Common School System – Towards Building a Socialist, Democratic and Secular Society

The Context

Common School System (CSS) has been a long standing demand in India ever since it was recommended for the first time by the Education Commission (1964-66). The content and form of a CSS has been a much debated area and the following paper reflects that debate to a certain extent and contributes to it as well. In the contemporary neoliberal India, CSS has become more relevant but at the same time its implementation has become a more complicated task. New forms of education have emerged dictated by the needs of market/capital, which has made the inequity in education starker. One finds trapped in a situation where the impact of market is unavoidable and Ollman captures the situation very well when he argues that we are in a new stage of capitalism

“…but it is a serious ideological distortion to consider that they have brought us beyond capitalism. If anything, with these changes, our society is more thoroughly capitalist than ever before. After all, more and more of the world is privately owned, more and more wealth is devoted to maximizing profits rather than serving needs (and only serving needs in so far as they maximize profits), more and more people sell their labor power in order to live, more and more objects (ideational as well as material) carry price tags and can be bought in the market, and money and those who have a lot of it have more power and status then ever before. This is capitalism, capitalism with a vengeance, and that’s globalization. Which means, too, that the problems associated with globalization cannot be solved—as so many liberals would like to do—without dealing with their roots in the capitalist system” (Ollman, 2001, p.93-94).

The neoliberal framework has affected education diversely and perversely (Kumar and Hill, 2009), exacerbating inequity in education world over and simultaneously resulting in loss of critical thought (Hill and Kumar, 2009). India has not been insulated from the global trend of neoliberalism destroying whatever notions of decommodified zones in education existed (Kumar, 2009a). There has been a process facilitated by the state which has not only ignored the right of every child to be educated in a school of quality but has rather institutionalised discrimination and inequity in the education system, which it now seeks to constitutionalise through the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill pending before the Parliament. It is this context that makes the task of unravelling significance of CSS as a tool to democratise the society and move towards socialism.

Excerpt from a paper presented at a National Seminar on Common School System, Delhi, 24-25 March 2009