Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Yesterday I was a fly on the wall in one of the most bizzare live TV shows in recent times. Called Smriti ki Pariksha,the stage had jaunty panels with photographs of the prime minister wearing many hats (one hat and several decorated headdresses since accuracy is a value). Smriti Irani, the HRD minister, was late and on arrival evinced surprise that the show was for a two hour period. Apparently the organizer had only asked for half an hour of her time. Anyway, the show began with the anchors posing inconsequential queries regarding the ministerial visit to Amethi. The minister was at an advantage. Her years of training in media ensured that she called the shots, corrected assumptions, fielded questions, bowled googlies with her replies and left the anchors feeling compelled to defend the integrity of the show. At this stage, the anchors gripped their roving microphones, would not invite any of the assembled teachers for a discussion on politics and higher education and continued to aggravate the situation further The show morphed into a Jan Adalat. A student who spoke of SOL students no longer being allowed to attend regular college was told the minister would accompany him to the vice chancellor's office. The problems faced by SOL students have been compounded by semesterization, which has sealed off mobility for all SOL students ever since. Supporting her governments decisions as non-bhagua, the minister informed the nation at large the the president of the DUTA was from a left group and often came to the HRD seeking solutions to problems at the university. Ministers with affiliations to political parties are as difficult to persuade as members of the AAD who insist on referring to the DUTA leadership as DTF-led-DUTA. The DUTA President and yet another colleague did firmly communicate that every teacher. irrespective of affiliation. was opposed to the introduction of CBCS. Partisan politics has no place in the context of the grave academic disaster staring Delhi University and the rest of India in the face. The issues plaguing the university were not voiced. There was no opportunity to ask the minister that when the ground situation was the same as last year; why were unprecedented academic reforms being rushed in post haste, without discussion, debate or consultation with teachers. Meanwhile, the minister committed herself to a personal appearance to address the differential in fee structure for a visually handicapped student at a campus college. Oddly, complete silence surrounds the role imagined for teachers even at the level of school education. We were told of the online system where NCERT books could be downloaded from websites. These downloads apparently are to be soon available as as mobile apps. So in the near future, all the country's children under fourteen years of age will receive all their education via downloads on mobile phones. "What an idea Sirjee!!" Clearly, providing teachers to train and develop minds and imaginations is not a part of this scenario, wherein technology is the undisputed king. No lessons need to be learnt from the laptops uselessly stockpiling all over Delhi university colleges. Looking at how teaching vacancies are being filled at Delhi University; arbitrary appointments or none at all; it is not difficult to envisage that the university teacher will be entirely dispensable in the scheme as it unfolds. This would explain why the CBCS is being brought in unders the most peculiar and unfair circumstances. A good liberal education, a nation of thinking people, academic standards and rigor will be the only casualties.