Withdraw Draft Education Policy 2019 which is against the sentiments of Minorities
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The new Draft National Education Policy 2019 “envisions an India centred education system that contributes directly to transforming our nation sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society, by providing high quality education to all [emphasis in the original].” The term “India centred” is important since it points to the overall direction of majoritarian cultural nationalism which this policy gives a fillip to. As for “equitable” and “high quality”, both cannot be met together and the emphasis on assessment, accreditation, and ranking is a strong step towards a competition-based and commercialised education system, which can never lead to an affordable, accessible and egalitarian education system. The policy must refrain from homogenising India's heritage as being representative of any religion or certain castes. It reads like a document full of politically-correct right-wing populism pushing a regressive, and cultural-nationalistic agenda, and carefully pushing forward the neoliberal agenda of de-regularisation, liberalisation, and commercialisation of education.
The petitioners herewith demand that the following demands and apprehensions be addressed before the finalization of the draft -
- The DNEP 2019, has incorrectly interpreted the establishment of minority schools as primarily and perhaps exclusively, serving the needs of minority groups (in page 194).
- It further aggravates this by presuming that school managements have misused the provision. Such misinterpretation and misquoting malign centuries of good work by minority communities in the service of the nation.
- The word “Missionary” after the word Christian on pages 34 and 413 is misused. The policy attempts to marginalize and portray Christians as outsiders, as a community with hidden agendas.
- Section 4.6 and its subsections must reflect the plurality and complexity of Indian history, its culture and the evolution of reforms leading up to the Indian renaissance. P220.127.116.11 must not overreach in its categorization of values but must limit itself to the values enshrined in the preamble of the constitution of India.
- The new draft policy will only help convert education into a commodity and deprive the socially and economically backward students of education.
- At a time when public education needs more government funding and strengthening, the Policy seems to be preparing ground to hand over the education sector to the hands of the corporate.
- Minority rights available in the constitution and the facilities guaranteed to the minority communities to establish and administer education institutes are very much overlooked and seemingly brushed aside when the draft policy deals with appointments of staff, fee fixation, inclusion of aided minority (private) institutes in public category in the school complex concept, formation of school management committees and other administrative and regulatory details.
- The Christian community exists across the country, has schools covering all regional languages and mother tongues, it is, therefore, necessary for them to have an equal opportunity to study the draft policy in its entirety and not a summary. The draft must be available in all of the regional languages.
- Education should be moved to the state list from the concurrent list so that the states will have the liberty to frame the curriculum as per the socio-cultural status.
- Although the document boasts of widespread grass-roots consultations with relevant stakeholders, a look at Appendix VII reveals that in fact, it has consulted organisations directly affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and those sharing its ideology of Hindutva, like the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal and Bharatiya Shiksha Shodh Sansthan as part of its network of educational organizations. For equal representation purposes, it consulted many religious bodies of other religions also but none from the Minorities.
- It has ignored the contributions of scholars like Caldwell, Heeras and Abul Kalam Azad. the draft did not include education providers from minority communities, private school trusts and teachers who are in touch with ground realities of the education sector.
- The outstanding and dedicated contribution by the Christian community (not just Christian Missionaries), could have been much better referred to and acknowledged, supportive measures mentioned and provided towards their continued services in education in this draft, instead of making just a passing reference.
- Imposition of Hindi on the non-Hindi speaking states which is highly condemnable and is against the federal structure of the nation. Instead of favoring Hindi or Sanskrit, according to the report, there should be a two-language formula, mother tongue and English, along with the option of studying a third language of either religious or cultural significance to the students as per Articles 29(1), 350A and 350B of the Constitution. The present draft tantamount to discriminating the regional languages.
- The draft NEP also talks about how English “has no advantage in expressing thoughts” and how Indian languages are far better since they do not have “unphonetic complicated spellings” (p. 81, NEP). The draft must make efforts towards improving English language teaching (ELT) in India.
- "If the policy intends to promote "Indian knowledge system", it should encompass all contributions from different religious, regional, and linguistic communities who are inalienable part of the Indian knowledge tradition," The policy indirectly seems to aim at promoting a religious ideology and varnashramadharma, which was brahminical in nature. It is seen promoting the gurukul system which lacks the salient features of modern education system.
- The policy makers consulted most of the leading voices of organised Capital like Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), etc. One needs to keep these in mind in order to know whose interests this policy intends to serve.
- There is no road map in this policy regarding the eradication of discriminations and social evils or promotion of constitutional values and democratic ideals, national integration and peace and solidarity.
- Why is this draft silent on removal of caste system and other social evils? Why are all the constitutional provisions overlooked regarding minority rights?
The Central Government should, therefore, give up the Draft National Education Policy-2019 (NEP) that is full of inconsistencies, flaws and procedural improprieties and against religious minorities. It is against the spirit of the Constitutions, principles of federalism and social justice and will also affect educational democracy and state governments’ rights. The Education policy must be prospective and not retrospective, must be mindful and not callous, must be enabling and not hobbling.
When the government invites suggestions for educational promotion, representatives from the boards of various Minority Education Institutions of repute like the Christian boards of CBCI Office of Education, All India Association for Christian Higher Education (AIACHE) and Xavier Board of Higher Education should be invited and given representations in National Monitoring Committee for Minorities' Education, National Commission for Minority Education Institutions and Rasjya Siksha Ayog.
This petition also endorses the submissions already made by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, the Jesuits Association for Education in South Asia, Forum for Minority Schools, All India Association of Christian Higher Education, Xavier Board of Education, Evangelical Fellowship of India, and Utkal Christian Council and other minority voices.
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