The status of Christianity as a minority religion in India has not undermined its output in the society. Its presence is known mostly through its mighty services and contributions to the Indian society. It has always been the main instrument in building up the Indian Nation for centuries in the fields of education, social services, health care, economy etc.
Christians have been pioneers in education since pre Independence period, and now can they boast of serving through 25,000+ schools, colleges and universities even in the remotest parts of India, imparting quality education to all people irrespective of caste, creed or religion, thus contributing to the progress and development of the nation in the most altruistic manner.
This Christian education, based on the Gospel values of love, justice, equality, human dignity, compassion, truth etc. was instrumental in spreading universal brotherhood and sisterhood in the Indian society. The educational pattern of Christian Institutions has opened new avenues, allowing all sections of the population, especially the underprivileged, the downtrodden and the socially oppressed like Dalits, Tribals, and women, to have the best access to education. It cannot be denied that the Christian education has raised the economic standards and improved the social status and prestige of the underprivileged in the society. Through a new system of education now, an entirely new system of thought and action has been brought about.
The proposed NEP 2020 is focused on the entire education system being brought under a central structure and leading towards the privatization and commercialization of education. The document contains much of a verbal diarrhoea and less of a clear-cut roadmap for future. Never in our history, has an education policy been so severely criticized by a majority of people for its corporate agenda. Instead of taking India forward to the next level of growth, the propagated policy will only push India backwards. It will rather shunt the growth as it is obvious in the policy.
NEP uses the word ‘minorities’ thrice but with almost non-existent detail. This is only a passing mention. The proactive and revolutionary interventions of minorities in education are neither recognized nor acknowledged. To make our country ‘a knowledge hub’, NEP has to recognize the contribution of all in the civil society, like the social reformers, the minorities, etc.
Art.30 of the Indian Constitution has given minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions. The NEP (8.7) says, ‘public and private schools will be assessed and accredited on the same criteria, benchmarks and processes…’ Will this blanket statement become the source of political interference in these institutions leading to infringement of the minority rights?
NEP advocates complete school complex that will affect the distributed primary and middle schools patronized by NGOs and minorities, and phase out even the tiny chance of poor children’s education. Introducing the common exams, three-language formula, vocational education from the primary level and the commercialization of education are some of the great dangers of the NEP.
NEP will affect the education of the socially disadvantaged groups and minimize the sovereignty of Higher Educational Institutions run by the minorities. Increasing role of corporate sectors in running the educational institutions will make education expensive and accessible only to the rich. Reservation, guaranteed by the Constitution will be severely undermined and the role of the minority Institutions will be seriously endangered.
By means of the ideals of Jesuit education, we have been imparting highly commendable quality education through our institutions. The ‘master-student’ relationship that Ignatius experienced in his spiritual journey with God propels us in our intimate accompaniment with our students. We feel proud that Jesuit education globally and nationally has become a brand name in secondary and higher education. Jesuit education does not value being silent and dumb when dangers penetrate and rupture the democratic fibre of our society. We learn to be critical and we teach our students to be critical in analysing any policy that comes as a half-baked and hazardous product.
In this context, I am convinced that the NEP 2020 needs to be revisited and a thorough debate ensues in clarifying the queries of the citizens. NEP has to be redrafted to safeguard the right to education of the marginalized people, the constitutional rights of minorities, reservation system to be continued to SC/ST and OBC, and creating more space for the federal system and the rights of the States. Let our communities actively get involved in the process of reading, understanding and analyzing this policy. What we have on hand is what we owe to our future generations. May the spirit of our Master Ignatius lead us into a relentless struggle to protect and promote the rights of the marginalized and the minorities!