Challenges for Indian Education
Indian education can’t be left to the politicians or the academics alone. Unfortunately, in India of the current socio-political configuration, there are not even strong-willed leaders nor the independent academics. The universities are politicised and the vice-chancellors irrespective of their locations are all the political creatures. The state universities are under the tight control of the incumbent chief ministers. Even the Governors who are nominally the honorofic chancellors are very much at the goodwill of the chief ministers. So what intellectual wisdom you can expect from these university men and women? Politicians, the state bosses, the regional chauvinistic leaders dictate wisdom! Should we name these characters? Even the great American president is now reduced to comic characters? So, we are all living through the age of pigmies!
May be the charatcer of our times is changing. We seem to be entering this century with some unprecedented changes and challenges. We need to do a lot of introspection as a nation – as a people – as a culture and as a people in search of a new political ideology to suit our times. See the horrible photos released about the atocities committed by the British troops in Iraq. These horrible pictures come after we had gone through the same horribilities by the very same war, by the American troops, So, what is the sort of world that is being shaped by George Bush and his buddy, Tony Blair. They use their clout with the past legacies, American military power, the UK colonial legacy. In such a world scenario, we see the Indian mind quite out of its wits. To add to our own mental confusions, we have no individuals who can give us a direction or a goal. The visiting NRI intellectuals, be it Lord Meghnad Desai or Prof. Amartya Sen, they are seasonal visitors, they have no stakes, it seems, either in India or in their countries of living (or livlihood?). They have been equally criticised for their pet theories.
So, we Indians, living inside India, struggling with the sorts of governments we have to grapple with, have to find for ourselves a national direction, a national goal. Be it education or much else.
Indian education can’t be fully understood unless we also have a sense of history and our politics. Looking beyond the day to day issues, we have to see what we have as education and how this education, the education system has come about. This we can understand only when we have a sort of a broad picture. The word vision is over-used to the point of making it quite meaningless. What vision we can talk of even for Indian when we know the very persons who utter such words are powerless, they are powerless and that is why they take escape route through such empty words.
Now, I see education as a sociological concept, an economic concept, such big picture issues. Take history. Emiment historian Romila Thapar had written perhaps India’s first comprehensive in ancient history. (Indian history, from ancient times to 1330, Penguin) She said in a recent interview that India has more historians than in the entire West!
May be that is one reason we have so many willing historians, under BJP and under Congress to change their stands! That is one reason for twisting history textbooks for schools so badly? Or, now another revision, this time by the pro-Congress or pro-Marxist historians! Thapar answered the charge why Indians don’t have a historic sense . Otherwise, we would not have had so much of mythologies and what is more worrying, we still believe in myths and believe willingly any government!
That is, in my opinion, one reason why we Indians quickly changed ourselves into one of willing subjects of the British! Even now, I find our intellectuals, academics and even newspapers to enlogise everything British, from Churchill to Royal family. I want to change this. I consider Churchill the big bully of the modern British history. Because there was this empire the same image translated as a hero!
We, Indians, need to do much introspection. Prof. Ashis Nandy has given some inputs. I had given serious study of Nandy’s many insightful observations. Though I can’t say I had fully understood him, he also doesn’t help. He is not a helpful communicator, that easy, journalistic style is not his strength. Anyway, we can benefit from his many criticisms about the loss of our selfhood and the need for searching back and recovering our own selfhood, shall we say, our own nationhood too in the process?
Ashis Nandy says in some of his penetrating essays that Indians are by nature are passive, submissive Loss of Self and Recovery under Colonialism).
Yes, we needn’t deprecate too much about our colonial legacy. Colonialism had given us secularisation, scientism and a sense of history and even an extrovert outlook to look at the world at large! Our Indian character, gunas, needs further study. Says Nandy: “The concept Max Mueller found it difficult to understand.” (The Bonfire of Creeds: The Essential Ashis Nandy, page 375, Oup)
We can recover our essential traits, character, individual and national, in my view, if educationists seriously understand the need for it. I think this is a task we, as educationists, are morally committed to come up with. Thus, one of my education challenges is to study the fall of Indian character under the British colonialism. As I see our education ideology must trace the intellectual issue of how we Indians, East, Orientalism and West, Imperials divided us mentally. Edward Said (Orientalism, 1978) the Palestinian intellectual opened our eyes to a non-British, a Third World view of ourselves as independent people.
We have to see our education still not liberated from this mindset.
We live in an independent state alright, but in a bureaucratic state! The power structure is so unevenly distributed. Those who control the levers of power control our minds, right! So, an analysis of power, the various sociological dimensions of power is critical to have a deeper meaning of education.
The class divisions make education an unequal opportunity. Under the Constitution we are all equal, equal before the law. But under the power structure as it is, we get what we deserve in terms of the class to which we belong, right? So, too the dominant groups who control education. Educators today have become mercenaries.