The domain of education has been the ‘reluctant other’ in terms of the attention it gets from political quarters. Parth J. Shah, Founder - Centre for Civil Society, and Director the Indian School of Public Policy talks to News Nation about the domain, its challenges, role of future decision makers, and one of his own initiatives aimed at initiating change.
News Nation: With general elections in full swing, what are your thoughts about the attention the domain of education has received in party-manifestos?
Parth Shah (PS): If one looks-up the meaning of the word ‘manifesto’, the common definition one would find would be on these lines: “A public declaration of policy aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.” Now, the question that arises is: “What weightage does this public declaration have?” Is it only meant to serve as propaganda, common before elections, or does it serve as an objective to abide with (by the concerned party). Many times, and, unfortunately, it is the former. Do we then make a manifesto legally binding? It could be a solution, but in a dynamic country like India, deviations are common, owing to numerous compulsions and scenarios. So, a customized solution needs to be stitched that helps meet a middle path that takes into account these pros and cons. Another aspect is the involvement of the citizenry. How involved is it? How much do they inform themselves about manifestos? Do manifestos or candidates impress citizens? Some important food-for-thought.
New Nation: Talking of citizenry, how important do you feel is their role in today’s time and age, especially the youth?
PS: Well, the youth are also termed as current or future decision makers; hence, their preparedness in terms of their roles and responsibilities is paramount. However, some important questions need thought: “How aware are we? What do we know about our country? Its challenges? Our duties and our rights?” By awareness, I mean not only a superficial knowledge about the country and its affairs, but also an understanding of the current challenges being faced, and a thought applied to possible solutions; in addition, perhaps a more active participation in spearheading change initiation and implementation.
News Nation: How would you suggest initiating more active participation by a young citizenry, especially since India is the youngest democracy of the world?
PS: The youth are surely more aware, today, than before, thanks to technology too. They are also interested in partaking in decision making processes that lead the way to much needed change; and this not only at the individual level. Governments are also becoming more open to hiring experts, who are creative and innovative, so that out-of-the-box solutions are a norm, and not just a fleeting phenomenon. This is the reason also that the subject of public policy is emerging as a subject-of-choice, not only because it secures good career progression, but also enables and empowers to design and implement policies that ensure and sustain positive impact and change.
New Nation: Recently, an initiative of the Centre for Civil Society was launched: the Indian School of Public Policy. How was the vision of this School envisaged?
PS: The Indian School of Public Policy is one of the first Schools in India to commence with a 1-year programme on Policy, Design and Management, with its first batch starting in August, this year. It strives to develop future policy makers by delivering a curriculum that combines theoretical rigour and experiential learning. We are, actually, proud to be associated with names like Shamika Ravi, Nandan Nilekani, Vijay Kelkar, Arvind Panagariya, Shekhar Shah and others.
News Nation: Any message for the youth of today?
PS: Sit up, take notice, think and apply. I think this serves as the crux of being able to be the change one wishes to see. There is no point in cribbing about the change we want to see, when we do little ourselves to support the process that leads to it. Is it not? Think about it.