New education policy.NEP 2022

 The Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre has hailed the New Education Policy 2020 as a turning point in India's history.

For BJP's ideological mentor Rashtriya Syawamsevak Sangh (RSS), however, it's a bigger victory. To have a say in what and how students will be taught is a milestone for the ideological parent of the BJP after 60 years of struggle.

With the new education policy now passed by the Union Cabinet, the RSS cadres are jubilant that their voice played a significant role at the policy drafting table.

The seventh year of the Modi government rule has helped the outfit turn the emphasis of India's education policy from the Congress-era Human Resource Development to the Sangh Parivar's pet template of 'education as means for character and nation-building'.

The BJP's siblings have mostly welcomed the NEP as they feel they had a major say in the final policy with most of their suggestions incorporated in the final version.

Sources, however, say the government walked the tightrope to either leave out some suggestions from its affiliates in the Sangh or found alternate methods to make space for them.

Seminars, interaction with academicians to frame suggestions

While the HRD character of India's education system drove programmes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and education for all as a fundamental right, the RSS admits that it piloted the inclusion of two broad themes in the NEP -- Indian national values and character building of students.

The RSS worked through a slew of organisations which interacted with the ministry, academicians and institutions. RSS affiliates like

Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal (BSM) and the Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) and Bharatiya Bhasha Manch first generated feedback from across the country through 40 large seminars and interactions with 6,000 academicians and institution owners.

The current HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal and his predecessor Javadekar are said to have held regular meetings with RSS functionaries and education ministers of the BJP-ruled states. The Sangh affiliates then submitted their suggestions to two key NEP drafting committees -- Subramanium committee and the other headed by K Kasturirangan.

The name change

The change in the name of Human Resource Ministry or HRD, coined by the Rajiv Gandhi government inspired by the set up in erstwhile USSR, to a simple Ministry of Education has the RSS stamp on it.

Importantly, the issue of renaming the ministry had figured prominently at a Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal or BSM conference in 2018. At the conference, speaker after speaker had urged the government to change the name. As the demand to rename the ministry was raised, PM Modi shared the stage with HRD minister Prakash Javadekar.

Emphasis on regional languages, Indian values The biggest impact of the RSS has on the New Education Policy can be seen from the primacy given to mother tongue in teaching. The three language system, according to Sangh insiders, is a major switch from the past.

According to Atul Kothari, the national secretary of Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) and a RSS pracharak, the other is the incorporation of Indian and national values in the education system as bedrock.

"The NEP created in 1984 had a major lacuna. It wasn't in sync with Indian values. Most of the key national values were not part of the curriculum and they were imparted as mere extra-curricular elements. That's going to change. Indian values, arts, languages, and culture are going to become mainstream elements in the NEP 2020," Atul Kothari says. 

Kothari adds, "No education system can succeed without moral values. The new policy will be built on moral values which are inherent to India. Students will not only be taught the fundamental rights but also fundamental duties through the education system which borrows from the ancient texts and cultural practices.

Interestingly, this seems to reflect the thought behind a paragraph in the "vision and mission" link on the RSS official website.

It says, "As if testifying to the sagacity of the proverb 'The more things change, the more they remain the same' - considerable sections of the so-called academia and the elite even today display a singular lack of national consciousness even after witnessing such horrendous insult to nationhood as partition of the country."

Kothari tells India Today TV that the language used in the policy to reflect the vision of the suggestions made by the RSS affiliates is positive. "It talks of curriculum and the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept to develop a deep sense of respect towards citizens fundamental duties, living closely with one's country, and conscious awareness of one's roles and responsibilities in a changing world," the RSS man adds.

The emphasis on revival of Indian languages like Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrut is another achievement for the BJPs ideological mentor.

NEPemphasises on the popularisation of Indian languages and lays down that "Sanskrit will be mainstreamed with strong offerings in school -- including as one of the language options in the three-language formula -- as well as in higher education. Sanskrit Universities too will move towards becoming large multidisciplinary institutions of higher learning."

Based on Indian knowledge system

The other big addition to the new education policy is the Indian knowledge system. RSS seniors claim that the last policy, as a conspiracy, completely ignored the Indian knowledge system, which they say is over thousands of years old.

Kothari and other RSS functionaries say minority institutions like schools run by Christian missions and madarsas must accept the new education policy. The idea is to create a more holistic teaching system that is flexible and more suitable for growth of a student and future employment.

However, insiders say the impact of the policy will be felt only after some time. They say the policy does neutralise some fundamental elements which were imposed by the western culture and left ideology.

Influence on curriculum

Interestingly, the next target for the Sangh and its affiliates is the syllabus at various levels of education.

Multiple organisations of the parivar are said to be drawing up a list of elements for inclusion and exclusion in almost every stream and sphere of education in the country

"We gave a long list of suggestions for the NEP which were incorporated and now we will give suggestions on changes in syllabus which will lead to more appropriate implementation of this NEP," Kothari says.

Sources say that research and leg work is on for the same before they approach the government for rewriting of history textbooks to add crucial Indian perspective to it.

Aimed to instil pride in Indian citizenship

The Sangh has reason to be happy with the policy as it continuously touches upon the "need to instil a deep-rooted pride in Indian citizenship through intellect, and deeds".

The NEP reflects what the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has said last August. He had said the NEPshould make individuals self-respecting, self-sufficient and independent, and rooted in the country's ethos and culture.

The RSS' demand for an India-centric policy is reflected in more elements. The RSS has been asking the government to make the policy more flexible to allow people from socially and economically weaker sections to get enrolled as this segment has a high dropout rate.

Senior RSS functionary Sunil Ambekar, who was till recently in-charge of the student arm of the RSS, said, "Flexibility is important. It will help people to get educated and employment in future. Old policy promoted regimentalisaiton."

These RSS and sister organisations have also welcomed the move to establish entities like the National Research Foundation and Prime Minister-led Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog.

The organisations were against bureaucrats or technocrats heading these institutions.

Walking the tightrope: Demands which govt side-stepped

The NEP, approved by the Union Cabinet, however, has some elements which weren't close to the Sangh's heart. And the government has created a fine balancing act to accommodate them partially or ignore them completely.

The three language formula avoids the demand that Hindi should be considered as one of the languages that students should study in Class 6. Several states had protested against this proposal and so, the government went ahead and junked it.

The Swadeshi Jagran Manch, a part of the RSS family, was opposed to entry of foreign universities and education institutions.

The government, however, has allowed the entry. However, some riders like the NEP tenets being made mandatory for permission to operate have been incorporated.

After the policy was approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday, it drew strong criticism from some sections.

Speaking to India Today, Left leader Suhasini Ali said, "The RSS has been plotting saffronisaiton of Indian education system for long. This policy delivers on that agenda."

Reacting to the comment, former HRD minister Prakash Javadekar asked, "Do they want that education should not include what benefits the nation. What's RSS ideology? Is it incorrect to speak about the good of the nation?"

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