Remember the FYUP debacle? Remember (as repeatedly written about on Kafila as elsewhere) that it was the latest in a long series of badly-conceived, mindlessly-borrowed and forcibly-implemented ‘educational reforms’ that practically crippled universities around the country? And remember a certain Rev. Valson Thampu, authoritarian, controversy-soaked Principal of St. Stephens College and eager soldier for the reforms? Well Thampu, now-retired, has thrown his weight against demonetisation these days in a set of articles on The Daily O. Now the thing is, almost everything Thampu finds objectionable about monetary reform, can be said about educational reform.
No, literally, every single thing.
So I simply took his post and replaced some key words, to produce a post about education. I know, I know, it’s not nice to do this, especially when you know, he speaketh the truth on demonetisation and all. But it is too wonderful an opportunity to pass up, to not use Thampu’s own eloquent words to say, yet again, what he has steadfastly refused to listen to in the past. Besides, as I say above, this is the laziest blog post I have ever had to write – that’s always an incentive.
His article in the original can be read here.
POLITICS HIGHER EDUCATION | 5-minute 7-minute read | 22-12-2016 23-12-2006 VALSON THAMPU SUNALINI KUMAR
By now we know. Or, ought to know. Forty
days years is not a short period of time. What, then, is this demonetisation educational reform about?
The most significant thing about the way
demonetisation educational reform has been played out so far is its choppy variableness in processes. Every day a new regulation. On many days, several course corrections.
Consider an illustration to see this in perspective.
Demonetisation FYUP, let us say, is like a mission to land Indian astronauts on Moon. Imagine such an expedition being launched without attention to the processes involved, heedless to what it entails, the needs and emergencies that could arise, the time the mission would take, and the fuel required for completing the journey.
Imagine, the mission control, sitting in some hallowed station, effecting hourly improvisations to the astronauts to turn this way and that, now to swerve to the left, then to the right and then to shoot off to a different orbit altogether. Imagine, telling the astronauts, who had prepared for a two-weeks long flight, that there has been a slight miscalculation and that they would be floating in ether, in fact, for six months.
Imagine telling them that the mission control, in faithful obedience to peremptory orders from the centre for cosmic control, has now decided to direct the flight not to Moon but to Mars. What is not evident — and so goes unnoticed — is that behind these frenetic changes and flip-flops there is something steadfastly constant. The key to the visible flux and regulatory gymnastics is this constant.
There can be no flip-flop, except in among raving lunatics, without a fixed, hidden agenda. The daily course corrections, the think, the re-think and the de-think, all point to one thing.
Demonetisation Education reform is a project devised with only one point of reference, a single purpose, which is different from what is sold to the public.
And that purpose is to maximise the advantage of the powers that be. This is seen as such by the political class on both sides of the divide. The political tug-of-war we have seen so far, in the wake of
demonetisation education reform, is a clear pointer to it. Modi Dinesh Singh is chillingly right in saying that when the opposition parties accuse him of not preparing for this mother of all game-changers, all they are saying is that they were not given “time to prepare themselves” for what was coming. In the spur of the moment Modi Singh did not realise, perhaps, that he was not only exposing the opposition parties but also letting the cat out of his own bag. The luging, lurching series of regulations are consistent in one respect. They serve to protect the fortunes of the ruling dispensation and disadvantage the rivals. Why were the predictables unforeseen?
The mission to Moon can be either a stunning reach of our scientific progress. Or, a publicity stunt for oneself. In the latter case, it is understandable if details basic to the mission take a place second to spotlighting oneself. This short-term gain could be a long-term loss. Flukes, however, are common in human affairs. So, there is hope still.
We are still left with a few questions:
Is India, the emerging
economic intellectual/information super power, bankrupt in economists educators conversant with the basics of that discipline? Couldn’t the cash crunch syllabus/examination epic fail for example, have been foreseen and provided for?
Couldn’t the humungous inconveniences this entailed for the common
man student have been anticipated? Did no one know that much of rural India Delhi University is unbanked un-digitised? That ATMs syllabi and teaching would require to be re-calibrated to dispense with produce currencies results of altered specifications? Why were these obvious things slurred over papered over (This I changed purely because ‘slurred over’ is bad English)
There can only be one reason for all of these. They were marginal to the core purpose of
demonetisation higher education reform.
I may buy any argument, any extravagant canard, any smirking absurdity about
demonetisation FYUP. The one thing I will not, is that we have been led into this bog of demonetisation higher education reform to secure a better deal for the poor student.
There is another hypocrisy I cannot buy: the posturing of opposition parties (NOTE: in the case of FYUP and other reforms pushed by Dinesh Singh and Thampu, the opposition was the BJP) that they are fighting
demonetisation higher education wholly on behalf of the poor student. This is hillarious (hilarious has a single ‘l’ but I’m being pedantic)! Modi Singh/Sibal is are kicking us into cashless B.A (Honours)-less India only for the sake of the poor student, a large percentage of which whom (again, tut tut, bad English, Rev. Thampu) are illiterate poor and “cashless” internet-less. His detractors are pulling him back by his tail, again, only for the sake of the very same poor first-year student of India D.U who, the moment they hold a piece of plastic laptop in their hands, we are told, will get promoted, like in some fairy tales, into a world of empowered well-being.
This political puppetry is not meant to benefit the
poor student. If there is any political will to help or serve the poor student, there are far more meaningful, less traumatic, ways of pursuing that goal.
Why not start a few
schools more colleges and/or remedial classes for the poor children struggling students in rural India D.U? Why not a few more clinics and dispensaries labs and libraries in rural and tribal areas colleges so that infant mortality rates in rural area (passing rates and level of learning) do not have to embarrass us?
Why not provide
safe drinking water more teachers per student to villages colleges so that children students do not have to die like flies fail or struggle to keep up? Why not ensure protection for the rural and tribal teaching population of mostly women against rape and brutality unemployment insecurity and daily humiliations?
Why not a few
roads million more books? A little more electricity internet access (although in too many cases, electricity would be a good start)? A few more jobs (Requires you to stand with the teachers against the UGC, Principal Thampu)?
Before we offer them the Moon or the Mars (THE Mars?) on a platter or in a
digital wallet laptop, why not bring some of these basics within their reach (Couldn’t agree more)? Why don’t these issues figure in Parliament?
I would suggest a small change. Please fix cameras in
rural India the VC’s office and TV screens in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha staff rooms and class rooms. Let us reverse the flow. Rather than spreading cynicism chaos in the country by telecasting mindlessly disseminating the dysfunctions next bright idea of the supreme seat of our democracy university, let have the realities shenanigans of the country higher education establishment beamed into Parliament teaching spaces. This could have a sobering effect on our parties VCs and parliamentarians college principals. And make our lawmakers administrators think more relevantly. Nothing else will (Amen).