By: Firoz Bakht Ahmed
New Delhi: Though the entire phase of Modi-1 government was quite effectual and enterprising, the last one year saw some major uplift in all walks of educational fabric of India, especially, value education, under the litterateur cum educationist, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, the Minister of Human Resource Development, India. The experts of education could clearly observe the quantum leap in areas such as critical thinking, problem-solving, leadership, collaboration, creativity and entrepreneurship, as well as digital and technical skills in the overall educational scenario under the astute leadership of Nishank, a low lying publicity shy man and reserved human but hugely poised and focused about the uplift in the field of education in all sectors, despite being a novice, has done exceedingly well. Nishank has perfectly been following on to the footprints of his Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who works 20/24 hours in a day.
Having given a considerable time to the ministerial tasks, Pokhriyal delves deep into his literary quests, writing poetry and prose in Hindi that is his cup of tea! This also reminds the author of the first Minister of Education of free India, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who used to carry on with the ministerial work till midnight and then catered to his Urdu and Persian writing pursuits. One could observe quite a few similarities in Maulana Azad and Nishank. If Maulana used ‘Azad’ as his pen name, Ramesh Pokhriyal used “Nishank”.
As Azad, who wrote 37 books, Nishank too has written many books with his inimitable work, Ganga that has been translated into many languages. Taking the baton from his predecessors from Prakash Javadekar to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first Minister of Education of free India, Nishank who has completed a full circle, very smartly into the difficult times of Covid-19 by introducing online education, has aptly justified his presence in this ministry that happens to be the backbone of the entire system by conglomerating the best elements of the previous education ministers.
Truth is that the educated masses of any country act as backbone of development and progress. It gladdens me to state that today Indian youth have more knowledge than ever before owing to the immense strides made in all walks of life of the governance, especially, education, under the present government led by the visionary Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Though a lot has improved in schools and colleges during the last six years; nevertheless, the dumps owing to the lackadaisical approach and lackluster attitude of the previous Congress governments, not everyone has benefited from the spurt in education. However, India is on the road to becoming the vishwaguru (leader of the world).
Worldwide Education for the Future Index
In “The Worldwide Education for the Future Index” (WEFFI) 2019, India jumped five ranks as per a report published by “The Economist Intelligence Unit”. The index ranks countries based on their abilities to equip students with skill-based education. The report also added that among the world’s largest economies, that is, the US, UK, France and Russia, all fell back in the index, while China, India and Indonesia took steps forward. The report adds, “India has made particular strides in the policy environment, with a new national education policy published in early 2019 that explicitly mentions future-oriented skills such as critical thinking, communication and entrepreneurship.”
When asked about the overall purpose of education, Nishank sagaciously stated, “I believe that the purpose of education is to sensitize. Thus our study of literature is important only if it sensitizes us to the importance of human feelings and emotions, our study of economics is significant only if it sensitizes us to the human condition in the context of the material aspects of life, our study of history is meaningful only if it sensitizes us to the forces that impel human life and bring happiness and misery in their wake, our study of the sciences is momentous only if it sensitizes us to the parameters of human existence and the infinite patterns and rhythms of life.”
About advances in the higher education field, Nishank quips, “India has become a preferred destination for higher education owing to her all-round expertise from science to humanities.” Therefore, continues Nishank that under its “Study in India” programme, Ind-SAT is proposed to be held in the Asian and African countries. It shall be used for benchmarking foreign candidates who receive scholarships for studying in Indian higher education centres.
Child centric approach
The greatest achievement for the Ministry of Human Resource Development for the last six years and especially the last year, has been that it has made education neither child centric, nor teacher centric but learning centric. A very sincere attempt has been made to identify learning outcomes for various classes and specially, priority has been ensured that the benefit reaches the poorest of the poor standing at the tail end of achievements.
How education has made far reaching strides, may be seen from the fact that none of the world’s major universities, hospitals, trading institutions, medical, technological and other scientific institutions, besides others, is running without an Indian expert. All this has been possible owing to the government’s schemes right from the school level to the higher education, like — SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds), Paramarsh (mentoring institutions seeking NAAC accreditations), Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat (strengthening libraries and reading habits with books), E-Vidya (digital education), Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (working in the rural areas), Khele India Khile India (grant for sports and physical education), Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, Pariksha pe Charcha (Discussion on tackling exams), Dhruv (mentoring and nurturing talented children to enrich their skills and knowledge so that they can realize their full potential) under the aegis of Pradhan Mantri Innovative Learning Program, DIKSHA (Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing), aiming at “One Nation, One Portal”, Ek Bharat Shreshth Bharat – Bhaashaa Sangam, GIAN (Global Initiative of Academic Network) and Yukti Web Portal for the online education during Covid-19 days.besides many others.
So far as the minorities are concerned and especially the Muslim masses, there has been a very enterprising program for the uplift of madrasa education, making it a perfect blend of deen aur duniya (religious and secular) with the introduction of SPEMM (Scheme for Providing Education to Madrasas / Minorities) and SPQEM (Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas). The Prime Mimister, Modi once stated at his residencein a conference with Muslim scholars and clerics, “Mein her Muslim k eek hath mein Quran aur ek mein computer dekhna chahta hoon.” (In each Muslim’s one hand I want to see the holy Quran and the other, a computer). Not varying was also a similar quote by Amit Shah, the Home Minister, “Musalman hamari santaan ki maafiq hein aur hum unkey sath barabari ka sulook karna chahtey hein.” (We consider Muslims like our children and will trat them equal on par with others).
To encourage traditional institutions like Madrasas and Maktabs by giving financial assistance to introduce science, mathematics, social studies, Hindi and English in their curriculum so that academic proficiency for classes I-XII is attainable for children studying in these institutions.
One would like to specially mention the latest exploit introduced by Nishank in the field of school education, that is, DIKSHA, in which in 15 languages, more than 95,000 e-contents relating to all the parameters of education pertaining to the central agencies, like, NCERT and CBSE and states and Union Territories have all be encompassed and were introduced in March 2020 by Ramesh Pokhriyal. Since the world first became a global village and then the e-world. In this direction, Vidya-Daan has been a hub for crowd sourcing for e-content, especially for the teachers. Till date, more than 60 crore page-view hits have been made under this scheme — a record!
Online lessons, conferences
Lastly, talking about the Covid-19 hit educational scenario, though, the Ministry has done a lot by keeping in touch with the students and the teachers via online lessons and conferences, nevertheless, it should also ponder over the fact twice regarding the completion of the remaining board exams from July 1, 2020 onward as keeping in view, the safety of the people, especially, students, a better option would be to promote them on the basis of their half-yearly performance or something similar. Saving lives as per the three-fold glorious mantra of the Prime Minister, delivered in his first Covid-19 address to the nation, that is, “Janata curfew”, “Lakshman rekha” and “Jaan hei to jahaan hei” is of paramount importance. Therefore, one can safely say that the educational reins of the nation are in the safe hands.
When Nishank was asked for conveying a message on the completion of his first year as the MHRD minister, he said, “The intellectual cacophony that surrounds us can only be resolved when we realize that an education that ignores moral and spiritual values cannot qualify as a quality education.
(Firoz Bakht Ahmed is the chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University and the grandnephew of Bharat Ratna Maulana Abul Kalam Azad)