NEW DELHI: Organisations affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh working in the area of education have welcomed the National Education Policy, calling it a “much-awaited announcement” that will set in motion their next move – a thorough review of curriculum in textbooks to enable necessary changes, while also stating that the implementation of the policy was as important as its announcement.
Mainly, they have welcomed the move of the government to rename the HRD ministry as the ministry of education, a demand of the Sangh Parivar for many years. A 2016 paper of RSS in a conference on Bharat Bodh organised by Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal (BSM) said it is important not to look at “human beings” as a “resource.”
In their suggestions, RSS affiliates had actually wanted the ministry to be renamed as the “ministry for education and culture” as it was called at the time of independence, and that both ministries (HRD and culture) be merged by bringing all the 150 cultural institutions imparting education on performing arts under a single ministry. The government has not agreed to that part of the demand.
A press statement on Wednesday by the Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal, among the most important affiliates of the RSS involved in deliberations of the NEP, said “almost 60% of our suggestions have found place in the NEP which include renaming the HRD ministry to education ministry, formation of Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog, formation of National Research Foundation and bringing in flexibility in education.”
Most important of the demands met is teaching in mother tongue till class V, a point that the Sangh parivar has constantly insisted upon. The RSS has passed multiple resolutions in this regard in its high-level meetings in the last 90 years.
Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, another affiliate that works in the area of education, in its suggestions to the government in 2016 had recommended that “mother’s language be the medium of education till Class 5 and English be taught as a third optional language among other languages.”
Organisations such as the SBAS have also been working to ensure “morally correct” teachings are imparted to children.
Apart from opposing the way caste and Hindu-Muslim conflicts are taught in the country, the body had wanted that foreign languages are not offered as an alternative to any Indian language at the school level. “English should no longer be mandatory at any level and all research works must be linked to national requirements,” it had suggested.
“There may be some difficulties in implementation in the beginning as there are some grey areas..there was also one doubt raised that if both parents speak English, what should be listed as the child’s mother tongue. But multilingualism is also an approach we had suggested. These issues will be sorted as we counter them,” a functionary of the Sangh parivar said.
Apart from the emphasis on regional languages, bringing early childhood care under the ambit of the education policy, inclusion of music and folk arts in mainstream curriculum, stressing on foundation courses on Bharat-centric values, allowing flexibility in college education so that even drop-outs have a certificate, options to take up multiple courses in different disciplines, and compulsory social and community service – demands of RSS affiliate bodies such as Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal and Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas have been accepted.
Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal had also recommended replacing “liberal” with “holistic” in the draft. NEP 2020 has made that change. A chapter, “Towards a more liberal education” in the earlier draft is now “towards holistic and multidisciplinary education.”
“We are happy that our suggestions such as imparting primary education in mother tongue, setting the committee for new content in textbooks in motion, and the announcement of a research foundation have been accepted…We wanted the assessment of the child to be done holistically, by his teachers, classmates, parents, apart from himself/herself.. They have agreed with that largely,” Atul Kothari, national secretary of the Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas said.
Officials in both organisations however said, it would have been better if the policy had also made it compulsory for colleges to impart education in vernacular languages. “Many students suffer in college because the teaching, books, assessment, exams are all in English. We will continue fighting for that,” a BSM functionary said.
The student wing of the RSS, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad also welcomed the NEP, calling it a roadmap to “put India in Indian education.”
Over the last few years, the delay over the announcement of the NEP has featured as an important part of discussions in internal meetings of the RSS, with even the chief of the organisation Mohan Bhagwat talking about it in at least six public events.
The BSM was specifically focussed on Bharat-centric education and change in nomenclature used in schools . Mukul Kanitkar, the convenor of the body had said that it was important to change the words that are used to teach history to children. “We teach students that Vasco da Gama discovered (the sea route) to Bharat…It is correct for Europe, but not for us. We need to start teaching every subject in a Bharat centric way,” he had said in an interview earlier.
An important recommendation of the BSM is the National Research Foundation that was announced in the policy on Wednesday.
While suggesting it, the body had called it “a revolutionary concept that would enable research that is purposeful, effective and socially useful.” BSM already has a think-tank Research for Resurgence Foundation that since 2016 (after it was launched in Nagpur) has been, according to its website, working “to build a community of educators to carry out research in Bharatiya perspective to help the country attain its vishwaguru status.” BSM has also suggested the government handed over the responsibilities of NRF to RFRF.
The affiliates had wanted the education policy to be called the new education policy with a complete rethinking of all aspects related to schools and colleges. They had specifically wanted the definition of shastriya (classical) language to be “made clearer” in the policy so that Sanskrit did not lose out when clubbed with Hindi. They had also wanted the ministry to specifically promote Sanskrit as a “foundation for linguistics.”
The organisations had also sought abolishing the contractual appointment of teachers as “it affected their respect in society,” integration of vocational education in mainstream education, and an inclusion of a foundation course on the lines of “Bharat gaurav” taught by the UP school education board with stories about the Indian civilisation, all of which have been adopted in the new policy in some form or the other, a member said.