदि ऐसा है तो फिर कानून और न्याय-व्यवस्था के कोई माने नहीं रह जायेगे.

एक नागरक के नाते मुझे क्या मांग करनी चाहिए? (इ) कि “जिनके मामले में अदालती सज़ा का अमल नहीं हुआ वह ठीक से करो” या (ई) “किसी के भी मामले में अदालती सज़ा पर अमल मत करो”? सिराज जी, मैं (ई) को स्वीकार नहीं कर सकता; हालांकी (इ) के लिए अपनी आवाज उठाने के लिए तैयार हूँ. मैं यह कहने की कोशिश कर रहा हूँ कि आप के तथ्य १ के आधार पर याकूब को फांसी से बचाने के लिए जिस तरह के सामान्य सिद्धांत/नियम आपको मानने पड़ेंगे वे हम-आप सब पर और समाज पर (और कानून और न्याय की धारणा पर) भारी पड़ेंगे. अतः यह रास्ता गलत है.

अब आप का दूसरा तथ्य लेते हैं: बहुत से कानूनदां फंसी की सज़ा के विरुद्ध है अतः याकूब को फांसी नहीं होनी चाहिए. यहाँ आप यह कह रहे हैं कि “यदि बहुत से कानूनदां किसी कानून के विरुद्ध हों तो उसे अमल में नहीं लाया जाना चाहिए”. वर्त्तमान में बाल-विवाह, बलात्कार, दहेज़, दलितों पर अत्याचार, आदि जैसे विषयों पर जो कानून हैं उनके विरूद्ध बहुत से कानूनदां मिलजायेंगे. तो क्या उनसब को भी न माना जाए? किसी कानून पर समाज में असंतोष हो और कानूनदां और बुद्धिजीवी उस का विरोध करते हों तो उसे बदल ने के लिए दबाव तो बनाया जासकता है पर किसी एक मामले में जब तक वह कानून लागू है उसको ना मानना गलत होगा.

आप ३रे तथ्य के मध्याम से कह रहे हैं की “यदि किसी फसाद के अपराधियों को सज़ा ना मिले तो बदले में आतंकी करवाई यतो उचित है या उसका अपराध कम हो जाता है”. यहाँ मुख्य सिद्धांत बदले में हिंसा को स्वीकार करने का है. यदी यह सिद्धांत मान लिया जाए तो भारत के बहुत से हिन्दू-मुस्लिम फसाद विभाजन से होते हुए मध्यकाल में चले जायेगे. और आगे सदा के लिए चलते रहेंगे. हम दंगाइयों को सख्त सज़ा की मांग तो कर सकते हैं, पर बदले की कारवाई को उचित ठहराने की नहीं. यह ‘स्पष्टीकरण’ को ‘औचिय्त्य’ मानने की प्रक्रिया होगी; जिसका कहीं अंत नहीं होता.

आप का ४था तथ्य ३रे का ही अधिक भयानक रूप है. तो तर्क वही होगा जो तीसरे का है.

यह सब देखते हुए आपके तथ्यों को यदि सही मन लूँ तो भी मुझे याकूब की फंसी का विरोध उचित नहीं लगता. हाँ, उसे फांसी देने में कोई कानूनी गलती हुई है या प्रक्रियाओं की अनदेखी की गई है तो उसपर पुनः विचार करने के लिए मांग की जा सकती है. कल के सर्वोच्च न्यायलय के विभाजित फैसले से इस बात की संभावना बनाती है और उसपर विचार होना चाहिए. पर सीधा फांसी ना देने की बात मान्य नहीं हो सकती.

क्या आप के गिनाये चारों तथ्य सही हैं? मुझे लगता है कि उनमें कुछ सच्चाई तो हो सकती है पर वे उस हद तक सही नहीं हैं जिस हद तक आप उन्हें मनवाना चाहते हैं. यह वैसे ही एक मानसिकता बनाने की कोशिश है जैसे संघी हिन्दुओं को प्रताड़ित कहने की कोशिश करते हैं. दोनों को ही इस तरह की धारणाओं पर गंभीरता से विचार करना चाहिए. पर इस पर फिर कभी.

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सारे आतंकी जिंदाबाद

July 27, 2015

रोहित धनकर
मैं उन लोगों से पूरी तरह सहमत हूँ जो याकूब मेमन को फांसी देने के विरोध में हैं. और मेरे पास चारा ही क्या है? मेरे सभी परिचित और दोस्त ऐसा कहते हैं. और जो सब बोलें वही सही.
कुछ लोग इस भ्रम में थे कि दंड न्यायालय के फैसलों के अनुसार दिया जाता है और भारतीय सर्वोच्च न्यायालय ने याकूब के अपराध को फांसी के काबिल माना है. यह गलत निकला, दंड तो मीडिया में हल्ले-गुल्ले और समाज के मोतबीर लोगों की राय के मुताबिक होना चाहिए. आगे से सर्वोच्च न्यायलय को मोतबीर लोगों की राय पहले लेलेनी चाहिए.
कुछ सिर-फिरे लोग समझते हैं कि दो गलत मिलकर एक सही नहीं बनाता. पर वे बुद्धू हैं. यदि भुल्लर की फांसी में टालम-टोल की जाती है तो मेमन को भी यही सुविधा मिलनी चाहिए. यह नहीं कि भुल्लर के मामले में भी ऎसी कोताही न की जाए. यदि एक को फांसी नहीं दी तो दूसरे को भी मत दो. तभी तो अपने घोटालों को जायज शाबित करने के लिए बीजेपी कांग्रेस के घोटाले संसद में गिना रही है. तुमने किये तो हमने भी किये.
अब हम मान गए जब तक सारे अपराधियों को दंड ना मिले किसी को भी नहीं मिलना चाहिए. नहीं तो निश्चित रूप से यह उस से धार्मिक दुर्भावना के आधार पर ही होता है. और यह तो सर्वमान्य सिद्धांत है ही कि सब को अपने-अपने धर्म के अपराधियों और आतंकियों को बचाने की कोशिश करनी चाहिए. हिन्दुओं को जी तौड़ कोशिश करनी चाहिए किसी भी दंगाई और हिन्दू आतंकी को सज़ा नाहो. सिखों को भुल्लर को फांसी नहीं होने देनी चाहिए. और मुसलामानों को याकूब को बचाना ही चाहिए. जो लोग धार्मिक भेद-भाव नहीं करते उनको सभी आतंकियों को बचाने की कोशिश में मदद करनी चाहिए. तभी यह साबित होगा कि वे धार्मिक भेदभाव से ऊपर हैं.
कुछ लोगों का मानना था कि अपराधियों के साथ पुलिश और अदालत को कोई समझौते नहीं करने चाहियें. पर अब समझ में आ गया की लेन-देन का काम तो भारतीय संस्कृति का हिस्सा है. तो २५७ लोगों को मारने की योजना भाई लोगों के साथ मिलकर बनाओ, उस पर अमल की व्यवस्था करो और पकड़े जाओ तो अपनी ही उपलब्धियों को बता कर दंड से मुक्ती भी पालो. हिसाब एकदम ठीक है. इतना सीधा तर्क भी हमारी बुद्धी में इतनी देर से घुसा.
मृत्यु-दंड बुरी बात है. नहीं देना चाहिए किसी को. पर यह सुनहरा सिद्धांत हमें तभी याद करना चाहिए जब किसी आतंकी को फांसी मिलने वाली हो.
हम सभी जानते हैं, और अब तो रवीश जी जैसे गंभीर टीवी पत्रकार ने भी फरमा दिया है, की सर्वोच्च न्यायालय सामूहिक चेतना की संतुष्टी के लिए ही तो फैसले देता है. अफजल गुरु का और कोई दोष थोड़े ही था. यह बात अलग है की न्यायालय ने बहुत सूक्षम तर्क करने में ८० पृष्ट लगाए हैं, फैसला उन तर्कों और साक्ष्यों के आधार पर दिया है और सामूहिक चेतना की बात इस के बाद की है. पर इतना लंबा फैसला कौन पढ़े. जब मोतबीर लोग कहते हैं कि बस सामूहिक चेतना की संतुष्टी ही असल कारण था तो उसे नकारने वाले हम कौन होते हैं?
हम आतंकी हमलों को रोकने की कोशिश करें या ना करें आतंकियों को दंड से बचाने की कोशिश जरूर करनी चाहिए. और फिर आतंकी हमले तो उन पर समाज द्वारा किये गए अन्यायों का विरोध प्रदर्शन भर हैं, लोगों को अन्याय का प्रतिकार करने की छूट तो होनी ही चाहिए. यह देखना हमारा काम थोड़े ही है कि यह अन्याय-प्रतिकार की श्रृखला भूत काल में कहाँ तक जाती है. और आगे कहाँ तक जा सकती है.
ओवैशी साहेब एकदम ठीक हैं. यह फांसी केवल इस लिए हो रही है कि याकूब मेमन मुसलमान है. और जो इस बात को नहीं मानते वे सांप्रदायिक मुसलिम विरोधी लोग हैं. दूसरी तरफ संघी हैं. यदि कोई कैसा भी तर्क उनके विचारों के विरूद्ध दे तो देशद्रोही है. तो आम जन के पास दो ही रास्ते हैं: या तो सांप्रदायिक मुसलिम विरोध का कलंक लेलो या फिर देशद्रोह का. नहीं तो बस चुप रहो, बोले और गए काम से.
ठहर कर, सोच कर और तर्क से बात करना बिलकुल फालतू की चीज है. विचार तो भावना और उस वक्त के फैशन के आधार पर बे-तरतीब आने की चीज हैं. वे ही तो सच्चे और ऑथेंटिक विचार होते हैं. जो भावना और फैशन का विरोध करते हैं वे अपनी चलाना चाहते हैं, तर्क तो सच्चे विचार को मार ही देती है. और भावना तो हमारे गुरुओं ने अपने वक्त के आइडीओलोजिकल फैशन के अनुशार जो बनादी सो बनादी. अब क्या है. कोई अपने भूत से बहार निकल कर थोड़े सोच सकता है. जो ऐसे दावे करते हैं वे या तो कम-अक्ल हैं या फिर ताकत के गुलाम. संवेदन-शील सोचने वाला तो वही होता है जो तर्क को दूर रखे. बड़ी खराब चीज है, सारा अन्याय इसी मेंसे निकलता है.
अतः मैं इन सब बातों को सही मानता हूँ और याकूब की फांसी के पूरी तरह से विरोध में हूँ. और अब अगली बार मानवीयता के पक्ष और मृत्यु-दंड के विरोध की बात तब करूंगा जब किसी और २००-४०० लोगों को मारने में मदद करने वाले को फांसी की बात चलेगी. नहीं तो ऎसी बातों का उपयोग ही क्या है.
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अब कुछ बातें गंभीरता से:
१. मेरा यह मानना है की मृतु-दंड न्याय प्रक्रिया में रखें या नहीं इस पर गंभीरता से बिना किसी विशेष क्यक्ति के मृतु-दंड से जोड़े विचार होना चाहिए.
२. न्यायालय के फैसलों का सम्मान होना चाहिए, सभी अपराधियों और आतंकियों के मामले में समान रूप से.
३. किसी मामले में सम्मान नहीं हुआ तो उसका विरोध होना चाहिए, न कि उसे और मामलों में साम्मान न करने का जरिया बनाया जाए.
४. मैंने सूना है की ३० जुलाई मेमन का जन्म-दिन है. यदि ऐसा सच में है तो सरकार सरकार को इसी दिन को फांसी के लिए चुनने का खुलासा करना चाहिए, और उसके पास इस के लिए कोई ठोस करण हिने चाहियें. नहीं तो यह हद दर्जे की निकृष्टता है.
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Impact of Pedagogy on Construction and Production of knowledge

July 26, 2015

Rohit Dhankar

[WARNING: IT’S LONG AND BORING]

(Based on a talk given in All India Peoples Science Congress, on 23rd May 2015, at Bangalore. I thought the talk is delivered that’s all. But a friend has shown interest in it, so am putting on the blog.)

The original title given to me for this session was too complex: “Issues of Pedagogy and Strategy in Knowledge Production and Skill Development”. I found it daunting for a short talk. Therefore, I am cutting it short and modifying to a certain extent as: “Impact of Pedagogy on Construction and Production of Knowledge”.

Before I come to pedagogy and its impact, it seems necessary to define what I mean by knowledge, knowledge construction and knowledge production.

Knowledge

It seems to me that two types of knowledge are important in this kind of discussion. One what is usually called “procedural knowledge” or knowledge about how to do something, or “knowledge how to”. For example: knowing how to make tea, or climb a tree, or drive a car, or do plumbing, or apply multiplication algorithm in mathematics, or set up an experiment, or repair a car. Usually we call this type of knowledge a ‘skill’. The most important thing here is not ‘theoretically knowing’ of ‘how to repair a car’; but the actual capability of being able to repair a car. This, however, is a matter of emphasis, it does not mean that ‘knowing how’ to does not need any theoretical knowledge at all. To understand the difference between ‘theoretical knowledge’ and ‘ability to do’ let us take an example. Imagine a professor of physics who can work-out exactly how to hit a cricket ball to score a sixer—at what angle, with what force, how to swing the bat, etc.—and can also show you a computer simulation of this. But if you send him to the field against a good bowler, he may be out in the first throw. Now imagine a good rate batsman, he may be able to hit many sixers but may not be able to explain the physics of a sixer. The physics professor has the ‘theoretical knowledge’ of how to hit a sixer, but cannot do it. The batsman can hit a sixer but may not have the ‘theoretical knowledge’ of how it is done in terms of physics.

This type of knowledge, procedural knowledge or skill does not have much of a place in our curricula. But is certainly represented there and is very valuable in real life; particularly to earn one’s bread and butter; and also to keep a society going.

The second type of knowledge, which I have been referring to as ‘theoretical knowledge’ above, is often called ‘factual knowledge’. Some examples of this could be: “Population of Bangalore in 2015 is 1,08,39,725”[1]. “Squire root of 1,08,39,725 is 3,292”. “The force of gravity between two bodies of mass m1 and m2 placed at a distance d is F=G*m1*m2/d2”.

To understand what does ‘knowing’ in this sense mean we have to spend some time on three different meanings we often have ‘knowing’ in statements like the first one, that is, “Population of Bangalore in 2015 is 1,08,39,725”.

We often hear that our education system ‘teaches only theory’ and does not ‘develop skills’. I am not at all convinced that our education system teaches ‘theory’. Rather I will claim that our education system fails to teach theory at all.

The statement “Population of Bangalore in 2015 is 1,08,39,725” is easy enough for any child of standard 6 to remember and reproduce in a written test. But does everyone who can reproduces this statement ‘know’ the population of Bangalore? Let’s examine four cases.

Case 1: There is a possibility of teaching to utter this sentence to a person who does not understand the terms ‘population’, ‘Bangalore’, ‘year 2015’ and ‘1,08,39,725’. Does this person know anything? I would propose: No, knows nothing at all. To ‘know’ one has to make some meaning in one’s mind; just uttering a sentence is not enough. One has to ‘understand’ what is being said and about what. Your guess on how many of our children learn factual knowledge in this sense in our schools is as good as mine.

Case 2: Now let’s imagine a person who can reproduce this statement and also understands the meaning of terms ‘population’, ‘Bangalore’, ‘2015’ and ‘1,08,39,725’. But actually does not believe that it is true; he thinks the population of Bangalore is about 60 lakhs only. Shall we say that this person ‘knows that population of Bangalore in 2015 is 1,08,39,725?’ In normal conversation we say that yes, he may know. Philosophers, however, often would say that ‘NO, this person does not know’. That brings us to the second condition of knowing: to know something, one has to believe it. Someone who can reproduce the statement that “Smoking causes cancer” and also understand it; but believes that illness is a matter of ‘grah-dasha’ (impact of planetary position) at the time of birth does not know it.

Case 3: Imagine someone who can reproduce the statement, understands it, and also believes it. Does this person necessarily ‘know’ it? I would still say: NO. Suppose I repeat the statement “Population of Bangalore in 2015 is 1,08,39,725”. Whether you believe me or not, I also happen to understand the meaning of the statement. Suppose that I believe (actually I don’t, and will explain why not) it. But if you ask me how do I know that population of Bangalore is 1,08,39,725? What are my grounds for believing this? What evidence do I have? And all I can say is “I googled it this morning”, would you consider it good enough justification? Is everything Google baba says true? NO. So I do not have any good grounds to believe this statement; therefore I do not know. Which means to know something I must also have its justification as well.

Case 4: Now suppose I can reproduce, understand, believe and also have justification; something like that I got it from a site which actually keeps track of population of India, is very reliable, and I also know the methods of survey, statistical techniques of calculations and projection, etc. But the statement happens to be actually false. Then do I know? Some philosophers would say “NO”. Knowledge has to be true, otherwise it is only your belief, even if justified. This statement, strictly speaking. is obviously false. Population of a city of Bangalore’s size can never be known to the precision it shows. Look at 725 at the end. Within two minutes of the time you utter it, it will change, either a child will be born or a Bangalorian will depart to his heavenly abode.

Now that is a very strict definition of knowledge. And many of you will find such strict a demand totally unjustified; as it will make knowledge of anything quite difficult. I would maintain if we are talking of ‘knowledge production’ then we need this kind of a strict definition. Theory, as we all know, is no ‘theory’ unless it can describe, explain and predict a phenomena be that natural or social. The kind of knowledge that does not have these characteristics cannot be used in reasonably accurate description, or explanation or prediction. That is why I say we do not teach theory at all; all we each is retargeting of statements: half understood, un-believed, unjustified and often untrue.

Now where does the pedagogy come in all this? Well, we still have to understand the distinction between ‘knowledge construction’ and ‘knowledge production’ to get to pedagogy.

Knowledge construction

What was earlier called ‘learning of’, ‘acquisition of’, ‘gaining of’ knowledge is called ‘construction of knowledge’ in the constructivist paradigm of pedagogy. The idea behind this change is that knowledge cannot be ‘transferred’ from one mind to another like we transfer water from a pot to a jug; or, more interestingly, whisky from a bottle to a glass. One who wants to acquire knowledge has to actively engage in constructing it in his/her own mind through the kind of concepts and previous knowledge she has. She has to construct it in her own mind. Knowledge construction in this sense is a pedagogical term; it brings in focus the mental activity of the learner. But in the school and college situation the knowledge thus constructed is almost all the knowledge which human race already has, already possesses. This is very rarely something which is new to human race, even if it is totally new to the learner.

Knowledge Creation

Actually I don’t like the term ‘production’ for knowledge. It gives me a feeling of producing potato chips, or TV serials, or mobile phones and so on. And of an assembly line. In all these examples the procedure is well known, well established, routinized and people can produce these things in abundance without much active engagement of mind, without anything new and hither to unknown being formulated.

So, if by knowledge production we mean creation of new knowledge, furthering the boundaries of human understanding, this is not the right word. It is actually misleading, like many other words these days in the educational discourse. I would call it knowledge creation and would make a distinction, stipulative one, between ‘construction’ and ‘creation’. Construction I will use for re-creating already known human knowledge in an individual mind; creation to indicate ‘coming to know’ something hither to unknown to human race.

It seems to me that ‘knowledge creation’ has something in it which is very much like what Kant says regarding scientific knowledge:

Reason, in order to be taught by nature, must approach nature with its principles in one hand, according to which the agreement among appearances can count as laws, and, in the other hand, the experiment thought out in accord with these principles—in order to be instructed by nature not like a pupil, who has recited to him whatever the teacher wants to say, but like an appointed judge who compels witnesses to answer the questions he puts to them.”

What Kant suggests here is not that the ‘nature’ gives knowledge; but that the human reason forms it on the basis of experience.

Pedagogy

Now we can come to pedagogy. Pedagogy is the art or method of teaching. It is more than mare technique of teaching something specific, or activity, or classroom management. While pedagogy involves all this, it is simultaneously aware of the aims of education, of the social situation of the child and of the mind of the child. It is the art of taking the child from where she happens to be (mentally speaking) to acceptable human knowledge that one wants to impart to the child. And its activities are always simultaneously aligned with the aims of education on one hand and the learner’s mind on the other.

In this sense pedagogy is concerned with ‘construction of knowledge’ rather than with ‘creation of knowledge’. But it has profound impact on the capabilities of creation of knowledge as well. A pedagogically well taught person is more likely to ‘create new knowledge’ than a badly taught one.

Let’s take another very famous statement from Kant:

Thoughts without intuitions are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.” This demands coming together of the thoughts and sense perceptions through concepts. The thoughts which invoke no meaning in our minds are ‘empty’, of no use. And the sense perceptions generated representations which are not connected with thoughts are blind, provide no light to us. So each thought has to invoke a meaning, and each representation has to be associated with a thought. And this is what construction of knowledge means.

So what kind of pedagogy can help in teaching in such a manner that learner is able to construct her knowledge while in the school/college and can create knowledge as a grown up adult?

Since I have to be brief, so let me be eclectic and borrow from two great philosophers of education, namely, John Dewey and Israel Scheffler. Dewey in his famous little book “The child and the curriculum” published in 1902 proposes a reconciliation between child-centred education and traditional education of his time. He sees the problem as both sides taking their respective dogmatic positions: the child-centrists assuming that the child’s give interests and capabilities are the only guide; and ignore human traditions of knowledge. On the other hand, the traditionalists give all the importance to the codified knowledge in the curriculum but ignore the child’s interests and capabilities. I will pick up three ideas from this little book for our current purposes.

Dewey suggests “psychologizing the curriculum”. What he means is: one, to understand the psychological make-up of child’s mind; in terms of her interest, her ways of understanding, her current conceptual repertoire, and her experiences and so on. Two, to look at the codified human knowledge you want the child to achieve and see the connection between the child’s mind and that knowledge. And three, chart out a route from where the child is to the knowledge you want her to achieve. If we want to summarise it, could be:

  1. Start from where the child is.
  2. Psychologize the curriculum.
  3. Aim at coming to grasp the codified human knowledge as it is today.

Now, let’s jump to Israel Scheffler and cull out three more points from his “Philosophical models of teaching”. In this essay Scheffler argues for understanding and autonomy of the learner. For our present discussion we can take three hints from him:

  1. Ensure learning with concepts; that is, make clear cognitive sense to the child.
  2. Teach the child to demand justification for everything that is taught and questions to all authority; including that of the teacher.
  3. Accept only that which stands her own rational scrutiny however immature that may be.

I am aware these are difficult conditions to demand from any teacher. But so is ‘creation’ of knowledge; you cannot get gold for the price of brass, even if both look similar to unaccustomed eye. If one wants gold, has to pay for it; or settle for brass. Same here: if we want ‘creation’ of knowledge we have to find an appropriate pedagogy; or settle for ‘regurgitation of something that looks like knowledge’ but is much inferior.

Such a pedagogy, then, is likely to give the tools which will help in creation of knowledge. However, there is no guarantee. And that is why pedagogy is more of an art than a settled science. And that is why all the managerial approaches to pedagogical improvement are likely to bear little fruit. But it seems to me it is worth striving for, in spite of lack of a guaranteed method.

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[1] http://www.indiaonlinepages.com/population/bangalore-population.html


Limiting debate: Some clarifications and responses

July 23, 2015

Rohit Dhankar

Some readers have raised a few objections to my recent article in The Hindu, mentioned in the title here. I am responding to two such readers as their objections contain others’ as well. Some readers have raised questions that I find genuine and, therefore, response worthy.

First, I would like to thank all of them for a careful and critical reading of the above mentioned article. This forms a good example of public debate where seeking justification and argument is integral part of informed opinion formation.

That brings me to two clarifications one reader has sought in his letter. One of the objection is regarding the limit of 500 words; as there is option of uploading pdf files as well, according to them this is a baseless insinuation. The second is regarding a quote I have given, and callng the interpreting group a “mysterious group”. I will address these objections one by one. The reader who wrote an email has mentioned the second objection listed above first, but I have changed the order as the second clarification draws on the first as listed above.

Limiting debate to 500 characters
The readers are right in pointing out that one can upload a PDF file, image, and even a video on the website MyGov.in discussion group on New Education Policy. However, this detracts nothing from the argument I am building regarding this kind of ‘discussions’.

The points I am making are:
• Opinions are asked on specific questions under specific themes. These themes and questions leave out the broader issues that need to be discussed in formulating a policy on education; for example what is the general direction our education should take in 21st century? Opinions on specific questions can make sense only in the light of principles generated through the broader discussions.

• Though one can upload a file on the site, but in the overwhelming majority the opinion is expressed in those given 500 characters only.

• As a result this medium fails to generate a “discussion”, which should not be the case as the group is called, a “discussion group”. It becomes only a “suggestion collection site”, never graduating to a “discussion group”.

Now if one goes to the site and looks at the opinions expressed as self-evident truths my point is more than born out. Please see an example from the supposed to be discussion group on “Revamping Teacher Education for Quality Teachers” in Appendix-1 at the end of this note. We should remember that this is one of the most serious problems we as a nation are facing today.

As I said above, and in my article, this is collection of ‘suggestions’—bits of opinions—devoid of any argument and disconnected with each other. The Appendix-1 also has two pdf files that are part of this ‘opinion collection’. One is simply one line, perhaps in Telugu, (sorry I do not recognise the script) and other builds two very brief arguments connecting competency and motivation; and for professionalization of teaching. The arguments need several clarifications, I am very much doubtful if anyone will download the pdf and look at those arguments.

My argument is that this is the limitation of the medium and the organisation of the site, it inhibits discussion. It can still be very useful to gather peoples’ opinions, but the claim for formulating education policy on the basis of such discussions is too outlandish to accept. Hope I have been able to explain why the limitation of 500 characters should be seen to serve only a very limited purpose.
That brings me to the second point. As the Appendix-1 shows this site generates only ‘fragmented opinions’ devoid of their rationale and full meaning. So there has to be someone who collates these fragments and creates a coherent—at the least seemingly—policy out of them.

The issue of the mysterious group

Other discussions will be held in meetings on the basis of “A questionnaire template covering the 33 themes covering School Education and Higher Education giving set of questions for discussions at village, block, district and state” level.

We all know that pre-decided themes and questions serve to ‘guide’ discussions in pre-decided directions; and that necessarily leaves out some other things. There is nothing wrong in using this method to focus discussion per se. But the question is: who decided the 33 themes and the questions under them? Where was the discussion on these themes? Are these the most appropriate themes for policy discussions? On what grounds? The final consolidation of all the fragmentary opinions is likely to be done by the same group who decided on these themes. Can such a process be called coming up from the grassroots? Or is it simply a method of more opaque “top-down” process with a spurious claim for mass involvement? This is the issue I am discussing.

Before I come to the ‘group’ let us see how the consolidation will be done. It is not clear who will do the consolidation at the panchayat level. But from block to state level it seems to be only the bureaucracy and education department functionaries; or that is what one can make out from the proposed “workflow” mentioned in another MHRD document titles “National Consultation for New Education Policy”. Appendix-1.

On thematic consultations: “Bureau Heads of MHRD will hold consultations with stakeholders and experts on each theme in which he/she is the responsibility Centre. Assistance of autonomous bodies of MHRD (e.g., NCTE, NUEPA, NCERT, AICTE, UGC) will be taken for organizing these thematic discussions.”
The final draft at the national level: “The Thematic notes will be synthesised into a single consolidated Consultation Document to be placed before National Education Policy Task Force (NEPTF) for consideration. The NEP Task Force under the Chairmanship of AS(TE), MHRD has been set up to monitor the progress of the consultation process from time to time . After deliberations on the Consultation Document in the NEPTF, Consultation Document to be given the shape of Draft National Education Policy, 2015. The Draft National Education Policy, 2015 will be placed for consideration of the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE).”

Now it is as clear as daylight that:
• The themes and questions are decided by some group perhaps headed by a bureaucrat. We do not know this group.

• The fragmented opinions devoid of integrative principles will be interpreted and consolidated by some MHRD groups. These opinion fragments will be in thousands, if not in lakhs, they will be divergent; therefore there is ample opportunity to be selective and interpreting them as one likes. And we do not know this group.

• The final consolidation will be done by the NEPTF headed by a bureaucrat. We do not know this group either.

• The final draft will be placed before the government and the CABE, no public debate on that is mentioned anywhere.

• Therefore, the public and so-called stake holders are individuals giving fragmented opinions and the actual decision making on what to include in what kind of formulation remains in the government with a “mysterious group”.

This is the argument I have built in the article. There has been an inadvertent mistake in referencing; I concede the readers’ point that the quote given from the site refers to the so-called “discussion group” on the website, that is not mysterious; and is fully known. And I apologise for this inadvertent mistake.
But I also stand with full responsibility by my conclusions in both cases that (i) the site limitation does not allow these groups to be “discussion groups” and opinions are fragmentary; and (ii) the final interpretation and consolidation will be done by a group unknown to the public. The article in spite of the mistake in referencing is factually grounded and is not built on factual errors.

I would like to make another point here, which was left out in the original article due to word limit. National Education Policy effects every citizen’s life in the nation. Reducing the general public, academics and educationists to the level of ‘discussion participants only’ and keeping the formulation in the hands of the bureaucrats and chosen ‘unknown to public experts’ is unacceptable methodology of formulating a policy on education. What is dangerous is that a myth of public participation is being created; while the participation is kept at an impotent and toothless level.

Hope in spite of disagreements the people who have raised objections will at the least pay attention to my arguments and examine them critically; and accept my apology for the inadvertent mistake in referencing.
*****

Appendix-1
vikas sharma1 day 23 hours ago
One example is that technical graduates could be effextive science teachers and also for 11 and 12th
they can teach bio chem phy based on their qualifications. Tgey will also
vikas sharma1 day 23 hours ago
Graduates with technical background likd bpharm btech mpharm mtech mba should be considered for
teaching positions at govt schools. They are already been employed by private schools at some level
but not eligibke for govt schools teachers job. Please considet this point
Rakesh Kapoor3 days 4 hours ago
Teachers do not teach willingly in our schools. No morality or character building is done in B Ed
courses. Morality is built upon spirituality. There must be good spiritual education according to a
person’s religion, in our teacher training programs. Secularism in teacher education makes teachers
immoral & corrupt, so they do not teach in schools after doing B Ed and so most Indian children are
poorly educated & undeveloped.
Krishna Murary upadhyay3 days 20 hours ago
नमस्ते, गुणवत्ता म􀉅 सुधार हेतु 􀍧श􀂢क􀉉 क􀈧 􀂢मता 􀇓नमार्ण एवं उन्ह􀉅 अ􀍧भप्रेरण के 􀍧लए 􀇓नम्न सुझाव है —
पांच सूत्री फामलूर् ा —
1 – प्र􀍧श􀂢ण
2 – प्र􀇓तस्पधार्
3 – प्रशंसा
4 – पुरूस्कार
5 – प्रेरणा
प्रश्न यह भी है 􀍩क, कै सा प्र􀍧श􀂢ण, प्र􀇓तस्पधार् कै से, प्रशंसा कौन करेगा,पुरूस्कार 􀍩कसे
और प्रेरणा 􀍩कसके द्वारा ।और भी प्रश्न है. …. ।चचार् क􀈧 जाए ।
Amnesty International India5 days 19 hours ago
Revamping Teacher Education for Quality Teachers
RevampingTeacherEducationforQualityTeachers.pdf
Avinash Patwardhan5 days 23 hours ago
First of all remove reservation in appointment of teachers. Teachers should be appointed on basis of
merit only. This will give us quality teachers. There should be quarterly training programme for
teachers which will keep them updated.Teachers from one school should be sent for a month to
another school which will increase the interaction and will reduce the monotony of teaching in the
same environment. This will be refreshing for all the teachers.
Krishna Murary upadhyay6 days 16 hours ago
नमस्ते,
* वतमर् ान समय म􀉅 उत्तर प्रदेश के 􀍧श􀂢क प्र􀍧श􀂢ण संस्थान􀉉 म􀉅 60% के लगभग प्रवक्ताओं के पद खाल􀈣 ह􀉇
।एसे म􀉅 􀍧श􀂢क प्र􀍧श􀂢ण अस्थायी व्यवस्था के तहत 􀍧श􀂢क􀉉 के द्वारा ह􀈣 संचा􀍧लत ह􀉇 ।
* प्राथ􀍧मक 􀍪वद्यालय􀉉 के बच्च􀉉 क􀈧 􀍧श􀂢ा क􀈧 िजम्मेदार􀈣 िजन्ह􀉅 द􀈣 जानी है उनका प्र􀍧श􀂢ण बहुत हल्के म􀉅
􀍧लया गया है ।
* 􀍩कसी भी देश क􀈧 प्राथ􀍧मक 􀍧श􀂢ा उस देश क􀈧 प्रग􀇓त का आधार है ।और आधार बनाने का काम इतना
लापरवाह􀈣 से, अफसोस! पूरे ढाचं े का क्या होगा ?
gsssmorkhanabikaner6 days 22 hours ago
govt.sr.sc.school morkhana,bikaner,rajasthan
MADHUSUDANA RAO K N1 week 14 hours ago
The teacher should not be overburden with other works in addition to his regular teaching work.
Now a teacher has to prepare lot of documents for his higher officers, so a teacher is unable to
concentrate on his teaching. And each classroom must have one teacher each
==========================

Revamping Teacher Education for Quality Teachers
Competence of teachers and their motivation
Both the quality of the initial education of the teacher and her continuing education are crucial to their motivation and their competency, while attracting an increasing number to the profession. The motivation and competencies of the teacher are the fuel for the ‘education engine’. Motivation is driven by trained and qualified teachers receiving competitive salaries with regular opportunities for continuing education. Continuing education can both build capacity and their accountability to ensure the desired learning outcomes. Innovation and technology need to be employed at a mass scale to create a ‘lifeline of learning’ for the teacher’s challenging job – both creating platforms for peer exchange for problem solving and for disseminating ‘new learning’. The integration of HRE provides access to appropriate learning materials for both teachers and students, while ensuring relevant and appropriate curricula and child-centred teaching methods that can adapt to the changing needs of society, and respond to the needs of students within their diverse social and cultural settings. Such material provides the resources and builds abilities and attitudes for non-discrimination in education delivery that seeks to promote human rights principles, such as tolerance, dignity and equality. These need to be integrated both into pre-service and in-service learning approaches and content.

Recasting teaching as a profession
In establishing a definition of quality teaching both the content of, and the approach to, teaching need to be stressed upon. This needs to be part of pre-service teacher education as well as part of the continuing education of the teacher. Relevant and culturally appropriate curricula content that is complemented by teaching methodology, which builds critical thinking, compassion and
responsibility is key. HRE approaches and methodologies not only see this as an objective for the spread of the ideals of human rights but also for ensuring a robust system that provides quality education. CBSE should consider integrating in the introduced Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) HRE related abilities and attitudes into it.
==============================

Proposed Workflow
Gram Panchayat
• Meetings State-wide on a declared date, pass resolutions as per consultation document
• Upload resolution text and images in local language/ English
• @nic.in/@gov.in accounts for GPs in process
• Day for uploading the templates could be predefined at the Block Level
Block
• CEO/BDO or Secy, BP in-charge
• Aggregation of Gram Panchayat Data and finalise own resolutions
District
• Single Nodal Officer for each District
• Aggregation of data collected in English
State
• Nodal Officers – Secretary Higher/Tech Education and School Education
• Monitor and aggregate ULBs and Districts reports and prepare State reports

*******************


Limiting debate to 500 characters

July 21, 2015

Published in THE HINDU, 21st July 2015, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/public-participation-in-new-education-policy/article7444344.ece

Rohit Dhankar

In April, Minister of Human Resources Development Smriti Irani described the decision to invite the public to discuss the new education policy on the government site MyGov as the “first ever attempt where an average citizen of the nation gets involved in policymaking, which has otherwise remained the preserve of a few”. The government’s move is to be appreciated, for in a democracy more participation from the people in policymaking makes for better policies — at least in principle.

However, the website limited comments to 500 characters and to an already provided list of issues. This partly censored opinion generation could at best generate only fragmented and disparate views, and contradictory recommendations from the public. While contrasting views are a sign of a healthy democracy, they still need logic and arrangement — in other words, a reasoned argument — if they are to be useful for the purpose of a broad-based discussion on education.

Second, significant arguments could not be presented in the impossibly tiny space of 500 characters — a fact that can be seen when we look at the comments on the site. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that the very design of inviting public views in this manner favoured fragmentation.

Age of fragmentary wisdom

But this is the age of fragmentary wisdom. Society is being pushed to believe that thinking means throwing in pieces of ideas here and there, much like what is done on Twitter. These ideas, however, make sense only in a particular context. A discourse created out of such fragmented ideas only makes for half-baked arguments. The policy deliberations being conducted by the present government, whether by design or due to a lack of understanding, are nothing but such a fragmented and fuzzy cloud of ideas, Twitter-age wisdom.

A general contextual background of our culture and polity is missing. The assumption that we can see our cultural, social, political and economic needs in the same light is wrong. Tweeting makes some sense but it always remains at the level of piecemeal opinion. It creates an illusion of sharing opinions, but the real arguments behind the opinion and the intent of the participants remains opaque. Providing a context is vital to build a coherent argument and gain consensus on important issues such as education.

Policy, according to the Oxford dictionary, is a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organisation or an individual. It is used to generate specific activities or actions, and it is also used to judge the acceptability or otherwise of particular suggestions and recommendations.

The MHRD hopes to derive such a policy framework from a series of deliberations it has planned. MyGov declares that the Ministry has formed a group whose objective, it states, is “to formulate a new education policy for the country through an inclusive, participatory and holistic approach”. In addition to the ‘discussion’ on the website, the Ministry plans to have nationwide consultations on the basis of a “pre-defined questionnaire survey form”. The group that has been formed, though, is a mystery — its members are unknown to the very public that is supposed to give its opinions on the new policy.

Faulty methodology

There are at least two serious problems of methodology in formulating policy in this manner. One, Twitter-style opinions need to be interpreted accurately, but the interpretation has been left to the same mysterious group mentioned on the site. Interpretation requires a framework of general ideas, which has not been discussed with or revealed to the public. Therefore, these opinions are open to manipulations to suit pre-decided policy guidelines. This means that a small, chosen group’s preset decisions may be legitimised through an ineffective public discussion.

Two, with no basic guiding principles of consensus-seeking, it will become what John While, a noted philosopher of education, calls “the HCF problem”. The whole exercise will generate a list of vague and bland recommendations that crowd out contested social justice and equity issues — simply because they are contested and no easy consensus is available on them. And, therefore, the real concerns of society remain under-emphasised or totally absent.

The 13 themes chosen in elementary education make very interesting reading in understanding the scope and intent of deliberations. Each theme is introduced in 200-odd words and a list of questions given for deliberations. Most questions concern the nitty-gritty of functioning and do not necessarily have much to do with policy.

For example, in one of the questions, opinion is sought on how technology can be used to ensure real-time availability of teachers. The formulation of the question makes it clear that the issue is not whether technology should be used but how it should be used. If the question concerned the ‘whether’ aspect, it would have opened up issues such as trust, autonomy, responsibility and dignity of teachers, all important factors. But by sticking to the ‘how’ aspect, it has already decided that teachers should be strictly monitored and threatened with punishment. Thus, ‘whether technology should be used’ for this purpose can be a genuine policy issue, as it involves general principles, but deliberating on ‘how’ is a technical question that has little to do with policy and more to do with implementation. Most questions are of this nature.

It is significant to note that many already decided policies are hidden in the introduction of the themes. For example, the theme on examination reform at the school level states that “examination reforms will change the teaching-learning processes and improve learning outcomes”. This could have been an important issue to discuss whether ‘examination-led reforms’ can be successful, or whether they will encourage ‘teaching to test’ and therefore further jeopardise education for critical rationality, and so on. Isn’t one of the biggest problems of our education system the fear of examinations? But here, examination-led reform is taken as an article of faith.

I am not arguing against a public discussion of education policy; nor is my argument against deliberating on the details of issues of educational importance. Both are equally necessary to take decisions on educational policy in a democratic country. The problem is that leading questions and pre-decided themes limit the possibilities of an in-depth and fair discussion.

At present, Indian education is being pulled in three directions. One, education is being aligned with the need for economic growth. This emphasises practical skill-building and preparing an adequate workforce. The second pull is towards education for democracy and social justice. This emphasises a critical understanding of society, politics, economy and the value framework needed for a more equitable and harmonious society. The third pull, becoming stronger by the day, is towards aligning education with a certain perspective of Indian culture and history. This lays emphasis on enlarging the space in curriculum for Hindu heroes, scriptures and practices. All three pulls underline different approaches to understanding the needs of society and polity. For example, the economic pull, while emphasising marketable skills, will underplay issues of political critique and social justice. This may lead to an efficient but docile workforce and encourage consumerism. On the other hand, a sole emphasis on education for social justice, without taking care of the capabilities required to earn one’s livelihood, may lead to what the Kothari Commission Report called “armies of unemployable graduates” who will fail even to achieve social justice. And an emphasis on a partisan understanding of Indian culture and history will lead to a fragmented and strife-ridden society, which will jeopardise economic progress as well as democracy and social justice.

The government’s emphasis on Twitter-style conversations indicates a refusal to engage in any sustained discussion. By opening up the narrower issues for public debate through predefined themes and leading questions, the strategy pre-empts any discussion on real policy issues, thus leaving decisions in the hands of a chosen few. An illusion of open democratic debate has been created but the public mind has actually been bogged down in minor details of little significance.

******


School as mint

July 10, 2015

Published in Deccan Herald 10th July 2015

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/488410/school-mint.html

Rohit Dhankar

A myth of Private Schools for the Poor (PSP) which provide good quality education and also make profit is being created through a kind of educational research and its dissemination. However, if one travels the length and breadth of the country looking for such schools, one is likely to see excessively cramped classrooms with unsuitable furniture with majority of exploitatively underpaid and untrained teachers.

On the other hand, if one wants to see the Private Schools for the Rich (PSR), one may find well-groomed teachers teaching in well-equipped classrooms in impressive air-conditioned buildings.

In spite of irreconcilable difference in their appearances, both of these schools have exactly the same notion of quality: that which gives the maximum return for the investment is good quality education. This is the market-friendly definition which is almost unquestionably accepted by the parents, the governments and the economics centric researchers in education.

A cursory look at the advertisements of these schools will make the functioning of this notion of quality unambiguously clear. The PSPs advertise 100 per cent board exam results and publish pictures of high scoring students. The 100 per cent board results are achieved through disallowing many students from appearing in examinations but that is never mentioned in advertisements. The selling point here is high scores in exams that supposedly leads to admission in prestigious institutions for further studies, and good jobs as the final result. This charts the supposed path of poor parents in their struggle to escape poverty.

On the other hand, advertisements of the PSRs will define school as a place where children live, play and study together to form lifelong bonds. Here the school, in addition to learning, is a place for forging bonds with the elite. The goal is to get an entry into the echelons of power. Learning is a means, but the selling edge is the bonds with others belonging to the same strata of society.

The notion of quality in both the cases is that which gives success in earning more money. Motto seems to be ‘pay now to earn more later’. The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) and Right to Education (RtE) Act, however, indicate a different notion of quality. They define our nationally accepted official aims of education, and implied official notion of quality.

The NCF 2005 aims at development of democratic values of justice, freedom, equality and secularism; independence of mind, action and learning; capability to contribute to economic-political life of the society and development of aesthetic appreciation. The idea of quality, therefore, would be the progress made in the school towards these aims. Obviously, the thin market-friendly idea of quality mentioned above falls far short of this officially accepted idea of quality.

The Right to Education Act spells out the necessary requirements for a school which can make reasonable attempts to work towards quality of education as indicated in this latter idea. The most economical school as per RtE norms of infrastructure and teachers would be an integrated primary and upper primary school. For a small school, as most of PSPs are small, it is reasonable to assume total 300 children; 200 in primary and 100 in upper primary.

That would require one headmaster, five primary level teachers, three upper primary teachers and three part-time teachers for arts, physical education and work experience. Infrastructure requirements for such a school will cost about Rs 1.15 crore. This is the initial investment to start an RtE compliant upper primary school.

A conservative estimate of per child per year expenditure including 10 per cent return on the investment on infrastructure would be about Rs 31,000. Then only the school will be able to make profit. What percentage of poor families in our country can afford that kind of per annum expenditure per child?

Cutting corners

How come, then, the PSPs are mushrooming and making profit? The answer is not difficult to fathom. The PSPs cut corners. They do not have required infrastructure and are run by poorly paid teachers. The real issue for them is not quality but profit. A perception of quality in the parents mind is good enough. Creating such a perception is not difficult when majority of government schools function indifferently.

This situation has three very serious implications. One, the majority teaching force is being reduced to puppets in the hands of the owners without much capability and spine. Already, a downward spiral is initiated where each successive generation of teachers becomes less and less capable; and less and less independent-minded. It is because no capable person wants to be part of such an exploitative system.

Two, it is common knowledge among the children in PSPs that the school does not have trained teachers, that the school monopolises in uniform to make money, that it prefers textbooks that give the maximum cut etc. This, in the child’s mind becomes the normal way of life. Self-interest and corruption become values that lead to success. This becomes the unseen part of the education just by being in such a school.

Three, the PSRs run in excessively opulent environment which is far removed from the conditions in which poor Indians live. This creates a distance from the common masses and as a result, reduces concern for their wellbeing. The society is thus getting divided into the struggling masses and powerful elites; where the latter are determined to keep their advantageous position.

Neither is concerned with the quality that helps in developing a harmonious authentic self or a concerned citizen with critical rationality. Profit motive, therefore, creates its own saleable illusion of quality and thrives on it; and, in the process, turning humans into self-seekers and deepening the chasm between haves and have nots.

******


For a rational education debate…

July 7, 2015

Published in THE HINDU, ON 7th July 2015

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/for-a-rational-education-debate/article7393209.ece

Rohit Dhankar

Maharashtra’s recent decision to conduct a survey of what it calls “non-school going children” seems to have created a storm. Political parties are now up in arms calling it an anti-minority move and Muslim leaders in particular have declared their resolve to fight the decision. Some intellectuals have even called the step as “insensitive” and one that will only raise the suspicions of the minorities. In the midst of this, there are claims being made that the education being imparted in madrasas has helped (and is helping) minority students pass even difficult tests such as the civil service examinations. But the point is that this entire debate is being conducted in an environment charged with emotion and irrelevant facts. In general, these arguments, if allowed to flourish, are likely to harm the cause of education in the country.

What is the issue all about? News reports of July 3-4 say that the Principal Secretary of the Minority Affairs Department sent a letter to the Principal Secretary, School Education, saying that students in madrasas and Vedic institutions which do not teach mathematics, social science, science and English should be considered as “non-school going”.

National system of education

After Independence, India has struggled to craft a National System of Education (NSE). The D.S. Kothari Commission recommended such a system and efforts to realise this goal have been on ever since the National Policy on Education 1968 or NPE 68 was in force. NPE expresses a commitment to realise this goal and every single national curriculum framework since 1975 has declared that one of the important concerns of the National Curriculum Framework is to realise the NSE. NPE 1986 states: “[T]he concept of a National System of Education implies that, up to a given level, all students, irrespective of caste, creed, location or sex, have access to comparable quality” of education. This is the commitment to equal opportunity in education. In order to meet this commitment, the NSE must be in a position to compare standards across the country.

Important features

The country has been struggling to establish the ‘10+2’ structure of education in all States. Without a uniform structure, there can be no idea of standards of achievement that can be worked out for India. Without setting such standards, a comparison of quality cannot be established. Therefore, the goals of equal opportunity for education become vacuous. However, in regard to the madrasa debate this is not the most important issue.

NPE 86 states that the NSE “will be based on a national curricular framework which contains a common core along with other components that are flexible”. Also, “the common core will include the history of India’s freedom movement, the constitutional obligations and other content essential to nurture national identity.” Further, this core “will be designed to promote values such as India’s common cultural heritage, egalitarianism, democracy and secularism, equality of the sexes, protection of the environment, removal of social barriers, observance of the small family norm and inculcation of the scientific temper.” It is not optional and has to be part of all State curricula and syllabi.

Another feature of NSE that emerges out of the commitment to this core is the “common scheme of studies”. This scheme — though described in somewhat variant terms — remains more or less the same as outlined in the “National Curriculum for Elementary and Secondary Education—A framework” or NCF 1988. The three subjects that remain common at the primary level in all States are language (mother tongue/regional), mathematics and environmental studies. At the upper primary and lower secondary levels, the common subjects are three languages, usually regional, Hindi and English, and in the Hindi-speaking areas, Hindi, another Indian language and English. There is also mathematics, social studies — which includes history, geography and civics or political science — and science. Art education, work experience and health and physical education are also part of the curriculum at the upper primary and lower secondary levels. But there is variance in them across States.

Right to Education Act 2009

What is important to note here is that there is supposed to be a common core curriculum across the nation, and there is a high degree of uniformity in the scheme of studies at the elementary level. These two aspects emerged from a felt need for a NSE and articulated in the NPE 1986.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE), has some stipulations for curriculum and what will be considered “completion of elementary education” — which should be legally free and compulsory.

The RTE, in Section 29(1), stipulates: “[T]he curriculum … for elementary education shall be laid down by an academic authority to be specified by the appropriate Government, by notification.” All the State governments have already notified their own State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) as the “academic authority” that will lay down the curriculum. Maharashtra also has a curriculum specified by its SCERT, which as per the RTE is its official curriculum.

‘Studying a subject’

According to RTE, the State government is duty bound to make provisions for every child to complete elementary education according to the norms of the prescribed curriculum. If the SCERT in Maharashtra has mathematics, science, social studies and three languages in its curriculum, then it becomes imperative for it to see to it that every child studies all these subjects. Otherwise, the condition of completion of elementary education cannot be met. Therefore, if the State government is trying to identify children who are not getting educated, as per RTE, it has to include those children who are not studying all these subjects, be they in a madrasa, Vedic pathshala or any other religious or community school. If there are madrasas which do not teach one of these subjects, then the government cannot consider — as per RTE — these children to be “school going children”; technically, it has to declare them as “non-school going”. It does not matter whether many of them go on to universities or “crack civil service examinations” or any other competitive examinations. The purpose of establishing a national system of education is to not only prepare students for a livelihood and jobs, but also to make all children aware of the national movement for freedom, nurture a national identity, inculcate a scientific temper, and so on. In propagating these aims, mathematics, science and social studies are seen as necessary. However, if the madrasas are teaching all the subjects mentioned earlier along with religious studies, the State has to consider children studying there as “school going”. But that does not seem to be the case. The government letter seems to be defining “non-school going” as meaning only those children who do not study one or other of these subjects. Another point to keep in mind is that “studying a subject” here means “studying the government prescribed syllabus in that subject”. For example, if the children study the history of Europe or Africa, or Islam but do not study the history of India and the freedom movement, they cannot be considered as completing the prescribed curriculum.

Some news reports mention that Bihar and Uttar Pradesh recognise madrasas as schools, which is perfectly fine if the madrasas are teaching all the subjects prescribed by their State curricula. But if they are not and are still recognised as schools, and the children studying there are considered as school-going children completing their elementary education, then these States are guilty of dereliction of duty and are flouting the norms of NPE 86, NCF 2005 and RTE. I am not a lawyer, but I think that they are liable for legal action under RTE.

Harm to national consensus

The project of developing a national system of education is at least a 100-year-old one, though it took concrete shape only after Independence. The idea was debated by leaders of the freedom movement by the beginning of the 20th century. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Sri Aurobindo, Annie Besant, Madan Mohan Malaviya, and many others saw the ills of the system of colonial education and had their own ideals of national education. But many began to recognise that these ideals of education could not become a national system of education. In a systematic analysis, Lala Lajpat Rai rejected all the ideas mentioned earlier as being unworthy of national education status as he felt it would be sectarian. He recommended nonsectarian secular education in his book, The Problem of National Education in India , which was published in 1920. Tagore and Gandhiji wanted a system of education without any sectarian element. The Zakir Hussain Committee Report on Basic National Education articulated an ideal of citizenship that was strongly democratic.

After Independence, the University Education Commission 1950, the Secondary Education Commission 1952, and the Education Commission 1964 were all aware of the need for a national system of education. But education was a state subject in all its aspects including structure, curriculum and pedagogy. Therefore, the national system was more of a cherished ideal than a reality. Only after the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976 did it really become possible to develop a national system of education. The characteristics of the ‘10+2’ structure of school education mentioned earlier, a common core of the curriculum and a more or less common scheme of studies emerged after that. It has taken a lot of hard work to achieve this state. The work is still unfinished as we still do not have commonly accepted standards of achievement. Also, we still do not have the ‘5+3+2’ structure of the first 10 years of education as some States have four years of primary education. But because of the common core of the curriculum and common scheme of studies we can now think of common achievement standards.

This kind of debate will dismantle that hard-earned consensus in structure and curriculum, thereby making equal opportunity impossible as there will be no criteria for judging equality or the lack of it. In any case, RTE is not being implemented with serious commitment in the country. If attempts like identifying “non-school going children”, as per its norms, are embroiled in unjustified controversies, political correctness will further demotivate governments from implementing whatever little is being attempted.

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