The first five years must be an indication!
Will the new education reform report really change the Indian education?

What is the current status of the Indian education? Nobody has raised these questions so far. Now, the Modi government with its massive election victory mandate has all the powers to restructurethe Indian education as it wants.What are the likely chances to recast the Indian education? You see, there is really an all pervasive fear across the entirespectrum of public opinion.

No one, even pro-BJP intellectuals so farhave opened their mouths and expressed any new idea, even controversial ideas. From the initial few pronouncements the new minister, the Hon’ble education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, it looks he too seem to be of the same old schools. He has championed the cause of theHindutva ideology, teaching Indian values of the special kind and wehave to really wait for some more time before the entire Kasturirangan Committee report is made public. It looks the said 480-odd pagesreport must be of substantial value and we have to see how the latest report came to be written and who are really the members who prepared the report.

As far as we know that when Smriti Irani was the HRD minister sheappointed some bureaucrats, one was a former Cabinet Secretary, to write an education reform report. The contestants of the report were not made public and yet for many reasons we don’t know what happened to the report. And the very same minister also appointed another committee with again former bureaucrats of the NCERT and other officials were made members. This report also did not see the light of the day.

We are of the opinion that bureaucrats are not the best choices for an education reform proposal. Anyhow, these reports vanished and now weare told that there is a Kasturirangan report on education. Also, we don’t know who are the members of this committee and also when this report was prepared. During the previous regime, it seems the report was prepared. Then, why so much secrecy and other reasons when this report is mentioned but no public discussion or debate on this report is being talked about. Dr.Kasturirangan is an eminent scientist, a former chairman of the ISRO and of course has wide experience and a competent person for the education reforms debate. But let us first debate and discuss in public and let education thinkers and experts and others, specially from fields like culture and arts, even from other disciplines and this diverse knowledge and expertise can be best utilised when we debate a subject like education.

Now, as for the status of education we have to be open-minded and really concerned about the way the whole field of education had deteriorated. We in this journal are engaged in the field of education for nearly half a century! We have a long story to tell and lot of experience to share with the fellow educators. We had been in politics, an elected member of the then Madras Legislative Council (from the Graduates Constituency) luminaries like Dr.A.Lakshmanaswami Mudaliar, who presided over the Madras University for an unbroken tenure of 27 long years! Ironically, it was at the hands of our own Private Member Bill on fixing the tenure of the Vice Chancellor; the tenure of the great educator was terminated! So, our own experience in founding a high School in a remote village as an experimental school; the experiment invited much attention and we had also widely travelled in Europe and visited many distinguished French Lycées and other public schools. So, we speak with some inside knowledge of how schools function.

Let us be realistic about how our education, from LKG to other stages are highly commercialised and also education process has become socorrupt, from the self-financing colleges to other currently-obsessive various exams-oriented tuitions to other competitive exams. Is this all education? Or is this the very degeneration of education? And to add to this all-round fall in standards and values, we have nowthe new challenge of indoctrination of the Hindutva ideology! How much the new education draft report is meeting this demand? Naturally, this indoctrination issue would colour the rest of the recommendations. As far as the very tone of the current obsessions ofparents and students to get admissions into quality schools, in theprivate sector with such high fees where the educator-turned entrepreneurs, as we can see in TN and elsewhere, these educators entering all the fields from politics to other business areas and given the sort of corrupt practices that have entered into education-businessmen, they are also in some case well-known corrupt politicians. One wonders whether Indian education is really reformed on modernlines and whether modern knowledge can be imparted with such medieval mindsets!

There is an air of total artificiality about education reform today. Many senior educators, scientists and education administrator’s had resigned and went away and not one such senior educator would bewilling to come forward to take up any new responsibility.We feel that higher education is also in shambles. There is so much mediocrity in the universities and we don’t think we can do justice to this sector in one brief editorial. Also, the new breed of educationministers is of very poor quality and there are ministers for school education and also there are ministers for higher education! And the new breed of Vice-Chancellors! Any education reform committee must take up some case studies and examine in some great depth and details how to recast the selection of the VCs. It looks right now, it is an impossible task!

We really fail to make any realistic recommendations. For we know well, how the governments would take such recommendations. The concept of the Central Universities is also a tragic story of political whims and fancies, some universities are selected near some Chief Minister’s native villages! What sort of university it would turn out? Simply, let us imagine such a scenario! So, we are in such an impossible position to discuss other policies like child education, nutrition etc. Education change in India at present seems an impossible task! God forbid! Our children today are so unlucky! Sorry for this dismal outlook!

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.