Education is an obvious factor in the matter of good governance. Although education is expected to be free from politics, yet many times the educational policies followed by a government may be influenced by politics. Since historic times there has been a tendency to politicize the education system. In fact, we have witnessed on various occasions that largely the education system was used to train young minds to behave according to the aspirations of the ruling class. Political Interference in higher education has been a case of worry because of continuously low ranking of Indian academic institutions. In India, politics have a deep impact on the working of the people, society, and development. There have been various causes behind such political aspirations. The purpose of this write-up is to criticize the forays that politics makes into the field of education. If I had to list a few of those aspects of education that politics can directly affect, then these would be it:
Curriculum and Textbook content
There have been many instances where the government in power interfered with school textbooks in order to propagate the political vision of the party in reign. The real political interference in education has been in textbooks, school culture, and policies related to language. For example, vilification of Tipu Sultan and spreading a dose of ancient texts in science are all political choices. Textbooks have become weapons of surreptitious politics, given their importance over actual education. Political battles in school culture have been fought through rituals—choices on the celebration of events, of festivals, Choice of languages taught in school, of festivals and assembly prayers, the variants of the language they spoke, for instance, Sanskritized Hindi over Hindustani. Many times a particular political ideology is popularized through the apolitical nature of the syllabus.
Equity in education
India, being a democratic country aims to establish equity in education but even after 60 years of Independence there are various disparities like rural-urban disparity, occupational disparity, gender disparity etc.
There is a lot of difference of opinions regarding the formulation of reservation policies in India. The policy of reservation has brought immense changes in the lives of the weaker sections.
In the recruitment of teachers in educational institutions, the political influences cannot be ignored. Sometimes the right candidate may be ignored due to political pressure and favoritism while appointment for a teacher in an educational institution. This kind of political interruption in the selection of teachers has a negative impact on the academic administration of an educational institution. This kind of political nepotism should be discarded for ensuring quality education in the country.
Lack of financial allocation for Education sector
The political will of a particular party plays a significant role while preparing a budget. Budget is an important aspect in the functioning of the educational institutions. Pressure groups, bureaucrats and other advocacy groups play the role in allocating funds in each developmental sector of the country. But there is a lack of equality in the allocation of funds in the education sector in which political party may have a role to play. It is a big concern in the education system in India as a whole.
Instances where politics is affecting Education
- In India, teachers are often used for services that have nothing to do with Academia. Sometimes we find them manning election booths or collating data for the census.
- Today’s teaching is more about influencing rather than concentrating on teaching. Teachers have become the means to impart government propaganda to students.
- Political discussions, political seminars, associations inside the campus induce lawlessness.
- Education institutes have become advertisers for a certain brand of politics within the premises and influence students.
- Erstwhile HRD minister Smriti Irani told Parliament that IITs have been asked to teach Sanskrit to facilitate the study of science and technology as reflected in its literature.
- NCERT books ostracized a chapter on Gautam Buddha replacing it with a chapter on Nehru’s Discovery of India.
These are just few examples of politics influencing education many more of them are there well to us.
What can be done?
The answer is quite obvious but implementation needs to be perfect- remove any type of political interventions over higher education decisions. A rational planning process must be planned that would review major project proposals before their implementation.
To improve the global rankings of our educational institutions we need to end the interference of politics at all levels. Greater autonomy should be provided to higher education in India. The key public agencies for higher education like NAAC (the National Assessment and Accreditation Council), or the UGC do not have scope for research capacity. Most important, Indian higher education cannot continue to be a political puppet. India needs to come up with rational higher educational planning and decision making.