Indian education needs to know its historic context, its evolution during the freedom struggle and its future!

What are the education ideals and the current practices that grip our attention? The international rankings of universities by the London-based Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) ranks India’s higher education very low.

And the news is that this time even the usual institutions, except the Bangalore-based IISc other “suspects” like the IITs are missing from the ranks. One or two new names, the Indore-based IIT, JSS Mysore and the Amrita in Coimbatore are up for attention.

indian-education-overviewWhat about the original three of India’s past history, namely, Madras, Calcutta and Bombay? Obviously, it seems there is something wrong by the current assessment. Surely, we need some enlightenment by the authorities, right? The THES’s rankings bring in the oldest universities, Oxford first, Cambridge close to second. This ranking seems normal, given the fact that these old universities are many centuries old and the academic range is far and wide.

Even there is one Chair at Oxford for the exclusive subject of “Public Understanding of Science”.  The first occupant is none other than Richard Dawkins – the author of the book “Selfish Gene”.

It is really sad that education in India is caught up in great chaos and confusion. At the time when the rankings of universities came out there was a conference in Delhi on a very high-sounding topic – “Conference of Academic Leadership on Education for Resurgence”. This was organized by the UGC and the AICTE and ICSSR. Over 350 VCs attended and by any account this was a very powerful group indeed. The PM promised one lakh crore rupees for infrastructure in higher education by 2022.

There is no doubt that the traditional centers of learning, the Gurukulas and Pathshalas and some of the old ones still flourish in centers like Varanasi even today. But let us realize that today our education system is so corrupt that all education has become commercial. Education has been replaced by tuition and coaching centres. Even the government bodies like CBSE and UGC have become license-dispensers! It is exams after exams and there is no end to bribes in the education ladder!

The educated middle classes are the worst culprits and it is they who set the tone and tension in the education sector. Education corruption had almost ruined many families and as per some account the children today dropped out of the schools are variously estimated; 2011 Census puts the 5-13 age group at 8.4 crores, HRD puts at 60.64 lakhs, while the 71st round of NSS, one private expert team (The Hindu September 4, 2018) at 4.5 crore; which is 16.1% of children in this age group. In big States like Odisha, UP, Gujarat this percentage exceeds 20%. Bihar, Rajasthan and MP the percentage comes to nearly 18% plus! These bare facts are enough to indicate that we in India are still somewhere at the bottom of social development and when we talk of higher education we have to be much more cautious.

Just now we read through an essay (Frontline – Oct.2018) about the nationalist education movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries and there was a sense of history and a sense of our education we inherited from the British colonialist practices and how our national leaders and thinkers, from Swami Vivekananda to Sri Aurobindo Ghose to Tagore and Gandhi wanted an education system that could really regenerate a fallen nation. Today anybody has any thought on these lines? The Frontline article is written by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya (details about the author is not given) and it is essentially an attempt to analyse the latest movements in the BJP parlance about the promotion of what the author called the Sanskari  Supremacism.

Our universities must realize that only high quality faculties can attract best students. If only we can decide on a policy of recruitment of foreign faculty to teach some subjects, then such a university will draw attention and respect and recognition. Try at one or two universities like Delhi, Bombay, Madras and Calcutta there will be revolutionary change in our education outlook. Make Mr. Mukesh Ambani to start on this sort of education revolution.  Others would follow. The big Indian corporations go all the way to Harvard to institute chairs. Why not they do this inside India?

Readers might be interested to know that at one time, the largest academic faculty in the world was Oxford philosophy faculty! So too Cambridge. British colonialism has become a taint even now. Our brilliant youngsters even now want to migrate to the American shores and even if they come back they want to settle into the bureaucratic machinery!

Education must instill truth and selflessness. How many present day rich schools and self-financing colleges can produce students with these moral qualities? Please inject some morals in your students, school and college founders, and now university promoters. Please take a note!

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