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Friday, February 03, 2006

Politics of Failure

S. V Srinivas
-Liberal humanist project of English Departments of elite institutions
-Liberal humanism: A cultural – political position holding up the essential decency of human beings and which promotes democracy, individualism, tolerance, rationality. It glosses over inequalities and differences which are the result of socio-cultural conditions
-Theses English depts exclude and marginalise various categories – of people of texts, of theories. E.g.: for discrepancy between liberal, rhetoric and teaching practice : high failure rate in English courses especially SCST students
- High failure, high dropout converges of two histories :
English in colonial + post colonial India
Post independence education policies
Hence fostere elitism at the expense of primary education
-Purpose of Colonial English education-to create a small class of intermediaries who would then educate the ‘masses’ in the vernacular
-Power + prestige of English created academics and bureaucratic elite
-Postcolonial India. Eng still marker of privilege
-Accessibility to higher education has not increased for people. Governments have perpetuated this condition
-1986 education policy created rural elite
-Much of higher education funding by government goes to central universities
-English language available only to ‘exclusive public schools’ not govt schools.
-As a result Higher education is available only to those not compelled by their economic situation to seek employment
-Present system based on limited accessibility to higher education- compared to the number of students possessing minimum qualification. M.A 50% + required + toppers in entrance test. All this truly selects meritorious students.
-Limited access higher education, ‘merit and excellence’ of individual students + ‘high standards’ of institution a suspect. It shifts states responsibility of its failure in making education more widely available to disadvantaged students. The latter are blamed for their ‘lack of competence’ or lack of interest. In the process, government is absolved of blame for its inadequacy but seen as engaged in positive task of promoting talent and higher standards.
-SC/ST reservation rendered useless by insistence on high standards + hostility of upper class teachers and their administration.
-Obstruction offered to the acquisition of ‘knowledge’ in the discipline by using alienating texts and uncongenial classroom methods. This closes several career options to disadvantaged students like faculty positions. Reserved quota not filled due to non-availability of candidates. This keeps higher education in bureaucratic hands.
-Successful students are to take the blame. The investment is constant despite strength. Successful students internalise the institutions version of individuals excellence and merit and categorise the unsuccessful as ‘uninterested’ or ‘lacking in initiative’
-Legitimate demands of the adversely affected students ignored and few attempts are made to find workable solutions to the problem.
-To break the cycle of exclusion and domination, thus characterises failure. Student should make a sustained intervention.
-Change from within by students who resist authoritarian pedagogies+ teachers of administrators who have to resist their own will to power.
-Shouldn’t our nation prosper.
-Failure not ‘natural’ because of lack of interest but ‘politics’(-power struggle)

Anil Pinto