That is what India needs at the moment!  Internationally comparable standards!
In general education and medical education too!
See the appalling public health, in Gorakhpur and even in other states!
Swine flu threat is also spreading! Education is a public cause, not a private profit!
Indian character needs introspection! We are talkers, not doers!

How truthful we are to ourselves?

Screen-shot-2014-04-17-at-1Fresh from a visit from Greece, classical Greece I am full of memories of the past! Know thyself!

So, what I write here have some echos too!   As a nation, we have to learn to speak truth and also honestly! We seem to imagine there is only one god and others are lesser gods!

You see, the education sector in India is now at the cross-roads. On the one hand is the left-over issues in terms of policies. When the UPA government left government in 2014, many of the polici8es for the school education like RTI, education of the girl child and such progressive issues were in place. Only in higher education nothing much was happening.

Now, after three years of Modi government what is the new education agenda. Only some weak attempts to saffronise the agenda. One or two voices introduce some RSS agendas like reducing history to some unproven claims like a Hindutva views. Nothing in the way of what the world trends in learning and competing with the outside world. The middle class and also the awakened lower classes have sought only private schools and such high-fee charging fancy curriculum etc.

Even the latest issue like NEET in TN proves that not everyone opts for exempting the school leavers from an all India entrance test. Now with the latest Gorakhpur horror of children dying pathetically and also right in TN in the Ambuir government hospital two persons died for absence of doctors, who would dare to ask politically for an exemption of students undergoing a competent level of qualification.

We need high quality education. For what it is worth it is the private sector that gives competition to the government schooling.

As for higher education, it is in a mess. Right now in India!
The education minister is not seen talking to experts or notable educators. There is a trust deficit, sorry to say like that, in the present government’s commitment to very high quality international level higher education in the Indian universities.

So, what to do?

It is time the Central government really takes some serious note of this trust deficit. There is no way other than go with the international trends. The first requirement is to recognise the ground realities.

Unfortunately, today everything, from small detail to bigger issues, we seem to wait for the Prime Minister first to talk!

There is no feedback from experts and independent intellectuals even for such a sensitive topic like education.

We need now many specific demands. Supply of talents, skills in sectors like IT and why even in other areas like sciences and technologies.
There is the higher research. In various fields!

So, we request the government, the PM in particular to take a more objective view of the realities and call for the best talents, from Nobel winners to ones serving in foreign universities, ones who have expressed concern in these areas and make a high-power committee to revamp the education system.
Ideas matter. Ideologies really matter and so too our particular approach top specific areas of education.

Chairman34All we can do in the brief space here is to reiterate our concerns, both short-term as well as long-term in what use such ideas and ideologies matter.  We need a wholesome education.

As the motto of this journal is, education is a public cause, not a private profit. Seen in this perspective we need ungradation of our education vision. Let us not just teach for exams but teach and inculcate a sense of wholesome pursuits. Education, as cultural awareness, our history, and social changes, a more equitous and equal society.

Class room teaching, outdoor activities, sports and arts and culture all go into a wholesome education, right?

Upgrade some of the older universities, central universities like Santiniketan and even the traditional universities and open new departments in keeping India’s international standing and our aspirations for a world role. Peace, reconciliation, a functioning UN and other international agencies where India and Indians would play major roles.

What more and a bigger role a country like India, placed in the current context of so many conflicts can aspire for?

Yes, say many: thinkers and others!
What about the Indian people? The ordinary citizens and the elite?
Yes, there are solid reasons for a New Optimism in India!
Of course we need to think much more on positive lines!
The media is getting strengthened!

See Al Jazeera TV Channel! The number one TV news Channel in the world now! Al Jazeera now unites the world at a higher level of humanity!
The developing world has a new voice, new visibility!
Has India realised its new potential?

Devesh Kapur

Devesh Kapur

Politicians are mired in a new narrowness! See the BJP’s rather new roughness, new arbitrariness!
A New Crudeness? Congress’s own new mentality of aggrandisement!

Yes, Mr.Narendra Modi is now having such a good time! To rephrase a British election slogan, Mr.Modi never had it so good!
Every state seems to be falling like a tonne of bricks! So fast a rapidity in the fall that the very next target, namely, the AIADMK of Tamil Nadu is sure to fall apart.

Fine, fine! India is doing well?  Yes, in a way, why even in a very significant way! What about the larger picture?

Not bad! All over the globe there is tremendous cause for great optimism!

As per Max Roser, an Oxford economist, there is now a new class of New Optimists. Yes, the cause for a new optimism is on the global scale many positive developments we are able to see.

As per his statistics that 1,35,000 people everyday are pulled out of the poverty trap! Why, even the global level infant mortality had halved since 1966 to 2016. Electricity accessed by 3 lakh people every day! And so on.  But there is also the other side. Over the wider world there are causes for deep worry. Wars are not ended in Middle East, poverty; famine and displacement are not over.

Al Zazeera TV, perhaps the only channel with a mind and concern for the unfortunate people shows the heart-rending scene of children in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, why, even in Africa, without schooling and food and diseases!

The world is not doing well, as we are told.  Education in India. Our first priority!
How are we, Indians, doing?
Not in a great and inspiring manner!

India is the world’s largest democracy of 1.3 billion people. India boats the highest number of educational institutions. An astounding 33,723 enrollment 27 million in comparison with China’s 33 million! Also, estimated 75 per cent of the students unemployable! Other education bills are when compared with inter-country education capability, India ranks 71 out of 74, just above Kygyzstan.

V.Isvarmurti

V.Isvarmurti

60 per cent rise in private universities, also many questionable quality private sector, money-oriented, private schools, colleges and why even private  medical colleges where capitation fees of , say Rs.5-7 lakhs deposit gets your  youngster gets admitted. What kind of society you are creating? With public health and education, sciences, engineering all degraded?

Our higher education is deeply flawed. One authority, Prof. Devesh  of Pennsylvania University says that in India VCs are in jobs because of bribery. And some VCs are not even fit to be a common lecturer!

As for general education, the primary and secondary education, much remains to be done in terms of vision and action.

For a country like India, the world’s largest democracy, we have to think in global terms. The Global Citizen programme, like many other such idealistic ones, is couched in lofty terms.

India has to send out teams of youngsters like the former US Peace Corps Volunteers. The School Journal was started by one such US Volunteer!

So, education has to be global, not narrow.

It has to embrace the global knowledge and not the narrowness of the current world leaders. Global statesmen, right now, don’t seem to exude much optimism! They throw about threats, expulsions and many tensions!

The Global Citizen festival, promoted by Rockstars, Stevie Wonder and Green Day would headline a concert in New York to mobilise support for  eradicate global poverty, as they protest Donald Trump’s proposal to cut sweeping foreign aid cuts.

This is a crucial time, says he when the U.N.General Assembly gathers and the largely young audience would commit themselves to life issues, “we are showing love of the Most High”.”Wars in Syria, Yemen to hunger on the Horn of Africa”. Such events and in countries like India and Germany gives hope for the  awakening of consciousness for the political  engagement of the youth  when the world faces so much challenges.

Are these optimists’ weapons? No! But such events like the global citizen festivals gives hop and raises optimism.

So, we call upon educators, public men and women, please look out of your windows and come out in the open so that we can embrace a new oneness, unity and a new sense of global citizenship. India has to forge a new partnership with the stakeholders! From across the world. India needs a New Political Vision too!

The life and death of Socrates!

The one voice that stood out all through the centuries! What makes Socrates’ life and death?
Some reflections on a recent trip to Greece and the historic sites!

cm sir greek3You see, that since my travels in Greece recently, I have come back and not yet recovered! I am dumbstruck!
Not recovered from my many questions about what I saw and what I comprehended from what I saw and to what I have read before. When I visited the most ancient site, namely, the Mycenae site, the 2,000-1,500 BC stone fort, the home of the legendary king, Agamemnon, where I saw the nearby new archeological museum where the original mud signs, the ancient scripts are displayed, I thought I need to study more about the ancient Greek history. As soon as this thought crossed my mind, we ordered some more books on the Amazon in our kindle.

That is one of such books, now I find they are all authoritative, one book, “The coming of the Greeks, Indo-European Conquests in the Aegean and the Near East by Robert Drews came into my hands. Now, I find that the Indo-European languages family claims the Greek language too. Also, I was surprised that the book quotes from the 1786 Sir William Jones’s claim that among the Indo-European languages come not just Greek but also Sanskrit and other Celtic and Germanic languages; they had so many similarities and that “they must have had a common linguistic ancestor (page 4).

So, one thought led to others and thus I am stuck still in my own rudimentary knowledge of things! We in India are very much conditioned by what the British gave us by way of the outside world colonialism. More so when we realised that, thanks to the Macaulay education too; we are conditioned by the narrow view of the world outside. In the Indian scheme of the world, never once we thought of the impact of the Greek and Roman civilizations on the rise of modern awakening. Not even the so-called Bengal Renaissance went beyond the British conception for Indian education. It was very narrow conception, isn’t it so?

So, our old, the first, educated classes, we can trace them from Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s time, anything beyond this Macaulay prescription. Before that time all we had had is what the Mughal rule gave us. When we come near our own times, even Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru didn’t go beyond the Hind Swaraj and the Discovery of India! Never once in the Indian education history and  tradition, the rise and coming of the Indo-European languages spread and then the rise of the classical Greek, later, the Roman contribution, the Latin language and cultures penetrated the Indian soil. So, my mind is still digesting what I saw in Greece today and what I read about the classical past there.

I had almost fallen silent. I am not able to find the energy to talk to people, friends and acquaintances, why even to people whom I consider to be serious and scholarly. Why this mental block, if we call so? For the unexplained reasons like the total uninterest, unconcerns for subjects like distant lands and distant histories. We have historians, some I know and some I respect for what they have done by way of their historical studies. But after such a visit like the one I had to Greece, even before some years to Rome, I don’t find many in India who are excited as I of course do, rather unjustifiably, I don’t know.

cm sir greek5Anyway, it looks I might take longer time than I envisaged before I can unravel my mind or the forces that work at cross purposes for coming out with a sense of coherence to my present state of mind. One thing that struck me as if it was lightening of sorts is the utter unbelievable sights and findings at the historic sites like the classical Greek’s 2,000 BC Mycenae in the Eastern Peloponnese territory of Greece.

First I must ask my readers to have looked at the atlas of the Greek island nation. It is very unusual. You hang your palm downwards to the earth and see how the fingers are spread out. Likewise, the Greek mainland from Balkan countries spreads out into the Mediterranean sea and there are some 2,000 islands that encircles the Greek mainland and the Asia Minor lies on the eastern side and the Egypt lies down below and Israel and Jerusalem starts and goes up as far as Italy in the West and in the east lies Rutkey who saw eastern parts were once part of the Greek colonies and it is long history we are talking about here!

From the legendary, why even mythological Trojan War and Troy city and the legends associated with Homer’s classics, the king Agamemnon to Helen and Pritam and other characters. This is a period from 2000 BC to 500 BC when the classical Greece emerges, when Socrates, Plato and Aristotle come to life.

Greek history is long and very complex and the characters we are interested and the world is fascinated by a multiple of great minds and achievements. Poets, philosophers, artists, great builders and great sculptors and a variety of others like the four great classical great dramatists and scientists and philosophers, so many philosophical schools that flourished and once Athens was the world’s great cultural center where the ancient world, the Romans to later generations flocked to know and learn from these philosophical schools.

And the greatest attraction of the modern day tourists is the incomparable historic buildings, the world’s many wonders like the Athens’s Acropolis that stands out in the midst of the modern Athens city. The series of other wonders, from the Delhi Oracle site and the Epidaurus Theater and the many other structure, each one unbeatable in their majesty and awestruck construction! Many are of course in ruins today and yet the remaining ones in themselves would shake us from our any preconceptions. The Greek man and woman, seen in their sculptures, in the refined dress and gestures give us a new conception of man and his character.

The new fields in which they contributed to man’s history needs over one’s entire life time to be told. I had been reading about Greece since my Oxford days. All these years what I read in printed books and pictures gave me of course great delight and fulfillment. Yet, after I actually went to Greece and spent time there and as I mixed with the people today and saw their past in the museums and galleries and travelled through the Greek countryside I was exhilarated by the actual personal interaction, talks and discussions and the total impact such human interaction that gave me.

But once I came back and took my collections of books back and when I scanned through the pages I get a very different sort of feeling. The once printed pages now came alive and awakened inside me a very different sort of feeling and my intellect was stirred. I ask, or, I feel like asking certain new questions. I don’t know whether I am qualified to ask such questions. But to whom else I can leave such questions. That was the dilemma. There are old books, Plato’s Republic and his other volumes from Symposium to other books that all deal with Socrates’s last days. When I now read them I feel like shedding tears. I walked on the very soil where the great soul, the very personality of Socrates walked and stood and questioned the youngsters he met there.

All these moments acted inside me and changed me to fall into a sort of delirium!

Why there was only one such person like Socrates in the world? Why we don’t see such men in later times? Why only one Plato? Not one more Aristotle? These were one line of thinking I had. Another line of my thought was: from where do the Greeks come here, to the Greek mainland? Also, when did the Greek language developed into such maturity, such classical purity?

Socrates

Socrates

Now, the rise of sciences and philosophies! Here too the Greeks inherited many ideas from the near East, namely, in what is called the Asia Minor. How Socrates lived and how he spent his days, how he served in the wars and also did his duty as a citizen etc. are all set out in the many dialogues written by Plato and to this days they have been studied and opinions crystalized and so too others of Socrates contemporaries whose ‘memories’ are all  with us.

In the course of life one reads Socrates and draws lessons for oneself. Socrates was the most famous man of his time in Athens, he didn’t want to assume any political leadership, and he only offered intellectual leadership. The Athens of his day was, like ours, a place with full of strife and controversies and so he was condemned to death for his “impiety”, he embraced death as inevitable outcome of principled political endeavor. Of course, we are ordinary souls, not what Socrates believed in the immortality of the soul. Even now, if we give a close reading of his last days, we feel like crying. So, moving and so sad his last moments.

For me at any rate, a pilgrimage to his beloved Athens and to the very spot in the ancient Agora where his steps are traced and preserved all through the last 2,500 years is a real pilgrimage and a salvation of sorts. We would cherish his earthly surroundings and Plato’s dialogues would continue to inspire future generations of mankind. (Based on somewhat hasty reading of “The Last Days of Socrates”(Penguin)).

Media comments are noteworthy!

MODIThey say fine to the PM’s long term vision. But the short-term is challenging. Two highlights of the PM’s speech were GST and demonetisation. Fine, fine.

But then are there only two critical issues for sustained economic growth?
We believe that the government economist writers or input givers there are more challenging questions.

What we have achieved so far, in three years. Sustained growth or hesitant growth?

Now for the other sectors, there is not only no clear road map, for education, health and social security etc.There is also no clear road map for other more critical challenges. How to combat corruption that has seeped into the system so seamlessly!

Only an institutional mechanism, LokPal, Lok Ayukta can solve or tackle the issues in a systematic manner.

Also, the very many anti-corruption agencies?’ Are they free from blatant political interference?
Let the public opinion pronounce on it.

You see the recent very many raids by the CBI are seen to be targeted only on the Opposition leaders or the ones who might strengthen the Opposition unity.
This, the PM, must remove this misconception or the real motives behind the series of the raids.

No, this won’t do for a mature democracy, the largest democracy in the world.
There is no point in playing with words as for the events like Quit India etc. Also, the RSS activities in Kerala are worrisome.

Please arrest the violence, the record of communal violence and those lost the lives are every blatant. Between January and May this year, points out the editorial in The Deccan Herald, 296 communal incidents! Data released by the Home Ministry in Parliament, these communal incidents cost 44 people dead and 900 others injured. Too much or too little?

So, there are reasons to worry why the PM didn’t say anything as to what the government would be doing. There are many other horrors, like the Gorakhpur children deaths, also in TN too there are reports from government doctors neglect at the Ambur government hospital, in Vellore district, because of doctors absent!

To add to the story is the TN government’s pleas to restore exemption from NEET exams. So, the Central Government and the top court were to be commended for not giving to political blackmail.

There are also issues of judicial independence and also judicial delays. What the common people think of the government’s achievements?
The media must be free to report and criticise.

“I, me, myself” doesn’t make for a government. There is the media freedom and also the media fear!

Agriculture is a dear area where farmers’ have risen in protest, in Jaipur, Haryaya, Gujarat and in TN and also elsewhere.

The land owning, middle level farming and dominant community, Jats, Patidars and TN farmers badly need freedoms to do their professions, buy, sell and invest and cultivate and start new agro-industrial ventures must be given the freedoms that keep up their social status in terms of the social hierarchy. You can’t change the rural social transformation in a day.

So, go slow but go in a realistic manner. The quota demand from Maharashtra gives an indication where the wind is blowing.

Be realistic and become socially tuned for a peaceful transition from a feudal economy to a largely urbanised agriculture sector.

So too the many concessions and freedoms in the panchayat raj. Computerisation of land records and also the services of the lowest revenue officials can reduce corruption that in endemic in the system today. So, modesty and self-effaced talk might convince more than any forced propaganda stick!

The world’s first civilization in classical Greece!
That gave birth to democracy first!

Chairman3Yes, the visit I had the good fortune to undertake, after a life-long quest and seeking, not just opened my eyes, the visit made me dumb-struck for days and, it looks, even by months! The one side is that I don’t know how to bring back my old self to make normal conversations with all the old friends and acquaintances. The other side is that only after the visit and after having recalled and reconnected with what I had seen and absorbed the sights and sounds and also after I had tried to reabsorb the whole lot of books and pictures, the whole story of all the civilizations I had read about, from Arnold Toynbee to Will Durant and others and also my own personal encounters with the Good and the Great, at Oxford and elsewhere, at Oxford itself, the ones like the late Sir C.M.Bowra, the greatest authority on Greece and all things Greek, from Homer to Greek way of life and much else and also many others from my own-time Oxford friends, the ones who came from Eton and studied the Greek language and literature and the ones who in fact aroused in me the curiosity of Greek and Roman civilization and of course, all through my life, from the original plans to make a visit to Rome and Greece along with my Oxford friends, the plan never came through and fell apart for many reasons and now, after some 50-60 years! It is a long stretch of time! My own dreams and imaginations!

Even after such a long time gap, I am caught up by this time gap. I am not yet able to bring myself back to the realities of the day. Why? I ask myself many times and am unable to account for my current moment of such dazzling. Anyway, what I have done after my return from Greece is to recall and reconnect with a range of questions.

India, in all its long history, never once seems to have gone back in history to the long stretch. Greece, it seems, has had a very long history from the Neolithic age to Bronze Age (5000BC to 1000 BC).

We went to see the Mycenaean civilization at Mycenaean deserted mountain today. It made me fall aside by surprise and shock. The long drive from Athens already made us tired. Once we reached the mountain range lying in between two higher mountain ranges, at the very distance of our sight I saw a slight mountain on which the humans walking, they were yes, tourists at such heights!They looked like ants! The more we neared them the more they looked remote!

C M Bowra

C M Bowra

At the very entrance to the stone fort, lay some dug-up pits. They were funerary sites. Yes, the whole sight of the open field looked very eerie! The rest of the story I have to leave it for another day. The period of the Mycenaean is dated 1200-1125 BC! Trojan War is dated 1250 BC! It was the classical Greece, the age of Pericles; Parthenon built 448-432 BC!

When were Indians woken up to these births and birth pangs of civilization, when was the Democracy born? I wondered. If we can say, never, would it be considered arrogance or ignorance? We talk of Bengal Renaissance, right? Would it be wrong again, if we say that the modern Indian renaissance too missed the outside world, the world outside the British trap? Yes, the British colonizers left out India and the Indians from any learning; they trapped us within the Macaulay’s narrow imperial trap. All our otherwise great men, great souls limited the Indian vision only to a narrow trap, right? I like to ask some uncomfortable questions before I bring myself to reality of the current scenarios.

I stood at the very spot where Socrates (469-399 BC) stood and walked on his very steps, his usual stopping, the shoe shop, the owner, Simon, the prison where he drank his cup of poison and passed away! What a blessing and fortune. It is exactly after 2416 years! I was dazzled and lost my senses! We in India were not told about the birth of democracy in the world.

Our historians, first, the British writers and now the Indian historians, in the pre-independent India and also in the post-independent India, we don’t seem to have realised in our study of Indian history. This is a serious lacuna in our appreciation of historical studies and in our education system.