Dr. Lipi Ghosh
Professor Dr. Ms Lipi Ghosh is a M.A. and Ph. D in History. Currently she is the Centenary Chair Professor of International Relations, University of Calcutta along with her position as Director of the Centre for South & South East Asian Studies and Director, Women’s Study Research Centre, University of Calcutta.
“Education in West Bengal has become subservient to political need and greed for almost half a century.” I begin with this quote of Sisir Bajoria, the political analyst. Is Bajoria correct in expressing this view? Bengal and Kolkata was once an epitome of knowledge and a very significant seat of learning in pan- Indian/ Asian scenario. The University of Calcutta was one of the most preferred and desired destination for students across the countries of Asia. Considering this history, where does Calcutta University stand today? How far is the notion of politicization relevant here?
To look into the history of politicization of education in West Bengal, one must begin with the advent of the CPIM led Left Front government in1977, which started playing a crucial role of intervention in education. Most of the books were written primarily by leftists or left leaning people and those were included in academic curriculum. The prime aim was to promote the leftist ideology and baptizing students through leftist philosophy and inculcating their culture. Basically notions of fraternity and sense of liberalism were not wrong. It primarily attracted persons of young blood who welcomed the promise of better society following the ideology of leftism. This much was fine. But tragedy was that with tenets of leftism,education became parochial. There was comprehensive, deliberate and conscious attempts to wipe out right wing thoughts and ideals. In West Bengal ‘Alimuddin Street’ (CPM party head quarter) gradually became the nerve centre, which kept ‘control’ of the entire education system – primary, secondary and higher. There were hundreds of teachers who were compelled to succumb to Left Front ideology just to earn their livelihood for their families. So truth gave way to pretension. Majority of appointments were under the control of Alimuddin via channels of different left oriented organizations operating within the educational institutions. However, we must admit that, at least at the beginning of their rule, the Left Front government used to choose people with proven excellence in intelligence and knowledge.
The most awful step of the Left Front was withdrawal of English from education system in the state in 1982. While this lasted 25 long years impacting two generations, the children of the top leadership went to English medium private schools;but children of common public were taught in vernacular languages only. The idea was to introduce Russian model to learn language of a nation, but the blunder was that the Indian scenario, with diversity and multi lingual society, could not replicate the Russian model.
Finally with the red stronghold ending and the TMC coming to power, there was a hope that things in the state will change gradually. But to our utter dismay politicization continued, albeit in a new avtaar. Soon the people of West Bengal started to realizethat the entire education system was in systematic disorder and have been gradually giving way to a precarious system where intellectuals lost their right to express their independent thoughts. The worst fact is that gradually quality gave way to a new political colour. Professors were asked to state before the media that they confirmed their allegiance to the ruling party. New ideas of improvement for education were put aside if an intellectual failed to get initiated by the party leaders and their wings in academia. The worst plight is that inspite of untiring service to education, recognition was not given if someone is suspected to have sympathy to any independent thought. All grades of teachers and professors are under scanner in social media. There is unforeseen pressure on administrators to appoint a person for job who espouses only to TMC ideology. If someone does not succumb to political pressure he/ she is debarred from getting the legitimate promotion.
The TMC government brought many new Acts to control power of the Chancellor and those have been introduced just to pursue their own political agenda. One simple example is appointment of a government officials like DPIs as Vice Chancellors of reputed universities setting aside applications of many nationally and internationally accredited applicants.
Universities all over India are known for their autonomy. But for West Bengal,it is unfortunate that the Education Ministry does not believe in this andeven senior academicians are refused any appointment with any proposal of ‘New Vision’ in education sector.
That being the general scenario, it is important to see where does my alma mater stand. Here again undoubtedly many RTIs about appointments were never been replied to. There is no doubt the university holds good ranking but not the superlative one. The grand-standing status cannot wipe out the grim facts that the university, which once had an internationally reputed faculty and quality research work has sadly lost its past glory. So excellence has been gained but glory is lost. The present crisis refers to fall in qualities of teachers, students, administrators and there is a disastrous outcome in terms of placements. Many successful students of University of Calcutta leave for other states of India or abroad.In university administration, there is coercion of new ideas and projects. The university has failed to comply with full term UGC grants and RUSA projects. It has failed to develop factual international collaborations. No doubt several MoUs have been initiated, but the issue is how much pro-active collaboration have been developed? The university still lacks any full-fledged office for international affairs and student affairs. There is lack of a centralized and robust system to keep statistical information about the university. We still need a proper IQAC cell and a centralized Data Bank.
Another farce in education system is conferring the SikshaRatna award to a few selective persons who are ready to give their allegiance to the directives of the education ministry. Academicians in that way are much under denial mode to express their views independently. There is no “piece de resistance”, as people are scared. Even the ministry does not listen to any recommendation of the Vice Chancellor if it does not fit their political agenda. Thus, highly recommended resolution of any committee is also kept in cold storage at BikasBhavan(headquarter of Ministry of Education). The most tragic part of the story is that even Didi k Balo programme ( a programme to connect Chief Minister, popularly known as Di di, directly) does not work in tandem.
The biggest tragedy is that West Bengal refused to accept New Education Policy. So future stakeholders of university especially the students are in dilemma whether there will be job-oriented vocational courses, University- Industry collaboration, and emergence of University of Calcutta as a ‘Knowledge University’ accommodatingideas of advanced artificial intelligence on one hand and morality,values and nationalism on the other.
To conclude one can say that to restore past glory of the University of Calcutta,fair and quality based appointments to bring in talents to assure a new dawn, is the first and foremost recommendation. It is also required to upgrade the University of Calcutta to the status of Central University, so that NEP can be implemented without opposition from state government. Additionally positive visions and mission of education are to be implemented in real sense of the term. Above all quality should reign in Bengal education in lieu of politicization, favoritism and nepotism.