The lifeline of the India growth story is education and by that we mean quality education. So, it is disheartening to learn that among the many who wish to leave their imprint on education, not all are necessarily qualified professionals.
In recent times, we have seen the disquieting phenomenon of those with strong links to the RSS and other right-wing cultural organisations taking an unhealthy interest in school curricula, the latest being Dinanath Batra, who has been roped in as an adviser on education reforms by the Haryana government. Mr Batra is the man who famously got Wendy Doniger’s seminal work on Hinduism pulped on the grounds that it went against the grain of our culture. The first and foremost quality of an educationist is an openness to ideas and thoughts.
There is an excessive emphasis on moral values, ancient scriptures and philosophy most of which cannot be substantiated historically.
Of course, all curricula is subject to review. But those doing so must be mindful of the fact that our children will have to emerge armed with the knowledge that will enable them to fit into a competitive higher education system and then a competitive marketplace.
Mr Batra’s books have been dismissed by most historians and prima facie he does not seem qualified to preside over curriculum changes. This is something that the HRD minister needs to look at very seriously.
Young minds are shaped in the classrooms and under no circumstance should they be imparted any knowledge which is ideologically weighted or just plain and simple wrong.
Mr Batra’s advocacy of redrawing boundaries to reflect territories of a bygone time does not inspire much confidence in his ability to create child-friendly and relevant curricula. This is the first rung of academia, but the problem seems to have reached even the upper echelons.
In a recent lecture organised by the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), a professor went so far as to say that one did not require history at all, much to the chagrin of the other luminaries present.
His argument that texts like the Mahabharata were enough to understand the past met with stiff resistance from other scholars. That the head of the ICHR concurred with these views is alarming, to say the least.
Earlier we saw Subramanian Swamy of the BJP saying that books by great historians like Romila Thapar and Bipan Chandra should be burned. This is not the inclusive society that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to foster. Education must be left to professionals and most certainly, facts cannot be doctored.
Our children deserve the best that schools and colleges can offer and that can only happen if this is built on a firm and objective foundation.