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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Explained: Why Tamil Nadu’s DMK govt is opposed to National Education Policy

Chief Minister M K Stalin has said the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 will not be implemented in Tamil Nadu. Why is the DMK government opposed to NEP, and is it possible for the state to formulate its own education policy?

Written by Arun Janardhanan , Edited by Explained Desk | Chennai |
Updated: November 6, 2021 6:55:14 pm
The 'Illam Thedi Kalvi Scheme' was inaugurated by Chief Minister M K Stalin at the Marakanam block in Villupuram district. Stalin had a look at how the lessons were taught and interacted with students. (Twitter/@CMOTamilnadu)

While launching Illam Thedi Kalvi or ‘Education at the Doorstep’ programme last week, which is aimed at compensating loss of education among children during the pandemic, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin said the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 would not be implemented in Tamil Nadu. He said an expert committee would be formed soon to prepare a new education policy of the state.

Why is Tamil Nadu opposed to NEP?

If it was the three-language policy that made the former AIADMK government oppose NEP, the DMK has had a more hardened stance against the policy recommended by the Centre since the beginning.

While in the Opposition, the argument of Stalin, the then opposition leader, was that NEP being recommended by the Centre was “for elites” and that the education “will be confined and limited to a few sections”. Besides the opposition to three-language policy, Stalin as an opposition leader also questioned the prominence given to Sanskrit over and above Tamil and other languages. He had then demanded the state to adopt a resolution against NEP “for being a policy against social justice, federalism, pluralism and equality”.

After coming to power, the DMK government reiterated its stance against NEP. Last May, the state ministry of higher education decided not to attend a virtual meeting called by the Union Education Ministry to discuss the NEP, 2020. State higher education minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi made it a point to say that it was a conscious decision, saying they chose not to participate in it as the union education ministry did not respond to communications sent by Tamil Nadu on NEP.

Last week, Stalin again asserted that the state will not implement NEP.

DMK’s major grounds of opposition

P Wilson, a DMK Rajya Sabha MP and a prominent face in the party’s legal wing, said the Centre’s efforts to impose a common education policy on the entire country was nothing but a “fraud on the Constitution”.

The primary issue we have against NEP is that it intrudes into a crucial domain of the state – education, Wilson said.

Wilson said the NEP draft also deprives the oppressed and downtrodden sections of society besides being against the concept of constitutional federalism. “People who framed it had neither a long vision nor an elementary understanding about social justice. Entire policy is so detrimental to the progresses we gained over the decades, pushing our system back to a Stone Age with its problematic features that actually revives casteist jobs, essentially encouraging a carpenter’s son to become a carpenter. While coming out with such a policy that cancels all progress and developments we gained in education, they also aim to keep the state a mere implementing authority, a mute spectator. It is also an RSS plan you see, who are using this for a backdoor entry, essentially to erase the mother tongue, cultural diversities and diversity to make One India,” Wilson said.

The MP also said the Centre should not think about implementing a single policy in entire India. “What we are asking you is to focus on your state… You concentrate in the states where you ruled to improve the literacy rate… Why do you want to dominate us, dictate a policy to states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu with higher literacy rates and developments? Don’t you know that such a system will erase the importance of culture, language, linguistics and traditional diversities. The ‘union of state’ concept itself is going to be destroyed when you impose one policy, one food, one language for the entire country,” said Wilson. “Leave it to the domain of the state. Do not waste your time and energy… Do anything to uplift India, bring more industries and jobs instead of dictating terms on what to learn and what to speak.”

Is it possible for Tamil Nadu to not implement NEP and formulate its own education policy?

The very word ‘policy’ in the National Education Policy, 2020 indicates that it is only a recommendation, not binding on anything or anyone. Secondly, education is in the concurrent list, not in the union list.

K Chandru, a retired judge of the Madras High Court, said if you have an atomic policy or income tax policy, they come under the union list. “So the state can have a policy. Even otherwise, Kerala has a successful example to cite, in which an alternative planning policy was introduced when K N Raj of the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) was the economic advisor to the state. When it comes to a national policy, when Rajiv Gandhi brought in the second national education policy in 1986, many parties had opposed it. Like the agriculture policy, even after the law was passed by Parliament, a number of legislatures passed resolutions against it. When it is not binding, you can have your own,” he said.

The first Kothari Commission recommended that the Centre should not get involved in primary education. “Still, the Centre had brought in central boards for secondary education explaining that it was only for union territories for the children of central government employees. That was an example of how it was being sneaked into the system. Initially, Tamil Nadu had only a few such schools. But eventually, many more private schools started getting affiliations with CBSE. The summary is that when you start something and there is finance and other advantages attached to it, naturally it will be followed by many in spite of a resistance or propagandas,” Chandru said, citing yet another example from Andhra, where the Chief Minister himself announced that all their state board schools get affiliated to CBSE as he believes the Board iis needed for all-India training programmes.

Chandru believes that there are valid reasons to suspect NEP as it was recommended by the BJP with an active invisible role of the RSS. “It is about the undercurrents… about the stake and powers assumed by the Centre in deciding the dominance of a language in education, medium of instruction, the exam contents, the history of India – everything they did was in conflict only. This is exactly why the Kothari Commission said that the union government should not intervene in primary education. But the centre is already in every field of education,” he said.

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