Dissecting the Yash Pal Committee Report - Part VI

The criminal exclusion of 90% of India from higher education
In the eyes of the Yash Pal committee, Indian languages can never become the languages of higher education in India. Although the committee doesn't explicitly say this, it is clear that this is the undeniable assumption made by the committee. In any case, the committee - which is declared to have brought about a "revolution" in higher education in India - makes no mention of higher education in Indian languages.

The very idea of higher education in Indian languages having thus been neglected, the committee defaults to English as the language of higher education. By making this move, the committee neglects more than 90% of India which continues to study in one or the other Indian language. By making this move, the committee's report ceases to be an "inclusive" report. On the other hand, the committee's proposals are "exclusive" by definition. The committee simply excludes 90% of India from higher education. And, of course, it's a big lie that Indian languages are incapable of being carriers of higher education.

In India, this criminal exclusion happens every second, and in every university (or institute of higher education) of India. Every time Indian languages are neglected and implicitly assumed to be incapable of being the carriers of the sciences, the very same lie is repeated. Prof. Yash Pal and his committee are party to this crime - because neglecting the truth is equivalent to advocating for the lie.

Is the Govt. of India any better than the British Colonial Govt?

By advocating for English as the language of higher education, the Yash Pal committee glorifies the English-educated "creamy layer" - much in the same fashion as Thomas Babington Macaulay glorified the English-educated "creamy layer". However, we are forced to say that Macaulay atleast had the vision of an India educated in its own languages, whereas Prof. Yash Pal and his friends lack that vision. In what is a relatively unknown fact, Macaulay

predicted that as an Indian intelligentsia arose, it would work to "refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population".
Clearly, Prof. Yash Pal and his friends are the very "Indian intelligentsia" which has arisen and now held positions of power in India. It's a pity that this "Indian intelligentsia" continues to look at English as the language in which to educate the whole of India - a mistake at which Macaualay must be smiling in his grave, holding on to the racist thesis that Indians are an inferior race - for "hey, look, Indians themselves continue to consider their own languages inferior even 62 years after freedom!"

In any case, Prof. Yash Pal's formula (which is in reality no new formula at all - it's simply the "first half" of Macaulay's formula) continues to glorify an English-educated intelligentsia. This intelligentsia continues to distance itself step by step from the real India right under Prof. Yash Pal's nose, and he just doesn't notice it!

Further, this intelligentsia has mobility all over India because it's welcome in all Indian universities which teach in English anyway. While this tiny "creamy layer" thus moves about all over India, the rest of India - 90% of it - languishes in darkness, ignorance, hunger and pain. While Prof. Yash Pal and Co. continue to build systems and universities for this creamy layer (which is not a group of immigrants but a group of resident non-Indians), most of India remains excluded from Yash Pal's system of education!

While the British government did not have the ability to reach out to all the Indian languages and therefore resorted to build

a class who may be interpreters between [the British] and the millions whom [they] govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect,
is it true that the Govt. of India also lacks this ability? If the Govt. of Free India does lack this ability, why should it have the authority over education of all Indians? If the Govt. of Free India lacks the ability to reach out to the whole of India in her dozens of languages, is it any better the British colonial government?

Dissecting the Yash Pal Committee Report - Part V

India can follow neither the US model nor the German model

In the last three parts (III, IV), we have argued that the US and other developed countries (such as most European states, Taiwan, Israel, Japan, etc - here referred to as the "German model" for brevity) are diametrically opposite when it comes to the way they treat natives and immigrants. While US systems of governance and education are mainly built for the benefit of immigrants, the very same systems in other developed countries are built for the benefit of natives. While the US is a country of immigrants, most other countries in the world are countries of natives.

India cannot fall under the "US model" simply because civilizations have successfully inhabited this part of the world from pre-historic times to this date. The natives are alive and kicking here - and it is nonsensical for our systems to be built for immigrants - like in the US (and like Dr. Yashpal's "potential southern hemispherical clientele" approach seeks to build).

It does not make sense to think of India as falling under the "German model" either. India is a country of natives beyond doubt - but not like Germany - simply because India is a linguistically diverse country. The whole of Germany speaks the same language - not the whole of India. Thus, India is a country of many different types of natives - Kannadiga natives who are native to Karnataka, Punjabi natives who are native to Punjab, Assamese natives who are native to Assam, Tamil natives who are native to Tamil Nadu...and so on and so forth. These natives have successfully opposed aggressions and transgressions between each other from the very first pages of known history, and India as a political unit is indubitably the fruit of British colonization (as we have argued in other posts on this blog).

Thus we see that India cannot be modeled after either the US or Germany when it comes to building systems of governance or education or what have you. India is far too complicated to yield to such simplifications.

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Dissecting the Yash Pal Committee Report - Part IV

Other developed countries: a case study

While the US is a land of immigrants, most other developed countries in the world are not. Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Hungary, Norway, United Kingdom, Japan, Israel, South Korea, Taiwan, etc – do not follow the US philosophy of building systems and institutions for immigrants.

Instead, they build systems and institutions for themselves – i.e., for the native people – who are alive and kicking! This is so because there exists a “themselves”! In fact, it is countries from the above list who colonized both America and India in the 1600’s – again from the point of view of bringing back riches for native people.

These countries have long histories of their own races, languages, cultures and political existence (barring a few like Israel which are really new political units), are proud of them, and actually have many checks and balances in place to give preference to natives over immigrants. In these countries, natives have held on for many many centuries and succesfully opposed every sort of external aggression – unlike in the US where the natives were wiped out by Europeans.

These developed countries, therefore, do care about the people who produce the academic output in Universities. They unambiguously prefer those people to be natives, not immigrants. Because of the inherent need to care for the native people, Universities in these countries are also run in the native language because that language is their best vehicle for knowledge. Nobody even questions whether Higher Education is possible in their own languages. “Of course it’s possible!” is the answer one hears in all these countries. These Universities are devoted to improvement in the level of learning of, and the level of contribution to the “entire universe of knowledge” of native people, and at the same time care about the quality and quantity of the actual academic output.

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Dissecting the Yash Pal Committee Report - Part III

The United States of America: a case study

America is a land of immigrants. The people on whose sufferance the US has been built, i.e., the Native Americans – for example the Huron, Apache, Cherokee, Sioux, Delaware, Algonquin, Choctaw, Mohegan, Iroquois, Oneida, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Tuscarora, and the Inuit people – have all been long racially vanquished, eliminated by use of force. After the Native Americans were wiped out, migrant white Europeans have come to be considered as the default natives because of sheer number and power. All this happened in about 300 years.

Because of all this, US institutions are not built for and by natives (there aren’t any), but for and by immigrants. It’s in the culture of that country to prefer immigrants over natives, to talk only about immigrants.

Therefore, the US doesn’t care who studies or who teaches in its Universities as long as they are qualified enough. US Universities have tended to downplay the “people-angle” and welcomed anybody and everybody from anywhere and everywhere with the right academic background. As long as the territory of the USA gets the benefits of the academic output from the Universities, the US doesn’t “give a damn” about who actually produces that academic output.

The Yash Pal Committee’s definition of a University applies pretty much verbatim to the US (and not to India, as we shall presently see). After all, both the Yash Pal Committee’s report and the US believe that it’s the academic output which matters. Not who produces it. This thinking is illustrated by the Yash Pal Committee which goes to the extent of lamenting that India doesn’t import sufficient number of students from the “southern hemisphere” (called “clientele” by the report):
India is in a unique position to serve as a destination for affordable higher education for a vast number of students from countries in the southern hemisphere. At present, our system manages to attract only a small fraction of this potential clientele.
It is disappointing how the Committee is so blindly thinking of building a University system tailor made for “potential clientele” from outside India when most of India is excluded from the system. We will come to how most of India is excluded presently. But before that, a case study of other developed countries [in the next part].

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Dissecting the Yash Pal Committee Report - Part II

The Committee’s definition of “University” neglects the "people-angle"

The Committee’s understanding of a University is summarized in the following paragraph in the report:
A University is a place where new ideas germinate, strike roots and grow tall and sturdy. It is a unique space, which covers the entire universe of knowledge. It is a place where creative minds converge, interact with each other and construct visions of new realities. Established notions of truth are challenged in the pursuit of knowledge.
Now, let us clarify again: the above paragraph is correct, but the only problem is – it is incomplete. So incomplete that we are forced to reject the definition as inapplicable as it is.

The above definition is incomplete because it says nothing about the people who live and work in the University – the students, teachers, administrators, and other workers. The above definition lacks the people-angle, if you will. The above definition simply neglects the people in whom “new ideas germinate, strike roots and grow tall and sturdy”. It says nothing about the people whose “creative minds converge, interact with each other and construct visions of new realities”. It says nothing about the people who challenge “established notions of truth”.

Nor is this definition of a University supplemented with the "people-angle" anywhere else in the report.

A University which is spawned from the above philosophy – which so neglects the people-angle – is by definition more devoted to the actual academic output rather than an improvement in the level of learning of, and the level of contribution to the “entire universe of knowledge” of, the people on whose sufferance the University is built, the native people of the soil on which the University’s buildings stand. Such Universities might as well import all the students, teachers, adminsitrators and other workers, pay them sufficiently and get the necessary academic output – the job of the University will be done! The native people don’t need to figure anywhere in the University!

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Dissecting the Yash Pal Committee Report - Part I

Okay, so we finally get to our detailed commentary on the Yash Pal Committee report. We will do so in a series of posts. This is the first in the series.

The first thing we’d like to clarify to our readers is that the Yash Pal Committee was commissioned to analyze Higher Education in India and make recommendations for improving it. It was really none of its business to make the disappointing and brief commentary it did make about Secondary School Education, wherein it commented that we need to re-think on the “need to continue with” State Secondary Education Boards (which equates to the Department of Pre-University Education in Karnataka). In the context of the Yash Pal Committee report as applied to Karnataka, one must replace “Secondary School Education” with “Pre-University Education”, because it is the latter term which is understood here in Karnataka.

We understand that University Education cannot be completely oblivious of Pre-University Education, but even the little rigor one sees in the Yash Pal Committee’s analysis of University Education is found lacking in the casual paragraph it wrote about Pre-University Education. Since we have already analyzed the problems associated with, and the impossibility of, replacing the Department of Pre-University Education with a “GRE-like examination”, we will not re-visit it here. Instead, we will focus on the core topic of the Committee: Higher Education.

We disagree with the Committee's definition of a University

We now get on to the Committee’s understanding of what a University is – for it is from this that its recommendations about Higher Education arise. It is here that we differ with the Committee. We will not waste any time on the structural “revamping” suggested by the Committee such as merging the UGC and AICTE into one NCHER (National Commission for Higher Education and Research), because these structural changes, in our opinion, do not address the problem at its core - even though they certainly have the ability to make small improvements in the status quo. Challenging the IITs and IIMs too is bold and beautiful, but does not address the problem.

That’s why we’ve termed the Committee’s recommendations as an attempt to re-structure the same old vamp – the “vamp” being the definition of a University popular amongst post-independence influential educationists and thinkers in India. Since we cannot agree with that definition, no amount of systemic re-structuring based on the wrong definition can bring the system closer to ideality.

Two people who do not agree on the definition of a house must not discuss whether the Verandah and the Living Room must be merged into one room. It’s a waste of time. Our time is better invested in putting across our definition of a house, our definition of a University, and hoping that contemporary thinkers and policy-makers are open to evaluating our definition with an open mind - since we sincerely believe that our definition is most in-line with the development of Kannada, Kannadiga and Karnataka - and by induction of the whole of India.

Philosophical reconciliation always precedes implementational reconciliation. If the former is impossible, any attempt to do the latter is wasteful.

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Now Kapil Sibal says "I didn't say that", but does he get the point?

After receiving considerable opposition to his controversial proposals to "revamp" the education system - of which we're focusing on his proposal to close State Education Boards and replace them with the nonsensical "one nation, one board" stuff - Mr. Kapil Sibal has bitten his tongue. Speaking to the Times of India, Mr. Sibal...
admitted that having a single, nationwide class XII examination would take time due to differences in quality and curriculum in different states. “Unless quality is improved, the state boards cannot affiliate to a uniform system. I did not say there would be a ‘one-board, one-exam’ system,” he said.
Yeah yeah, we're used to this. So okay he didn't say that. He said what he said above, right? Let's assume he did.

First of all, the above statement still suffers from the viewpoint that state-boards have to be abolished one day or the other - otherwise one wouldn't simply say that having one exam for the whole of India is "going to take time". If there is any truth left in India being a democracy and this being a federal setup (albeit half-hearted), that time is going to be infinity, Mr. Sibal.

Secondly, his statement on quality begs for data. Who has done a comparative study of PUC I and PUC II in Karnataka with other boards across India? Where is the proof that PUC education in Karnataka is inferior to that in other boards? How can he make such hand-waving statements about the quality of PUC education in Karnataka (since Karnataka is covered in the dark shadow of his statement)?

Thirdly, even if it were true that state boards are of an inferior quality, why should they affiliate to an all-India system once the quality is improved? Who said centralization is the solution for all quality issues? The world has proof that it is decentralization which solves quality issues, not centralization. Also, why should the states give up control over their education systems and let New Delhi - whose jokers cannot crack a "match-the-following" of states and languages of India - take over? Mr. Sibal simply doesn't get the point we at BANAVASI BALAGA made:

In a federal setup, you don't tell the states. You ask 'em. In a federal setup, you don't make decisions. You federate 'em.
...or the point Maharashtra Education Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil made:

There are so many issues involved — state’s culture, history, language, etc. In board examinations, we cannot compromise on Marathi language. The state should be consulted. Why should you have a centralised system of education? Education is the responsibility of the state. Why are you taking it out?
...or the point Kerala Education Minister M. A. Baby made (also here):

Having a single board will not help in a country like ours which has a federal structure. Much of the cultural diversity will be lost if such a board is set up.

How can you have one board for the entire country? This will be like turning the clock back on federalism.
...or the point, surprisingly for the BJP, Murli Manohar Joshi made:

We have a federal structure and education is in the concurrent list. Announcing such a decision without consulting state education ministers, the State Council for Educational Research and Training, and state boards is unprecedented.
Does Mr. Sibal understand that he's not a dictator but a federal agent expected to federate? We hope reason dawns on him. We now ask ourselves - what if the Congress feigns more inclination than the BJP towards federalism in one paper presented somewhere, when all that doesn't translate to action? Note: this is not praise for the BJP. Far from it.

Tailpiece

Two "I didn't say that"s made us digress from the task of dissecting the Yash Pal Committee Report. We promise to return to that in the next post. There's written evidence that the Yash Pal Committee did say that:-)

Even if the committee later claims it didn't and The Hindu fabricated it (that's where we got the report from), we'll comment on it anyway - because what the Yash Pal Committee report came up with is something anybody not thinking seriously enough on the problem of Education can come up with. And we need to clear a few confusions there. So hang around.