ThinkEdu Conclave 2019: Heavy focus on the nexus between politics and education

Anand JC

Chennai, Feb 15: The idea of giving freedom to State governments to decide their own education policies, reserving seats for Parliamentarians below 30 years of age, targeting Urban Naxals were discussed at the New Indian Express’ ThinkEdu Conclave 2019 at the ITC Grand Chola here yesterday.

Many writers, experts and government representatives talked on how education can be improved and and the influence of the current political scenario on it. 

The day started with a talk on what the education policy of India needs. The panel was chaired by Anil Swarup, Former Secretary,  the Government of India. “It is time we got rid of meaningless discussions and formulated an action plan directly targeting the issues that plague our education system,” he said.

Padma Sarangapani, Chairperson, Centre for Education Innovation and Action Research, TISS said that in a stratified society like ours we have deep rooted inequalities. “We need to address these issues in our education policies. We all believe in the myth of born teachers, but we need to train them to get the desired results.”

J Krishna Kishore, CEO, AP Economic Development Board addressed the need to include the happiness quotient in our education system. “We can follow Finland’s education system. Happiness after all has a direct linkage with productivity.”

Other panelists included R Subrahmanyam, Higher Education Secretary, the Government of India, Anil D Sahasrabudhe, Chairperson, All India Council for Technical Education, Dr S Vaidhyasubramaniam, VC, SASTRA Deemed-to-be University.

The discussion on the idea of Urban Naxals and secularism became controversial. Vivek Agnihotri, an openly pro-BJP filmmaker, talked about Hinduism and the idea of secularism. “Without Indianisation, the original form of Islam or Christianity will not be able to serve the secular purpose of the country,” he said. The debate got heated when actress Khushbu Sundar, who is also Congress’ spokesperson, said that she is not ashamed of her real name Nakhat Khan. “To quote Shah Rukh Khan, my name is Khan but I am not a terrorist.”

Rakesh Sinha, Member of Parliament and BJP member said that cow worshippers are the most liberal people. “Beef eaters, on the other hand, are the ones who display the highest level of intolerance,” he added.

Columnist Shankar Aiyar chaired a talk on schools and nationalism. The other panelists included Kiran Bedi, Governor of Puducherry. “I wonder which school Lord Krishna, Gautama Buddha and APJ Abdul Kalam went to. We need to have value-based education. We need to encourage values like volunteerism and gratitude to improve the country.”

Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, National Vice-President, BJP said that the parents need to undergo training as well. “We think parenting is easy. Modern parents need to have a modern outlook. Our education system has not managed to give our students proper knowledge about their purpose in life.

Feroze Varun Gandhi, Member of Parliament talked on what the modern Parliament members can do to address the general issues plaguing the country rather than focusing on political tussles. Some of the issues addressed were poverty, hunger and climate change.

“In my constituency, we worked on something known as the Roti Bank scheme. In this, every household in my constituency gives one-two rotis and sabzi. Eventually we can feed everyone,” he said.

Member of Parliament Dr. Shashi Tharoor discussed how education can uplift the underprivileged and the rural masses. He addressed the lack of youth in the Indian Parliament and how reservation for people under the age of 30 can help solve the problem. “We have the highest population of people under the age of 35 in the world. It is even more shocking that we have the highest number of illiterate adults in the world, 287 million people,” he added.

We have spent `3,000 Cr on a statue in Gujarat. How many IITs and IIMs could that have funded? It only takes `100 Cr to run an IIT or an IIM. I mean, let’s be serious. This government’s priorities are misplaced”

He addressed the need to remove governmental restrictions, increasing the capacity in educational institutes to improve the employment prospects of the working age population.

Smriti Irani, Textiles Minister of India and Farooq Abdullah, Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, who participated in the final session, focused on how the current educational system of India had become divisive.

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