People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
NCERT Meet: Joshi At His Game Again
BELONGING to the CPI(M), RJD and the Congress, education ministers of 16 states walked out of the stormy 38th annual general meeting of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) at New Delhi, on May 26. The walkout was in protest against the surreptitious attempts being made by human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi and NCERT director J S Rajput to create the impression that the controversial Natural Curriculum Framework of School Education (NCFSE) was approved by the last general body of the NCERT held on December 13, 2000. The contention of the ministers who walked out was that the discussion on the NCFSE was not on the agenda of the last meeting and therefore the question of its approval did not arise. Joshi and Rajput were misleading the nation, the parliament and the Supreme Court on this score, said the statement issued by the state education ministers.
It may be recalled
that when the NCERT issued the NCFSE about two years ago, the state education
ministers, media, educationists and academics had criticised such efforts under
saffron dispensation on two counts. First, the changes being brought about were
an attempt to communalise the school education system. Secondly, the changes
were sought to be brought in without the approval of the Central Advisory Board
on Education (CABE). The national policy on education (1986, 1992) approved by
the parliament specified that any changes in the framework of education can be
undertaken only with the approval of the CABE of which all state education
ministers are members.
On August 6, 2001,
nine state education ministers and several political leaders had issued a
statement expressing grave concern at communalisation of education. At the
conclusion of a convention organised by the SAHMAT, their statement said:
“In our country
where education, notwithstanding its inclusion in the concurrent list, remains
basically a state subject, any ‘national’ programme in the area of education
has to be based on a national consensus and evolved with the full involvement
and participation of the states. The present government has rendered this
mechanism of consultation totally irrelevant by refusing to place the so-called
NCF for the consideration and approval of the CABE. The NCFSE, therefore, is
completely devoid of any legitimacy.”
This stand was
reiterated by the conference of chief ministers and education ministers convened
by West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in September 2001.
During a marathon
debate on saffronisation of education in both houses of parliament, the minister
for human resource development stated that the NCFSE was approved by the NCERT
general body of which all the state education ministers are members and
therefore there was no need for a CABE meeting. Similar stand was been taken by
the government of India and the NCERT in a PIL case before the Supreme Court.
The apex court, however, stayed the changes in the social sciences syllabus on
the ground that the CABE had not been consulted on the changes being brought
The state education
ministers who walked out, denounced the statements by the human resource
development minister and NCERT director, which are meant to mislead the nation.
Kanti Biswas, state education minister of West Bengal, read a statement on
behalf of the 16 state education ministers, demanding that the CABE be
constituted immediately and implementation of the NCFSE should be kept in
abeyance till the changes are discussed and approved by the state education
education ministers who walked out belonged to West Bengal, Tripura, Bihar,
Chhattisgarh, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan,
Punjab, Karnataka, Uttaranchal, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Pondicherry.
insistence by Murli Manohar Joshi that the NCFSE has been approved, in the face
of 16 state education ministers denying it, not only undermines federalism. It
pushes a divisive agenda at a time when the need of the hour is to preserve
national unity. It should also be kept in mind that it was through
communalisation of textbooks that the Hindutva forces pushed their hate-campaign
against the minorities in Gujarat.