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!

Let us liberalise the private sector in school education to create new types of secondary education that gives Indian school’s system to promote more quality schools!

school-student-759Yes, this is how the senior most and much-respected civil servant, Rahul Khullar describes the Schools scenario in New Delhi. He has in effect pleaded for allowing the high-fee charging rather publicly perceived glamorous schools, most call themselves as public schools even in a low cost Karol Bagh lane(!) and also by now other new fancy names and titles like International public schools etc. The point here is that Delhi’s so-called ”Public Schools” are no more public and it is like the American Public schools that are not government schools either.

The crux here is that Delhi’s so-called elite community is enamored by its own hierarchy; the wards of senior civil servants and the rich and not so often well-informed but by going by what the New Delhi power-elite imagines as glamorous and also high society, try to sneak into some selective schools, if some old fashioned name carries more weight, it carries more attractive a pull.

Hidden in the debate is the place of English medium, more pretence is given to the English medium by the concerned school or schools command. So, the school education medium is the most critical question. The scantiest attention to the medium is more controversial.

The Aam Aadmi party that rules Delhi has its own rather unarticulated whims and fancies about the school curriculum. This we are not sure and no one raises such sensitive questions. Let us say the Delhi schools ,whoever wants to teach in English medium and then the pleas and counter pleas for raising the  school fees can do so and get away from any regulations whatever.  Unfortunately, the government schools that implement the Seventh Pay Commission teachers’ salaries are lucky for the obvious reason that they can teach in whatever fashion they want, being government schools and it is the private schools that have the burden to retain their brand value and also pay well.

With a great deal of personal knowledge about how even the famous British established Public Schools perform in final exams, it is simply a dilemma for the really committed and genuine well-run schools to pay well and retain talents. So, there can’t be a rational solution to run a good secondary school these days. We have to draw an enlightened education policy, recognize genuine quality and some national ideals and declare that the good quality Public Schools enjoy some real freedom and not mere verbal autonomy, give a clear recognition, under some conditions some more autonomy to charge a publicly known high fee structure and so like the British Public Schools (for instance the famous Eton Public College in England now charges nearly 40 thousand Pounds a year!)But it is the brand value that matters here! So, long as some schools enjoy this sort of brand value somehow the money the schools can charge and get away. Facilities like a very good sports infrastructure of the Olympic level, such extracurricular activities and facilities like Horse Riding tracks etc. can be introduced into International level public schools in India.

Apart from all other government considerations, we have to revive and revitalize the Indian Public Schools Conference and make a genuine public debate about the need to run international level secondary schools! You see that India has some peculiar history of education. Coming of Independence gives us a great responsibility to reform Indian education, keeping in mind our own ethos and transformation of Indian political and socio-economic realities. Sorry to say so but the gross reality is that we can’t create an artificial society and political culture in the name of democracy and social equality. We need new ideas and creative thinkers.

To some extent we have to create an open society and this means much tolerance of the ground level realities. We have instances of those powerful bureaucrats, why the Central government ministers through their children in highly reputed private schools because of the schools’ prestige in society. One HRD minister, for instance, called Headmistress from the South all the way to New Delhi. Once this school head saw the minister, the minister said to give a seat at her school! So, our point here is to allow new types of schools, yes, expensive ones can also be allowed so that what we have said about the British style Public Schools too can thrive and we can create special scholarships for bright pupils to benefit by such schools of excellence.

Quantity, commercialisation and sheer money drives growth,also greedy money-seekers!

Education Policy making is in Limbo! Higher education or any other stage of education is highly profitable! There is a very short introduction to education,universities and colleges before me.

college-student-1522046517Great names have been here for ages.Yes,even if we leave out the old names, honorary names, Plato’s Academy, Aristotle’s Lyceum and also the legendary Alexandria Library,we have universities in modern times, from Bologna(1088)to Oxford (and surprisingly, with due pardon, my own Oxford College (New College)1379!). So, universities are as old as we can look for.

But today with millions of students, from China and India alone, many millions, in total, over 150 million in over 17,000 institutions; twenty million in over 4,000 universities in the USA alone makes for a huge number.In fact, today mass university education is what we should call as higher education. And as for India,there are states like Tamil Nadu where an equal number of colleges, engineering and other technical colleges which charge what is allied capitation fee colleges!

In some of these states now private education is big business.And surprisingly too, the big education businessmen are rated higher than even the incumbent government ministers! Some of them, we are sorry to say so, are also the most ill-suited one, some plain illiterates and bad men of society! But what to do?Society and politics are changing fast in these new states, Tamil Nadu,you have some bizarre scenes.The founders of these self-financing,capitation fee-seeking universities,please note these are universities,some of the founders may not know many of the critical information we like to convey here.They don’t care!They are yet men with lot of clout.

Twenty first century colleges and universities

Some of the founders of the new twenty first century universities were once cinemas actors, of course as villains or side actors or simply musclemen to heroes and others have still more shady  backgrounds!What to do?Simply bear with them.Why?Even one or two have started political parties and sure they would soon plunge into politics!So,you have to please them at one point or the other. It is money, big money and black money that is going to decide politics till such time; let us hope,that politics would become more cleaner than what it is today.You see it is democracy and democracy forbids your freedom for free expression and also your right to speak freely!

So, education today is many things to many people.It is not surely, a search for knowledge for knowledge’s sake! So, we have a stage in our own evolution as a nation when we have to put up with so much nonsense as knowledge.If you drive through one major road in Tamil Nadu interior,the very length is paved with huge buildings, all schools or colleges,one college is also reputed to have got the largest number of women’s colleges. In this age of gender equality you have to be careful not to offend any sections’ sentiments. Also, this is the age in India of highly sensitive quota politics! Also, in tune with the changing times,we have to consider the many new Acts,the very important Right to Education Act is the one new beneficial law which requires every eligible student to be admitted into schools! This is a very critical legislation  where you can’t deny admission to schools in their own neighborhood.

All the accumulated socio-economic and cultural inequities have created layers and layers of injustice,in the name of castes and economic inequities and only by sheer democratic state politics and polices only we can redress the modern equities and correct the age of customs too.Today as we write, we read that there are now more ‘out of school children’ than we imagined with the new legislations in place. Also, there are young girls driven to human trafficking, under the immoral trafficking acts,including the Devadasi system against which laws have been passed but not implemented, we read in the states of Karnataka and Goa!

So,for Indians,more so Indian education policy makers,there are issues and more issues than what we choose to read books and researches written and published in UK and USA!

We in the Journal of Education,are of the strong view that our education policy making is caught in a limbo!Democracy throws up the most incompetent and unqualified!May be it is the price  we have to pay for living in such times of mass awakening!

Let them read the autobiography of the Indian Nobel Prize winner Venkat Ramakrishnan!

The book’s name: Gene Machine – The race to decipher the secrets of the ribosome.
The book reads like a thriller. The recent autobiography of Venkat Ramakrishnan, Venki to his friends and admirers, the latest winner of the Nobel Prize (for discovering the ribosome, a particle in biological sciences) and also as we understand is the current president of the much prestigious British Royal Society; must be prescribed as a text for study in our schools and colleges.

Nobel Prize winner Venkat Ramakrishnan

Nobel Prize winner Venkat Ramakrishnan

If there is any lesson from that book, it is this: Everything about the Indian education system is wrong, just the very opposite of what Venki says about his life and education and career and the pinnacle of success, the ultimate dazzling success he made! He studied in schools and colleges and all he did it to enter a college in America and got 56 rejections and after that he finds his way to the UK- Cambridge. There in his lab, he discovered something whose name and significance was not known for long and to the surprise of all of his colleagues and scientists – the world over, he won this prestigious prize!

So, we can say now that this is what education means and that it ultimately rewards for your toil and even your leisure time pursuits. He comes from a family where his parents themselves were PhDs! His sister is a PhD and now heads Immunology Department of Medicine, Cambridge. One of his sons is an expert in Western Classical Music (cellist). A Tamil Brahmin, vegetarian, a simple and unassuming looking man, this is a story worth telling many times.

Our current state of education had fallen to its depths; there is everywhere everyday full-page commercial ads tempting innocent parents and children to join one teaching coaching institute or the other. Our education system doesn’t search for talents.

Dead weight of government is holding back growth of IT industry, says Asha Jadeja Motwani, an angel investor from the Silicon Valley. The visiting expert says that the Indian IT ecosystem could grow ten times faster and stronger than the present state, if only the government did not (the bureaucrats sitting in comfortable chairs)come in the way. She says that politicians come and go but the babus are there all the time trying to obstruct and ask questions they don’t really know! They are sitting in positions of power and once they sit in one chair they don’t easily vacate!

We have only to see the recent goings in the top level bodies like the CBI and elsewhere. And also the return of the retired bureaucrats! They too once set foot in the cosy Lutyen bungalow zone; there is no way you can transfer them out! Ms.Motwani asks why the bureaucrats are designated as the IT In-charge when they don’t know what an IT start-up is, they haven’t tried their hands and so it is the actual doers who must guide the start-ups, not the pen-pushers!

Now, education must encourage and promote talents. And talents don’t come easy in the existing Indian environment. There are restrictions and regulations everywhere.  See the mushroom growth of the schools, the CBSE has become a milking cow! To get the licence from the CBSE is a full-time job; there are any numbers of new CBSE schools and also the exams! The much-admired Venki never wrote the GRE and if you don’t have the GRE, no American University would take you in and Venki sent his applications to some 50 universities and all rejected them!

The co-sharer of the Nobel Prize with Venki, Thomas Steitz, who had rejected his application for a research post, was the one who also shared the Nobel Prize! The third one who also shared the Prize was the one; an Israeli Ada Yonath had quarrels with and had a stormy relationship with him!

Indian education must learn words and concepts like E-learning, digitisation in cloud storage, cloud computing etc. There should be digitisation of the classrooms. It is time to act upon. In Bangalore such steps are being talked about. It is also time to teach our youngster to take risk in their learning processes. There is no safe, riskless world around us. Our inaction and lethargy is killing lakhs of students’s dreams and aspirations.

One more request to policy makers. Don’t select education ministers from the common fry! Look out for those who have the courage to take risk for the latest learning opportunities.

Our education eco-system is superficially constructed. Only the skimpy part, the cash-exchange surface is cared about. Yes, what do we care for when we talk of education? It is the money part, the immediate cash-exchange we seem to care about.

Otherwise, who cares for the children in their early years? As per the Global Nutrition Report 2018 – the reality is that a third of the world’s stunted children under five, an estimated 46.6 million who have low height for age – live in India!

eduAnybody cares? Anybody speaks out?  No,not at all!  What does this mean for the education policy makers? Nothing, nothing at all! A quarter of the children display wasting (that is, low weight for height) as well! As the Report reveals, there are wide variations in the stunting levels in various parts of the country. The central and northern states show a high level, respectively 30% to 40% and less than 20% in almost the entire south.

What does reality also mean for other aspects of the children’s health and well-being, the mothers, the food and other needs, the access to these realities, children development institutions, child welfare services and a whole range of services that could make an enormous difference to the future of children?

An education eco-system that really shows any political commitment must start with a range of issues. Our education reform policies must cover to tackle the problem at its roots. Every LKG, UKG School must take care of some of these issues. They must have to care for the feeding and health issues. Any special needs must be attended to. Food and freedom go together. Also, the maternal situation, the mother’s awareness and also the age of marriage and the rights of the ‘girl’ mothers is a grim reality in many backward areas and much more are at stake.

Any genuinely conceived education process must start with these ground realities. We talk about the private sector in education. This at the moment is only concerned with the money-making part! Not taking any more responsibilities! Education Ministers must be more responsible individuals. Education must have more and more women-run and women-centric institutions. In some of the European countries all the pre-school education, why even at the primary levels are manned exclusively by women.

World-wide the issue is now getting attention. UN agencies, UNICEF and World Food Programmes are all at it. There are also many, even thousands of NGOs and social service agencies engaged in providing relief at many levels.

But the coverage is not yet full. The malnutrition and stunted children are the twin challenges to our century’s education issues. Malnutrition kills – some estimated one million deaths every year. Malnutrition wears down the immune system. So, even a common cold could cause the death. Now, the distribution of the packaged food in the form of ‘Plumpy Nut’, a packet butter, dried milk, oil and sugar fortified with extra vitamins and calories introduced in 1996 is said to be very effective. One or two packets a day can restore a child’s health in a few months. Right now, the severe malnutrition has become a big challenge in African countries; Sahel countries face a grim challenge. Yemen, South Sudan-entirely man-made crises, war and drought are the causes. The World Food programmes and UNICEF have the chief responsibility to feed the children.

Exposure to air pollution causes 7 million deaths worldwide every year and costs an estimated $5.11 trillion in welfare losses globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a report at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland.

As for India, we can’t be left without an action plan. What is happening in India? This raises many tough questions. Our education policies are not drawn up with any depth of knowledge of the issues and also any commitment. We have become a talking nation; cheap election rhetoric seems to satisfy many of the thoughtful people even. See the silence in the policy making capital -Delhi – itself suffers from lack of any serious ideas of pollution in the capital. Then where is the time for the stake holders, the occupants of the Lutyen’s bungalow zone!

So, we can’t do more than point out some bitter truths and realities!