Ministers want education system to make students more patriotic

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From introducing military lessons in schools to compulsory hoisting of the national flag, education must help make students more patriotic than they are, a group of ministers has suggested to the country’s top education policy-making body.

Among their other suggestions are building more military-focused schools, teaching biographies of national heroes and making the singing of the national anthem mandatory for children to create an “ecosystem of morals, ethics and patriotism”.

The ideas were pushed by several central ministers as well as those from BJP-ruled states at a meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) on October 25. The minutes of the meeting were accessed by HT this week. CABE is the highest advisory body on education for central and state governments.

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The suggestions echo an increasingly strident brand of nationalism whose rise has coincided with the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government two years ago. Many oppose this resurgent nativist wave as just a means to curb personal freedom and dissent.

In the October 25 meeting, Deepak Joshi, Madhya Pradesh’s minister of state for school education, suggested that more Sainik schools be built than state-run Kendriya and Navodaya Vidyalayas because “nationalism and patriotism is need of the hour”.

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“He further suggested that chapters on the role of freedom fighters and stories of national heroes could be included in the upcoming policy,” according to the meeting’s minutes. The government is in the process of overhauling the country’s education policy.

Joshi’s idea of military education was echoed by Mahendra Nath Pandey, Union minister of state for human resource development, who said, “Military education should be provided to students to promote the idea of patriotism and nationalism. He felt that due importance be given to girls’ education and value education”.

Discussions also included shortages of teachers, skill development, the state of midday meals in schools, how to push yoga, rising dropout rates and the possibility of imparting lessons in mother tongue.

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Vijay Goel, minister of state (independent charge) for youth affairs and sports, stressed on instilling patriotism and nationalism in the curricula. Terming moral-and value-based education as the need of the hour, Kunwar Vijay Shah, minister of school education of Madhya Pradesh, suggested schools and government offices compulsorily fly the Tricolour.

For Himanta Biswa Sarma, minister for higher, secondary and elementary education in Assam, the focus must be on developing an eco-system where students could learn and develop patriotism.

But this isn’t the first time government ministers have spoken of the need for education to be more patriotic.

In February, the central government decided to fly the Tricolour atop a 207-feet mast in all central universities across the country to evoke nationalistic sentiments on campuses, many of which were at that time rocked by anti-establishment protests.