Economist flags ‘lumpenisation’ of higher education in India


Eminent economist Prabhat Patnaik has flagged a “lumpenisation” of public higher education system in the country by the Union government and those who are close to it.

He was here on Wednesday to open a three-day seminar on education organised by the AKG Centre for Study and Research, Thiruvananthapuram, and the Keluettan Centre for Study and Research, Kozhikode, ahead of the International Congress on Kerala Studies to be held next year.

Mr. Patnaik pointed out that there had been an enormous amount of arbitrary interference in what the student was supposed to know and not to know. “One is these changes that are happening in textbooks. [Charles] Darwin’s theory does not figure, the Mughal empire does not figure. Poverty as a category in India does not figure. No discussion of Moulana Abul Kalam Azad, who played such an illustrious role in the freedom struggle,” he said.

At another level, Mr. Patnaik said, unknown characters, people who had little to do with academic life, were being made vice-chancellors or faculty members in universities. “In Delhi University, people who have been teaching in an ad-hoc level for years, people who are experienced, are being replaced with, it is said, those who are close to the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] and the BJP,” he pointed out.

Referring to the Centre’s new education policy, Mr. Patnaik alleged that it had been brought out without much reference to previous education policies. “This suggests that it is not just a development over the previous ones. It is something being dictated as a means of presenting before the people the attitude of the current hegemonic elements towards education. The current hegemony in Indian polity is exercised by a corporate-Hindutva alliance. It is also part of an international phenomenon, which is constituted by an alliance between neo-liberalism and neo-fascism,” he said.

The purpose of the current policy was to bolster the position of this alliance in polity and society. “Such an alliance would like to destroy any critical thought or creativity in society. Any creativity entails going beyond the given and its critique. It is in the interest of the neo-liberal-neo-fascist alliance that there is no critique of the given, to ensure that anyone who is critical of the society is suppressed, called anti-national etc.”

The ordinary people would be excluded from the ambit of education or academic activity. The common entrance exam for universities would lead to a commoditisation of the university entrance system. “If you have a common entrance exam, you will have coaching classes, for which you will have to pay money. Your final exam results are not enough to get you admission. A child from a poor background will not have the money to enter coaching classes,” he said. Another issue would be the denial of reservation benefits because the range of reservation had not been mentioned in the policy, he added.

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