Political literacy, is Kerala lagging behind?

Need to educate politicians


Kerala has the highest literacy rate. But when it comes to financial literacy and political literacy, one wonders whether all is well with the education system in Kerala. The low level of political literacy, or simply put, the below average performance of politicians when it comes to communicating with people and media has been a cause of concern in the recent past.

The latest provocation to pen this article is the reported outburst of state minister Ibrahim Kunju in a meeting in Pattambi. According to the minister, governance of Kerala is under the control of Muslim League, but the party generally does not admit it. But this happens to be a fact and due to the benevolence of Allah, nothing unacceptable to League will move in Kerala. The minister further explained the point he was driving at.

Home minister Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan struggled to save the situation arising from the League minister’s speech by saying that such claims are quite normal in ‘party’ meetings and added that what he meant was that League being a ruling coalition partner, the party should behave with more responsibility. Shankaracharya who interpreted ‘Brahmasutra’ or Bhagavadgita will come and prostrate before Radhakrishnan for the wisdom he has evinced in this interpretation.

Our country had a tradition of educating children in families with the profession or occupation they would pursue when they grow up. The arrangement disintegrated and failed when it graduated into caste system and the roles families played got identified as priesthood, royal, business and menial.

Time has come for a re-look at our system of education to reorient it to meet the present day needs. Political class is the worst affected by our present bias to the western education thrust upon us by the British, which we are still reluctant to leave behind. The British never wanted a well-informed ruling class to develop in India. That is one reason for the absence of any management school here which grooms politicians to take up the tasks of governance. In our schools, children are taught to obey, but hardly any training is given to ‘command’. Beyond arts, science, technology and principles of ethics and morality, principles of good governance should form an integral part of our curriculum from primary to graduation level. In the process, prospective netas will also learn what to speak, where to speak and when to speak. Viewed in this context, the proposal to establish the Indian School of Political Management which came up as part of ‘Emerging Kerala’ festival is to be welcomed. Kerala needs it most.

In addition, at the graduation and post-graduation level, students who may be interested in accepting full-time career in politics should have the option to specialize in skills necessary for grooming them for the purpose. In an ideal situation, major political parties will be able to make campus recruitments from such schools. On a pilot basis government could consider supporting such specialized courses in select colleges and management institutes. As people in government, individual politicians and bureaucrats may have reservations about infusing professionalism in their captive pastures of lifetime employment, the idea may have to be popularized by the student community, media and academicians.

To ensure that the benefits of political education reach the target group, a reverse reservation system through committed campus recruitment of cadre by political parties and transparent remuneration arrangement for full time political work will have to be thought of. A corollary would be a smooth exit route and rehabilitation scheme for the sick, aged, disabled and illiterate lot of politicians holding various positions in political parties, governments and legislatures. They should be paid pension to maintain the lifestyle they are entitled and they should be retained as resource persons to support and mentor the new generation entering politics and government.

Media may not welcome this change, as these days, controversies created by political speeches form the bread and butter of mainstream media.

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