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HRD minister may set up panel to study NEP issues raised by Religious minorities
Christian delegation gives Mr. Ramesh Pokhrial major objections, suggestions
2-day National Consultations on Draft NEP held in New Delhi
Union Human Resource Development minister, Mr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, told a delegation of senior Christian leaders who met him last night at the end of a two-day National Christian consultation on the Draft National Education Policy, that he would consider their demand that a special committee consider objections and suggestions given by various religious minorities.
The minister said the date for submission of comments on the DNEP had been extended by another fortnight till mid-August. State governments had been told to translate the massive draft in to regional languages. Brief summaries have already been published by the central government.
Mr Pokhrial said he had set up ten groups to study the over 70,000 suggestions that had been made. Each group of experts will look into specific issues. The Christian group said the specific demands of religious minorities, specially Christians and Muslims, were numerous and ought to be considered by a special committee. The community offered to cooperate with the group looking into their suggestions. The delegation said the policy should be forward looking and consider the state of knowledge, economy and employment forty to fifty years ahead and not just for a short ten or fifteen years.
The delegation that met Mr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ in his office consisted of Dr. John Dayal, Fr. Sunny Jacob SJ, Dr Michael Williams, Advocate Bibhu Dutta Das, Mr. Greg Mann (MLA Uttarakhand), and Rev. Vijayesh Lal.
In response to the HRD ministry invite for feedback / comments on the DNEP 2019, the All India Catholic Union, Evangelical Fellowship of India, Baptist Church Trust Association, Utkal Christian Council, United Christian Forum and the United Christian Action, had organized a two-day consultation on 29thand 30thJuly 2019 for an in-depth study / analysis of the voluminous report.
The consultations, inaugurated by Delhi Archbishop Anil J T Couto was attended by Bishop S Mandal of the Methodist Church in India, Church of North India Bishop of Cuttack Nanda, BCTA president and ex MP Mr. S A Sangtham and general secretary Sumeet Nath, United Christian Action President John Dayal, and general secretary Ashok Solomon, All India Catholic Union general secretary A Chinnappan and Adv B D Das of the Utkal Christian Council. Also present were CNI general secretary Mr. Alwan Masih, and representatives of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church, and the Syro Malnakara Catholic church as Archbishop Kuriakose Brhamikulinagara and Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas were not in Delhi.
Lt. General (retd) Zamiruddin Shah delivered the keynote address cautioning the people, not just minorities, to be wary of anything in the draft education policy that mitigated against the secular fabric of the country, the federal structure that had ensured that the health of regional languages, to seek guarantees that allowed every child to fulfil her or his dreams. He also cautioned against insidious efforts to smuggle in ideologies that divided people and impacted the scientific temper.
Excellent presentations were made by Dr John Varghese, the principal of St Stephen’s College, Delhi, senior editor and educationist AJ Philip, JNU Professor and activist Dr. Atul Sood, National Federation of Indian women leader Dr Rushda Siddiqui and student activist Ms. Kawaljeet Kaur, of the All Inia Students leader. Dr John Dayal, Bishop Mandal, Dr Michael Williams, academic dean of the Mount Carmel Schools, and Muslim personal Law Board member Kamal Farooqui also spoke on draft education policy.
The consultations endorsed the submissions already made by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, the Jesuits Association for Education in South Asia , Forum for Minority Schools, All India Association of Christian Higher Education, Xavier Board of Education, Evangelical Fellowship of India, and Utkal Christian Council.
The Consultation concluded that the one overarching concern is that the DNEP 2019 must be subject to the Constitution of India and all Articles related to the protection and rights of minorities. The DNEP 2019 must not contravene or transgress the precedents of established law especially the several Supreme Court judgements relating to education.
In addition, the consultation felt it important to reiterate the following:
· The proposed formula of 5+3+3+4 could be counterproductive / detrimental to the intellectual growth of the child who is barely out of his infancy. We recommend 2+3+3+3+4 as a feasible formula. The two would represent informal play school level acclimatization time for the child. This would enable the child to enjoy the experience of being introduced to education outside his home. The school meant for younger children should ensure adequate gender specific toilet facilities especially keeping in mind little children and their needs.
· The three-language policy, while well intentioned, must be forward looking and have a lifespan of at least two generations (2070). We recommend that among the three languages that a child is taught, English would be compulsory across the nation and the state language should be the second language, which should be followed by one optional language which may include the oral local tongue of the child’s ethnic community.
· In providing for the needs of a nation as diversified as India, it may perhaps be fitting to distinguish between urban and rural schools as one standardized policy many not serve the special needs of both. In an effort to create this definition we recommend that schools functioning in a population mass of above 1 Lakh be considered as urban schools while those serving the needs below be awarded the special status of rural schools.
· For a healthy federal polity, it is important that education remain a state subject with some aspects on the concurrent list and there be no attempt to centralize it further as it is proposed in the Rastriya Shiksha Aayog. The consultation believes that there is no scope for such an Aayog.
· The DNEP 2019, has incorrectly interpreted the establishment of minority schools as primarily and perhaps exclusively, serving the needs of minority groups (on page 194). It further aggravates this by presuming that school managements have misused the provision. Such misinterpretation and misquoting malign centuries of good work by minority communities in the service of the nation. It is always open to the government to take legal action on the rare offender.
· The consultation takes exception to the unparliamentary language targeting teacher education institutions which have contributed to nation building (on page 121 and maliciously repeated several times in the document). Painting all teacher training institutions as ‘corrupt’ and ‘substandard’ is unacceptable. In fact the authors of the document owe an apology to those in the past who brought education to distant areas and marginalized people living there.
· We oppose the concept of a National Research Foundation and its constituent bodies as envisaged in Chapter 14 and elsewhere in the document. We believe this will result in the quelling / crushing of original thought, independent analysis, and honest data collection.
· The requirement of the SMC as envisaged in the DNEP 2019 is contrary to the settled position of law by the honorable Supreme Court and several High Courts on its applicability to minority educational institutions.
· Section 4.6 and its subsections must reflect the plurality and complexity of Indian history, its culture and the evolution of reforms leading up to the Indian renaissance. P188.8.131.52 must not overreach in its categorization of values but must limit itself to the values enshrined in the preamble of the constitution of India.
· We are troubled by the misuse of the word “Missionary” after the word Christian on pages 34 and 413. The policy attempts to marginalize and countermine Christians as outsiders, as a community with hidden agendas.
· We call for safer school environment for the children. We envisage the creation of a mechanism that actively seeks to protect the innocent child, teachers and management alike.
· In the poorest of poor areas, the minimum passing qualification should be the universal yardstick thereby providing equal access to scholarship especially to those in minorities and in extremely rural settings.
In conclusion we strongly believe that a policy which chooses to shut the very instrument of delivery it seeks to promote is self-inflicting and counterproductive to nation building. A policy must be prospective and not retrospective, must be mindful and not callous, must be enabling and not hobbling. Keeping in view of the aforesaid statement, the DNEP 2019 definitely requires deeper examination and a revisiting on several counts.
The Christian community exists across the country, has schools covering all regional languages and mother tongues, it is therefore necessary for them to have an equal opportunity to study the draft policy in its entirety (not summary). Hence it is requested that full translation of the DNEP 2019, must be made available in public domain in all scheduled languages at the earliest. Sufficient time may then be given, inviting feedback and suggestions.
Released for publication by
Dr John Dayal, on behalf of the organizers of the National Christian Consultation and its constituent organizers
Please contact Dr. Jon Dayal for further information at +919811021072 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. John Dayal – All India Catholic Union and United Christian Action
Dr. Michael Williams – United Christian Forum, Forum for Minority Schools
Advocate B D Das – Utkal Christian Council, Baptist Church Trust Association
Fr. Sunny Jacob SJ – Jesuit Education Association of South Asia
Rev. Vijayesh Lal – Evangelical Fellowship of India