Macualay Ghost still dominates Indian Education?

Yes,ever since I bought the hardcover edition of Akio Morita’s”Made in Japan”,way back in 1985 or so, I was drawn to Morita’s story.

I remember the day  when  the Janata party was in power in Delhi. I one day went to see the education minister Dr.P.C. Chundar. Now his name must be a mere memory for all in education but Chundar was a different man. He was a great scholar and writer and, as I know Bengali society well,  he was the typical bhadralok middle class intellectual who knows so much and yet he was unperturbed by the burden of office. He was perhaps the best qualified to occupy Shastri Bhavan and yet I am not sure what impact he made on the Indian education scene. Perhaps others who knew him well and worked with him can comment. The point is that he received me one day as if I was one more admirer or a favour seeker. But I was neither. Yet here was the Cabinet Minister at his residence pouring over some papers and he looked like a typical writer or one devoted to some academic research.He talked with me politely and listening to my outpourings of the many woes of the education sector.
I was at that point of time running a semi- residential rural  secondary school in my native village and it was famously named an International school.

I think, as I recall now, my school had already met with some problems, a mix of local and state politics. I was in a disillusioned mood. May be that might have been the reason I was impelled to call on the education minister. As he soon as he came to know of my education background, Santiniketan and Oxford he became more attentive and gave me a patient hearing. At times I noticed he was keenly also watching the many projects and programmes I was narrating about in my school. At that time the UN and Unesco were very much active and in the news and so we bought many of the Unesco model textbooks on teaching history and geography in problem countries like Israel and other such countries with border disputes and also history disputes as  was in Japan.

And also I was experimenting with lots of teaching innovations like exams with textbooks on the exam tables! As a pioneer in rural education in that part of the country I was also faced with such problems like admitting over-age boys and girls and luckily it was the Congress government of Kamaraj that was in power when I launched my education experiments.
Professional educators, education officials and teachers, school heads can well imagine I was breaking the education rules with impunity. I am not sure of the status of the education rules now. But in my time it was a sort of sacrosanct document. I bought a copy of the “education code” at the government printing press, also bought a copy of the rules.  Though I was aware of the rules, in my case there were many occasions when I had to break some rules to bring in more children. My school was  located on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border, so there were poor children from Kerala side with different denominations. The caste factor, the socio-economic status of some communities presented problems. More than these things, it was the education department that came in the way.Very soon the education department had come to learn about my political and other links with the top persons at the department levels.

I have to say that in my time there were really some genuine educators. N.D. Sundaravadivelu (who later became Vice Chancellor of Madras University), V.T.Titus, Perumal were the three directors of public instruction, they became  in fact my education disciples! They knew my education and background and they were genuinely willing to learn things.The district collectors and the police officials were all then from good families and thus they in fact became my friends.  I was moving in a very civilised environment.

The point is the International School soon attracted wider notice. American Peace Corps volunteers, two burly young men landed up and soon after one more from the USA, a Quaker organisation volunteer was also present in the remote village! Not to lag behind, there was an artist from Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan and one girl teacher from Kerala  Kalamandalam made up the new innovative education face of the school.

I am sure I might have at least given a gist of all this to Dr. Chundar. When I took leave of him, I remember, he said:”please keep in touch with me and let me know how your school is progressing”. What was rememberable was that after few days Dr.Chundar wrote me a letter remembering me and enquiring about my education project. Here comes the reality check!Soon after the DMK came in 1967, that too after Annadurai passed away, I also became an active Opposition member in the Madras Legislative Council.

By  the time I am talking about things at my school  all  were not good, there was already a writ petition in the Madras High Court! Farmers agititation, teachers agitation all item readers can imagine the heady combination of politics and venal education department officials. I learnt my first lesson in departmental  venality. One day I went to meet MGR in New Delhi where I too was there at that time, MGR gave one of my papers for some departmental action, I saw how the entire state bureaucratic machinery can be subverted by cynical officials. On the strength of the reputation of my school I defeated powerful candidates from the Graduates Constituency to the Legislative Council.

So, so many factors went into the jealousy and revenge taking. DMK politics could descend to personal revenge to such an extent that only those who know the state politics can understand.  The present incumbant HRD minister is doing some positive things. What he had done so far is progress indeed. Even   as  our  education  is becoming  more and more Yankee-centric, our basic beliefs about education is driven by the Macaulay ghost of Englishman superior andIndian inferior syndrome. Otherwise, why we are stll obsessed with bureaucrats-turned-academics-turned urban middle class intellectuals and officials handouts as education beliefs?

We need totally independent intellectuals with sound grounding in Indian values and Indian education groundings, of course with sound Western education history and philosophical orientations, a new fusion of the best ideas that would put India in a competitive advantage with the more developed education traditions. Of course we need both an intellectual foundation as well as an education development strategy to attain our priorities and targets in various segments of education growth. Education is not budgets or, other numbers game. Education, in India, has to be  a historic change. India has to become a strong democracy. Our value systems must be built up by an education philosophy and an education plan.

The point is the International School soon attracted wider notice. American Peace Corps volunteers, two burly young men landed up and soon after one more from the USA, a Quaker organisation volunteer was also present in the remote village! Not to lag behind, there was an artist from Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan and one girl teacher from Kerala  Kalamandalam made up the new innovative education face of the school.

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