“Every major change in the education structure needs to be understood as being intimately connected to a shift in power.”

    • Stuart Hall

Ages ago, Hall rightly thought of education as a pursuit of politics ‘by other means’. Today when the Indian government has decided to eliminate certain chapters from school books, we need to see how this step is not as innocent as the government claims. Under the garb of reduction of syllabus due to time crunch, they have deleted only specific chapters which could create a space for students to question them. Pandemic compulsions hence stand as a fallacious excuse when the intention of the political regime is much more than that.

In this context, Gramsci’s concept of “hegemony” is useful. He argues that the ruling group exercises power over society through non- coercive aspects. What are these non – coercive aspects? The answer to this can be found in Louis Althusser’s “ideological state”. For him the state has two key components of power ; repressive and ideological state apparatuses. The former consists of military, police and others who exercise coercion. While the latter works ideologically through education, communication, law, culture etc.

The field of education hence is one of the mainstay of exercising power. When the state uses excessive ‘power over’ citizens, the citizen’s ‘power to’(Arendt) engage in critique of the government is reduced. Deletion of chapters shall not only deprive students of crucial knowledge but this also shows how the remaining knowledge they will receive will already be a function of power relations. Foucault rightly conceptualized power as ‘capillary’ , where power doesn’t arise from one particular source but flows throughout the system. Power is a technique and does not resides rigidly in institutions in a fixed manner.

Moreover, the new syllabus echoes right-wing hyper nationalism as it does not engage with questions of diversity ,caste, gender and religion which are important to develop an understanding for social justice. This is symptomatic of an ailing democracy. Democracy becomes a misnomer if one locates it only in electoral politics. True democracy can be installed only when the knowledge system is democratised. These are not chapters, but histories of the marginalised which the government does not want the young to read hence severely limiting their world view.

As the government moves to rule out chapters on “ citizenship”, “secularism” and “federalism” , they not only attack the curriculum but these principles themselves which are very much required for a better society. Reading about democratic rights and social justice to develop a basic understanding is important in order to fight for it. Dr. BR Ambedkar’s clarion call to “Educate, Agitate, Organise.” needs to be revisited to reclaim our rights.

The ruling regime is using the syllabus as a tool to root out critical concepts which gave scope for debate and discussion. If we reimagine our schools now, they look like fortresses with high walls. The walls of syllabi will stop any exchange of free- flowing ideas . Ideas hitherto connected classrooms to the world outside. It marked a fluidity, porous borders where new concepts could be absorbed. But when students won’t be able to read and explore the meaning of secularism and democracy, the idea of education will be reduced to a product and not a process. Education is a right which each of us have but the government is trying to take it’s ‘ownership’ by controlling and dictating rules for it as per to their political propaganda. It is trying to own the minds of young children by disengaging them from the very purpose of education. Their attempt to rule out spaces for questions is a red alarm for us to resist such attempts to restore democracy.

Damni Kain, Currently pursuing Masters in Political Science from Delhi University, India.


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