National Education Policy Awaits Your Inputs…

Ed Policy

The draft of the National Policy on Education (2019) is out.  The nine-person Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. K. Kasturirangan which put together the report (based on large public consultations), mentions that ‘the guiding principles of the policy are Quality, Affordability and Accountability’. The policy they say, attempts to look at education ‘in a single organic continuum from preschool to higher education and also touched on related sectors that form part of the larger picture’. The education of the next generation concerns all of us. This is an opportunity to give our inputs to strengthen it.

 

The 420+ page document can be seen on https://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/Draft_NEP_2019_EN_Revised.pdf.

Comments can be given on https://innovate.mygov.in/new-education-policy-2019/.

To get into the reflective mood necessary to do this, here is a quick selection of thoughts and quotes from those in India who have thought deeply about education.

Hope this helps!

FROM TAGORE

The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.

Education has its only meaning and object in freedom–freedom from ignorance about the laws of the universe, and freedom from passion and prejudice in our communication with the human world.

Education means enabling the mind to find out that ultimate truth which emancipates us from the bondage of dust and gives us wealth not of things but of inner light, not of power but of love. It is a process of enlightenment. It is divine wealth. It helps in realization of truth.

In education, the most inspiring atmosphere of creative activity is important. Primacy function of the institution must be constructive; scope must be for all kinds of intellectual exploration. teaching must be one withe culture, spiritual, intellectual, aesthetic, economic and social. True education is to realize at every step how our training and knowledge have an organic connection with our surroundings.

FROM MAHATMA GANDHI

 

An education which does not teach us to discriminate between good and bad, to assimilate the one and eschew the other, is a misnomer.

Unless the development of the mind and body goes hand in hand with a corresponding awakening of the soul, the former alone would prove to be a poor lop-sided affair.

Persistent questioning and healthy inquisitiveness are the first requisite for acquiring learning of any kind.

True education must correspond to the surrounding circumstances or it is not a healthy growth.

I believe that religious education must be the sole concern of religious associations.

A balanced intellect presupposes a harmonious growth of body, mind and soul.

The emphasis laid on the principle of spending every minute of one’s life usefully is the best education for citizenship.

FROM DR. S. RADHAKRISHNAN

Education aims at making us into civilized human beings, conscious of our moral and social obligations.

Education must develop democratic attitude. Educational institutions should train people for freedom, unity, and not localism, for democracy, not for dictatorship.

Education has for its aims not merely acquisition of information but the capacity for discernment.

FROM INDIAN EDUCATION COMMISSION (KOTHARI COMMISSION) REPORT, 1966

Of all factors which determine the quality of education and its contribution to national development, the teacher is undoubtedly the most important. It is on his personal qualities and character, his educational qualifications and professional competence that the success of all educational endeavour must ultimately depend. Teachers must, therefore, be accorded an honoured place in society.

The academic freedom of teachers to pursue and publish independent studies and researches and to speak and write about significant national and international issues should be protected.

Strenuous efforts should be made to equalize educational opportunity.

The school and the community should be brought closer through suitable programs of mutual service and support.

With a view to accelerating the growth of the national economy, science education and research should receive high priority.

A major goal of examination reforms should be to improve the reliability and validity of examinations and to make evaluation a continuous process aimed at helping the student to improve his level of achievement rather than at ‘certifying’ the quality of his performance at a given moment of time.

FROM JIDDU KRISHNAMURTHY

Education is not merely a matter of training the mind. Training makes for efficiency, but it does not bring about completeness. A mind that has merely been trained is the continuation of the past, and such a mind can never discover the new.

Education is not merely acquiring knowledge, gathering and correlating facts; it is to see the significance of life as a whole.

Conventional education makes independent thinking extremely difficult. Conformity leads to mediocrity.

The function of education is to create human beings who are integrated and therefore intelligent.

Education should help us to discover lasting values so that we do not merely cling to formulas or repeat slogans; it should help us to break down our national and social barriers, instead of emphasizing them, for they breed antagonism between man and man.

 

–Meena

On Time

“Time you old gypsy man, will you not stay? Put up your caravan just for one day?

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Source: Google

These lines from a poem learnt by rote in school, still remembered. Time had a different connotation when one was just fifteen. It was more about the “present”, and something one needed to cram in all the activities of teenage life.  Today with several decades behind one, Time is more about looking back, while Time the old gypsy man seems to be flashing past at the speed of light.

Today we live “by the clock”. Not only are our daily activities monitored by the clock, we depend on Apps to remind us to get up, to drink water, and to call our friends. Interestingly, the regular linear time line, cut up into days and weeks, is barely two and a half centuries old. In ancient times, time-keeping was more of an art than a science. People in most old civilizations relied on natural events–the turn of the seasons, the waxing and waning of the moon as some ways to measure time.  Different cultures had their own ways of measuring time.

The concept of time has always been relative and contextual. An essay that I read explores these dimensions of time through different cultures and history. Titled Cartographies of Time, the two-part essay by authors Jonny Miller and Dorothy Sanders is fascinating reading. Sharing some excerpts.

In Madagascar if you asked how long something was going to take, you might be told it would be “the time of rice cooking (about half an hour) or “the frying of a locust” (a few minutes).

For monks in Burma there is no need for alarm clocks. They know when it is time to get up when “there is enough light to see the veins on their hand.”

The Andamanese, a tribe that lives on the Andaman Islands have constructed an annual calendar built around the sequence of dominant smells of trees and flowers in their environment. Instead of living by a calendar, this tribe “simply smell the odours outside their door.’

The Amondawa tribe that lives in the Amazon Rainforest have no specific word in their language for ‘time’ nor do they determine any discrete periods of time such as a month or a year. They only have divisions for night and day, and rainy and dry seasons. Even more intriguing is that nobody in the community has an age. Instead they change their names to reflect their stage of life and position within the community. What a wonderful way to go through life, rather than our obsession with the number of candles on a birthday cake!

The fact remains that time, at least the way we understand it today, is always passing. But what we make of it, is entirely up to us.

As the Dalai Lama has said: “Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend, or a meaningful day.”

–Mamata

 

Where Did They Come From?

Back to my favourite topic—Words and their quaint origins!

CLUE: Comes from an old English word meaning a ball of thread that could help you find your way through a maze. This, is turn, refers to the Greek myth of Theseus who found his way out of the Cretan labyrinth by unravelling a ball of thread. And, from there evolved the use of the word “clue” which refers to hints that help to solve a mystery (or a crossword!).

QUIZ: An invented word. The story goes that in 1780 Richard Daly a Dublin theatre manager made a bet that he would introduce a new word into the language in 24 hours. He sent street urchins to write “Quiz” (a word that he made up) in chalk upon every wall and bare surface in the city, and in a few hours everyone was discussing it. Since no one knew what it meant everyone thought that it was some kind of a test. It came to be used to mean ‘enquiry’.

BLURB: A blurb on the cover of a book may give us a clue about what is in the book.  The word blurb was coined in 1907 by American humorist Gelett Burgess. The cover of his 1906 book Are You a Bromide?  had the picture of a fictitious Miss Belinda Blurb in the act of “blurbing”,  proclaiming “Yes, this is a blurb.”  From then on covers of books used to carry text “blurbs” without the picture. The word blurb entered standard English in the 1920s.

BLOCKBUSTER: This was the British name in World War II for a super-large high-explosive bomb capable of destroying large areas. Within a few years of its use in military terminology the word blockbuster was used to describe other powerful things such as sports teams and hail storms. In 1954 the expression block-buster was used to describe movies that grossed over two million dollars. Today blockbuster is generally used for super-hit movies, but also to describe something that is powerful, exciting, immense and successful.

Surprisingly today we say that a movie “bombed” at the box office to mean just the opposite!

CARTOON: This is the age of blockbuster ‘cartoon’ or animated movies. Interestingly the word derives from the Latin charta meaning paper via the Italian form cartone (a big piece of paper). It originally referred, in the Middle Ages, to a preparatory sketch for a tapestry or other artwork. The modern usage emerged in around 1843 when Punch magazine used satirised drawings of the new Victorian Houses of Parliament, and continued to use humorous illustrations in its issues. In the early 20th century, it began to be used to refer to animated films which resembled print cartoons.

IGNORAMUS: This used to be a favourite word of mine when I was in my teens—just liked the sound of it, and had fun using it to describe people! The word has its origins in legalese. Grand Juries in England wrote “ignoramus” on the back of rejected proposals for indictment to mean “we have no knowledge of it.” The implications that they did not wish to hear anything of it may have led to its later use to describe someone who knows nothing of anything.

The more I read about words, the more I discover what an ignoramus I am!

–Mamata

ignoramus.jpg
Source: Google

Disillusioned!

Strange is the English language

‘Disillusioned’ is a word

But ‘illusioned’ is not!

Which seems to imply

That ‘illusioned’ is so status-quo

That it does not need to be discussed

That it is the state most people live in

That it is the ‘reality’, (Oh! World of contradictions!)

That there is nothing unusual about it

So taken for granted that is will not be mentioned often enough

To make it worth having a word for.

 

And that brings English in its core sensitivity

So close to the concept of Maya

–Everything in the world

A grand illusion

 

But whatever the philosophers and semanticists have to say

About the reality

Or the unreality

Of the world and words

 

I only know

That once you are disillusioned

It is very difficult to be ‘illusioned’ again!

–Meena

The Lacy Brittle: Beawar Til Papad

Indian sweets are yum to the Indian palate. But they don’t lend themselves to hyper-levels of visual appeal enhancements as do cakes and pastries and other sundry desserts, as portrayed in various TV shows.

One traditional sweet which is intrinsically beautiful and delicate is the Til Papad from Beawar. A mono-layer of sesame and thinly sliced pistas and almonds in sugar syrup, each papad is see-through. Just hold it up to the light for a lacy view of the world beyond!

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At some point in my life, I studied in Mumbai, and it was always an adventure to reach Jodhpur, where my parents were, for the vacations. One such journey must have entailed some portion being done by bus, because I distinctly recall wandering around the Beawar Bus-stop. And that is when my fascination with this sweet began. Several shops were making the til papad. Basically til and nut-slivers were cooked in sugar syrup, which was taken off the heat at just the right moment; balls made of the goo; and highly skilled cooks rolled them out, one til-thick. It was amazing to see them at work, for they had to work with hot goo, and roll it really fast and thin.

A few weeks ago, someone from Rajasthan kindly gifted us a box of til papad, and that brought all the memories back.

Digging a little deeper into Beawar, I found that it was not one of the ancient cities of Rajasthan, the story of whose founding is part-history, part-mythology. Beawar was established by a British officer, Colonel Charles George Dixon, in the 19th century as a military cantonment. Situated as it is at a tri-junction of Jodhpur, Jaipur and Udaipur, it gained and still retains importance as a trading centre.

The people of the area were apparently as brave and war-like as from any other part of Rajasthan, and the British had a healthy respect for them. One source tells me that the name ‘Beawar’ originated from the term ‘Be aware’.

In recent history, Beawar’s claim to fame is its link to the Right to Information (RTI) movement. The RTI movement started with a number of activists demanding  transparency, after conducting investigations into wide-spread corruption at panchayat and block levels. The then-CM of Rajasthan, Mr. Bhairon Singh Shekawat assured them he would bring in RTI. But even after a year, this did not happen. So on April 5, 1996, thousands of citizens and activists congregated in Beawar. The protest took place at a busy traffic roundabout called Chang Gate, and lasted 40 days. This laid the foundation for the RTI being brought in.

So sweet little Beawar is strong too!

–Meena

 

ACT NOW!

5 June! The date conjures up so many memories! World Environment Day—a day to remind ourselves and the world of the fragile planet that we call our home, and how best we could do our bit to make it a better place to live. This day marks the anniversary of the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment held in Sweden in 1972 when the nations of the world gathered to share their concern over human progress at the expense of environment. Today nearly fifty years later, the world is sadly not a better place. A cause for grave concern, but not too late to act.

As young Environmental Educators with a passion, and sense of mission to spread this message, we worked in many ways. One of our lasting campaigns was Act Now—to share every-day tips to remind each person to do their bit. From the early 1990s, and through the next two decades Act Now remained the anthem for the Matriarchs.

We began our communications with a provocation: “Are you doing your bit to help save the planet?” “What can I do? I am not a scientist.” “Who me I am only a kid.” “It’s not my business. I don’t work in the government.” “No. I don’t really have time.” And then came the Act Now tips.

Sharing a few hacks (as they would be called now!).

Food for Thought: Get the family to eat together—its saves having to reheat food (thereby fuel) several times.

House Proud: You don’t have to tackle grease and dirt with hazardous chemicals. Mirrors, glass and windows can sparkle when washed with soap and water and rinsed with a solution of one part vinegar to four parts water, and dried with loosely crumples sheets of newspaper.

Grandmother’s Secrets: Remember the shining vessels and fragrant house? That did not come from a bottle. Copper scrubbed with tamarind really gleams. Brass shines when cleaned with a mixture of salt and flour, with a little vinegar added.

Every Drop Counts: Longing for a cool bath? Instead of letting the water run till it cools, why not fill a bucket and keep it to be used when needed?

Winter Warmth: Explore the possibility of installing a solar water heater for hot water needs.

Monsoon Measures: Place a few bricks under the rainwater outlets to prevent the soil from being washes away during a heavy downpour. Better still direct the rain water to storage tank or collect it in a large drum.

Water Wise: Rain water is pure, free and abundant. Store it and use it to water delicate plants with. Brass vessels washed in rain water retain their sheen for a longer time.

Bright Ideas: Cash in on nature’s power supply. Arrange your rooms so that work areas get best advantage of natural light. Why be cooped inside when you can use whatever outdoor space you have (even the steps) to read, sew, chop vegetables, or just chat.

Learn from the Banana: Consider the banana–neatly sealed in an attractive peel which keeps the flavours in and the germs out, and when discarded degrades to enrich the soil. Avoid over-packaged goods. Bring indirect pressure on the manufacturers by rejecting such products.

Take Stewardship: Look ahead using the wisdom of past experience and knowledge of current developments to explore innovative ways of ensuring the well-being of the earth. Let us do what we can, how we can, where we can. It can make a difference. Remember—There is no Planet B!

–Mamata