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Why Constitution must be taught at all levels?


Why Constitution must be taught at all levels?

Sambit Dash

Concepts of secularism, federalism, freedom of expression, all of which invoke strong sentiments, need dispassionate teaching to the young.

I have rarely met a high school student who has exhibited a liking, let alone love, for the subject of Civics. And when it comes to the “Constitution of ”, the expression young kids usually give will disappoint an enthusiast.

Starting from questioning the intent of its place in the curriculum, to its relevance, to the teaching methodology, learning Constitution barely interests the young. The similar disinterest carries on for a majority into their adult life.

Since the value and importance of learning and understanding basic tenets of Constitution is immense, a refreshing curriculum and innovative teaching methods will go a long way in removing the drab tag associated with it.

The cornerstone of teaching civics in schools is to build that dutiful subject of the state who knows well about the rules and regulations of the government. Children are taught how a government is elected; the divisions of executive, legislature and judiciary and so on. Most will agree that these “procedural facts” are delivered in classrooms in the most non-engaging manner. It only promotes rote learning.

As in any discipline, when students do not find relevance or application, the motivation to internalise the fundamentals of the subject is low. The exercise then is restricted to scoring marks in an exam. But that is not what teaching Constitution should be confined to.

In order to break that mould, a big change needs to come about in the curriculum itself. Depending on the stage of the pupil, teaching Constitution should be more practical, problem and case-based, and should revolve around asking the right questions, however uncomfortable they are.

Going local is the best way to begin. A visit to the municipality office, a Panchayat office, undertaking community services go a long way in making kids understand how local governance is structured. Signs, symbols, monuments or any other historical item related to Constitution could be taught in a hands-on, project-based manner.

At this point, however, it is important to stress that unless the teachers themselves understand the need and are oriented and trained well, any amount of changing curriculum will be fruitless.

To make the subject not so “boring”, help of should be sought. Games or exercises where every student can become a legislator or a prime minister, make laws, take decisions on drawn up cases will help.

Drawing up a basic constitution for an imaginary nation can be a good exercise for students of higher classes. Teaching Constitution should not be restricted to schools alone. Given the woeful lack of awareness, it should be extended, in very small and well-crafted modules for technical and higher too.

UGC's endeavour to celebrate Constitution Day in all colleges across the country is laudable in this regard. But as it often happens, the execution is lackadaisical.

Last-moment e-mails to university registrars, a strange pledge (which includes for whatever reason “…in view of the growing danger to the integrity and unity of the country, I hereby pledge myself never to resort to physical violence in the case of any dispute..”) make such celebrations a thrust-upon affair.

If you have spent time debating on political issues on Facebook, or with your colleagues at work or in an old class Whatsapp group, you might realise how ill-informed debates are, how there is gross lack of awareness about Constitutional values, and as a fallout how a lot of people feel discussing such issues a taboo and steer clear from them (more than 37 per cent Americans feel “worn out” by amount of political content on social media).

While not taking part is a personal prerogative, for a liberal democracy like ours to thrive, a basic education on Constitution is quintessential.

Amman Madan in his essay for EPW titled “Old and new dilemmas in Indian Civic education” writes, “All that children are expected to learn is the mechanism of elections and the formation of governments. The conflict of interests, the character of the major power blocs and their struggle for power, in short, all that is actually necessary for any informed decision-making, is quietly brushed under the carpet.”

Concepts of secularism, federalism, democracy, liberty, freedom of expression, special status of states, all of which invoke strong and polarising sentiments, need dispassionate teaching to the young.

Certain battles are long-term in duration. They have to be fought with resolve, in a spirited and sustained manner.

Teaching tenets of Indian Constitution, a document which has the design of a collective destiny, to vast majority, in order to preserve the values so deeply enshrined in our polity and society, and in turn provide fodder for thought, thoughts about its relevance in contemporary times and the changes that it might need, is one such battle.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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