A day after Karan Sangwan, a teacher on the Edtech platform Unacademy, was sacked due to a viral video in which he appealed to students to vote for educated candidates, triggering extensive discussions and criticism on social media, the educator defended his statement and announced that he will continue teaching on YouTube.
The controversy has sparked response from politicians, singers as well as social media users who have raised issues concerning free speech, educated legislators and “unbiased knowledge.”
Here’s all you need to know about the Unacademy row
THE VIDEO: In the viral video, Karan Sangwan can be heard urging the students to elect educated politicians. He was discussing the recent bills tabled in the Lok Sabha by the union government, aiming to replace the British-era IPC, CrPC and the Indian Evidence Act.
Sangwan added that he himself doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry, as he also possesses numerous bare acts, caseloads and notes that he had prepared. “Keep in mind one thing. Next time vote for someone who is well-educated so you don’t have to go through this again. Elect someone who is educated, who understands things. Don’t elect someone who only knows, changing things and changing names. Take a decision judiciously,” he says.
UNACADEMY SACKS TEACHER: Shortly after the video went viral on social media, Unacademy co-founder Roman Saini released a statement saying Sangwan breached Code of Conduct. “We are an educational platform committed to imparting quality education. To do this we have in place strict Code of Conduct for all our educators with the intention of ensuring that our learners have access to unbiased knowledge,” he said in a post on microblogging site X, formerly known as Twitter.
We are an education platform that is deeply committed to imparting quality education. To do this we have in place a strict Code of Conduct for all our educators with the intention of ensuring that our learners have access to unbiased knowledge. Our learners are at the centre of…
— Roman Saini (@RomanSaini) August 17, 2023
“Our learners are at the centre of everything that we do. The classroom is not the place to share personal opinions and views as they can misguide and wrongly influence them. In the current situation, we are forced to part ways with Karan Sangwan as he was in breach of Code of Conduct,” it read.
CONTROVERSY: The video and its subsequent response sparked a significant reaction on social media, with numerous users rallying behind Sangwan’s statement. However, some others disagreed, asserting that personal opinions should not be shared within classrooms.
A significant number of people have rallied behind Sangwan and demanded uninstalling of Unacademy app. Some pointed out that only in India could someone be dismissed for encouraging students to ‘vote for the educated.’ We are living in peculiar times, where educated individuals are being terminated while the illiterate are being elected, a netizen said.
Meanwhile others supported Unacademy’s decision to sack Sangwan. Classrooms are meant for teachers, not politicians, a netizen wrote on X. Another said educational institutions such as schools, colleges and classes are not meant for political influence on students.
Singer Sonu Nigam thanked Unacademy for terminating the teacher. “Thank You @unacademy for terminating Karan Sangwan. He should have focused on putting more effort into the betterment of students instead of ranting. A teacher must remember that his task is to teach and not to preach. Let democracy and the people of India decide their leaders,” he said in a post.
POLITICAL RESPONSE: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a message posted on X said, “Is it a crime to appeal to vote for educated people? If someone is illiterate, personally I respect them. But public representatives cannot be illiterate. This is the era of science and technology. Illiterate public representatives can never build the modern India of 21st century.”
Y Sathish Reddy, chairman of Telangana State Renewable Energy Development Corporation, also posted on X, “With all due respect to #Unacademy, it is highly inappropriate to suspend a teacher who simply requested not to vote for illiterates. They are liable for a proper explanation! #UninstallUnacademy.”
NO BREACH OF CODE OF CONDUCT, SAYS SANGWAN: Sangwan defended his statement and said he was fired from Unacademy “for just doing my job.” In a video posted on X, he said, “I didn’t breach any code of conduct as mentioned by Unacademy but still I did pay a price for speaking the truth to power.”
As you all know I have been fired from Unacademy for just doing my job. I didn’t breach any code of conduct as mentioned by Unacademy but still I did pay a price for speaking the truth to power.I will not back down, Jai Hind 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/YNOzs2CrwE
— Karan Sangwan ❁ (@ZackRhea) August 18, 2023
He also says due to the viral video, several of students who are preparing for judicial services examinations are “facing a lot of consequences.” “Along with them I have to also face consequences,” Sangwan said.
The educator has started his own YouTube channel named ‘Legal Pathshala’ and has more than 82,000 subscribers. He also announced that he will post details around the controversy on August 19.
Sangwan told India Today that he had not anticipated the virality of the video clip and its misrepresentation, along with the manner in which it would be shared on social media. Clarifying that his words were misconstrued, he said “I made a general statement. I can guide people in the right way. I want educated people. Education is not what people study in classrooms. What I have learnt in my class is what I am imparting.”
He noted that although the online platform’s agreement outlined the avoidance of political statements, it lacked a clear definition of such statements. He clarified, “I refrained from mentioning any specific name or party.”
In correspondence, Unacademy shared a tweet with Sangwan, expressing concern over their reputation. “However,” Sangwan revealed, “they did not engage in a direct discussion with me.”
He attempted to communicate with Unacademy’s top management, yet their response was unyielding. “I had been associated with Unacademy since 2021,” he disclosed, sharing that his profile has now been removed. Asserting his right to freedom of expression, Sangwan stated, as an educator, it is his responsibility is to guide students toward the correct path.
(With inputs from agencies)