Introduction Indian society is now going through a process of transformation. A particular narrative with big political overtones has now been set in motion. The people of the country are deeply divided and the polarization of views is now assuming alarming proportions. We need to bring in massive reform in schools and colleges and each of these should promote cultural harmony and diversity. In doing so, there will be a massive transformation in the educational landscape. The deeply ingrained values will then become very obvious in the minds of thousands of students in both schools and colleges across the country.
To this end, we will discuss a) Active exchange of students in different parts of the country b) Promoting cultural exchange between States c) Using social media to spread positivity d) Making inroads into areas of concern and b) Ensuring continuity of change.
Active exchange of students in different parts of the country The period when the academic year ends can be a very useful starting point for an active exchange of students in different parts of the country. After all, the Railways does give group concessions for such trips. The CBSE schools could immediately start this and, based on experience, it could be extended to all State Board Schools as well. For example, 40 students of standards eight to standard ten of a residential CBSE school near, say, Tirunelveli, in South Tamil Nadu, could visit their counterparts in a city like Jamshedpur or Bhubaneswar to understand the local cultures in such places. That is, the culture of Tamil Nadu could be reflected in that place, with the aid of visuals and so on; about festivals, food, temples, and so on; about cultural practices and about social issues as well. The reverse will also happen. A Tamil Nadu student will hardly learn anything about such a city in his syllabus. At best, he or she would know a bit about such places. However, a direct face-to-face interaction will help a great deal in deeper understanding between people of different parties of India.
This will not only promote a bigger exchange between students but also sow mutually respectful feelings between young minds.
Promoting cultural exchange between States At the macro level, the different States should promote such cultural exchanges and this can promote harmony. Students can become active ambassadors of such cultural exchanges. This can indeed become a bigger macro-level change, as it will involve the parents as well, in the wider scheme of things.
Using social media to spread positivity YouTube videos are available to some extent. For example, in English and in Hindi, there are some videos about the major cities. This is not enough. There should be a lot many YouTube videos on the culturally specific nature of different States and their people. For example, a student of Bihar could know more about the Pongal festival that is an integral part of Tamil culture. Similarly, a student of Tamil Nadu can know the history of the Ganges river and the big role played by freedom fighters from the Northern States. We really have a long way to go in the issue of students understanding the cultural diversity of India. To bridge this gap, the different organs of social media can be very useful to get the desired results.
Making inroads into areas of concern This is another aspect of encouraging cultural diversity and cultural harmony. For example, the somewhat disturbing narrative against the minority religions. The fact is that there are reputed colleges and schools run by the Christian minority and the Muslim minority. Similarly, there are good educational institutions run by the minority Parsi community or the Sikh community. What the students need to know is that their spirit of tolerance towards others should transcend religion. They should never have narrow confines of religion in their minds to even think of supporting any narrative that seeks to assert the supremacy of any religion. This is not only a very urgent imperative, it is also a game-changing initiative that should be taken up to change the impression in the minds of all students, across the country.
Ensuring continuity of change This is another dimension that also needs to be taken into account. The practices outlined and suggested above cannot and should not be a one-off event or just like that option. It should be a continuous movement towards change at all levels and, at the most important school and college students level.
Conclusion There cannot be a far better situation than as of now, for the kind of change in the mindsets of all students at all levels. The beginning of this change has to occur at the cultural exchange level and when this happens, the much wider changes in the society can also be seen in the short-term and long-term.
It is true that the students should be taught about communal harmony and co-existence right from the school times so that it remains deeply in their minds and then they become good citizens of the country. To that extent, the environment in the schools and colleges matters a lot. While visualising and preparing the textbooks also this point is to be kept in mind.
Apart from this students learn a lot from the society and the environment where they live and it is the duty of all, whichever religion or culture they belong to, to inculcate good traits in the children so that they understand the importance of communal harmony. Once the students are exposed to the same guiding principles in schools as outside, they would get it in a proper way and would feel pride in following these guidelines.
Our political system in which there are some politicians who provoke and mislead the public just for the want of votes also requires revamping and until that is done the students would lose the charm of what they learned in their schools and colleges. So cultural harmony is to be established at all levels and then only its true value would be recognised by all.