Education for All? In our lifetime?
The Manmohan Singh Government is in office for more than four months
The American Presidential candidates are debating face to face as we are writing this editorial! The Democratic candidate Kerry says that India is adding more graduates into its IT industry while America is doing nothing! Fine, even the American leaders are referring to India and Indian education! But as we read the pages of newspapers and look for Sonia Gandhi or the BJP leaders, no one is talking of education. So, where India stands now?
Education is always a big election issue in UK and USA. But not so in developing countries. In India, the election issues are mostly issues on which voters don’t vote! Voters vote on caste, religion and other chauvinistic slogans. What a pity! The poor voters are also the big losers in these elections! Their life concerns never get solved!
Poor die even now in India. Farmers, tribals, children die of malnutrition, in, if we can say so, Manmohan Singh government days!
We have now the best expertise in the government, at least in the Manmohan Singh Montek Singh Ahluwalia duo’s brain power. But what they have to deliver in education?
The school heads meet, often convened at great expenses, deliberate on non-existent, non-realistic theories of creativity in education.
The children of school-going age, some 40 million or so are outside the class rooms. So what creative education we are all talking about?
Education for All was always a historic concept. All great education thinkers and education innovators sought to take education for all. The great Catherine the Great (1762-1796) who was a friend of radical thinkers like Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu and a devotee of the Enlightenment introduced the “Statute of Popular Schools” (1786) that planned a network of elementary and high schools, also interested in educating the serfs! By the time of her death some 288 schools were built.
So, in India, in 2004 we are still caught in narrow politics, not awakened yet by any vision! The Delhi government, as we see, is not even aware of the potential of IT tools to transform our schools.
The World Bank Report 2004 admits the Millennium Development Goals of universal education is facing enormous obstacles. Consider this statistics provided by the Bank. 280 million people live on less than one dollar a day. 870 million ………. on less than 2 dollars a day! Children education starts only when the new born children survive! This, no educator seems to be telling! Of course, politicians don’t talk of these issues! Second, is the universal primary education, must be accessible to education possible for all children, boys and girls by 2015.
In 2002, million people including 3.2 million children were living with HIV/AIDS. A situation has come in the world today leave education plans are all running behind times, teachers are inadequate, funds crunch, school infrastructure non-exist.
Worldwide 115 million children do not attend primary school. The World Bank has done a great job of highlighting the obstacle to the world goals of “education for all” highlighted in reports after reports. We are optimists and as such we expect from the high power expertise of Manmohan Singh and Ahluwalia to really articulate the minds of the people.
As we see in education, this government is yet to move ahead further after the textbooks controversy. As on date there is no such indication. It is time, this government gives a vision for education. The current realities are all well – known, more so for the top brains in the government. The UN Millennium Development Goals are there before us. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger target. Halve the figures between 1990 and 2015. Children at risk are the critical targets. Malnutrition is daunting. There are an estimated 1.8 billion people who survive on less than a dollar a day!