Published: 29th July 2019
No public in public meetings: Activists, academics say discussions on NEP held in 'hush-hush' manner
The HRD ministry had delegated various State authorities to conduct workshops on the NEP and submit reports by July 31
The draft National Education Policy was released just a day after the BJP returned to power at the Centre. In Tamil Nadu, public consultation meetings on the draft was anything but public. They were held in a ‘hush-hush’ manner, leaving no space for dissent, claimed academicians and politicians. From the very beginning, the draft has sparked controversies by proposing a three language ‘formula’ and closure of sub-optimal government schools.
Film actors and other celebrities took to public platforms, expressing their disappointment with the draft policy. On the other hand, even officials of the school education department were unaware of the consultations.
Why it’s important
Before any draft policy is presented in Parliament, public opinion on the same must be formally recorded. In this case, The HRD ministry had delegated various State authorities to conduct workshops on the NEP and submit reports by July 31.
In Tamil Nadu, it was Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV) in Chennai and the State Council for Education Research and Training (SCERT) that conducted the consultations. But, a large number of stakeholders were unaware of the meetings.
In the consultation held by KV in Chennai, only about a dozen people participated. Members from the Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (TPDK) stormed into the meeting, demanding that the KV authorities collect feedback from them and other public outfits also. The meeting ended abruptly without collecting any feedback.
K Ramakrishnan of TPDK told Express that very few heard about the consultation as it was not publicised enough. “We learned that even the few participants of the meeting had been invited personally by the management. We were promised by KV that the meeting would be held again, it was not.”
Principal of the school M Manickaswamy told Express that the management had issued a statement to the Press Information Bureau and found no need to conduct the consultation again. “We have already submitted the feedback report based on suggestions from the public. Around 12-15 participants attended the meeting,” he said. The SCERT has conducted a few meetings at multiple locations in the State. However, most people were unaware of these meetings.
In Coimbatore, members from various groups including Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) gate-crashed a meeting held by the SCERT. “We were told that entry would be allowed only upon invitations and we heard about the meeting only when it was midway. They closed the meeting and we were not allowed to participate,” said V Eshwaran from the MDMK.
Chief Education Officer of Coimbatore R Murugan told Express that a ‘stake-holders’ meeting was conducted in the district on instructions from the SCERT. However, he refused to comment when Express asked if he had placed advertisements in newspapers and given the meeting publicity.
Similar incidents were recorded in both Tiruchy and Madurai. In Tiruchy, members political and social outfits tried to stop the event, urging the government to conduct the meeting again after giving larger publicity. It is unclear if meetings were held in other districts.
Three chief education officers and a few top officials of the School Education Department were unaware of any consultations held. “I think the SCERT conducted the meetings. We were unaware of it,” said a senior official. While an official from the SCERT told Express that only workshops were conducted, another argued that the consultations were held properly and that there was reason to conduct them again.
Teachers should register protests, urge volunteers
A one-day meeting on draft National Education Policy was conducted by Nagara Kalvi Mempaatu Kuzhu, a group of volunteers working on education, at Tindivanam. Retired professors A Marx, C Kochadai and P Sivakumar spoke at the meeting in which teachers from government and private schools, teacher training graduates and college students took part. A Marx, said, “The policy has an immediate effect on students, so it is very essential that we create a dialogue about it to increase awareness among parents and public.
Send condemnatory messages to govt: Udhayanidhi
In his first political statement after taking over as DMK youth wing secretary, Udhayanidhi Stalin urged the public and party cadre to send messages to the Union HRD Ministry, condemning the draft education policy. In a release on Sunday, he said even as the Centre was waging a war against Tamil by imposing Hindi, the State government was maintaining a silence. The DMK student wing secretary too had made a similar appeal.