Monday, December 6, 2010

Social Scientist issue on education in India

The current issue of Social Scientist (Sep-Dec 2010; vol. 38, no. 9-12) has some excellent articles on the current state and future of school and higher education in India. Together, these essays constitute a powerful critique of the recent and forthcoming education "reforms" in the country.

As Prabhat Patnaik argues in the Editorial: "education is being transformed into a commodity, like automobiles or washing machines, that will be produced by capitalists for profit and bought by those who can afford it."

If these analyses (see Contents below) are accurate - the arguments are certainly cogent and forceful - then we as a society are headed for some very bad times indeed.

On the subject of language, Anil Sadgopal (whom we've met before in this blog), in his thorough-going critique of the Right to Education Act (RTE), considers "The question of mother-tongue and multi-linguality":

"The knee-jerk policy response assumes that learning of 'good' English is best achieved through English medium schools, starting from nursery or kindergarten stage upwards to higher education.... This policy discourse also ignores the global research that reinforces the powerful pedagogic role played by the mother tongue as part of the multi-linguality (this may include English too) of the majority of the children in plural societies like ours in acquiring subject knowledge as well as learning languages other than one's mother tongue....

"The consequence of this misconception and lack of a sound policy is the widespread phenomenon of a rapid attrition of the capacity to articulate one's thoughts or ideas. The vast majority of the Indian children grow up in the prevailing multi-layered school system without acquiring the capacity to learn and articulate in either the state language or English and, in the process, losing the capacity to do so in one's mother tongue as well."

As I've blogged earlier, RTE includes the following opt-out: "medium of instructions [sic!] shall, as far as practicable, be in child's mother tongue".


1. Editorial Prabhat Patnaik
2. "Towards Democratization of Education in India" Amiya Kumar Bagchi
3. "Right to Education vs. Right to Education Act" Anil Sadgopal
4. "Education and the Politics of Capital" Ravi Kumar
5. "Policy Crisis in Higher Education: Reform or Deform?" B G Tilak
6. "UPA's Agenda of Academic 'Reforms'" Vijender Sharma
7. "Advantage In-bound Trade in Higher Education, or Advantage Human Capital in Out-bound Trade" Binod Khadria
8. "Governance of Indian Higher Education: An Alternate Proposal" Dinesh Abrol
9. "Commentary: Science Education" S. Chatterjee
10. "Obituary: Tapas Majumdar" Prabhat Patnaik