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Citizenship for Growth

Citizenship education can be a prime driver for the nation’s growth, says V.P Gupta, Director (Operations).

The current Indian education system is very effective in developing theoretical understanding and testing rote-learning levels of our students. It helps in sharpening a student’s mind to solve academic problems and to use modern technology. Most Indian school syllabi have “civics” as a subject in high school, where students are taught about the provisions of the Indian constitution and the three branches of the Indian government – legislature, judiciary and executive. However, during their long studentship career spanning over 20 years or so (depending upon the level of higher studies done), students hardly learn about citizenship – the knowledge which they need for the rest of their lives to be effective citizens of our country.

After completing their studies, when students start experiencing the challenges of day-to-day life and have to deal with community issues, they realise that while they have acquired academic degrees, they are ill-equipped with knowledge to solve social and community problems independently. They lack an understanding of their responsibilities and roles as a citizen. The problems they face may be in the form of dealing with various government and administrative departments, legal and medical issues, management of households, bringing up children, housing, financial systems, etc. The list seems endless. Many remain dependent on their parents and other elders to help them find a way. They spend their youth and middle age in trying to negotiate “the system". They are ill-equipped to find solutions together as common citizens, to live and work together in equity and equality.

From the government, on television debates and in commencement speeches, we hear suggestions on what we should teach in schools and colleges – every student should learn Sanskrit some say, others say computers should be made available in every school in India, and we are reminded that basic learning levels in primary education are so poor. Why does no one speak of “citizenship education”? Students should be educated about the community roles and social responsibilities of what it means to be a “good citizen” along with basic administrative, medical, legal and financial systems. This will help them adjust well in their role as adult citizens. By virtue of being effective citizens, they can contribute significantly towards implementation of various government schemes, thus speeding up the development process. It will also help towards nation building.

Whether in college and or in high school, students should be educated about citizenship and its responsibilities. Even if only 10 percent of a student’s time is utilized in exposure to our responsibilities as citizens towards the poor and the excluded, community living and participation in the development process, they will graduate as better and well prepared citizens who can contribute significantly to take forward the governmental agenda for development and nation building. They can learn the power of participatory methodologies and contribute ideas to solve the problems of the local communities in which they reside and study. I am sure, once the younger generation learns citizenship, it will be difficult for other nations to catch up with India.

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