In continuation of my previous article on how Puducherry faces the problem either of improper institutionalization or absence of institutions, I would like to discuss the need for a Board of Education at Puducherry. Interestingly, though the Government of Puducherry has established educational institutions, it does not have an education board to prescribe or determine the curriculum. Hence, it has no education policy of itself.
Puducherry has 4 administrative districts. While Mahe and Yanam are surrounded by the States of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh respectively; Pondicherry and Karaikal are surrounded by Tamil Nadu. Puducherry has 5 official languages which include Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, English and French. The district administration of Mahe, Yanam, Pondicherry & Karaikal use predominantly Malayalam, Telugu & Tamil respectively. The schools in these districts follow the curriculum drafted/governed by their neighbouring States as pointed above.
Though the Political establishment at Puducherry does not seem to be bothering about the impact of a lack of education board in the UT, it has an adverse impact on the Government and its people due to the following reasons:
1. People of Puducherry do not get to study the peculiar history they are part of. The students know Lord Cornwallis better than Dupleix who ruled them. Unfortunately, the schools do not even teach them when Puducherry attained independence and when the territory became a part of the Indian Republic. Most of all, very few people know why November 1 has been declared recently as Puducherry Liberation day.
2. The students do not get to study the political status of Puducherry. They know the role of the Governor of a State better than the Constitutional role of the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry. Keeping them unaware of how they are ruled and who rules them, is a serious danger to the democracy we cherish.
3. The admission to higher education institutions, including professional courses at Puducherry is by CENTAC (Centralized admission). The admission is based on the marks scored by the students in their Class XII (Higher Secondary – Final exam). As the standard of education and curriculum differs from district to district, the students from the various districts are apparently placed on a different footing. Therefore, the CENTAC is certainly unjust towards students from any one of the districts at given point of time.
4. Puducherry has a dubious distinction of having complete Rural – Complete Urban mixture. According to the department of Agriculture, Government of Puducherry, 44% of the population of Pondicherry is dependent on Agriculture while the total area of the district measures about 293 Sq.KMs. This peculiar demography and geography requires education peculiar to sustain its identity.
5. The education institutes at each of the districts follow different language policies based on the curriculum they adopt. This is a serious impediment on the cultural exchange between residents of the different districts and causes hardship to the workers, staff and students who migrate to different districts within Puducherry for employment and education purposes.
6. Government of Puducherry cannot build Human Resources that the UT requires for its economy and employment. It cannot even shape its students according to its policies. In other words, to design its policies and implement them, the Government of Puducherry has to always hire experts from outside Puducherry. If the Government of Puducherry cannot decide whether it requires scientists or doctors, it cannot sustain its economic growth and safeguard its geographic and demographic identity in the long run.
7. Students study the policies/welfare measures of the Government of neighbouring states and are kept totally unaware of the policies of the Government they elect.
8. The students do not know about themselves – their Government, their economy, their laws, and their demography and hence they tend to be completely illiterate about their own identity which is a serious human problem that one should not lose sight of. This is a serious injustice done to the residents of Puducherry.
9. The Government of Puducherry recently filed a Petition before the Supreme Court seeking exemption of its students from the NEET exams. One of the grounds that it took is that there is no level playing field for students from the UT. Leave alone the different standards of education followed within the Union Territory, this amounts to acceptance that the standard of education it provides is not on par with the standard followed elsewhere. But the Government of Puducherry can do nothing about raising the standard of its curriculum without having an education Board of itself.
10. Puducherry cannot absorb its students in employment unless it gives them the education that can align with its job requirements. Puducherry gives away much of its professionals like lawyers, doctors and engineers to its neighbouring States.
11. Puducherry has not been able to produce as much national & international sportspersons, artists and scientists as it could have otherwise produced with its own curriculum and education system.
12. The legal system at Puducherry has minute differences from the English laws that are followed elsewhere in India. For instance, property laws applicable to Christians at Puducherry are a little different from those that are applicable to Christians outside Puducherry. Studying the local laws of neighbouring States is not of much help to students of Puducherry.
It is important to note that according to the 2011 census, the literacy rate of Puducherry is 86.55% which is much higher than the national average. But for the reasons stated above, the people of Puducherry are illiterate of themselves due to the absence of an education Board. Unfortunately, the education system has not even made them think of such a serious issue.