V. 33: No. 9-10 September-October 2005 #388-389

Debating Education

Editorial, p. 1

"How to Evade Real Issues and Make Room for Obsurantism," Irfan Habib, p. 3

"Reversing the Main Thrust of the National Policy on Education," Arjun Dev, p. 13

"On the Pedagogy of Writing the National Curriculum Framework: Some Reflections from an Insider," Anil Sadgopal, p. 23

"A Critical Note," Shamim Akhtar, p. 37

"Another retreat of reason," K.M. Shrimali, p. 41

"National Curriculum Framework 2005: A Note," K.N. Ganesh, p. 47

"National Cirriculum Framework & the Social Sciences," RomilaThapar, p. 55

"An Escape from the Reality of Education," Anubhuti Maurya, p. 59

"Commercialisation of Higher Education in India," Vijender Sharma, p. 65

"Commercialisation of Higher Education: Implications of the GATS 2000 Negotiations," Dinesh Abrol, p. 75

"Chipping at the Margin: Judicial Institutionalisation of the Privatisation of Higher Education in India," C.P Chandrasekhar, p. 90

"Education and Globalisation," Prabhat Patnaik, p. 100-111

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Important developments have been taking place in the sphere of education of late: a new National Curriculum Framework has been adopted by the Central Advisory Board on Education; privatization of higher education, enjoined upon us by GATS, has received a fillip from the recent Supreme Court verdict abolishing reservations in non-State-aided educational institutions; and the State, under pressure from finance capital to curtail its expenditure, has been only too willing to hand over the sphere of education to foreign agencies, including foreign government agencies like DFID, and to private operators. These developments, singly and collectively, amount to a major overhaul of the entire educational system of the country, to the detriment of those social objectives which formed the basis of our freedom struggle and which were enshrined in our Constitution. The current issue of Social Scientist discusses the nature and implications of these developments.

Our concern with the National Curriculum Framework may at first sight appear odd for two reasons: first, since a number of distinguished educationists of the country, many of them well-known for their opposition to communalism, have been associated with its formulation, there should not be any room for opposition to it from within the progressive circle; secondly, even if there was room for opposition, since the NCF is only a broad framework whose impact on the nitty-gritty of school textbooks and school education is tangential at best, there should be no need to get exercised over it.

Not to be exercised over the NCF however would be cynical and callous, and indeed an act of unfairness to its authors. No matter what the NCF's impact on school textbooks and the like, it stands for a certain outlook and philosophy, which, if not questioned, would be taken ipso facto, but erroneously, as being universally accepted. This outlook and philosophy at its best is an echo of what was propounded by Jean Jacques Rousseau in the eighteenth century, though Rousseau's influence might not have been imbibed directly or selfconsciously by the authors of the NCF.

Rousseau was of the view that child nature was intrinsically good, and hence education must be such as not to interfere with the natural development of the child. Rousseau's position, notwithstanding the

p. 2 Social Scientist

progressive role it played at the time, by raising a banner of revolt against the rigid, authoritarian and disciplinarian education system that had prevailed earlier, can scarcely be acceptable today. Apart from the fact that his basic assumption about "innate goodness" would find few takers among psychologists, the child in any case is not left in a state of pristine purity outside of the education sphere. He or she imbibes a whole range of values and attitudes from the family-setting and the social environment, which in substantial measure tend to be reactionary, obscurantist, communal and divisive. Education has to combat these imbibed attitudes in order to create secular and democratic citizens. During the French Revolution itself, Jacobin leaders like Robespierre and SaintJust had emphasized the need for an interventionist education. Though they had made the point in a somewhat extreme form, in the context of the war and the need for inculcating' nationalism among the French youth, the point itself has substance. The NCF's emphasis on "local knowledge", its obsession with not putting too heavy a "burden" on the children, and in general its espousal of a sort of laissez faire policy that should be adopted when it comes to the ideas that should be inculcated among children, amounts to "evading real issues and making room for obscurantism", as the lead article by Professor Irfan Habib argues. Though the NCF's case is often presented and justified in the name of pedagogy, it has an underpinning that is ideological, which is why, notwithstanding the fact that many of its authors have been anti-communal, issue has to be joined with it.

All the papers contained in the present number, with the exception of the ones by Professor Romila Thapar and Professor K.M. Shrimali which were published in The Hindu and Frontline respectively, and the other by were presented at two seminars organized by Sahmat, one on the NCF, and the other, in collaboration with the Democratic Teachers' Front, on "Debating Higher Education".

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