Education, ethics and money! A fatal combination?

neetYes, it seems so. The state of Indian education is very depressing. There is a steady quantitative expansion of education at all levels. This is a positive development.

While there is a steady decline in quality, again, at all levels too!
Quantitative expansion has happened thanks to a very high degree of commercialization.

When education becomes a mass cottage industry, then, what you can expect? Only deterioration too. So, we see very many new big buildings for all money-spinning education enterprises, CBSE schools are a craze among parents.  And so too the capitation fee-colleges, first in engineering now in medical colleges.

Also, many bigwig, even IAS officials and why ministers too are now charged with corruption, as in Pondicherry, a Union Territory, where some laxity of laws is possible it seems and so the easy way to make some money by the way.

There is no denying that medical education is becoming a big growth industry, with the widespread protests over NEET test gave way to falling in line to make the best use of the opportunity.

India’s education budget is also not big. Much worse if the Indian medical education and public health budgets.

So, there are serious problems in education sector.  In this context we like to say that for such a vast education sector, there are no education media outlets.

Practically, there is no education commentary or criticism and what makes for education news or publicity is what appears as full-page ads about the students who get high ranking and these full-page ads make India  a very poor country as far as education aspirations are concerned.

The newly emerging Indian middle class if so narrow-minded that this class wants English, instead of education in mother tongue, fees is no concern, fees are rising faster and also the standards are falling faster too!

The English language skills are so poor that in one of the oldest and well-known Public Schools, teachers are supposed to write to parents about the wards’ progress. These letters written by teachers are again corrected separately by the English class teachers!

So, what is the role of the English language in such a poor education environment?

The ministry of human resources (MHR/HRD) must in fact be renamed as ministry of education (ME), instead of human resources. It is a bit immature, even vulgar to call education as one instrument to turn humans into human resources! One immature leader thought so in no justification.

NO education thinker in India thought worthwhile to say this comment.
We are a nation of obedient servants of the government in whatever capacity we work in the country. Indians by nature either are bureaucratic or academic, not at any time an independent citizen, right?

We have no conception of what education means? Please look into the pages of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. There are 100 pages of write-up on education.

So, we have to dig deep into education history and evolution of education. We should start with Socrates through Plato and Aristotle and come to the modern Europe too.

Education should be all about ethics, ethical questions, the concept of good and evil and it should be about truth and hope, faith and love. The three principles preached by St.Paul in the first century AD in Corinth and elsewhere.

Now, there is no sense of hope, faith and love too. We seem to be becoming a society of insensitive nature, we  are becoming more and more selfish and also very narrow minded, we don’t seem to love our neighbours, but hate and avoid the neighbours, we are driven by jealousy and restlessness, becoming more and more materialistic and hence the fast spreading of corruption.

Delhi, a hothouse!
Delhi is a hothouse. You are in a perpetual state of tension, insecurity and uncertainty! About your own survival, first and foremost! What sort of a society we are creating here right now, under the dynastic holds of families, both political and officials.

No original thinking is possible in such an atmosphere. May be outside the Capital you find some free air to breathe, a liberal air and relaxed environment. In Delhi, the talk, the very behaviour and the artificial aims you see, we only think of artificial people and a
See the way our islands of selfish elites, be it the New Delhi Lutyen’s bungalow zone or similar enclaves, all funded and supported by public funds. In such a hothouse environment we see only much cynicism, a negative mentality, a disbelief in any positive outlook and that is one reason, in my considered view for the growth of dynastic political hold on the utter disregard for truth!

What chance we can create an open society, a merit-based growth of talents.

As one senior Congress leader had observed that we have leaders who behave like sultants! But only there is no sultanate!

So, nobody in India retires gracefully or return to their native places gracefully either.

They hang on and on! No politician retires! We have only politicians, no statesmen!

Even one lives as pensioner! In India there are other bonuses, a free, almost rent-free bungalows! We seem to be creating an elite as a parasitic class!

Educators must emerge from this truth.

A liberal society, a democratic society, an open society must be born, baled to be born.

Our fundamental educational values must originate from the ancient Athens and must imbibe the values of basic ethical questions.

We need not reinvent the wheels. We can  take them forward from ancient Greece and ancient Romes to Renaissance, to European Enlightenment and to the modern world where lots of new technologies make it possible to wipe out vast mass poverty, cure all the ills and diseases and also enable the people to live fulfilling lives.

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 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.

Why education is boring and dull! It needn’t be!

We, Indians are accustomed to reading English books written by the Brits, right?  That is our legacy!

C.E.M. Joad

C.E.M. Joad

This is not a book review. This page is an outcome of reading an old book that remains a classic and that too in the field of education. C.E.M. Joad is famous, perhaps only next to Bertrand Russell, in the rank of popularize of very heavy topics and of course he is a master of the exquisite English prose style. Education is an old topic and as Joad himself says; writing on education is often “boring” and “dull”! But then education is so much talked about though, as Joad again says that people, the common ones, also don’t care much for education!

Here, Joad writing at the time of the World War II in 1941 or so, quotes Aristotle who says: The object of education is to cause us to like and to dislike what we ought to! It is for readers to make out what it means! Now, education “is the distasteful subject”. In UK, there are too many pamphlets, books and surveys and opinions on what constitutes education. As I suspected Joad is also an old-fashioned Conservative, he takes the British history and class system and its attendant inequities and inequalities as almost God-given! By this we mean that England has historic names, the famed public Schools, Oxford and Cambridge and as such not much change in education ideals are needed.

Today in India, why, even in the whole world, including Britain, the education outlook and its myriad functions have changed beyond imagination. The Internet had changed it all. Now, for the higher ends of high quality education, the international student community looks for other destinations. May be, UK may be the last, if at all.
Now, there are certain other aspects of life and also education in England that might attract Indian imagination.

In chapter 2 on the purposes of education, he says that education doesn’t really promote a democratic society, as we all imagine. He also goes into some critical observations, (that is new to me at any rate) that the BBC (in my time in England in the late 1950s) used to have a celebrated programme called the Brains Trust with high-powered intellectuals debating on all and sundry issues. Here Joad tells that already in his time the so-called freedom of thought, free expressions were curtailed by several subtle ways, when it comes to religion and politics! This is surprising for me at any rate. And also, surprisingly again, that education and free press didn’t promote a more civilized and well-behaved citizenry!

This too seems to be very familiar to us today, though not many seem to debate this point. Already the mass media both print and TV channels do produce third rate stuff, right! And would education growth, education spread as we also see in India lead to a responsible citizenry? It looks doubtful again. See in some states, more so in the well-advanced state like TN, the political corruption and political criminality touched rock-bottom levels! Other bad social consequences, liquor shops run by government and also liquor manufacture run by those who run the parties and government too!

There are also other social evils like Goondaism and much violence and the rise of crime. Now, more such news even in states run by the new generation politician donning saffron robes! So, education needs to be debated in some critical depth. One more aspect Joad discusses is the role of Public Schools in British education. The Public schools are supposed to produce leaders of society and polity! This claim too needs some finer criticism. Recently, the President of India, the humble Pranab Mukherjee visited through famed Lawrence Public School, in the Nilgiris. He also extolled the role of such a historic school, he came for the 159th anniversary.

Of course the Rashtrapati made a good speech lasting barely seven minutes, barely there was not much time to dwell on such a topic like education and what Indian needs today as its national education goals. But one thing is sure. India needs a literary society, education has to reach all. But then there would be hierarchies and classes and so too certain safeguards and certain quality, to India to compete in the modern world.

So too education has to be a pursuit for some elite class too. We need to ask the very same questions Joad asks like the education for a Capitalist society and the world, education for a Socialist society and equal world opportunities. We too need education as inspired by Greek and Roman classical ideals, as well as education for the girl child, women and gender parity in education and jobs.

We live in a knowledge economy. IT revolution has changed our education, learning and work styles. We can now work from home; work from any part of the world and so life has become to a large extent easy and pleasant.

That is the gain of modern education, modern civilization and modern lifestyles. There is a need and there is so much to think creatively and live purposeful lives more abundantly than what we possible in the last generaiton, right?