As usual, this has been simmering inside my head for a long time now.. Three years to be very precise. But the other day when I was running this idea by a friend of mine who always gives me perspective, I realized it is not as silly or naive as it sounds inside my head. So well, here’s another of my theories, and this time, on our very basic education. I have to admit though that much of the insights have been taken from my friend.
The idea is to make “Basic Law” a subject in school, and to make it an alternative to History.
(Do I hear some “Aye”s here? Even the slightest nod of the head?)
It all started when one day while watching History Channel, I’d realized stuff like this I had never read in text books. That I am not interested in History per se, unless it makes me think beyond the facts and figures, is a different thing altogether. But well, presented to me in a proper way, and leaving enough questions unanswered to make me want to find them, at times I do get excited about the bygones. Don’t get me started on how it is way past the right time the syllabus in our schools in Assam (under SEBA) got a revision, but even then, History has always been drab; with nothing in it that triggered a spark in our intellect. I opted for Advanced Mathematics in school because there was no other alternative to History. I hear now they have Geography as well (I’m talking about my school here, but I know there must be many more like mine). My point is, isn’t basic law much, much more relevant than History? What with the internet being an information goldmine, people who are really interested in history can get anything they want out here. But how many websites teach us how to overcome fear to visit a police station to file an FIR? Or for that matter, on the spur of the moment, will it even occur to us to surf the internet to see if there’s any information on how to file an FIR?
But the gist of the matter is not whether the internet provides information about basic law or not. I believe just like Civics and Geography are a part of Social Studies, Basic Law should be too. Children in school should learn about laws against physical abuse, or even that physical abuse is unlawful. Girls even while growing up should learn about laws related to marriage (I had to call up my lawyer sister-in-law to know how long it takes to get a marriage certificate done), and against domestic violence. Workers and office-goers should have knowledge about corporate laws, and when they can take some matter to law. Everybody should benefit from the confidence that comes from the knowledge that no one can take undue advantage of them because of their ignorance regarding the law.
So while we had a whole chapter on our Constitution and our basic rights and responsibilities, we still didn’t learn about how to file an FIR. Or even what cases bring in the necessity of an FIR. We didn’t learn about what being a witness to a case entails. All that we know about a courthouse from contorted and dramatized depictions in television and movies is that they have stands for criminals and witnesses, and there’s a judge who goes “Order Order!” and in crucial cases the witness could also get threatened. We didn’t learn about the RTI Act from text books. Except for using it to get our answer scripts reviewed, or revealed to us (even that process takes ages) we haven’t made much use of it either. We didn’t learn about the laws leading to reserved quotas and the only time when we even passed a thought to it was that time when AIIMS students protested against the reservation system. How relevant in Tutankhamun’s tomb when compared to these?
Now this part is totally inspired by my friend, and am using his words here because he is too lazy to come up with anything written (or typed) about this. Moving beyond just law, why don’t we learn the very basic life skills while in school? My mother, who has been a teacher for over thirty years now, mentioned that NCERT has made in mandatory for life skills to be included in the syllabus, and there are even textbooks to that affect, but none of it has been really implemented the right way. Simple things, like learning to open an account in a bank, or getting a demand draft done, or how to deposit money in an account; these are the kind of stuff many of us wish we knew before we are standing in the middle of a thick crowd in a government bank, wondering which way to go and whom to approach! How to apply for a driving license, how to get your passport done, how to get your pass certificates done, how to get your PRC done and what are the documents you need for all of these, how to get a visa done.. and most importantly, what are the state-approved fees for getting all of these done, these are things that should not create confusion among us. There is always only that someone we know who knows. I’m not saying this will overnight curb corruption and bribery, but I sure as hell know this will give them officers something to think about.. that we all KNOW.
Well, that’s all for now. With an administrator of a father, and a teacher of a mother, I think this will suffice for tonight’s dinner talk. Oh by the way, I voted today. Though it is sad to see that even though we learnt in school about voting being one of our basic rights and duties as citizens of a democratic country, and history speaks volumes about the struggle for woman suffrage, I don’t know many people my age who actually voted today. Time for a change, I’m sure. In so many more ways than one.