ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Knowledge and the Politics of Education

In the wake of our national education policy again preparing for a political right swing, it is important to examine the implications of the Ministry of Human Resource Development's emphasis on ancient knowledge for contemporary education. This article points out that knowledge plays a significant role in shaping the consciousness of individuals and societies. Its legitimising function has been used by status quoist political forces and its liberating potential by people's political struggles. The role of knowledge in contemporary education needs in-depth examination and debate to usher in a system that includes all those who are now marginalised.

Communally coloured school textbooks and the irrational glorification of Indian traditional education were disturbing features in the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFSE) in 2000.1 These trends were resisted, and, by 2005, with a change in government, they were curtailed, giving way to a National Curriculum Framework (NCF). It opted to highlight aspects such as child-centredness and lessening the “burden of learning”, which had also been included in the NCFSE. Keywords such as “child constructing knowledge” have had some influence on school textbooks and the articulations of educationists in the country. But this pitches knowledge as a duality – that constructed by children, and that represented by subjects (Sunny 2010). It creates nuances that are dismissive of historically evolved knowledge bases. Fortunately, many textbooks written post-2005 (both at the National Council of Educational Research and Training [NCERT] and at some State Councils of Educational Research and Training [SCERTs]) have been able to practically demonstrate the importance of critical perspectives on knowledge, thus philosophically moving beyond the NCF. The 2005 document either shied away from having a full-fledged debate on the politics of knowledge or thought it was not strategically important. Today, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has begun preparing to gather ancient Indian texts for contemporary education (Deccan Chronicle, 7 June 2014).

The intention of this article is not to polarise the ancient/traditional, the modern/postmodern, or the east/west. They do not help us to critically understand our internal social dynamics. We need to examine the implications of a politics that has one foot rhetorically placed on Indian traditions, and the other firmly on technological developments available in the 21st century, which also relies hugely on social media. Here, the technologies utilised have to be uncritically contemporary, and the knowledge that shapes our sociopolitical perspectives has to be uncritically traditional. This combination could have serious implications for the nature of education in the country. This article attempts to examine the various connotations that knowledge has in education, and its ramifications for education in our country.

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