Watermelons of Goa: Manohar Parrikar’s Allegorical Message for our Education System

A speech by Bharat’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar at an event hosted by the Federation of Gujarat Industries in Vadodara, has a very powerful message for the education system of our country

“I am from the village of Parra in Goa, hence we are called Parrikars. My village is famous for its watermelons. When I was a child, the farmers would organise a watermelon-eating contest at the end of the harvest season in May. All the kids would be invited to eat as many watermelons as they wanted.

Years later, I went to IIT Mumbai to study engineering. I went back to my village after 6.5 years. I went to the market looking for watermelons. They were all gone. The ones that were there were so small. I went to see the farmer who hosted the watermelon-eating contest. His son had taken over. He would host the contest but there was a difference.

When the older farmer gave us watermelons to eat he would ask us to spit out the seeds into a bowl. We were told not to bite into the seeds. He was collecting the seeds for his next crop. We were unpaid child labourers, actually. He kept his best watermelons for the contest and he got the best seeds which would yield even bigger watermelons the next year.

His son, when he took over, realised that the larger watermelons would fetch more money in the market so he sold the larger ones and kept the smaller ones for the contest. The next year, the watermelons were smaller, the year later even small. In watermelons the generation is one year. In seven years, Parra’s best watermelons were finished. In humans, generations change after 25 years. It will take us 200 years to figure what we were doing wrong while educating our children.”

Manohar Parrikar is spot on when he says that just like the watermelons of Parra were destroyed in 7 years, we too are on the path of destroying our nation society as we have neglected our education system for many generations now. One hopes that Parrikar ji’s colleague Prakash Javadekar in Ministry of Human Resource Development (MoHRD) and PM Modi listen to his message and take the following actions asap –

More Autonomy for Private Schools

  • Stop hunting down private Hindu run schools using RTE, a sectarian law introduced by Sonia Gandhi (and sadly not opposed by BJP) in 2009 under the cloak of social justice. RTE is a bad law and needs to be repealed, or at the very least needs to undergo drastic reform. 1000s of budget schools and top-notch institutions like NPS, Bengaluru are closing or being harassed under RTE which has unleashed ‘inspector raj’ on schools and also crippled them financially. Minority run schools like Christian missionary institutions are exempt from RTE, which is tantamount to skewing the playing field in their favor.
  • Use school vouchers to offer true choice to those from EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) background.

Drive for excellence in public schools

  • Have a laser focus to improve quality of public schools – when an autonomous Government body like KV Sangathan can run a chain of successful schools ‘Kendriya Vidyalayas‘ across the nation, it shows that other State run schools can deliver results too, if they are given more autonomy and held accountable for learning outcomes.

Curricula Reform – Go Indigenous!

  • Our school curricula needs a complete overhaul to provide both an indigenous perspective, and include latest scientific advancements. Discredited, divisive theories and doctored history peddled by Marxist historians needs to be done away with – let our children learn true facts about our civilization and roots of our nation. Shying away from our traditional knowledge repositories like Sanskrit, Yoga etc. due to fear of the ‘saffronization’ charge is ridiculous.
  • Ever since 1835 when Macaulay introduced the ‘modern’ education system in Bharat, we have laid stress on English as the medium of education in schools; for higher education in science, engineering, management, law etc. English is the only medium of education. For 69 years after Independence we have continued to follow this same system and where has it got us? Today, we lag behind countries like South Korea, Japan, Russia, China, Israel – all of which provide education (from school to college) in their native mother tongue!
  • It is time we broke the language apartheid that has only produced a layer of English speaking ruling class (IAS, judges, intellectuals etc) who are mediocre in their chosen domains and totally disconnected from the roots of the land. People like Sankrant Sanu with initiatives like www.bhashaneeti.org have done substantial ground-work in this area, and would be only too happy to aid the Government.

Faculty training

  • We need to improve Faculty training – our teachers need to be given all modern tools & training to ensure they can create world class students.
  • How can we attract our best young minds to teaching? For a start, we need to involve more young scholars and thinkers into policy making circles to challenge the ossified thinking of the Nehruvian academics, babus & civil society crowd who have hijacked education. There are a lot of insightful voices on social media who can be engaged if the Government shows the slightest interest.

(Disclaimer: We are grateful to Eisha Sarkar for her transcription of Manohar Parrikar’s speech.)