Values in a kit

Do we need moral instruction in schools? Do we need it from movies like 'LOC Kargil'?

It is rather startling that the new HRD Minister Pallam Raju has placed "value education" at the top of his to-do list, at a time when his ministry has undone work on every front from higher education regulatory reform to RTE outcomes, not to mention the enormous skilling challenge. In his first week in office, Raju has unveiled the CBSE's "value education kit", which includes a list of movies approved for instructional purposes.

This is not to dismiss the project altogether. For instance, if this value education component was designed like a philosophy class, where students bumped up against the vexing ethical questions of their lives, it would definitely be worthwhile. Many countries where public schooling is strictly leached of religious teaching have a place for philosophy learning. However, the danger lies in the very frame of "value education" one that assumes that teachers fill passive students with uplifting ideas. Education should be freeing, not rest on old didactic models. A more evolved pedagogy must start with a problem-posing approach, letting students unlock their own experience.

The success of this movie experiment depends entirely on how they are incorporated into the classroom. These largely preachy films shouldn't become an occasion for more preaching. For instance, a movie like Purab Aur Pashchim, which assumes a moralising tone against "Western" values, needs to be placed in context. Many others must be read against the grain, rather than being placards for "the spirit of survival" or the "fight for justice". Surely, if the unabashedly mawkish Baghban was viewed as a straight lesson in family values or if the chest-thumping version of patriotism espoused by LOC Kargil was not critically assessed, then the point would be lost, even damaged.

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