In a fresh step towards introducing “meditation” and “moral science” classes in government schools and colleges, the Karnataka government has set up a six-member panel to study the matter.
The move has not gone down well with education activists.
A section of educationists in Bengaluru have opposed the Education Department’s move to set up the committee to decide on introduction of meditation sessions and moral science classes for students from Class 1 to 10 in all government schools, and in Pre-University (PU) colleges in Karnataka.
Speaking to South First, Karnataka’s Primary Education Minister BC Nagesh, however, insisted that the move was thought through with several rounds of consultations.
Educationists, however, point to the “futility” of the exercise.
Panel to mull ‘Moral Science’
On Saturday, 18 March, the Department of School Education and Literacy formed a six-member committee to study and analyse the “best ways to implement daily meditation sessions and moral science lessons” at schools and PU colleges across the state.
The department has also selected the six committee members from the field of education and academia. The government order has asked the members to submit its report within a month to the Commissioner of Public Instruction.
The committee comprises Gururaj Karajagi, the president of Academy of Creative Teaching, Dwarkanath, member of Vidya Vardhaka Sangha, Dr VB Arathi, a faculty member from Vibhu Academy, Sucheta Bhat, CEO of Dream Academy, Alpana Palatty, principal of Sophia High School, and B Ameer John, a lecturer of Physics at the Government Girls PU College in Chikkaballapur.
The Education Department has been planning to introduce meditation and moral science lessons in school curriculum for a while now and this has raised eyebrows of educational activists who see this as an attempt to saffronise government schools.
South First had earlier reported on the education department consulting pontiffs of certain Hindu mathas, along with educational experts and academicians, to create a syllabus for Moral Science.
Minister defends move; courses may begin next year
Primary and Secondary Education Minister BC Nagesh told South First that the government was looking to introduce the “new courses” from next academic year.
“We have conducted several seminars involving experts in the field… This is not only for students’ personal development, boosting of their morality and character-building, but also for imparting value education among students in-sync with the National Education Policy. If all goes well, we will introduce this in the upcoming academic year,” he said.
However, a few education activists opposed the move, pointing to several other glaring issues that need redressal in the education system first.
Gurumurthy Kasinathan, educator and member of the National Coalition on the Education Emergency, told South First: “Karnataka has prevented Muslim girls from pursuing their education because of the dress they wear. In this context, whose morals and values are going to be ‘taught’ is something to think about.”
“We hope that the morals and values of one section of society will not be forced on the rest of society, as the aim of education is to make learners aware of diverse truths and build their abilities to critically think about these,” he pointed out.
According to Kasinathan, the National Curricular Framework 2005 is quite clear that topics like moral education or value education are not useful to be taught as subjects, following a didactic method.
“The students learn from what they see teachers do, and not from what teachers say. Hence, moral education has to be woven into every act of the teacher. That would be a long-term project of teacher education, not something that can be done through piecemeal measures,” Kasinathan said.
Secondly, school closures due to lockdown have resulted in great learning deprivation for students, especially those belonging to the marginalised sections of society.
“It is most important that the schools and teachers focus on providing development opportunities connected to the curriculum to the children,” he added.
Educationist Niranjan Aradhya VP told South First: “By constituting a special committee when the academic authority of Directorate of State Education, Research and Training (DSERT) is already notified and existent — and not consulted — shows that the government is trying to create an extra-constitutional body for political benefits. With this move, they are bypassing the procedure to prescribe any curriculum under the RTE Act.”
The renowned education activist also pointed to Section 29 of the RTE Act that prescribes rules for setting the curriculum and other related academic matters.
“Constituting a special committee is in violation of Section 29 of the RTE Act. It is creating extra-constitutional body when a particular academic authority has been notified through a gazette notification,” he said.
He said the government should have asked or consulted the DSERT.
“This is more of creating extra-constitutional bodies to serve some of their political mottos and not really in the interest of children,” Aradhya said.