After 1000 years of India’s slavery! After 300 years of colonial education!
After reading through the latest collection of essays, ” Argumentative Indian” by Prof.Amartya Sen I had read an article by another eminent Professor.This time it is the distinguished historian Romila Thapar. It so happens I know them both and so well! So, I have to be careful in what I have got to say! These are the two great Indian scholars and intellectuals I respect most.They are justly internationally respected.
And they have given much of their thoughts on education. Sen is of course a great advocate of education as the solution to all our ills.Prof.Thapar has given her considered thoughts on the current curriculum framework debate. Thapar says rightly that school curriculum has to ‘acquaint society with what the next generation is being taught and why’. Fine this is also my concern.
Further she says the recent school curriculum debate took up too much time only with school textbooks on history, but not about the other social sciences, geography, politics,economics and sociology. Also there is some obsession with only the sciences but not more on the social sciences.
All these deficiencies I also see.Sen as well as Thapar are, if I can say so, more and more dwell upon how the access to knowledge through schools and colleges and universities can be brought about through the medium of education. Am I right?
Where I strongly differ from these two distinguished academics is what they fail to perceive in the Indian context and also in the world and historic context. India has a peculiar history. Indians had lived under successive invasions. India had been subjugated by various conquerors. And when the British finally conquered they introduced an education in English language that finally subjugated the Indian minds to one of total subservience to an alien occupation and made us all clerks. Call them by various names, we are and continue to believe in a clerical view of education and life. India even today excels as a highly bureaucratised, hierarchical society. There is no freedom-driven polity in India.There is no free political culture.
What little that remained after Jawaharlal Nehru had been thoroughly corrupted and more and more a dictorial culture prevails in our polity. So, when Thapar mentions teaching the social sciences I wonder what chance for the social sciences like politics or philosophy. Sen is a great economist but what economic philosophy he had succeeded in implanting in the Indian academic minds? Indian economists had proved themselves honest government servants! Did Sen for that matter other economists ever disagreed or disputed the many defective economic reforms at any point of their life? Did our respected Dr.Manmohan Singh ever gave out his personal economic beliefs? In other countries we have had distinguished economists, Nobel Prize winners included, who had stood up for their firm beliefs in what they consider good in the public interest. Do we have any such role models? So, in other disciplines of the social sciences.Take for example the role and place of languages in our education curriculum. Politicians had played havoc with their regional poltics.
Prof. Thapar has a fine mind but, I am sorry to say, also to say so rather bluntly, that we Indians, in whatever positions are always somehow don’t yet possess the independent mindset we witness in advanced Western countries. As a serious historian of India she should really give a historic focus to our education values and perspectives.
So too for Amartya Sen.As a rare thinker and economic expert he should give his education vision an economic focus, how our economic history and the present evolving economic system has the in-built economic and social inequities and injustices and deny education access to wide social segments. Our present education strategies don’t even ensure the lofty education for all goal within the time- frame as envisaged by the UN. So, I am inclined to ask:what use our expertise if we don’t see Indian education in the broader historic and economic perspectives? It is for readers to judge the worth of my queries. So, I see the limitations of the academic thinkers in India to reform our education. As I see, we have to boldly go for radical solutions. We have to decentralise decision-making at various levels. Certainly, our universities need cross-national academic exchange programmes.
Our Vice Chancellors are pitiable persons, they are at the mercy of crude state politics. I know there is no point to go on in their vein! The point I want to drive here is that Indian education can’t be improved in any radical way unless we all realise we need a great deal of introspection on where we Indians are going wrong. Our godmen and godwomen are also into this degenerative education business ventures and so we need serious thoughts.
Indians must learn to teach more about Indian character, rather Indian character deficiencies in our schools and universities. Our teaching of languages, must be to ensure that in the end education is not for money! Education is for learning. To cultivate our critical mental faculties.There must be some select universities where you go for the prestige of learning. As we go to Oxford or Cambridge.There has to be some streaming in higher education in some universities.