Welcome to an easy season for school education

After a long time there was this easy season for the school education. The secondary education lately has become a mad house for all sorts of ills and inequities and a sense of suppression and oppression for the parent community. There is a mad rush for admissions for all sorts of schools and the parents, the middle class and for also, not the so-called uneducated poor families, the education system has been wronging them for too long.

No education minister of any sort, seniors and junior leaders have thought of this self-inflicted injury to one’s own self-esteem. We seem to have become a new type of illiterates!

Don’t we see our children at home and understand the tensions and bad behaviours. The children are pressed for performing at schools. All sorts of transports are busy the whole early mornings and also in the late afternoons. Are there any education ministers speaking? Even the Central education establishment, from the ministers to secretaries don’t seem to be concerned. Only if you feel oppressed or you think it is your obligation to the parents you would speak out and share your concerns. If you don’t feel anything at all then what can the public expect from you – the person in charge of this hell-hole, so to say, that holds the innocents to ransom!

So, there is this unspeaking evil we are all perpetuating in the name of modern education. There seems to be along queue for getting licences for establishing new CBSE schools even in the remote areas of the states. In one city, for instance, like Erode in Tamil Nadu, there is an intense competition, and if anyone gets this certificate to start an institution, a group of people join together and they decide the initial investment and with no infrastructure they manage to collect together a minimum number of students and a success story in education entrepreneurship.

So, education is all about competition, mindless competition for crushing the young minds with utterly unqualified founders to produce exam results. Immediately the very next day the rank holders are advertised full-page in colour these days in all the neighbourhood newspapers and you get so disgusted and degenerated. For what these so-called schools and colleges do is sheer exploitation of the fear and uncertainty about their own children. So, luckily, after so much of public disgust the government has come out banning the advertisement of the innocent faces of the so-called successful students.

Tamil Nadu has come in for public criticism that this year the education department has come out banning many so-called engineering colleges, in fact a record number of 92 engineering colleges from admitting students for lack of infrastructure. Why many more have been banned in admitting students for BE, M.E etc. Of course the very political atmosphere is that there are many capitation fee colleges wherein you can walk in and join any of the courses.

So, this year’s surprise results where many thousands had got 100% marks and that too in social sciences is a great news! Also there are newspaper reports that the correction of the question papers was done in a record time and with a very squeezed number of examiners. More to the point is the report that there might have been one more angle for the exercise of an easy valuation. What is it likely? Could there be a political angle? The 2019 general election also came in timely. So, the powers might have thought to give the voters, the much harassed parents to come forward to vote the incumbent dispensation!

Please let us all ponder over the freak season of this year. Of course these sort of views have to be articulated and assessed by education observers and experts. We can only ask some questions that are both comfortable as well as uncomfortable. Anyway, the School Journal sends its good wishes and congratulations to all youngsters for performing so well in this year’s exams!

Nothing gives more pleasure than finding youngsters to feel so confident and morally courageous to face the future in such a scenario.

And the decline of education  today!

books759India’s education sector is still running an erratic education policies. There is a vacuum of education vision and it needs an urgent attention. Yes, you may be one of the luckiest not to be bothered about the education of your youngsters! They might have gone through the hell already! But then how many can be so lucky? Every parent today is caught up with pain and dilemma! Where to educate their loved ones!

The education market in India is a very competitive market. Indian education scenario is no more what we all imagined to be so far. Today the rules of the education game had changed radically. Even this is a minor remark. Do you have an any idea of what Indian education is today? Indian education is almost a hell! There is so much money flowing in this sector. Also, there are many deeper issues of denial and deprivation. There are issues of justice in education. Has the goal of education for all achieved?

There are enormous number of  school-going age children out of school. There are many social, ethical and gender issues. The education of the girl-child is still unresolved. Under age marriage of girls is still widely prevailing. These are the issues and we need very satisfying outcomes. Then there are many new-fangled education technology tools that, on the one hand are enabling to reach all children online. This also costs money and expenses.

The role of private sector in education for a country like India is a great challenge.
We need private sector. But then there has to be some accountability. From LKG to secondary and even university education, we say, unresolved. New edutech impact on our education with all our achievements in IT don’t seem to have a socially relevant education perspective.

How to empower the people? A great question that cries for a satisfactory answer.

There are now education technology companies such as Byju’s, Talentedge, Simplilearn and Toppr, to cite only the most competitive and the most  ruthless ones that are all screaming loud about their power to change the rules of the education game! These top ‘performers’  are trying to grab a larger market share-both at home and abroad and also chasing talent to drive their growth.

Toppr, for instance which raised mind-boggling 35 million dollars three months ago, is looking  to add 1,000 employees across all functions this year. They are enhancing the EdTech platform working towards raising additional funds thorugh round D series.
Byju’s is hiring talent to develop its international product this year. Simplilearn, growing 40% year on year is planning to add 500 people this year. We have been constantly hiring fresh talent and seasoned professionals for a larger variety of roles-from sales and marketing to product, engineering and HR and finance and would continue to do so in the near future said Zishaan Hayath, CEO and co-founder of Toppr. We have just closed our series c round of funding and will be conducting series later this year. The company has grown from 400 to 1,300 employees.

Byju’s which employs 3,200 and is present in 40 locations launched its app in 2015 targeting K-12 students. Revenues in the last financial year was Rs.500 crores and it is on target to treble this year to Rs.1,400 crores, says Mrinal Mohit, the chief operating officer. Hiring talent across content, tech, media, business development and product.

Are these all just buzz words? Or, do they mean anything for the education sector?
Yes, these education imparting tech companies have their own agendas and let us believe they deliver something of value for the pursuers of their own dream goals?

But for a public observer these new education companies and their developments might not mean much. In particular, for the parents who are chasing their own dreams, these esoteric education enterprises – they and their buzz, the high power mass advertising games – these companies only add to their already existing tensions and further add to new tensions.

How can education be an esoteric game anymore? India has world’s largest democracy and world’s greatest number of children! Not an easy field. This is an India which is the world’s largest democracy where every citizen matters. We read every day students’ suicides. As we write this, there is news about a 10th standard student committing suicide in the distant Namakkal which is also a new type of education hub. We are quite accustomed to farmers suicides’. To this we have added the students suicide, one more category!

Just today we read one column in a mainstream newspapers – a column by Amitabh Kant, the CEO of NITI Aayog, the chief planning body of the government of India. He outlines what the government has done for “transforming the learning curve”. Since he heads the chief planning commission, we expect him to say many things of value. All we are able to learn is the NITI Aayog’s Aspirational Districts programme. How has this programme impacted the learning scenario in India? We are not clear and we could not get any clue about the main lesson from the programme. We are sure that the NITI Aayog has much feedback. But as far as the public is concerned there is this impression that Indian education has become more and more commercialised and there is much private sector engagement to bring in quality education at many levels of our education sector. Certainly, there is much buzz in secondary education sector.

There is mushrooming of capitation-feepaying colleges and self-financing universities! This is a very exploitative sector as of now! The education fees must be regulated and poor sections of students must be having a sort of quota. Unfortunately, education policy making is poor. Education policy making has been uneven. From the 1966 Kothari Commission report to recent Smriti Irani erratic education policy making by all and sundry bureaucrats led to an education emergency that still runs its course! We need big minds and big vision!

How many of us know that we live in an entirely new generation?

In education there is literally an explosion, unseen in the past years. What sort of education India envisaged? Who are making you think about education in India?

Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Politicians, bureaucrats or who else? A difficult question! Certainly, politicians are the last people who care for education! They are busy with their own affairs. Yes, you see their daily utterances! We are not constrained or concerned with the current election buzz! We have to go by much more solid issues and concerns.

There are not enough thoughts on the sort of education we need. Of course, there have been great men and great minds in the past. We specially think of Raja Ram Mohan Roy who came at a critical moment in India’s history, in the early 1800s and we all know what historic shift he gave to India’s religious, social, cultural and even to the political transformation. Now, every such pivotal reformer had to pay a heavy price for their own self-consciousness and for actions.

Ram Mohan Roy paid the price and he died in a foreign country and  was for long forgotten even. I was shown the very place, just outside the Tagore mansion, Jorasanko in Kolkata from where Roy spoke and preached his Brahma Samaj messages and let us be clear at the outset, if you really speak on big subjects you have a price to pay too! By 2050 the world would have 9.3 billion people in the world? The historian Giovanni Federico calculated that the world has grown six or seven fold between 1800 and 2000.This means that we live in a generation that has seen unprecedented growth in people and India with incredible 1.3 billion souls!

That is in the next  30 years, we would have added another 3 billions of people in the world. Already, the pressure of people on the global scale is visible. More and more educated Indians, get educated and also get migrated to further progress in their lives. Migration of people, able-bodied, educated and aspirational-high people are moving out. So, what sort of education India of our generation needs? Who all can tell us these concerns? India is now in well-past post-Independence generation. Right now, India has, as they say, million mutinies and every awakened social and economic class has clear aspirations and goals.

The rich, the upper crust don’t have any goal for its own class. India has all the material security, they have all the economic and political clout so that they don’t need any well-thought-out education goal. We have seen how the one big industry house got the stamp of a centre of excellence before the institution was even started or not even named and even conceptualised!

Today’s politicians do whatever they want and the very many social ills the educated middle class thinks as right and wrong don’t apply to the upper class and their benefactors in politics. We live a democracy and that we have to rememebr. So, education for a democracy must serve the ends of democracy. Can we say this? We are not sure. Even the very middle class is bound by the democratic norms.

Elections is the biggest mark of democracy. So, with all the ills of modern democracies, we too in India must learn to live with. Corruption is the biggest threat and we have to learn to live with this evil. May be the mass of people even might not care for the so-called middle class values. So, we have to see how education policy had evolved in Independent India. Many education ministers had come and gone.

Some of them we knew in person like the great scholar, P.C.Chandra and
also politicians like Arjun Singh. Also, some great secretaries cum educators like J.P.Naik and Anil Bordia and others.

Today, we have no such talents. We have only populist politicians and very low-talents. Indian education bureaucracy is the largest in the world. So the quality of education too is very commercialised and what we have got are very indifferently-motivated. Let us at least say: our education today must serve all people and we have to learn to live with a lowest common denominator education only! Amen!

New challenges in Indian education! Education’s impact on the wider aspects of Indian public life!
Ideas for this generation’s education and culture!

The 16th Lok Sabha ends its mandate and the General Elections for the 17th Lok Sabha is due. India is a fairly literate country by now by various parameters and as  such it is also time that the people, the new generation, mostly youngsters, all educated would have the competence to judge the public issues.

UKAs such we can ask some general questions. How the 16th Lok Sabha had performed its duties? Looking at the statistics, we see that one major state, namely, Tamil Nadu with 39 MPs, a state advanced in education, health and  industrialisation, not even one member had brought forward a private member Bill! Though in the present Lok Sabha 1,117 private member bills were brought forward and debated! This is only one example. There is not much evidence to show how many days in a year the Parliament functioned without any disruption! Very likely the Rajya Sabha, no less the Lok Sabha didn’t function for many days.

We have come to a time when the voting public, the common man only saw disruptions of the two Houses as a sign of its functioning! This is only one sign of the Indian state of how it functions. India is a large democracy in the world and also a functioning democracy. There are some strong positive features of our democracy. The periodic election, every five years, takes place and the outside world wonders and even admires our democratic functioning all these years. Then what about our education? Yes, it is also progressing faster.

But education’s meaning is not progressing! A literate society must get elected the right persons as MPs. Just the opposite is happening! The quality of education and also the expected rise in better awareness of the voting public is not forthcoming. Corruption in public life is rising and also latest developments in tackling corruption have resulted in many corrective actions. Some notable politicians, even Chief Ministers and their families have gone to jails!

So, the quality of our public life, some sober requisites, like some transparency, competency and also some general education and rise in awareness must lead to a vibrant democracy and the rise of human rights and also the fall in the quality of public men, political leaders and party inner workings must lead to parties selecting a bit higher quality members to Parliament must ensure the rise of quality
politics and public life.

Nowadays, the craze for education for migration hasn’t slowed down, though there is a decline in the number of Indian students going to the USA and UK. Costs of education are rising and also the American Visa rules have been tightened and the latest arrests and jail of 130 odd Indian students in an education fraud has come as a warning. Also, some courses like engineering and MBA are falling in fashion and
also the employment after US and UK education is also becoming scarce.

And what about education at home? Now, coming to Indian education, we see a sort of hypocrisy in our platform orations on education. All sorts of empty talks preponderate. Higher-ups, the President, Vice-President, past and present, hold on education. Macaulay is quoted; Gandhiji enters in and enter out! Yet, what we see? Education at the top has become highly commercial and like more corrupt politicians, corrupt education entrepreneurs have become new class of wrong doers! Whenever we see the political higher-ups on the platform, we also see the corrupt education entrepreneurs also gracing the functions!

The play of unethically earned big money is corrupting the higher education, nay even the private secondary education sector. That is one reason why the Indian education is not rising in genuine quality and any international comparisons in rankings. Also, the genuine new ideas or reforms are getting delayed entry into  education changes. In the last generation, we used to hear some education thinkers like Paulo Freire of the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Ivan Illich of the Deschooling society and many others. This generation there is a complete blackout! Who cares for ideas and intellectual debate? It is time some so us at least realise this and give up the bad practices of inviting Governors and Delhi higher ups, and bureaucrats to schools and colleges and universities’ functions.

The short-term and the long-term in education!
What do we, the general public, think of education as parents and citizens?

We are deeply moved to see that in Britain school children marched with placards to say: politicians! don’t spoil our future! By your
narrow, short term agendas! Save the planet, save the future, save the future of mankind! Adopt sustainable goals and future!

How nice it is to see the school children getting sensitised by the climate change and polluted environments!

naiduWe look for education institutions, schools, colleges and universities as that suit our children’s education, right?

Yes, that is right. But then times come when we see our leaders get on the platform and hold forth when they get an opportunity. When it comes to education, none seems to me at any rate, they have any serious idea of education.

Indian education in today’s world doesnt count in the world.  The world talks of education in the USA and UK, also even education in China, South Korea and why even the tiny island Singapore, where in  all these countries we are told they teach very good quality education. Why, the tiny Western country Finland is very much praised for their schools, why even for general society’s happiness, as the supreme purpose of education.

Why Indian schools and colleges are not rated high?  Why don’t foreign students choose to come to India for education?
These are some of the questions one has to ask and if possible one has to try to find out answers.

The Indian society and history are very different from other countries. India is the only country that was always under attack and invasions. India is the only country that became a country suited for foreign occupations. China was never an occupied country.

It was never an imperial power. But India was an occupied and invaded country for a very long time, from 10th century or so we were under one foreign occupier or not. After Babur, came  the Portuguese in 495 A.D., then very soon the British came.  First as traders and then as occupiers. We became a colony. It was, now looking back, a shameful past for Indians. Then came their ideas of occupation and rule and we learnt to speak English and do the chores of humble clerks.

If now we read Indian history, for this generation, I am not sure what is being taught as the British occupation periods. Even now, in England, at Oxford and Cambridge they teach Indian student researchers that the British colonialism was largely beneficial to the Indians!

And the English language?

Oh, that is the very different legacy. The Hon’ble Venkaiah Naidu, our Vice President is a wise leader and he recently told in Bangalore  that our education system hasn’t  risen above Macaulay! Well said. We are afraid the same thing might not be said by his valued colleagues.

The BJP hasn’t said anything on our English-rulers-given education system. Instead of calling for new ideas and thoughts for reforming
education, our current bunch of leaders want us not to get a  modern, science-based and technology driven education.

They have ridiculed modern sciences. See our Science Congresses! Nor is there any realistic thinking on education based on world trends. This is an age of globalisation and wide migration of people. The world is changing fast. May be only in this generation there is such an unprecedented changes.

So, education for Indians of this generation must be radically  changed, jobs have to be created on a large scale and all this is  possible only with a job-oriented education.  Education must encompass many facets of modern life, careers in a thousand odd areas has to come about.  All this is possible only with a robust thought process.

Culture for a country like India is so vital and critical. Where is this wise-range education? Our large number of schools and colleges are government funded and yet we see a heavy commercialisation  and there is this growing inequity and also inequality in the access for quality education. School drop outs is a great issue! Unesco’s Global Education Monitoring Report 2019 says 80% of migrant child in seven major cities don’t have education access near their work places.

That is why Acts like the Right to Education Act to impose their 25% quota on admissions to nearby quality schools. Drop-out of children in
the simply charging heavy fees some schools create a bad impression in the minds of parents about the ideas of quality education. Let our students go anywhere in the world in their pursuit of education.

Our education ministers in the States and at the Centre must be qualified persons, with proper education and experience. This is not seen happening. Our populist politics and quota-based admissions have created a situation that many of the education ministers  are school-dropouts!

Please at least save and resolve our current contradictions in education policy. Yes, give more incentives for mother-tongue based schools and also give more education subsidy to writers and publishers in mother tongues.

There are a range of policies deficies, you know?  Do you know that in many states, except Tamil Nadu the public libraries Act is not implemented. How can the local languages  grow and flourish?

There is lot of corruption in education, specially in self-financing  colleges. There are some very offensive practices by the self-financing colleges, they start TV channels, why even political parties and they ruin the minds and public morals!

Yes, education ministers must have high ethical calling. One big education trust, for instance in Tamil Nadu, the centuries old Pachayappa’s Trust is publicly scandalised by the high corrupt practices of the Trusties!

How can a state and society would feel? Only the Chief Ministers, past and present can take up such issues. So, the current contradictions in education and employment policies,the question of medium of education etc,. can be solved only if public spirited men and women are brought forward and entrusted with such public-recognised high offices.

Education is a question of honour and trust. The public perception and the public opinion needs to be sensitised.

Let more schools and colleges come forward to discuss and debate education and culture issues!