(This piece first appeared in ThePrint on 31 August 2019.)
A 2015 Yuva Nagarik Meter survey found that a majority of India’s youth lacked basic understanding of democracy and even professed attitudes that are antithetical to Constitutional values.
This indicates the failure of school and college education to facilitate engagement around the Constitution and its values in a deep and impactful way.
Even the recent National Education Policy draft, 2019, has mere marginal references to civic education and fails to address the need to build a robust constitutional culture.
At ConQuest 2019 events, conducted by the Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR) and which began on 10 August, we saw flashes of this problem as students struggled to identify words in the Preamble of the Constitution. This sheds light on the poor state of civic education in India.
Most of the teams were familiar with the formal Constitution drafting process between 1946 and 1950. But they were ignorant about several rich documents preceding that period. The teams faltered when quizzed about one such aspirational document — Nehru Report, 1928.
The most significant aspect of this report is that it heavily influenced the fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy chapters in the Constitution. Around 10 clauses of these two chapters can be traced to the Nehru Report, including the right to free expression and opinion, and equality before the law.
While three to four figures became well-known for drafting the Constitution, the important members went unnoticed. In ConQuest, some of the teams had to answer questions on crucial contributions made by the Constituent Assembly members, who were elected to write the Constitution.
Minoo Masani, a three-time MP, was an important Assembly member. After Independence, Masani realised the need to have a strong opposition and joined hands with C. Rajagopalachari to find an alternative ‘independent’ party — Swatantra Party.
In our attempt to educate for employability, Martha Nussbaum, professor at the University of California, says in her book Not for Profit, “We forget to teach skills indispensable to keep our democracy alive.”
Since 2016, the CLPR has been organising ConQuest: India’s Premier National Quiz on the Indian Constitution, History and Politics. The final event of ConQuest 2019 will take place Friday.
ThePrint is a digital partner for ConQuest 2019.