Since the majority of Bengali Muslims are socio-economically backward and the majority of Muslims live in the rural areas where there are no alternative employment opportunities, Muslim families will not be able to continue his education till the age of 18
Mirza Mosaraf Hossain | Clarion India
The Central government’s new education policy (NEP) for 2020 has already faced a lot of criticism across the country. While some have been vocal about the imposition of a linguistically- exclusive Hindi language, others see the Centre’s ‘One Country, One Education Policy’ effort as the saffronisation of education by the BJP/RSS.
However, there has been little criticism of how much and how this new policy will further stifle the country’s backward Muslim, tribal and Dalit communities. Even the liberal intellectuals are not very vocal about this, at least not those who have always been seen to raise their voices against the various deprivations of this class of people. Whether this silence is intentional or not, or the impact of the new policy on this backward society is beyond the comprehension of their microscopic analysis is very hard to fathom!
A cursory analysis of this impact on the Muslim community in West Bengal in terms of various data shows the overall impact of this policy on the country’s minorities.
According to the last census, the Muslim population of West Bengal is 27.01%. Although the socio-economic development of Muslims has not been as expected after the Sachar Committee report and the Ranganath Mishra Commission report, it can be said that there has been some improvement. However, according to the data, the unemployment rate of Muslims in West Bengal is still 6.08%.
According to the book ‘Living Reality of Muslims in West Bengal’ (2016), about 15% of Muslim children in the age group of 6-14 years are out of school, while 9.1% never go to school at all. The dropout rate of Muslim children after the primary level, i.e., after the fourth grade is 47.1%, but the dropout rate from first to fourth grade is 29.9%. Problems such as financial problems, distance problems, lack of infrastructure, joining various paid jobs to help the family have been shown as the reasons for school dropouts in the same book.
If in the present education system there is such a sad picture in the field of education of Muslims in the state, then let’s see what that picture will look like in the proposed policy, whether it will increase or decrease.
In the case of secondary and higher secondary classes, the proposed new education policy calls for a 5 + 3 + 3 + 4 curriculum instead of the previous 10 + 2 framework. The existing ASHA workers, after having training, will teach the children of three years age group at the Primary School adjacent complexes that lesson which they used to do so separately on the Anganwadis. Then the children will have to study in the first and second class for two years in that primary school. This 3 + 2, i.e. five years of education, is called the primary stage.
For children aged 8-11 from third class to fifth class, i.e., three years of education, it is called the preparatory stage which will be performed in primary school. The three-year stage from sixth grade to eighth grade is the upper primary stage and the ninth to the twelfth-grade stage is called secondary stage where 18-year-old boys and girls will take board exams.
Although there will be an opportunity to take the board exam separately after the ninth and tenth classes, the recognition of the board exam after the twelfth class will be more acceptable. Sanskrit is also being kept at every level from primary to higher education. In other words, everyone has to read Sanskrit, irrespective of caste, religion, and caste.
Reviewing up to this level, it is observed that in the previous 10 + 2 system, Muslim children were employed in various government or private posts, military, police, security guards, Anganwadi workers, or as ASHA workers after matriculation and thus stood by their families to eradicate poverty.
But there’s no room of scopes for Muslim children in the proposed education policy. Since the majority of Bengali Muslims are socio-economically backward and the majority of Muslims live in the rural areas where there are no alternative employment opportunities, Muslim families will not be able to continue his education till the age of 18.
They will be forced to drop out of school in the middle of the term and migrate to Chennai, Kerala, and Delhi as migrant workers to tackle the poverty of their families. In the case of rural girls, it will have some effect, because in the rural areas, girls of other religions, including Muslims, comparatively get married before the age of 18
.As a result, a whole generation, even the youngest, will be deprived of employment opportunities, even if they go to school from the first to the tenth grade in a row and get the less important tenth-grade board exam certificates.
Many changes have also been made in the field of undergraduate and postgraduate higher education. The new policy calls for three-year and four-year bachelor’s degrees. There is also an opportunity to research various projects in the last year of a four-year degree. However, there is a special advantage in this case, where previously only one certificate could be obtained after the completion of a three-year undergraduate course, the new rules have the opportunity to get a certificate for each year separately.
However, the policy has given more importance to the degree completed in four years. Those who have a bachelor’s degree with research in one of these four years will have to study for one year at the postgraduate level and they will have the opportunity to study directly after graduation. It is recommended to study for two years at the postgraduate level to pursue Ph.D.
The training curriculum for recruitment in school education has also changed. The four-year B.Ed course after Class XII has been kept as a minimum qualification. It is also mentioned that if you have a bachelor’s degree in any particular subject, you can do a two-year B.Ed and if you have a four-year undergraduate degree in any particular subject, you can do a one-year B.Ed.
It seems that Muslim children will suffer the most in the above stages. According to the All-India Survey on Higher Education, 2019, in the previous three-year curriculum system, only 8% of Muslim children were enrolled at the undergraduate level and 4.2% at universities, both public and private. Under the new rules, this rate is expected to decrease rather than increase, and among the multifaceted reasons behind this reduction, the one-year or more increase in all classes will come first.
Many Muslim children make preparations for entry into the various government and private sector jobs and many of them are also employed while pursuing post-graduate level degrees or B.Ed course after completing a three-year bachelor’s degree in the existing curriculum. But since graduation is four years old and the importance of a three-year degree is relatively less than four years, the new rules do not have that opportunity.
Besides, the extra one year will increase the extra cost, the extra time will be difficult to provide for the children of poor Muslim families and as a result, many will be forced to drop out of colleges and universities during the course. In this way, the opportunity or dream of researching at the postgraduate and Ph.D. level will soon end, which will reduce both the participation and employment of Muslim children in higher education.
That problem will be even more dire in the case of school education recruitment. This is because over the past few years, mainly due to the OBC conservation policies, the participation of Muslim children in school recruitment has increased significantly. But as the new rules increase the dropout rate of Muslim children at the undergraduate or postgraduate or B.Ed levels, the participation of Muslims in government school recruitment will also decrease and their overall unemployment rate will rise again.
Under the previous rules, the benefits of being employed in different fields due to various career-oriented professional courses after Class XII do not seem to be there in the new rules. For example, some Muslim children would get jobs after vocational courses after the previous secondary, but the new rules say that there will be vocational courses at every level starting from the eighth grade, but there is no mention of which classes can be employed. As a result, it is doubtful whether the new rules will allow the recruitment of certain Muslim children.
Muslim girls will be the biggest losers in the new education policy. Even if they are admitted to colleges after their higher secondary, everyone will not be able to get a bachelor’s degree and their marriage will become a mountain-like obstacle to not getting it.
Because, as has been said before, the majority of Muslims live in the rural areas and so with a four-year bachelor’s degree, then a two-year B.Ed, they will not have time to look for a job when they would experience how much they are worsening their parents’ burden by not knotting the bridal thread. Thus, an entire generation will be deprived of employment opportunities in government sector jobs even after having degrees.
Although the new education policy proposes about various support centers to be set up to encourage the children of the socio-economically backward communities to bring more children into the school premises, provide academic resources and provide various scholarships for financial assistance at every stage of education, there is skepticism as to how far this plan will be implemented to marginalized people.
This is because the picture of the implementation of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee or the Ranganath Mishra Commission shows that only a few recommendations have been executed for the Muslim community and everything else has either not been implemented or comparatively fewer opportunities have been given to the Muslims. So, who can guarantee that this will not happen again?
The matter of scholarship can be explained a little more here. The policy speaks about different scholarship opportunities for the marginalized communities, but, at the same time, requests are being made to apply only through a single portal. Those who know a little bit about this will understand that by applying in this way only one scholarship, either central or state government-sponsored, can be obtained.
Also, there’s no mention of increasing the scholarship fund. This means that the total amount for the scholarships that were received in the previous three years system will now be divided and given in four years. It is also a major blow to Muslim children who will be hindered in their higher education.
As the study of the history of the country, only the history of ancient and modern India has found a place in the new education policy. In other words, the rule of Muslims in the country for about six and a half centuries is soon disappearing from the history of the country. As a result, the history of the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort, or the Charminar, built by Muslims, is thus on the verge of extinction.
The next generation would no longer have the opportunity to learn histories through textbooks. They thus would not know the history that the first Bengali translation of the ‘Ramayana’ was made possible by the encouragement of a Muslim emperor named Sultan Jalaluddin or about the Bengali translation of the ‘Mahabharata’ that was made under the supervision of another Muslim emperor named Hussain Shah, or about the first Bengali translation of the Padmavati was made by Alaol, or about the history of the origin of the Bengali calendar was made possible by Mughal emperor Akbar.
They won’t know about Siraj-ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, and the first man to revolt against the British in the desert of Plassey, they won’t know about Tipu Sultan who fought valiantly against the British till the last moment of his life.
While pursuing modern history, they may not be allowed to know that the first chanting of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ was by Maulana Hasrat Mohani, the slogan ‘Jai hind’ was called by a Muslim named Abid Hasan and the slogans ‘Simon Go Back’ and ‘Quit India’ were chanted by a Muslim named Yusuf Meherali in their anti-British movements.
This picture of deprivation and systematic denial would be applicable to all the other marginalized communities throughout the country. One wonders at such decisions that necessitate huge amounts of money when the economic condition of the country is so sinking and its people of backward class are lagging behind from all sorts of societal amenities.
It is a matter of great joy and pride as a countryman that the country is being envisioned to become a ‘Global Knowledge Superpower’, a ‘Vibrant Knowledge Society’ through the implementation of this new education policy. But will it be possible at all to achieve that goal by strategically leaving a special class of people behind and depriving them of their basic rights?