For an entire decade now, the word "youth" has been the buzzword for our nation's policies and politics, but have we really managed to give them a voice where most needed? Often seen as having good potential as candidates, voters and election campaigners, there are certain areas where the youth needs this country's political class to hear them.
A suppressed voice, an ignored voice of the young for the simplest reasons is what leads to harbouring the feeling of frustration, anti-establishment and hopelessness; that, in turn, leads to divides that have created crevasses in our country for long.
Hearing those voices, reasoning with them, helping them meet their basics from the government is what will help us achieve path-breaking ideas, barrier-breaking progress. Progress, to start off with, may not be a leap of 10 steps, but let's take the first one, moving away from inertia and fear of decades.
We have to take a multi-pronged approach to hearing the voice of the youth - Education Reforms at School and University, Grievance Redressal and a voice post-education.
Education reforms are much needed today. For this, we may not only look at other countries, but also at some simple traditional methods of learning in our own past, like that of teaching mathematics. Education has seen a divide like none other, primarily because of the divide between urban-rural, between different examination boards, between the quality of teaching and school infrastructure.
Even as we lay our focus on much-needed toilets for children and general overhaul of infrastructure, what we teach and learn must also be reviewed and revamped. Are we learning for the needs of our nation's future? Are we sustaining knowledge-based education, or are we encouraging rote learning?
After all, we are looking at our work force, leaders and professionals to come from this very system!
At the school level, we must have a singular well-managed Board of Studies and Examination across the nation. We cannot have similar subjects being taught or understood differently in each different State of India. While regional languages taught in respective States till Class 8 is advisable, the basic syllabus and examination control must be common for subjects like History, Mathematics, Geography, Civics, Sciences, Economics etc.
Similarly, at Universities, we must break from the stream system of Arts, Commerce and Science to a combination of subjects from any stream. Research and Development must also be encouraged at the University level, not keeping it limited to only scientific organizations. Curriculum for each subject like business studies, vocational courses may be designed for the next few decades, seeing the needs and changing dynamics of each field. Along with vocational courses for skill development, we must also look to hone the existing skills and passions for subjects taken as unconventional in India like music, film studies etc. Unconventional subjects today have a vast scope for creation of employment.
The question of unemployment today is because of the churning out of students with similar common degrees. We must move from degree-based education to knowledge and a talent-based education system. Whilst degrees qualify our knowledge, we must make sure that the qualification is based on the application of and excellence in knowledge. It is vital that we support the theme "passion must be profession."
Issues like problems of exams and a lack of toilets on campus would be solved by getting the attention it deserves from the ministry. We cannot let the frustration of such small issues be enlarged due to red tape or lack of enthusiasm. Students are one of the largest sections of our society and will only increase. Their angst and frustration at being ignored are a major liability for a nation banking on its young population.
Along with Ease of Business in our country, we must also look at Ease of Education.
Post education too, the youth deserve a voice and answers to their questions. At the ASSOCHAM meet in July 2013, addressed by Shri Rajnath Singh and Shri Uddhav Thackeray, I had proposed the National Youth Advisory Council.
The council would work on a federal structure, fair and far from political interference. It may rotate every two years and not give immediate repetitive seats to members. To avoid credit wars, the proponents and seconders of proposals may be kept secret; however, whatever be the doubts about such councils, we need to have the youth of today in positions to sit with the PM and Chief Ministers to understand the Government - its problems, its solutions, its way ahead and may be to propose a few solutions.
Each council should consist of a cabinet-like intake on issues, picking youth from different fields of work - Education, Business, Aviation, Legal fraternity, Health and Fitness, Maritime, Finance, International Relations, Tourism, Hospitality, Agriculture and so on.
The younger lot, the ones with the fire in their belly, always have some path-breaking ideas. It is not their fault that they tend to see things from a different perspective. We need to let them voice it. We have to channelize it positively. Their proposals might fail, falter, they aren't binding, but we need the youth to understand the issues faced by the Government and see it through a different lens. We need to gradually help them evolve from only being a part of the electoral process to the decision-making processes, if we are to see younger leaders. Who knows, one might just find a bright solution for some issue, some day!
(Aaditya Thackeray is the president of Yuva Sena, the youth wing of Shiv Sena)
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