In this era of modernisation and education, the need to question political interference in academia has not only taken a back seat, but has been completely ignored.
Fame and glory are being reallocated all the time. The pressure to keep furnishing reputation to save oneself from losing standing plays the underlying reason for this. The process by which that happens is pure politics. I believe that’s the nature of any enterprise that creates a public good, yet chooses to reallocate rewards frequently and unevenly.
Recent confirmation of this fact by none other than the HRD Minister Smriti Irani in her fierce Lok Sabha speech, where she admitted to having used unfair means to grant admissions has revived the issue. She famously said, “Shiksha ko Ranbhoomi mat banao“; but seems hypocrite like all other leaders, her actions defy her tongue.
Now this leaves us with no question of political interference in academia being fatal or not. It’s as obvious as religious fanaticism being deterrent to very spirit of democracy. This is a FACT that political interference IS fatal to the larger public on the grand scale. In order to explore the aspects of education system, we do not require political interference.
David Anthony Laws, a British Liberal Democrat politician says on the matter, “politicians ought not to interfere with education. The school curriculum should not be set by the ‘whims of here-today, gone-tomorrow politicians’ “
”Ministers float in and out of the department, often for quite short periods of time” which creates “too much turbulence” he further adds.
This intrusion can be understood in many arenas i.e. at secondary level and at college level. The very first pitfall of this intrusion is the germination of insatiable hunger for fraction, deviation towards some fantasised issues, and foolish quest for Utopian vision which rather meets a Dystopian end.
The most stereotypical example which can be quote is of CSE, comprehensive sexual education. Politicians are of the views that it will degrade our cultural ethics. What the best of my senses fail to comprehend is if it is justified to put up a fake shield of culture and religion against education.
Another example, a cute one though is Year 2009-CCE introduction to replace class X boards, a way of glorifying results to market schools, introduced by then HRD minister Kapil Sibal. Smriti irani, talks about scrapping it now. Seems like a domestic violence to me which took a toll on the eduction system.
What has been the official view?
A sub-committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education on no-detention was constituted in 2012 under the then Haryana Education Minister Geeta Bhukkal. The committee brought to light the harm, this lethal game of politics has done to academia. It has led to a decline in learning outcomes.
“Rather, the LLOs (Learning Level Outcomes) have steeply come down right from the academic sessions 2010-11 to 2013-14. The declining LLOs clearly reflect that there is something drastically wrong with the policy and system, which need to be remedied,” it said.
I don’t know about my reader’s perception but it surely sounds fatal to me.
Without being driven by emotions here, lets look at the facts rationally.
Political interference, non-transparent recruitment and bureaucratic failure to keep pace with the emerging challenges have led to the poor quality of education in public schools and the mushroom growth of business-oriented private institutions in the federal capital.
This was stated in a 123-page report, “Islamabad capital territory education sector plan (ESP) 2014-18,” launched by the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) in Feb 2015.
This intrusion often leads to the implementation of some policies pertaining to curricula which have perhaps neither been thought over nor devised, rather copied from some country. Moreover, in the set up like ours these policies are as useless as free antivirus in your new smartphone, as they have no practicality. One ought to update it.
Take the Common Admission Test (CAT) fiasco: the government has taken full advantage of the situation and expressed its interest in playing a bigger role in the affairs of the IIMs. This is especially unfortunate as IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta have declared that they are financially self-sufficient and do not need any government grant. The government’s plan to slash the annual tuition fee at the IIMs from the current Rs. 1.5 lakhs to Rs. 20,000 is most unfortunate and indeed a perverse step that will only weaken the IIMs in the long run.
Also, one of the most trending cases today is #occupyUGC.
On October 7, 2015, the University Grants Commission (UGC) scrapped the non-NET fellowship of Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 8,000 to M.Phil. and Ph.D. scholars respectively. This meager grant being scrapped by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in place since 2006 might affect only 3,500 students, mostly from low-middle income families, undergoing research at the central universities. Doesn’t make much difference, ahh?
On the same day in a Chennai college, 7 out of 18 students (pursing MA in International Studies) were deeply concerned about the detention of 97 protesting students at the Bhalswa Police Station in the capital. Among them, a few even considered the option of abandoning their dreams of higher research work. Want to claim them anti-national too?
This lethal impact of this political interference in higher education system dominates not only the students’ enthusiastic pursuit of career but the very fabric of education i.e. the recruitment policy of the faculty and administration, subsequently, degrading the entire system. In the name of strengthening the system, if political interference does not cease, much graver consequences are likely.
(We welcome your views on how the harm can be undone.)