The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) recently declared that students are to be graded on the basis of their display of “patriotism”.
The notice reads: “Students should be provided opportunities to get professionally trained in the areas of their interest. Indigenous sports, yoga and NCC must be encouraged in the schools to create a sense of physical fitness, discipline, sportsmanship, patriotism, self-sacrifice and health care.” This announcement comes close on the heels of the Supreme Court making it mandatory that the National Anthem be played in theatres.
We seem to be living in an era where we have to continually prove our patriotic credentials, whether in public or private spaces. What’s disturbing though is that in the case of education, “patriotism” seems to be serving as a guise for the saffronisation of educational institutions whereby marginalised narratives are erased and dissident voices are being suppressed. Here are some instances:
Mixing Patriotism and Education = Bad idea
Currently, a whopping 80 million children are still out of school. As more and more private schools crop up charging exorbitant fees, our government expenditure on education remains among the lowest in the world at 4.3%, making education an impossible dream for the poor. However, recent events show the need to get our priorities back on track because no amount of chest-thumping rhetoric, introduced through textbooks or yoga, will alter the fact that our education system is in desperate need of fixing.
As for patriotism itself, it is a nebulous concept. On the one hand, it can simply mean the love of one’s homeland and its people, and on the other, looking at the world through a binary logic of “us” versus “them”. The second idea, instead of emphasising our shared humanity, is based on creating a fear of “the other”. It involves emphasising uniformity of thought wherein any voice of dissent is labelled as ‘unpatriotic’.
Enforcing this notion in educational institutions would amount to nothing more than indoctrination of the youth, and it will further shrink the space for dissent. After all, education, as a gateway to intellectual freedom and creative autonomy, is a basic human right, and its function, cannot be reduced to the creation of generations of unquestioning “yes men” who toe the state-sanctioned line at all times.The sooner we realise this, the sooner we can embark on the very real patriotic endeavour, that of not only fixing the flaws in our education system but making education a right that is accessible to all.