[lg policy] Skipping The Biggest Lesson: BJP’s draft National Education Policy tries to compete with madrasas, misses crucial learning

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Jun 14 11:26:23 EDT 2019

Skipping The Biggest Lesson: BJP’s draft National Education Policy tries to
compete with madrasas, misses crucial learningThe policy pays no attention
to teaching children the dignity of labour. This lesson is a must though
for any society which wants to grow and be developed.
VOICES <https://www.dailyo.in/voices>
 |  5-minute read |   14-06-2019 <https://www.dailyo.in/date/2019-06-14>
[image: Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd]

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The controversy triggered by the three-language policy proposed under the
draft National Education Policy (NEP) seems to have been settled for now.

The earlier three language policy was mired in controversy as it sought
that Hindi be taught as the third language in schools along with English in
non-Hindi speaking states. Though protests led to the government introducing
that policy, the draft has several other problems.

[image: english-690_06071905_061219054514.jpg]*There are still big gaps:
The govt tweaked the three-language formula in the face of protests. But
the NEP still has problems. (Photo: Reuters)*

The second big thing that the policy intends to do is apparently impose
Hindutva’s mono-cultural heritage centered on the Vedic spiritual texts on
students with a view, as I see it, to undermine or sideline other religious
and spiritual cultural civilisational traditions such as Buddhism and
Sikhism that evolved within the Indian subcontinent.

The BJP government seems to want to sweep away Christian and Muslim
cultures and traditions by presenting them as 'foreign' despite their
existence in India for centuries.

Both the new draft <https://mhrd.gov.in/nep-new> and the 1986 policy
the Congress shaped the course content around the secularism versus
communalism debate. In my view, both policies suffer from serious flaws.

The BJP policy is apparently trying to compete with the course content of
madrasas. Since madrasas teach mainly the Quranic text, the BJP wants a
curriculum that teaches only Vedic culture as Indian.

[image: mad-690_061219055212.jpg]*Since madrasas teach mainly the Quranic
text, it seems the BJP wants to teach only Vedic texts. (Photo: Reuters)*

Both the Hindutva and Islamic ideologues do not want to teach much about
science, technology, global history and Indian history tracing its earliest
civilisations. The BJP’s proposed framework is that the Indian culture and
civilisation are boxed in the Vedic capsule and Dharma and Adharma-related
issues found in Hindu epics. For BJP intellectuals, Indian history starts
with the writing of Rig Veda.

In other words, the BJP wants to start teaching our children from the
beginning of the pastoral economy, where there was no role of agriculture.

That culture, civilisation and economy centered on the rishi — but not the
shepherd and cattle herder, though economy was based on cattle herding.
Tillers of land had no respect in that culture.

Both for Brahminism and Islamism, the spiritual text is the beginning and
the end of history. For both, production-related science of the present and
past is irrelevant. The history of India did not start with the writing of
the Rig Veda. Production using human labour has a much older history than
religious writing and documenting.

The BJP’s history-writing views history from the prism of a Brahminic
viewpoint, which does not recognise the history of the Harappan
civilisation for which there is archaeological evidence.

[image: harappan-civilisatio_061219054916.jpg]*It all begins here: The
Harappan civilisation has many lessons to offer us in terms of how to run
an economy. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)*

No nation in the modern world will develop if its young do not learn about
the dignity of labour in schools. Caste hierarchies in the country are also
institutionalised based on the graded indignity of labour. Any work or
technology that is related to leather is seen as most undignified in caste
cultural history. But leather processing began during the Harappan
civilisation. Leather clothing was the real body protector in those days.

Take the process of brick-making in the Harappan civilisation. The cities
that were built in other parts of the world like Mesopotamia before Harappa
had no baked brick. They were built only with mud bricks that were unbaked.

Is that not our civilisational achievement? We contributed advanced
brick-making technology to the world.

The Harappan civilisation has lessons to offer on the domestication of
cattle and maintaining a stock of animals as a food guarantee. The animal
economy guaranteed meat and milk and that was a great civilisational
achievement of the Indian subcontinent. Wood crafting and stone cutting
were arts that had been mastered back then. The construction technology
used back then was advanced too. Harappans made advanced bronze tools. Our
present tool technology is based on that ancient knowledge. This is called
shudra science and technology — but it has not been given value in books
that our students read and learn from today.

These progressive sciences and technologies in varied developed forms are
being used even now. The village cattle herder, shepherd, brick-maker and
wood cutter are carrying on the Harappan culture and civilisation without
any break. This is great Indian science and technology — we must be proud
of it.

Because of the caste system and Brahminism, however, all production tasks
are seen as polluted and unworthy.

How do we change this cultural negativity? Only by teaching the dignity of
labour in schools can we overcome this anti-labour attitude.

But Kasturi Rangan’s draft NEP has no recommendations to include
labour-related lessons in the course curricula in modern-day schools.

The development of India in agriculture, science and technology is based on
the respect the nation accords to labour. Historically, the labour class
has been made to feel that it is inferior. Their children should not be
allowed to live with that feeling. Those who do not work on land think that
they are great. Their children also think they are superior.

These attitudes have to change.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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