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Imbibing moral values in classroom

There has been much discussion in the newspaper columns on the positives and negatives of the proposed change in under-graduate degree programme from three years to four years. It started with those backing the change claiming that the programme would be more internationally acceptable. Those opposing the proposition said that not much attention has been paid (read consultation) while deciding the course content.
 
Delhi University vice-chancellor has gone on record that never before in the history of the hoary university such humongous consultation has taken place as has been done by him involving all the stakeholders. There must be truth in what he is stating as the High Court too has refused to intervene in the process greatly
disheartening the status-quoits.

The protest has now turned comical with a gentleman called Ram Vilas Paswan, an opportunist politician par excellence, deciding to take up the cudgels on behalf of the protestors. There was also an inane report in a newspaper, which has started to look westward for editorial guidance, which said that the cost of doing that extra year of degree could make outstation students poorer by Rs 1.16 lakh. The university has a readymade answer for this – you could always make an exit after three years and come back any time during a span of 10 years to earn the fourth year. For a parent whose children are on the threshold of entering the university does the words consultation, Ram Vilas Pawan and for that matter a convoluted cost calculation hold any meaning? Personally for me what is of concern is the way our youth is evolving – angry, perverse and completely detached from our social values and history. It horrifies me that nearly 70 per cent schools in the private sector in the national Capital do not provide for education in humanities at +2 level.
 
Chairman of Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) Vineet Joshi has been grabbing headlines for introducing subjects of value education like Human Righs, Gender Sensitivity and Theatre. However, Joshi have you identified the schools where these courses would be taken up as majority of them even do not have humanities as an offered stream to the students?
 
The schools have preferred to keep the humanities at bay because in their convoluted cost calculation they break even or go into profit by just running the courses in commerce and science streams. Such materialistic approach to education somewhat defines why has anger and perversity taken our youth into its grip. I would also add that the approach which we have followed all these years to teach humanities courses at Delhi University has only added to the ignorance of the students regarding our history, culture and polity.
 
Amidst the ideological arm wrestling over deciding course content has anybody really cared to find out if those passing out of the schools and colleges have really imbibed anything about our history and polity? A few years back while interacting with a group of interns from journalism programme from different colleges of Delhi I had tried explaining to them the impact which carefully chosen words make. To impress on them I recalled a conversation between Field Marshal Ayub Khan and Lal Bahadur Shastri at Tashkent. I soon realised I was talking to blank faces.
 
Forget Ayub, they even did not know who Shastri was. The closest they could get to identify the second prime minister of India was, ‘he was a freedom fighter.’ They all have been to ‘good’ schools and colleges. But worse was still to come. Perturbed, I did a check on some of the newly recruited trainees with us. I was in for a bigger shock. When asked who Rajendra Prasad was, the closest answer they could give was that he was principal of Ramjas College.
 
In this context I am glad that despite the demerits which the ideological opponents of the four-year-degree course may be publicising, Delhi University is taking the first concrete step towards bringing value education to the classrooms. Howsoever we may debate on the television or in the newspaper columns, values can be best imbibed inside a classroom, which the foundation course, compulsory for all the students of the course, whichever stream they may belong to, proposes to do. The foundation course has a paper on Indian History and Culture with a sub-theme on Mahatma Gandhi. It proposes to present Gandhi as an inspiration for the young generation. Can there be a more agreeable proposition than making reading of Gandhi’s My Experiments with Truth compulsory for the students. To my understanding knowing Gandhi would soothe frayed nerves. I would like to be explained if I am wrong.
 
Similarly there is a paper on ‘Social Inequality and Gender’. This paper attempts to inculcate a feeling of respect towards women talking about their contributions and suffering, their struggles and success and so on. Faced with biggest ever challenges regarding the safety of women, would teaching of this paper not prepare young minds to counter perversity which has entered our society using every possible mean including mobile pornography.
 
The paper on ‘Cultural Forms and Cultural Expressions’ if implemented in the true spirit of its content would bring a student close to the culture of Delhi of the yore, which was definitely not about rape and crime. It ordains doing projects on topics like ‘Concept of Haat Bazar’ in historical times linking it to Dilli Haat, compare and contrast Chandni Chowk with Rajpath and how did medieval and modern cities address the issue of water or transport and many more.

I did not wish to be a votary for the change but in my attempt to figure out the cause for demanding status quo, I must confess I have become an admirer at least of the foundation courses.
 
Sidharth Mishra is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post.
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