Equal and Ideal Education

(from book “Samay Samaj aur Sanskriti”- Publisher, Medha Books)

 

The administration of the country is run by the bureaucracy at all levels – national, state, local. The wide ranging discrepancies at all these levels could have been removed by the bureaucracy had they been exposed to equal and uniform education. But that is not happening simply because in the matter of education also, we hardly find any kind of uniformity, equality or idealism. Therefore, the social and administrative reforms that were expected of the bureaucracy during the last more than half a century have remained unfulfilled. The ill effects of this are being felt by the administration itself and also be the society at large.

 

If we take a common example from the bureaucracy itself, we would find that whenever there is a change at the top level in a bureaucratic set up, the new incumbent is bent upon changing/ replacing whatever has been done by his predecessor. These changes can be seen in the manner of working, undoing things already done, reviewing earlier decisions, etc. if we look into the cause of this, we would often find that their respective educational backgrounds are different from each other. Sometimes the changes are made only for the sake of being different from the predecessor and in this process, wasteful and avoidable expenditure is also indulged in. The new incumbent feels that it is only in this manner that the public at large will see that he (the new incumbent) is doing something. Thus, we find unnecessary beautification of office premises, mindless demolition of existing structures and building of new structures, replacement of existing furniture/ fixtures which are good enough to last for another decade. The subordinates are so used to this kind of things that they are only too eager to comply with the commands of their successive bosses. In this endless process of undoing what the previous boss had done, the administration as a whole does not make any progress – it only moves in circles and comes back to the same opposition again and again.

 

It is because of this that there is an urgent need to introduce an education system that is uniform, equal and ideal. Had this been in place, the situations described above would not have arisen. A step in the right direction has been taken by the Central Board of Secondary Education by introducing the grading system as a replacement of the marking system. The idea was to attain more uniformity and equality amongst students. But surprisingly, this was being opposed by a section of the parents whose children are to be direct beneficiaries of the new system. How will they declare to the world that their ward is the topper when there will be so many securing the highest grade? They do not realize the pressure that they put on their own children. Even the paper examiners have to undergo a lot of stress while evaluating the large number of examination papers. When the emphasis is on the number of marks scored, each mark becomes crucial and even a slight error or misjudgment on the part of the examiner can lead to heart break among the students. If peer pressure and expectations from the parents are added to that, it may even lead to hapless student committing suicide. We do have several examples of this kind around us.

 

In this context, it is worth mentioning that the British have not adopted the education system that they had spread in India or in the other colonies. They have completely revamped the education according to the needs of that country. The education system that they had spread in India and the other colonies was as per their specific requirement of producing clerks for the East India Company and the lower echelons of the British administration. Unfortunately, we have kept on developing on the same system without revamping it in order to suit our changing needs. A glaring example of this is our craze for Public Schools, a typical British legacy. We fail to realize that we have a separate indentify as a nation and keeping in view our immense potential, we should lay a solid foundation for our children in order to develop and steer our nation in the desired direction.

 

In Britain, the stress is on a kind of education which enables a teenager to be mature enough to move around in the world. The emphasis is on overall mental development by the time the student leaves school so that he/she can be on his/her own. The percentage of marks, grade, division or class achieved hardly matters. Higher education and specialized study is open to the more serious minded and career oriented. After all, what is required to be able to move around the world? A general knowledge of the world including its geography and political scenario. He/she is able to acquire more practical knowledge as and when he/she moves around. The scenario in India is entirely different. Over concerned and over-protective parents escorting their post graduate wards is a common sight. And if the child happens to be a girl child, then several avenues are totally closed for them.

 

Stress on health is another aspect of education in Britain and in the West in general. It is only a healthy and strong body and mind that can withstand the vagaries of travel abroad, of extremes of climates and differences of cultures. A Board topper in India does not necessarily has a strong body and mind. In fact, the general health of school and college going children in India is below par. While most of the schools do not have playgrounds and the required facilities for sports, the children themselves are saddled with so much of academics that they hardly have time for sporting activities. In sharp contrast is the West where the emphasis on sports and body building equal to that on academics. Here we are more concerned about the name of the school where we are sending our children and the fluency with which they are speaking English. Instead of keeping up with the changing times, our children are more keen in keeping up with the changing fashions of spectacle frames because, as is sadly evident, most of them end up with a weak eye sight at the school level itself.

 

It is really unfortunate that a nation which considers Gandhiji as its father turns a blind eye to the idea of education formulated by him at Tolstoy Farm in South Africa. He had laid equal stress on physical and mental education.

 

Speaking of Gandhiji, we are reminded of what Gandhiji had said when someone had asked him as to why he had entered politics- “If you want to bring in major changes in a vast country like India, it is possible only through politics.” It goes to his credit Gandhiji could do what he wanted to do after joining active politics. Today, if we want to bring major reforms in our society, it can be made possible through education. And this education will have to be equal and ideal for all. We still have States where illiteracy is as high as 70 to 80% and even among the 20 to 30% literate, only 1 to 2% are post graduates or engineering/medical graduates. Human resource being what it is in India, is it not a sheer wastage of a huge chunk of our population which is yet to emerge out of the darkness of illiteracy? Even among the small percentage of educated/highly educated, there is the growing tendency to first migrate to the bigger cities/ metropolises and then leave the shores for greener pastures abroad. It is this inequality in the education system that is responsible for this topsy turvy situation.

 

A conscious effort was once made to bring in equality and idealism in education across the country by setting up Central Schools. The selection of teachers was rigorous so as to attract the best teaching talents, the curriculum was uniform through the country and the doors were thrown open to all citizens irrespective of their social status. However, soon it was the so called elite who drew away from these schools. How could their children sit in the same class with the children of their subordinates ? It is not that the Central Schools were put to a loss because of this continuing exodus. But the eagerness to put the children in the public schools at high fees did more damage to the education system in general. The teaching faculty in most of these schools consists of spouses of well placed bureaucrats, businessmen and public figures. Their educational qualifications or their aptitude for teaching are nor important at all. The result is for all to see. We can see students coming out like products from the assembly line of some factory – so called smart, English speaking snobs who are far removed from the reality of their country. They are identified more by their dresses and mannerisms that by their knowledge. Thus, we have multiple systems of education in the country churning out varied and often self-contradicting flow of students who, in the long run, continue to interact at cross purposes. When they enter the service sector at large or the bureaucracy in particular, the differences in their perceptions and understanding leads to a chaos at the decision making level. Those who are far removed from the reality can never come up with realistic and practical solutions to real problems. The reason for this is that a large segment of the student community these days is not wise or knowledgeable; they are spoon-fed through private tuitions and have passed their exams through sheer memorizing of their lessons. They have neither understood what they have read nor have any clear conceptions about their own subjects.

 

Equality is a word which we come across at the very threshold of our Constitution. Yet, we hardly see it in reality. Until and unless we are able to bring in equality and idealism in education, we can never aspire to be the numero uno in the world which we are otherwise quite capable of being.
(Translation from Hindi by Sh. A.K.Sen )

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