A reform move that ended Rajaji’s stint as Chief Minister

He quit 10 months after launching Elementary Education Scheme

C. Rajagopalachari (1878-1972), also called CR or Rajaji, whose birth anniversary was observed on Friday, had two eventful innings as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Just as his first stint came to an abrupt end (which was due to the stand of his party, Congress, on the Second World War), the second term too was cut short.

This time, it was due to a combination of factors, one of which was the Elementary Education Scheme that was introduced in June 1953. Ten months later, CR had quit as Chief Minister, following the political controversy that the scheme had triggered.

What is important is that the political narrative that was used to attack the scheme in the early 1950s is still in vogue. The phrase, coined then to dub the scheme as ‘Kula Kalvi Thittam’ (caste-based education system), has come in handy for critics of the New Education Policy, which was unveiled by the BJP-led Central Government last year.

D. Veeraraghavan (1958–2009), a member of the faculty at the IIT-Madras, had chosen CR’s Elementary Education Scheme when he did M.Phil. for his dissertation at the Pachaiyappa’s College in 1980-81. He published a monograph on the scheme.

He originally wrote in English, and it appeared as a book last year titled ‘Half a Day for Caste? Education and Politics in Tamil Nadu, 1952-55’. This has now been translated into Tamil, ‘Saathikku Paathi Naala? Rajajiyin Kalvi Thittam’ and published by Kalachuvadu Publications.

While the duration of school hours under the scheme was fixed at three hours a day with a six-day-a week system, students had to spend the other half of each day with their families, taking part “in their work in the house, field or elsewhere according to their age”, a report published by The Hindu on June 9, 1953, quoted M.V. Krishna Rao, Education Minister in the CR’s Cabinet, as having said.

It was the second component of the scheme that was responsible for the row. Contrary to Mahatma Gandhi’s position that a child’s socialisation took place at school, the CR’s scheme, according to the author, had sought to separate education from socialisation of children. Veeraraghavan’s account had covered philosophical and historical context in which CR came out with his scheme, apart from developments in the field of education following its withdrawal.

The publication contains an introduction by A.R. Venkatachalapathy, historian.

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