The Abhijit Banerjee trio winning this years’ Nobel Prize for economics gives hope

From the multiple challenges that the children face today! And India faces these multiple challenges with this year’s UNICEF report’s dire warning to India in particular. The children under five are the most affected in the world and India doesn’t stand out as a shining example. What has gone wrong with our policy making and policy implementation? These are questions that should hit our collective conscience.

Educators! Wake up! Speak out! Anybody who matters have spoken out? No! The Global Hunger Index reveals India in a pretty low status. At 20.8 % this is the highest ratio in the whole of the world. There is acute malnutrition in India and this needs urgent attention.

Children’s education is perhaps the most difficult of all challenges before this government. Malnutrition is a subject for experts in health, nutrition, education and a multiple of fields. Over the last four years India has slipped nine ranks, to 102 out of 117 nations. Who were in charge of these departments? Any enquires were made?

Media is now cowed down. So, no one dares to question the persons in charge. Now, there are many important related issues in children’s well-being, from health to nutrition to the very quality of education. We also read the other day the new illness, the mental health of youngsters. It is suggested that we need to appoint mental counsellers and also attend to the overall education and cultural needs of children who are now all driven by exam results and also more tuition and less teaching in the old-fashioned ways.

Also, there are now new ills. Corruption and tax raids! One school in one small city, not even city, a town with a school had multiple locations where it has operations in impersonating candidates and getting converted government quota seats for medical colleges into management quotas and there by sealing the quota seats for the highest bidders,.

There are other issues like out of school children. Has any government spoken of the out of school children? How the RTI ACT is working? Has the Compulsory 25% admission to neighbourhood schools working? And in the state of mass lynching, namely UP, we have the spectra of malnutrition in six of the ten districts with the highest rates stunted in UP alone. So, we have to also think of children left as orphans whose parents were subjected to lynching! So, society and policy is changing and we have disinterested or disobedient bureaucrats sitting in chairs from which they don’t budge. So, there is a summary sacking of secretaries!

So, education is no more a noble profession, it is sheer business activity and you don’t think of any humanitarian virtues in your education services! However, the stunted children, the orphaned children of the mob lynched victims are faces and pictures that would haunt the civilized sections of society and we, the helpless public might have to wait for the day when final relief would be forth coming! The children of such affected go through indescribable trauma and the faces and the pictures in daily newspapers and TV visuals continue to haunt us, the public and hopefully the policy makers as well!

Macaulay Ghost again!
Let us not impose Hindi on non-Hindi states as of now!

Let us leave education and much else like culture and literature better to educators, thinkers and intellectuals. Certainly, the current political scenario is not conducive to promoting Hindi language. Other Indian languages have equal claims for recognition and promotion.

Much has to be done in promoting regional languages and literatures also. The current atmosphere is fraught with not so liberal outlook nation-wide. Better we devote more attention to other developmental issues. The second term of the current government created a tremendous bout of energy and expectations. The energy and expectations still remain. But also suddenly there is a sort of great let down by the economic slowdown and other developments as in J&K.

In the midst of other new developments came some ghosts, the Macaulay ghost of English medium invasion across schools in the country; schools in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in particular that has opened thousands of English medium schools. This led to a cry of killing the mother tongues and educators and scholars called for new fights and pressure on the state governments to introduce local language medium in schools.

In the meanwhile enters Mr. Amit Shah, the Home Minister whose call for introducing Hindi, the most spoken language by Indians (some 40% of the people), as a national language which Mr. Shah said could unite the country! This raised a hornet’s nest and a spate of voices arose in the South to halt this indirect imposition of Hindi, which in the eyes of the Southerners is an alien language. English language growth is now not in any one country’s domain. English language skills of Indians are propelling the country and economy in an Internet-connected world.

The place of Hindi in the formation of Indian culture and ethos is a highly sensitive issue and it is politically wise to leave the place and growth of languages to a natural evolution and not impose it as a government policy. And we better improve our education standards by all other means. Education itself needs a very deeper intellectual creativity and the government better leave it to experts and thinkers.

Mr. Shah must have his own reasons and moreover timing to talk of Hindi as a national language. Given Mr. Shah’s status and skills as a powerful politician and given the way the governance parameters are drawn today the Hindi language issue might not blow over, it might rather escalate, it seems. Of course, there is a long history of anti-Hindi agitations in the South and given this perspective it is very likely that the question of national language is at the core of the Hindutva agenda and the days to come are likely to be controversial when the larger agenda of new education policy is put to implementation.

Already there are reports that the status of education in India is not so high. The latest report of the rankings of Indian Universities by the Times Higher Education Supplement doesn’t find a place for Indian universities. The status of Indian higher education is very patchy, no Indian university is in the world’s top 300 universities and with this pathetic record what the new all-powerful Modi government is going to achieve in Indian universities education. Also, already the PM had initiated many new schemes like declaring some 25 universities are of national excellence, even some other institutions (promised by some corporate houses) were given this tag.

What is the progress of already so declared central universities? See, education, like any other sector is not an easy one, it requires lot of dedication and determination to bring about quality improvements and given the state in which we find our education progress, a lot needs to be done and it takes time and also some sustained efforts to turn out quality education.

Also, the news comes about another controversy, this time by the Labour Minister Mr. Santosh J Kumar Gangwar who said the other day that there is lack of quality education for students in North India and that is why there is not enough employment generation in the Northern states.

Of course it is often easy to take offence at such remarks and so came the Opposition criticism on the minister’s remarks.

It is very difficult to bring about reforms in education, especially Indian education that has a colonial past gave us what we have still today, namely, the Macaulay Ghost-driven English medium of a low quality. Indian educated classes from the very beginning were clerical -minded peon pushers of a very low motivation and that stream only contributed to so many of our inherent national traits like inferiority complex, a submissive citizenry, a low self-esteemed and subservient mentality.

It is in this big picture we are advocating a very radical change in our outlook when we come to effect any reforms, if at all! Of course, there have been many developments in Indian education. First, there is the tremendous explosion in numbers who attend schools. There are so many new radical and timely changes in new laws like the Right to Education. Today no student of any status can be denied entry into quality schools and even the most prestigious schools can’t deny entry into their portals.

India is a diverse country with diverse socio-economic and cultural variations and so many discriminations and so we have to see things in broader perspectives. Girls education has also seen an explosion and so too the many new innovative welfare schemes like free uniforms and free cycles and even nutrition schemes. Let the parents’ aspirations educate their children in the medium they want.

English language is a universal medium and there is also much social status attached to English and so given the rising awareness about the prestige attached to English we have to retain English as a medium of instruction. Yes, there are academic discussions about the poor quality of instruction; teachers are not there to meet the demand for more teachers. There are a host of other problems. Given the Hindi medium education has rendered even the post graduates in the North Indian states, we have to go slow in the introduction of Hindi as a medium of instruction in more courses.

The IT revolution has given new technologies to impart education online and let us hope, given some more years, let us not tinker with our language policy. Hindi is a great language and given the time and space it would spread wider. So, imposition of Hindi on non-Hindi states is not a wise move as of now.

Why and what drives them to such drastic steps?

Idealism of the youth confronts the gross realities of corruption and fall in governance standards. The issues are complex and they invite an in-depth debate!

India is a country with a lot of aspirational youth. We say we are a young nation. There are millions of aspirations in every one of the youngsters. In sports too, P.V.Sindhu and other women athletes have come to catch our imagination as a successful nation of achievers. And when it comes to education attainments and jobs and careers there is such a vast pool of talents in diverse fields and employment opportunities are also emerging in diverse fields.

Our very education has been turned into commercial hubs and the very many career training institutes have completely changed the educational goals. India has a history of job seeking education and that is how the Macaulay Ghost has come to symbolize all that is good and equally bad in our national trait and character. And Indians were also turned into low-aspiring clerical careers and that is one reason why we are still a nation of job seekers at all times.

In this long history of serfdom and low aspirations, the one career much sought after was once the ICS career and now the IAS. How many IAS training Academies are there? May be as there are any numbers of small and big streets where you can spot an IAS training Academy! In this heaven-born IAS Academy are made the current crop of youngsters. It is a welcome development but there are critical issues.

Recently some four or more young and aspiring and idealistic IAS officers in their start of their careers suddenly came forward and resigned their jobs! This made headline news!

When education has become a trade and an outright business where you see in many of the prominent universities, as in TN, degrees are for sale and no more education qualification is taken seriously, what sort of idealism you can see in youngsters?

First it started with engineering colleges in the state where there are even now more than 500 odd colleges of this poor quality where the degrees go a begging! Next, big corruption scandal in education may very well be in the much more lucrative medical education sector! The latest resignations of young IAS officers in Karnataka and elsewhere show the undercurrents of large scale corruption in administration and politics.

Now, the new recruits in the IAS cadre, one can imagine, might very well face the many hurdles like political interference. For those of us who live in the villages or in touch with rural India, the first thing a new IAS recruit is likely to face is about dispensing with favors with the rural realities. There is outright corruption in some states, outright in the sense; the district Collector – the supposed boss has to interact with the district level political boss.

Only those who had lived and interacted with these political strong men would realize that even if you are an IAS in the administrative hierarchy you have to take orders from the political bosses, sometimes the very minister representing the district, or his party colleague as secretary or even at the still lower level the minister has to interact with the political party cadres who make a combination of the good, not so good or plain undesirables in the traditional society.

Once the district level officials, be they the revenue or police or other sectors. Even here, there is the block development officer who is running the local government agencies like allocation of funds to develop the roads, electric supply or drinking water; these are all at the mercy of the Collector.

The IAS, we are sure very well will soon learn to bend and oblige some unreasonable requests, most often these requests for favor would be unreasonable, sometimes, plain corruption! How, then the idealistic new IAS recruit, as found in the just resigned ones who said that they came into the service with the building blocks of democracy and democratic institutions would function as they expected but alas! They soon realize they have to turn a blind eye! May be many IAS recruits might soon learn to fall in line! But surely there would be a few idealists who might consider giving up altogether these sorts of corrupt practices.

So, to cut the story short, there would be more and more heartburns and the society might see more of the breakdown of law and order, more resorts to more corrupt practices. TN is one state where we have seen Chief Ministers climbing up the steps of courts of law and also spending time in jails. So, education is now no more than exclusive domain for exclusive experts. Education is now part of the larger democratic practices.

Populist politics has taken a toll of all values of truth and honesty and had become another form of social corruption. You enter an education portal with a bundle of currency to pay a bribe, yes, let us be honest enough to call this a bribe and what is the use to cite valuable statistics on education progress.

Unemployment is very high now. 2.5 million jobs are vacant and everywhere there is this cry of too many job seekers changing the vacancies from teachers jobs to various private and public and government jobs.

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.

The new government’s education is about what?
Is it about making India an educated and civilised country and society?

Or, is it all about political brain-washing? You see, one has to have a critical mind, an objective mind to talk about serious issue like education and related fields. Education is all about awakening people, a country and its citizens. We are not yet sure about the new education policy for what the Prime Minister calls, New India. Does a New India have many things or the slogan can simply remain a slogan and might not mean anything. There are some reservations or misgivings, if the readers see the issues so. The Kasturirangan Education ‘draft report’ remains inaccessible as on date and the very few passages quoted by media comments make one feel uncomfortable a bit. There is a reference for setting up, for instance, a school for Persian and other oriental languages. Why, of all languages, the most sacred of the Persian culture teaching in India?

Also, the controversy that erupted and not so far died the three language formula and the history from the pre-independent days! Why Hindi now, when the languages is already spreading in the South the exodus of the North Indian labour from North East and other Hindi speaking areas like UP and Bihar to other States. The BJP regime could further inflame the language controversy. Please avoid this issue. Let Hindi spread on its own distinction. Let the languages study be carried out by scholars and not by language fanatics who are everywhere, not just inside India but also in other countries in Europe.

Now, coming to the main stream education, you see the current education scenario must get attention from the honourable members of the Committee. Do the hon’ble members think the current situation in education scene anything to be cheered about or feel distressed? The problem in India is that we, as inheritors of the British colonial legacy are highly conditioned by inferior complex, we feel uncomfortable to call a spade a spade! Education has deteriorated into sheer money making venture. See, travel to any part of the country, there are always schools and coaching centres. There is a craze to make money out of the ambitious and ruthless middle classes to ensure the selfish goals of making their wards alone as competitive and succeeding! Now corruption in admissions had crept into even the US institutions! So, the UK and the US universities are looking for Indian students and the education fees are so high.

Inside India too, the changes in the politics in the states is such that there are over 500 self-financing engineering colleges and this year, some 15 colleges had stopped admissions for the simple reason that there is no infrastructure and also there are no students. In a lighter vein we can say, after you travel in the South, in one district town there are some 10 or even more colleges under one persona the founder! Some of them whom we know well are not even worthy of such honours. But what about the politician turned education entrepreneur nexus? There are many other trades in which these education entrepreneurs are engaged together! Some have become even elected members of the Lok Sabha! Corrupt and criminal linked law makers now would make laws for the hapless citizens.
Where we are going? The education minds must ask themselves! Education thinkers are now divided into the progressive and the backward minded, medieval minded ones! Can you rewrite history? This is also a question the Education experts must answer. Simply to please a government in power at the moment and to give education ideas is a disservice to nation. We can use a different language but we don’t to spoil the party when it is going well!

Education, culture, heritage, why even the tradition and modernity are all heavily-loaded words and concepts and you have to mention whom you have all met and consulted in making the report. That would only enhance the status of the report also. We have to run education not into a commodity. May be the one positive change we see is the coming of the one or two private universities with internationally recruited faculty. That gives some hope and positive change. Let us see!