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`Parties don't focus on education'

By Divya Sreedharan



V.S. Prasad

BANGALORE, MARCH 19. After listening to students' views on the coming elections, we sounded out a cross-section of eminent educationists, especially those involved in framing policies for the education sector, for their comments on politics, parties and the elections.

V.S. Prasad, Director of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), regrets that party manifestos make no specific mention of education. "All the manifestos are general on this aspect," he says. But the elections are a fantastic opportunity for publicly debating such issues. "Elections are a process of political education." The process is there, "not just for people to `choose' the right candidate, but it gives us a say in what we want for ourselves and the country." Asked how he rates our politicians, Prof. Prasad says "elections themselves are an accreditation process. And like the institutional accreditation we do, they too happen every five years."



V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai

V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice-Chairman of the University Grants Commission and former NAAC Director, says that teachers play a very important role in elections. "We have to make use of the advantages we have and try to bring in a Government that supports higher education; a Government moreover that will put in enough funds into that sector."

India, he says, is unique in that 60 per cent of its population is under the age of 30. "Only by canalising the youth through education, can we aspire to the status of a developed country." Prof. Pillai echoes Prof. Prasad's views on accrediting politicians, but says that "when politicians go asking for votes, they are, in a sense, seeking accreditation for their work."



Mohan Menon

Mohan Menon, an education specialist with Commonwealth of Learning, sees an "unhealthy trend" in party campaigns. "Nowadays, parties rope in actors to infuse a `glamour quotient' and pull in the crowds. But they do so because they lack real issues to present before the people," he says. "But if an actor of the calibre of Shabana Azmi or a social activist like Medha Patkar enters politics, it is to be welcomed."

Education is a major issue, he says. While the country has enough funds to put into education, State-wise allocations differ. That has to be better coordinated. Besides, right now "national bodies do not look at how private educational institutions work. That has to change. If we let the private sector run schools any which way, our children will get spoiled." Prof. Menon adds that politicians have to be judged by the values they espouse. "It doesn't matter if they are from urban or rural backgrounds."



Shardindu --Photos: K. Gopinathan

Shardindu, Chairperson of the National Council for Teachers' Education, would not comment on the elections or the issues before the electorate. But he did stress that Governments are bound by the Constitution to provide free and compulsory education for all children in the age group of 6 to 14. "They have to ensure that," he says.

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