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TN: 36 Organisations Hold Joint Conference, Say ‘Save Education from NEP’

Speakers at the conference were critical of privatisation of educational institutions and increasing profit-making in higher educational institutes.
 Kerala education minister R Bindu

 Kerala education minister R Bindu

Chennai: A ‘Save Education from NEP’ conference was held in Loyola College, Chennai, on Sunday to demand the withdrawal of the National Education Policy (2020). The conference was organised under the banner of ‘In Defense of Democratic Education’, a coalition of 36 civil society organisations.

The coalition criticised the BJP government at the Centre for sidelining the Ministry of Education and forming the high-level Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog, headed by the President, which will take all the decisions on education in the country. The implementation of the NEP would centralise decision-making on education, and this will affect education, which should be democratised, the coalition held. 

The speakers were critical of privatisation of educational institutions and increasing profit-making in higher educational institutes.

Kerala Higher education minister R Bindu was the chief guest at the event. Referring to NEP 2020, she said, “This document has serious gaps, silences and contradictions. In its profuse verbal acrobatics, it appears to address all the concerns of modern education. But covertly and cowardly smuggles in the specific agenda of the ruling party.”

“NEP has not been subjected to any legislative and social scrutiny. It has bypassed parliamentary scrutiny. It invited public opinions through the UGC, but totally disregarded the suggestions,” she said, drawing attention to the lack of democratic process.

“An education document must scrutinise the merits and demerits of the previous policy document, but there is no attempt to study the previous document. Moreover, it was not released with any empirical data or studies” she said.

The NEP 2020 comes 45 years after the National Education Policy document of 1986.

Bindu specifically drew attention to the NEP being exclusionary and not taking efforts to include deprived sections of society. 

“The document maintains complete silence on constitutional values like secularism and democracy. It does not mention the need for reservations for the socially and economically weaker section. Their elimination from the field of education will be the effect of such an approach.” she said

“The word ‘Indianness’ is being repeated many times, but its meaning is too narrow and constricted… The variety, plurality and diversity is the wealth of India. But unfortunately instead of seeing the multiplicity and cultural polyphony as an asset, the NEP dismissed it as fragmentation” she said.

The Kerala minister termed multiple exits as encouraging exclusion of historically disadvantaged people. 

“In the present Indian context these silences should be treated as serious, serial or criminal. In the present regressive atmosphere, these can be a silent othering or alienation of certain sections” she said.

She said “No mention of funding for higher education confoirms to the interest of the corporate-Hindutva alliance, confined to a socially and economically privileged sections.”

She concluded by asking people to come together against communalising and commodifying education.

CVMP Ezhilarasan, MLA from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), quoted classical Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar and said education was a means for emancipation.

"Education is not only a means for employment, but it is a weapon for self respect and critical thought" he said.

He opposed general exams for classes III, IV, and VIII stating that it would increase dropouts.

Rev Dr Antony Robinson, Rector of Loyola College, Chennai, opposed the imposition of Hindi and Sanskrit languages.

“The 2022 survey shows only 0.002% speak Sanskrit in India. But the union government has allotted Rs 643.84 crore towards the development of this language” he said.

“Other classical languages – Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Oriya – together got only Rs 29 crore funding” he said, emphasising a bias.

R Bindu also released a book Education - Hindutva - National Education Policy-2020 written by CPI(M) politburo member Nilotpal Basu, and published by Bharathi Puthagalayam. She also released the 50 campaign posters prepared for propaganda with the single agenda to withdraw the NEP 2020.

The posters were critical of the removal of the Mughal period, periodic table and Darwin’s theory of evolution from school textbooks.

The conference was presided by the state president of the University Teachers’ Association Dr J Gandhi Raj.

Educationist Ayesha Natarajan, economist Venkatesh Athreya, writer Adavan Dheekshanya and others also  participated in the conference.

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