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

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd
Kancha Ilaiah ShepherdJun 14, 2019 | 16:15

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

The 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.

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 changes to that policy, the draft has several other problems.


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 and the 1986 policy of 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.

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.

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.

No, he's not inferior: We must teach our children that work that involves physical labour is not low or polluting. (Photo: Reuters)

The male population of India is also averse to household tasks like cleaning and washing. If India has to become a clean nation, all male children should be taught in schools that there is no gender-based division of labour. Every work has to be done by everybody, irrespective of gender. Unless such things are taught in schools, children simply do not understand the value of physical work.

All agricultural tasks are seen as unworthy, so only illiterate people should do them. The educated must not do agriculture.

This value system has to be change from schools itself, by teaching dignity of labour.

Last updated: June 14, 2019 | 18:24
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