Tuesday, October 16, 2018 | ePaper

Political activities in educational institutions

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Rayhan Ahmed Topader :
Political intervention in schools is 'counterproductive and damaging', say teaching experts. Politicians are damaging Britain's schools by attempting to control everything that goes on in the classroom, a letter from 14 leading education academics argues. The professors accuse MPs from all political parties of devising policies that micro-manage the school curriculum, teaching methods and pupils' tests. Led by Michael Bassey, an emeritus professor of Nottingham Trent University, they call on politicians to stop meddling with schools "de-politicise them" and place trust back with teachers. It is time to shift the prime responsibility for education towards schools and colleges and so enable teachers to build the public trust they deserve and need...to be effective guardians, with parents, of the...young," the letter states.
"What happens in classrooms should no longer be micro-managed by government, irrespective of who wins the election." The professors argue that while political intervention was necessary by 1988, when the national curriculum was introduced, "it is now counterproductive and damaging".
This intervention appears in the form of national tests in maths and English sat by 10- and 11-year-olds-formerly known as Sats, the professors argue. Headteachers' jobs are under threat if their pupils fail to achieve the required standard in the tests. As a result, the school timetable is geared towards cramming children and teachers are forced to stick to the government's curriculum.
The Bench, headed by Chief Justice Navaniti Prasad Singh, while issuing an order on a contempt of court petition filed by the MES College, Ponnani, observed on Friday that politics or political activities could not be permitted in academic institutions. The court said that political activities such as dharna, hunger strike and practices such as satyagraha had no place in a constitutional democracy, much less in academic institutions. Educational institutions were meant for imparting education and not politics. Political parties could not hold to ransom educational institutions or the right of civilized students to receive education. Besides, the parent of the student who indulged in campus politics must consider whether their ward was going to the college to involve in politics or to study. The Bench observed that if students had legitimate grievances, avenues for ventilating them were legally available.
Effects of Student Politics in Bangladesh. Students are a component of civil society who can lead the nation towards sustainable development. From time immemorial the student community has been playing an important and unparalleled role in nation building. In China, Japan, the USA and many other countries, the students are contributing a lot for social mobility. Democracy, good governance and right-based development depend on a vibrant student community. Though every human being is a student from cradle to grave, there is a specific time the periphery of life in educational institutions, which is considered 'student life'.
Student life should be spent in study and interaction with all in order to develop the human caliber for future leadership. As Lenin rightly mentioned in his university lecture, "read, read and read." Unfortunately, most students in Bangladesh do not believe the usual meaning of studentship. A segment emphatically concentrates on obtaining marks only, devoid of life touching real education.
This propensity is again encouraged by unhealthy capitalism and selfish individualism, with which all the ingredients of so-called education is ensured and golden GPA managed. This results in social stratification, corruption, white collar criminality and so on. In Bangladesh, the more challenging phase of studentship is university/ college education which is highly influenced by criminalized politics. In each so-called political party in Bangladesh, we mark student wings which are used to demonstrate muscle power that goes against everything that an egalitarian society stands for.
The political parties, devoid of sound theories and pragmatism of politics, deliberately nourish and patronise unhealthy student politics only for their vested interest, setting aside the greater interest of the nation. One need not be a social scientist to understand the reasons behind today's student politics. It is a synonym for hooliganism, hijacking, extortion, robbery and what not. After independence, dozens of students and non-students have been murdered in educational institutions due to campus violence triggered by venomous political parties' student wings.
The present kind of student politics is a colossal wastage for the whole nation. All the sufferers know how diabolical the behaviour of the student political entities can be. Student politics in Bangladesh is diametrically opposite to what real student politics should be.
Real student politics negotiates for enhancing research facilities, ensuring regular class and accommodation facilities, increasing the number of books in the library, organising seminars, symposia, presentations, debate etc. But these are bygone, historical memories in Bangladesh. The hapless parents count the moments with great anxiety, whether their beloved offspring would come home after completion of education within the stipulated time, or be a dead body sacrificed at the altar of sick student politics which snatch two to three years from the life of every student due to session jam. Poor parents start counting beads for better days just after sending their son/daughter to the university. The pertinent question arises. Is there any economist in the world who can count the financial and psychological value of such time wasted in vain? None can deny the historical role of the students for the independence of Bangladesh.
The Bengalees are probably the only nation which gets its complete shape from the very leadership of students. But so-called student politics now is a death trap in Bangladesh. It does not deserve any support from any corner legally morally, and ethically. The common people of Bangladesh do not want to see so called student politics at all. We have to remember that political rights are not absolute and are subject to many reasonable restrictions of public policy.
In India many public universities insist on a non-political campus. Hence the constitution and constitutional explanation would not bar the proposal for banning the present anti-development, anti-enlightenment politics of students. The law enforcing agencies should not be made spineless to resist the anarchy and lawlessness made of the so-called students who care not for education or the nation's greater interest. Who is actually doing the fighting? Is it the students themselves or is it the political parties who use the students as their pawns to wage proxy wars? Nationally, the two largest parties are the BJP and the Congress. They have the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) and NSUI (National Students Union of India) respectively.
The CPI(M) may be on the decline but its SFI (Student Federation of India) is probably still the most powerful students' union. Students should always be focusing on their rights but instead, they are manipulated by politicians of all parties and fight the fights of their political masters. Indian politics is a dirty reality. Do we want this dirt to pile up in our haloed educational institutions?
The youth is a free bird and can choose what it wants to be. Students are supposed to be a clean slate and take whatever path they fancy. Sometimes this choice is not made even after the completion of the education process. It's a journey to discover who you really are. However, when you become part of a student body you are immediately straightjacketed. You are forced to adopt an identity you may not be comfortable with. After that, you will be defined by that label. It will guide your actions and ideology. That is extremely unhealthy for an impressionable developing mind.  What about the right not to practise politics?
Most students want to stay apolitical but they find it difficult to do so and they are sucked into politics whether they like it or not.
Students must be left free to just focus on their studies and careers with absolutely no other distractions. In most education institutions in the world, violence is discouraged and those indulging it are immediately thrown out.
That is not the case in India. If you indulge in violence on the goading of your political masters, you know they will save you when you are in trouble. This, in effect, gives a free licence to indulge in violence. As compared to education institutions in the West, we have far more cases of vandalism, deaths and general indiscipline. We cannot afford that. Schools and colleges are supposed to be fertile grounds of debate where every old and new idea is discussed threadbare and with passion.
Many great people are thankful for the years they spent as students that shaped them intellectually. Do we really want our colleges to be an offline version of such a newshour? The Communist SFI and right-wing ABVP are sworn enemies and can never have a debate over anything. It's just one confrontation after another, non-stop. It achieves nothing. College heads are scared to act owing to political interference. Professors are wary of doing anything radically different and will take the beaten path. Agitations overshadow studies. Man hours are lost as a result of umpteen strikes, debates and confrontations. Our educational institutions have become extremely inefficient owing to the type of student politics that is practised. How many Indian colleges make it to the list of the Top 100 world class education institutions? Very few! While there are many reasons for this, student politics is one of them. It's time to end it. Now!

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