Dr John Mohan Razu
Schools are considered as temples of knowledge. Learners go to schools to acquire knowledge and academic skills. Teachers are like potters, who make pots, plates and bowels out of clay. Likewise, teachers are supposed to mould the learners with knowledge that would enable to know about themselves and the world around them. The learners are sent to schools to equip various subjects so that they would get comprehensive ideas of disciplines. The future of any society or a country depends not on how many literates (3rs—reading, riting, and rithmatics); education is not just dumping knowledge, but offering skills, critical and creative know-hows.
Indian schools and the system of education are turning to be the sites of ‘myopic’ ‘regressive’ and ‘irrational’. The system of education at the primary and secondary levels shows a number of discrepancies in its curricula and pedagogies. What happened in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar recently is the testimony of what has been said. Uttar Pradesh is known for communal politics of the worst kind, Dalits’ atrocities, and women oppression, minority bashing, is once again in the limelight proving its regressive mind-set. As usual the police have registered a case under IPC section and the Juvenile Justice Act, and a state government inquiry has been initiated.
With all these measures, the teacher continues to make statements and not in custody. How come he is scot-free, not behind bars? We need to bring back to our memory that a principal in a J&K school, where a government higher secondary a principal in Bani of Kathua district was arrested for severely beating 10 class student because he wrote on a black board ‘Jai Shri Ram’, whereas in another case, everyone wonders, how come the teacher is still moving free? Two yardsticks and two ways of apply the rules and policies in government-run schools.
These incidents are not sheer abstract academic concerns, but real, and are happening across the country. Discrimination in school is and can be a lived reality, and certainly affects the mental and physical well-being of students. These experiences have its ramifying effects as they grow to adulthood. Schools have become the hubs of discrimination. It is a matter of deep concern for the parents and others that if the young minds grow up in such environment and atmosphere, what would be their thought process and behavioral patterns? Caste, racial and ethnic prejudices even in elite schools and institutions like IITs prevail. We need to bring to the fore teacher-offers like the one in Muzaffarnagar is as good start and better example to tackling such toxicity.
Since education falls under the lists of state and centre we come across lots of gaps and holes and also political interference that permeate into syllabi, curricula, and pedagogy. In Karnataka the previous government in its revision of school text books important lessons in history and science. Educationalists across the spectrum and civil society raised hue and cry when those responsible for curriculum revision removed Charles Darwin who is primarily known as the architect of the theory of evolution and d his analysis of the plants and animals he gathered led him to question how species form and change over time.
Darwin’s theory is the basic for evolutionary biology and philosophy of science. Isaac Newton, physicist and mathematicians, Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein and many others who invented the basic theories and laws in their own respective disciplines. They are renowned scientists who broke new theoretical grounds in scientific areas. Any country or society to progress and grow should embrace scientific temper. The founders of India believed in scientific temper, reason, and explorations. Those leaders were clear in their governance and vision for India and thus refrained from mixing science with politics. Their commitment to space science has resulted in the emergence of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
Over decades the space scientists’ and researchers’ persistent work have culminated India sending its spaceship (Chandrayaan-3) recently to the moon. PM Modi named the lunar landmark where Chandrayaan-3 touched down as “Shiv shakti”, which seemed to be his prerogative. ISRO chairman S. Somanath, during his visit after the successful landing of the Chandrayaan-3rece a visit to the Sree Pournamkava temple at Venganoor near Kerala’s Vizhinjam, while trying to avoid controversy did mention about his own faith in science and spirituality as being distinct and independent each other.
Adding further, “There is no need to mix science and spirituality. I come here since this temple gives me spiritual strength for all the work I do. I am religious man, and have been a regular visitor to this temple since my childhood. It has nothing do with Chandrayaan. This is my personal space.” Thus far what he said was logical and candid. He continued by describing that both “Shiv shakti” and “Tirang point”, where Chandrayaan-2 crashed as “Indian-sounding names”, the ISRO chairman said, “The PM talked about the concept of male and female energies. The contribution of the women of ISRO, and the need to create a type of synergy in the organization, is reflected in the choice of name … There is nothing wrong with that. There is also a lunar point known as ‘Sarabhai crater’.
PM Modi choosing of the names does not represent India, which is multi-religious. As usual he this time tried to satisfy his constituency christening those spots with such names. Prior to India, former USSR and United States have sent humans and they landed on the moon. They did not name the spot where they landed. Moon, sun and other planets belongs to the entire humanity. It is absurd to polarize moon with ideological and faith persuasions. Religion and science should never be mixed for political gains and ends. India will grow only when there are increased levels of scientific temperament prevailing and total autonomy given in the curricula and syllabi.
If students and teachers start chanting and writing on the black boards in schools: ‘Jai Shree Ram’ one can understand the indoctrination of a religious ideology amongst the students and the teachers, and how far it has corroded their mind-sets. The future of India depends on imparting and promoting scientific temperament. Let us not meddle with it. Science is always objective, progressive, and far-reaching.