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CLASS MONITOR

Uniformity is about the levelling of difference. Regulating what students wear to school is one well-intentioned way of creating a uniform collective identity that rises above the social and cultural disparities that dog the lives of children and young people in India. But the Central human resource development ministry seems to have carried their notion of homogeneity a step forward. It is about to create a single set of benchmarks against which all schools in the country are going to have to measure themselves. The ministry is calling this a means of self-evaluation, to be maintained by each school, which will be monitored, however, by the ministry. Schools will have to show that they are making proper use of the resources they are being given. The benchmarks, and the criteria for inspectors, will be drawn up by the National University for Educational Planning and Administration and officials from the HRD ministry, all of whom seem to take for granted that imposing uniform qualitative standards of performance and monitoring them in a centralized manner are a must for maintaining excellence in education.

As if in some sort of a grandly symbolic enactment of this conviction, the HRD ministry has announced that all schools in the country, including unaided private ones, will have to arrange for live telecast of the prime ministerís Teachersí Day address to the nationís teachers and students. Not only would the schools have to arrange for the technological infrastructure for implementing such an order, but they would also have to adjust timings so that everybody can sit together and listen to the prime minister. His address, together with some sort of technologically sophisticated interaction between him and selected schoolchildren, would improve relations between teachers and students, he seems to think. In Gujarat, live broadcasts in schools of Narendra Modiís speeches were made regularly throughout the state, and on a number of occasions in the school year, during Mr Modiís chief ministership. So, this is one of the many successful ďexperimentsĒ in Gujarat that will now be practised nationwide, according to the stateís education minister. The logistical and infrastructural problems in implementing such an order seem to have escaped those who have communicated it to the schools, and some private schools have made contrary murmurs. But the Delhi Directorate of Education has warned that laxity in implementing this order will be taken seriously, whatever that may mean.