|EDUCATION TRIBUNE||Tuesday, February 12, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
Read the lines, not between the lines
Read the lines, not between the lines
Every dynamic system of school education is required to respond to the changes occurring all around in every sector of human endeavour. A responsive system of school education is one which is alert to these changes, their impact and imperatives and has the necessary in-built capacity to assimilate these in the system.
Education in the initial years reshapes the future of the country by nurturing young persons to draw out the best in ‘body, mind and spirit’. A comprehensive system of school education is also judged by its process which nurture the children not only in cognitive aspects but also in other aspects required for fulsome growth and development as good citizens.
Curriculum renewal, consequently is a continuous process. The NCERT has recently changed the curriculum of school education which would be responsive and dynamic as per the needs of present and requirements of the future. It has continuously encouraged in the past, the state-level agencies to study and analyse the NCERT curriculum, syllabi, and textbooks and prepare their own keeping in view local and regional requirements.
It is in this light and spirit that the NCERT prepared a Discussion Document on Curriculum for school in January, 2000, and disseminated it throughout the country to seek opinion of stakeholders on the future shape of school education in India. What has been presented by the NCERT as the curriculum framework for school education is the consensus of various inputs received.
Serious concerns are being expressed on inclusion of values and mention of religions of the people of India. Critics’ attention needs to be drawn to the 81st report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development headed by Mr S.B. Chavan presented to the Rajya Sabha and laid down on the table of Lok Sabha. The report is dated January, 1999. It was passed on to the NCERT by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in March, 1999, for implementation and sending back an action taken report. This committee is a very high powered committee and the contents of its report need to be taken seriously. The NCERT has included its stipulations on values and religions almost verbatim in the curriculum framework. The committee examined ‘the entire gamut of value-orientation of our educational system so as to come up with some effective suggestions for bringing about a much-awaited change.’ It made the following significant suggestions:
"Truth (satya), righteous conduct (dharma), peace (shanti), love (prema) and non-violence (Ahimsa) are the core universal values which can be identified as the foundation stone on which the value-based education programme can be built. These five are indeed universal values and respectively represent the five domains of human personality: intellectual, physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. They are also correspondingly co-related with the five major objectives of education, namely, knowledge, skill, balance, vision and identity."
The report goes on to state that primary school is the period in a child’s life when the seeds of value education can be implanted in an impressionable manner and if this can be done half, the battle of building national character can be done.
Reference is often made to religious values. Once again it is an outcome of having totally ignored what has been ‘written’ in the curriculum framework. At no stage any dose of religious value has been proposed. Religions have been the source of values for ages and generations have benefited from it. What has been proposed is the inculcation of moral, ethical and humanistic values along with constitutional ones. There is no harm in stating that children must know the fundamental rights and fundamental duties as enshrined in the Constitution. Interpretation based upon deliberate ignorance and a manipulative mindset would not distract the attention of the people from the need to underscore this point at this stage for the benefit of future generations.
I would sympathise with critics for such statements as ‘that there is an unashamed promotion of Sanskrit from the primary stages. The NCERT is certainly not ashamed about its recommended on Sanskrit.
"We entertain no doubt in our mind that teaching of Sanskrit alone as an elective subject can in no way be regarded as against secularism. Indeed, our Constitution requires giving of fillip to Sanskrit because of what has been stated in Article 351, in which while dealing with the duty of the Union to promote spread of Hindi, it has been provided that it would draw, whenever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit. Encouragement to Sanskrit is also necessary because of it being one of the languages included in the Eighth Schedule."
This is an extract from one of the judgements of the Supreme Court of India delivered on October 4, 1994, by Mr Justice Kuldip Singh and Justice B.L. Hansaria.
"If I was asked what is the greatest treasure which India possesses and what is her finest heritage, I would answer unhesitatingly-it is the Sanskrit language and literature, and all that is contains. This is a magnificent inheritance, and so long as this endures and influences the life of our people, so long the basic genius of India will continue."
Incidentally, the NCERT’s recommendations are well within the boundaries of the three-language formula and it has resisted all attempts to move beyond the boundaries laid down by the National Policy on Education 1986 and 1992.
The NCERT has prominently displayed at the entrance of its various buildings Gandhiji’s famous statement. "My critics are my best friends". We respect our critics in the same spirit. We are, however, dismayed and disillusioned at attempts to ignore facts and efforts to cast aspersions on the intentions of institutions which have been established with great hope and aspiration. The NCERT is one such institution which shall continue to serve the cause of school education professionally.
The author is the Director, NCERT
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