As a Matter of Policy

You can get education out of a politician but can you take a politician out of education? Our panel didn’t seem to think so, found Tushar Kaushik

Published: 15th February 2016 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th February 2016 11:27 PM   |  A+A-

Can there ever be a time in India when politicians have no say in how education policy is shaped and it is left entirely to academics? Possibly never, said a group of smart, savvy, well educated politicians at the opening session of the ThinkEdu Conclave. Politicians may always have a say in the way education policy is made in India, but without due diligence, it could lead to another Rohit Vemula incident. This was the general consensus among four politicians belonging to four different parties. The topic of discussion for the panel was Should politicians have a say in formulating education policy? Author and journalist Shankkar Aiyar, the chair for the panel, asked, “What then should be the exact role of government in this regard?”

Kavitha Kalvakuntla, MP from Telangana, went for the jugular — stating that she was all for non-interference of politicians in the functioning of institutions, “All of you have seen what happened in the University of Hyderabad. There was constant friction between two student groups, and when the political intervention started, then things started going wrong,” she said, however adding that it was still necessary to have politicians involved in the policy process, “We understand what the people need, and I can put forth people’s views and get something done about it, at least that’s how I feel being a first-time MP.”

Policya.jpgShe also brought up the fact that scores of policies had been formulated without making any significant difference, the low funds that the Centre sanctions for education, and the lack of a transparent system in selecting institution heads. Praniti Shinde, a Congress MLA from Solapur, struck the same chord as she said that in spite of the apprehension, politicians were integral to the policy-making process, with inputs from other sections of people, “The country’s future is in the hands of the students, and not so much the politicians.”

P Rajeev, a former CPI(M) MP from Kerala, while reiterating the importance of politics, said that it came with strings attached, “Nobody can isolate education from politics. However, politicians should be more vigilant to ensure equity and access to education. The failure to do this has been reflected in the suicide of Rohit Vemula.”

BJP MP Poonam Mahajan talked of policy-making being an inclusive process, and justified politicians’ involvement by calling them a reflection of the people. she, however, insisted that a lot needed to be changed with respect to the education system, and pushed for ‘Indianisation’ of the system. “In some way, we have to find a midway, so that we can get Indian culture, ethos and history into the education system.”

Party Lines

How often do politicians from four different parties actually agree on a contentious issue? Not very often. So when the speakers managed a rare consensus, a rare event, it led Shankkar Aiyar to remark, “I wonder why Parliament doesn’t function like this.”The witty Poonam Mahajan quipped right back at him, “It’s because the other Party isn’t here.”

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