Education reforms not so easy and that calls for deep thought!

BhagwatPranabFormer President Pranab Mukherjee was in Nagpur the other day. That raised many eyebrows. For the right and wrong reasons! The guest speaker said that India’s identity is about tolerance. Fine, perhaps we would have said, Indian polity too should be known for its great tolerance. Diversity is another Indian character, said the former head of state. We would have said rather diversity of thought, speech and writing is our defining character. And so it can go on. On the whole, contrary to the much fear and apprehension expressed at many fora, Pranab da surprised everyone by winning hearts at the RSS camp as well as in the Congress fraternity.

That is wisdom and experience and a bit of a tolerant outlook on the part of the senior Congress leader. Now, we see the education sector in India and decry the steep fall in standards and shall we say in the way the education ministry is going about in its endeavour to search for an identity for its own programmes. Education is a serious field. We should know that in ancient Greece, education was a very serious affair. The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1974 edition has a 100 page write up under the head, education! We would recommend our hon’ble ministers of education in the states and the Centre must glance through these pages.

Now, in the four years that elapsed, the Central Government didn’t do a thing for which we may like to recall and remember after this government completes its term. For the simple reason, we imagine, the government didn’t think it right to call for the experts, great thinkers and intellectuals or see what is happening in other progressive countries and societies.

Now, we read a small news item, so small that we might have missed that this government wanted to replace the many education regulators, UGC, AICTE and others with a single body. Please don’t do that! It might lead to more confusion. Why do we say this? You first show us the experts who can demonstrate some credibility. Niti Aayog has advised so, says the news item. Niti Aayog is not the competent body. You have to have an Education Commission and the names must be publicly known and winning credibility. Anyway, the proposed reform is postponed. Better it be so. Wait and invite opinions and views. There are eminent educationists in the country.

Consult them and also consult even some foreign experts, invite scholars from Oxford and Harvard and beyond. Let one or two Nobel Prize winners join and give India the best expertise in the areas of specialisation, more so in higher education.

In many states, 100 and odd farmers groups, on the roads!
What prevents purposive actions and decisions?

ModiThe Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken well and in an eloquent manner at Khekhda in Meerat on the occasion of inauguration of the 135 km Easter Peripheral Express way in Bagpat on the role of farmers in development. Yes, when the farmers’ lives rise, the country’s development rises! Yes, very inspiring indeed.

But then why his colleague at Krishi Bhavan does has spoken this way? Is this the way for a heavy-weight portfolio holder, the Agriculture Minister of the country to call farmers protests as a gimmick? This is to rub salt in the wounds of a section of the most high priority area of the country’s development agenda, agriculture and rural prosperity that is visibly in deep crisis. This is the time for the government that has completed four years and one year is left for the likely fierce battle for a new government in 2019. Surely, the PM is also faced with what we see as a dilemma as to how to go about reforming the moribund economic sector.

Yes, as a responsible agri media we too are concerned with a critical agenda of agricultural reform.

As we see the NITI AAYOG’s new radical proposals as how to reform the much-maligned restrictive tenancy legislations that were conceived in a different era of newly abolished landlordism days. Today the very rural economic and social and cultural scenario has changed.

Almost unnoticed there is a whole new revolution of aspirations and dreams among the new generation. India is now a young nation.

There is expectation at all levels. So too at the farm families’ levels too.
This has not been openly spoken about, namely, to recast the very restrictive and a negative tenancy laws that don’t serve any purpose whatever.
No land holder ,even the very marginal ones whose full time jobs may be in non-farm areas, including the daily labour where there is high wages be it the construction sector or any other jobs. Comparatively, there is every risk if one resorts to traditional farming.

So, no one wants to remain on the farms. Everyone likes to quite or migrate to cities. And yet, the politicians in the thick of winning the next elections have no time to think of radical changes. Every political party wants to repeat the past practices and give as many false promises as possible and thus, the same rising debts and litigations and what have you, the farming sector is caught in a web of corruption and corrupt practices at the ground level.

That is why Indian agriculture at the grass roots remains the most risk profession. So, we ask the government, the PM and the agri minister and all others concerned, please understand the distress in which the farming is caught up with.

chandraThat is one reason we also look forward to see more and more state governments  follow the lead given by the hon’ble Telangana  state CM,K.Chandrashekhar Rao in devising many radical changes, from cleaning the old style, conditions-ridden land records and giving boldly a new system of investments for the farmers and many of his innovative farm assistance systems.

Only if you had lived in AP or Telangana know well how the states are still steeped in the old style feudal system and how it is a Herculean task for the governments there to revive rural lives without some big modernising industrial ventures. Tamil Nadu with all its political disabilities, large scale corruption etc, has managed to lift the people out of poverty thanks to the great days of the late Kamaraj who brought some of the biggest industrial  ventures and  thereby created a momentum for the later governments to improve the lives of the poor  and the weaker sections.

So, Indian agriculture needs some unusual approaches. One would be the current achievements like accelerating the National High ways so that as the PM rightly said that way we might be able to tackle a whole host of issues like pollution in bigger cities and also integrating the rural hinter land and thus accelerating the agricultural markets and ensuring the chances of farmers getting higher prices for their produce.

Now, to the nitty-gritty of things. The Central government must intervene immediately to address the agitating farmers. The PM’s silence is misplaced. The agri minister has to apologise for his remarks.

Some immediate responses are called for. There are states like MP that has introduced to stabilise agri prices whenever it falls. A price stabilisation fund is needed to arrest the price falls. Other measures can be thought of. The government must think of such steps.

Immediate measures. Short-term measures. Medium and long-term measures.
In our opinion, liberalisation of the many laws that govern our agri/revenue/legal/justice systems. Special and innovative schemes as adopted in Telangana state for farmers.

Empathy for farmers must from the government!

Education in an uncertain world
Education for Enlightenment! Please understand one and all!

Yes, Indian education today is being driven by the sheer mindless market forces! Everyday, we are flooded with full-page newspaper ads claiming this or that targets of first rankers or other exams. But do you know the world outside? There is resistance for migration and asylum seekers in the West. Why, even inside, we see there are vacancies in the much-rated IITs!

MaucaulayA total of 18,138 candidates out of 1, 55,158, who appeared qualified the JEE Advanced this year. So, there are vacancies here at the IITs too! Abroad, USA, UK, why even in Europe there is resistance to migrants into their countries. Italy refused to take in a migrant ship carrying 600 migrants. So, the long waiting list of Green Card seekers in the USA and the long list of illegal migrant in the UK must send some signal in the Indian academic world. But alas! Indian educators, the education entrepreneurs live in blissful ignorance or unconcern! So, where does our generation of youngster, the original Macaulay children, is left with? No one has an answer or a clue. So, what is education for?

We say it is not for education to get you into another country. May be you would be left with only to live in this country. So, you, all, please realize, sooner or later, that education is not for jobs or migration. It is for your own Enlightenment! We have had some education histories and these were long time ago. We are not sure of what is being taught in the large number of teacher’s education colleges or among the university departments of education. Macaulay had chosen the English medium in 1834 and since then English language had come to dominate and the consequences are so serious today to drive much of education activities towards a mind-killing memorization and  driving the students, bright Indian youngsters towards a soul-killing  competitive exams, a series of competitive exams that had replaced any learning as such.

Today, the newspapers, almost everyday, round the year, we see carrying so vulgar a scenario with the first two pages, why even four pages ads on full-page basis proclaiming all sorts of nonsense as education courses.

In the 18th century England, there arose an industrial and social and class differentiation that Matthew Arnold (Culture and Anarchy) called the new classes emerging: Philistine, Barbarians and the Populace. A similar situation is now emerging in the Indian educated classes. We can call them here by the very same epithets. Are we not creating a new class of Indian barbarians among the so-called educated? The whole lot of people who benefit by the various dubious education courses from universities offering open-university degrees whose worth you have to check for yourself.

Everyone is cheating himself or herself with those degrees. And alas! The universities running such rackets whose actual activities have come out in the open and no one cares to correct the aberrations in the name of open-university degree courses. The most corrupt practices, the universities give affiliation and collects hefty fees and the colleges; most of them very third rate, in turn collect hefty fees and sign the degrees on paper.

This is called Open University degrees! Some universities in the South, we know for sure in Tamil Nadu which have open, or permitted to be opened in some 500 centres from all over India! A remote small town university had in fact indulged and what this seems to be the pattern elsewhere and this racket had now been stopped we learn, but we are not sure; till a new Governor, the Constitutional head of a university, has come and had stopped this racket by showing some active interest in the University administration. But the arrest of three Vice-Chancellors for corruption of this nature had been reported! The point here is that we in India had been witness to some blatant negligence of education as a serious and dedicated area of public service.

Unfortunately, we have perpetuated the old-style Macaulay, clerical education that is the worthlessness of education as a way to life, jobs and various skills, not learnt in the proper sense. Today, under the Narendra Modi regime, we haven’t improved in our opinion, even one percent in education reform. In a recent ‘substantial’ interview the current holder of the portfolio, the hon’ble Prakash Javadekar (The Hindu, June 13) the minister says about many things. But most of the questions and answers seem to us as not substantial but superficial, surface questions like the expansion of unregulated engineering colleges, deemed universities and autonomous colleges.

The only news is that this BJP government had allocated 4% of the budget for education. Hardly this is news. May be he must have done some calculations how much money is collected by the new money-making class or the new class of Philistines and Barbarians and the Populace class, the unsuspected new class of education seekers. The new class of education seekers is of course helpless, so we can’t blame them, they might take this is the only way to escape from poverty and backwardness.

It is the new middle class that has come to corner much of the government jobs under various quotas and their only hope is to migrate at the first opportunity to the US shores or other countries where they are given an asylum. In UK alone there are reportedly some 3 lakh and odd illegal refugee Indians! All highly qualified. Is this the education we Indians feel proud to promote here? Is this the goal of education providers, in all these full-page advertisers?

In the teaching and coaching, tuition industry we have some of the biggest corporate names too! To that extent those corporate entities have to hang their heads in shame. Of course, we can see some bright lights in the form of Private Universities. We don’t know yet their real genuineness. We are sure that given the poor foundations on which these Universities have come to be established there can’t be any deeper foundations. They are in the state’s Higher Education Councils. One such is there on the Marina Beach in Chennai. You have to go into the premises to find out how ‘bogus’ the functioning of such bodies.

In conclusion, we would only say that we have to go back in history that our whole ideas of higher education have to start with Greece and Rome and come down to the later ages. Perhaps the European Enlightenment, the French Revolution, later-day developments to the establishment and fulfillment of the British Empire and the whole history of British education based on the Greek and Roman classics, the study of Greek and Latin languages and the Greek and Roman institutions of Athens and Rome, democracy, freedom and ethics and truth, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, down the ages we come to what we have to really call the Westernization of knowledge. This is a tough territory to go into. But we have to go into this tough territory and recast our idea of education, pursuit of truth and ethics in our public life.

We have to teach history, politics and Parliamentary history to give a rounded liberal education. There is no other alternative way in education. Please learn to digest the genuineness of this history. Someone has to bell the ‘cat’! Who can do it is a question that can’t be answered here!

Do  the elite society play any notable role in the public life of India?

In the Western societies, including USA and Western Europe, in France and other liberal democracies  there are who are commonly called public intellectuals. They are either academics or even philosophers or literary figures who speak out openly for the common  public good. There are so many examples. They are usually independent-mind  thinkers or writers, poets and art  and culture people.

Jean Paul Sartre

Jean Paul Sartre

Jean Paul Sartre was the most famous among these people in our opinion who dared to reject the Nobel Prize awarded to him. Such was his power and popularity ,he became a cult figure   for a generation or more. There are many other names too. Picasso, the famed painter was another such such figure and they have all helped to shape the public taste and belief systems. That is why these countries are called liberal societies and earned much respect and  status in the international arena.

Intellectuals help shape public opinion and an enlightened public opinion raises the quality of public life. In India we have experts, scientists and economists but these experts don’t talk on issues of public importance. The difference between experts and intellectuals must be clearly understood. Here we see still a sort of slavish mentality, among the bureaucracy, why even the uneducated or poorly educated mass of people who get seized by mass frenzy, get attracted my demagogues.

That is one reason why extremist politics too thieves at certain levels of society. So, let us understand the public intellectuals whose roles are very critical for a liberal society culture. Even in India we see, in West Bengal and Karnataka, some sections of intellectuals called by those in power to consult and gauge public opinion. Recently, the West Bengal Governor called the members of the intelligentsia for tea! To discuss public issues! Very fine indeed!

Why, even in Communist countries like China and Russia there are even today daring such individuals. The Opposition leader in Russia was barred from standing against Putin, the current President and  there are such daring opponents of the regimes. In China too we have such individuals who are put behind bars.
England is known for its liberal traditions, Karl Marx himself found a safety net only in London!

How far India is a country that tolerates such dissident, independent minded intellectuals. It is a matter of much regrets that in recent times some of the dissident writers were killed by opponents. The rise of Hindutva is one recent phenomenon.

Usually, the Rightwing and the Leftwing are seen as opposition forces. They need not be. Rich nations like the USA is also now seen as a violent society. Gun culture there is a new phenomenon.
The rise of terrorism is another feature of modern world.

The point is that as education spreads there must be more appreciation of different points of view and there must be more elite groups, well-off middle class and also an open society of sorts. The dury of the elite sections is to see that this culture of open debate and discussion at the universities or cultural sabhas  are giving  society a new  open society culture.
It is a matter we have to discuss more and more freely.

The common man must feel elated by the freedoms he enjoys and also the other classes, from the upper strata to the middle and  lower sections helps to build  harmonious social climate.
Any society that wants to earn the respect and admiration of other societies have to keep this larger good as their goal of development.

Even now, China with all the restrictions on freedom of expression and other freedoms allows the Chinese people, the common man much freedoms, you know?

When we visited China not long ago we spent time in Shanghai city and there in the Nanging street every evening and even other times, we saw people dancing, singing and other concerns in the public spaces drawing people in large numbers.

The point here is that only public debate and  discussions and open society atmosphere can help people, the common citizens to grow in mental and moral  health.

Public libraries and a book policy are all important, so too the various national level cultural bodies, Sahitya Academy, Sangeetha Nataka Academy and Fine Arts body must all have the right type of leaders and spokes persons. Women leaders must play a more pro-active, prominent roles in these bodies.
We have to encourage such a secular and open society culture here too. Freedom of the media is already creating a positive environment.

The quality of public life, eradication of corruption in politics and business and high sense of individual morality etc are all important.

The nitty-gritty of education! Yes, education for what? Skills, jobs or migration?

rteIndian education, in our view, is in deep crisis! No one in authority has a clue where our education is heading! It is heading simply in the way market forces to push education pursuits. The rising middle class, not the old middle class but the new middle class that comprises a whole lot of new social strata that often takes the political roles, one political outfit, we hesitate to call it a political party; calls the NEET to be abolished or tailored to promote students from one state only and no consideration for even the whole country.

More and more democratic politics becomes populist, more and more demands and more and more education streams are likely to permeate all sections. May be who knows a time may come when even quotas for admissions to LKG and UKG might come! The Right to Compulsory Education (RTE) has done wonders for school enrolment and there is now a sense of equity and equality in the sort of quality education. May be we have to see what new forces might come about from the more and more deprived sections of society.

Democracy in India is well-established at one level of looking at realities at the ground level. May be a time might come also for further levelling up. The exams also might become more liberal and why, even irrelevant and the attempts now made to introduce exams at the 8th or other levels might be given up. You see we have already levelled up education quality by many reforms. The very competitive providers of education call them by any name you like but don’t call them as educators, they are education entrepreneurs and there is such a fierce competition that newspaper, why even the TV channels are competing for ad space! Such is the education scenario now. Everyone is into the tuition industry and call them by whatever fancy name they are capable of.

Illiterates are educators now, the more uneducated the more clever they are. Tamil Nadu has the dubious distinction in this category of 100% pass producing schools that at one Delhi’s better colleges the entire class of Commerce is filled with students from South Indian towns. The so-called cut-off marks syndrome is broken! This is the most degrading type of education. Skills? What are the types of skills? The very many competitive education market had almost destroyed all principles of good education, liberal, rational and philosophical foundations of a creative, cultural and innovative society.

India has become a material society pursuing all material wealth and education is all about scoring marks, writing further competitive exams and also committing suicides for further pursuits. Where are the education thinkers, policy makers, wise men and women?