ucanews.com reporter, New DelhiUpdated: August 01, 2019 08:20 AM GMT
Father Joseph Manipadam greets Indian government Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank in New Delhi on July 25, when he led a six-member Indian Catholic Church delegation to present its response to the government’s draft education policy. (Photo supplied)
Catholic bishops have proposed a series of changes in a draft education policy prepared by the Indian government, criticizing its silence on the rights and contributions of Christians.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), drafted the National Education Policy (NEP 2019) in its attempt to revise and modernize the country’s education system and invited public responses to it.
The Indian bishops’ Office for Education submitted a 28-page proposal on July 25, when a six-member delegation met with Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank at his office in New Delhi. Education comes under Nishank’s portfolio.
Father Joseph Manipadam, secretary of the bishops’ education office, told ucanews.com the draft policy failed to address basic issues of education such as lack of teachers and lack of basic facilities such as drinking water, basic hygiene and clean toilets.
“The policy also should address the high dropout levels, check the commercialization of education, corruption in midday meal schemes and several such issues to encourage children to attend class regularly,” he said.
Father Manipadam told ucanews.com that the Catholic Church alone ran some 30,000 educational institutions, including schools, universities, colleges and medical schools.
However, the draft policy failed to mention the contribution of the Christian community in education, he said.
Besides, “no stakeholders like students, teachers, education providers or organizations active in education were involved in drafting” the policy, he added. As a result, it was “more an administrative policy than academic policy.”
The policy also “overlooked and seemingly brushed aside” the constitutional rights of religious and linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions,” he said.
The priest claimed the policy tended to “centralize” education, “leaving the state with little say” and “it offends the federal nature of the nation.”
The policy had already been criticized for imposing Hindi on non-Hindi speaking students with some criticizing it for pushing the pro-Hindu ideology of one religion and one language (Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan) for the whole of India. The outrage forced the government to amend the draft, making Hindi optional.
The Modi government has also been slated for tacitly supporting a hard-line Hindu agenda to make India a nation of Hindu hegemony, in which religious minorities and socially poor lower-caste and tribal people could become second-class citizens.
“Why is this draft silent on the removal of the caste system and other social evils?” asked Father Manipadam. “Why are centuries of Christian contributions to education once again ignored? What is the takeaway in this draft for the poor and the marginalized, the Tribals, Dalits and the differently-abled?”
His statement also questioned why the drafting team “did not consult with education providers from minority communities and private school trusts and teachers who are in touch with the ground realities in education.”
The last National Education Policy was released in 1986 and modified in 1992. This latest document is an attempt to update it along the lines of changes that have since occurred in India and around the world, a government spokesperson said.
The government set up a committee in June 2017 to prepare a draft policy, under the leadership of veteran educationalist Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan. The draft was submitted on May 31 and published on a website in 18 recognized languages of India.
July 31 was set as the last day to submit responses.