Ahmedabad: The BJP-led Gujarat government has come under fire for asking schools to ensure that students respond with 'Jai Hind' or 'Jai Bharat' during roll call instead of the customary 'Yes Sir', with the Opposition arguing the move will "not change the quality of education".
While state Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama on Tuesday said the step would "instill a feeling of patriotism", the opposition Congress asked the government to improve the "deteriorating quality of education".
Criticising the state government, Gujarat Congress unit president Amit Chavda said the new practice will not change the quality of education in state-run and affiliated schools.
According to a notification issued on Monday by the Directorate of Primary Education and Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB), students of class 1-12 of the government, grant-in-aid and self-financed schools will have to respond to the attendance call with 'Jai Hind' or 'Jai Bharat', starting January 1. The objective of the new practice is to "foster patriotism among students right from childhood", it said.
Chavda said the BJP government had made several efforts to instill patriotism among school students. "Altering a certain practice will not improve the standard of education," he said.
The Congress leader alleged that the quality of primary education was going down in Gujarat. "The quality is even worse than many other under-developed states. The standard of primary education in Gujarat has gone down significantly over the last several years. The BJP government only engages in talks and programmes in the name of improving quality," he said.
Chavda asked the state government to rather focus on improving school infrastructure, recruiting teachers to fill the huge backlog of vacancies and "not forcing teachers to do non-teaching jobs for the government".
Patidar leader Hardik Patel said, "The children and youth of Gujarat should not be forced to express their patriotism, as that feeling runs in their blood". He said the government should prioritise improving the "significantly deteriorated" quality of education in the state.
"Instead of improving the quality of education, the education minister is talking about teaching patriotism to Gujarat's youth and children. He should know that everybody here is born with the feeling of patriotism," Patel said.
"This is an attempt to deflect from the right issues. Schools are getting closed. Shortage of teachers is also an important issue," the Patidar leader added.
Even as the BJP and opposition parties engage in a verbal duel over the propriety of the move, students news agency PTI spoke with seemed to have no issues with the new directive.
"The concept (of saying 'Jai Hind' or 'Jai Bharat') is very good. Being an Indian, saying 'Jai Bharat' fills us with a sense of pride for our great country. It reminds me of the glorious history of our country's struggle for Independence," a student said.
"We are proud of our country's struggle for freedom. The concept is very good and should be accepted by all the schools in the country," said another student of a private school.
Meanwhile, the state education minister said the government should be open to accepting "good suggestions". "Jai Bharat and Jai Hind are much better than 'Yes Sir'. Saying 'Jai Hind' or 'Jai Bharat' creates a feeling of patriotism, which is why I have decided to make the changes," he told reporters.
Chudasama said schools affiliated to CBSE and other boards have also been asked to follow the new guidelines. "Even local private schools have agreed that it is a good decision (of the state government)," he added....