Class education? Yes, only society decides!
Education is an all-time favourite topic.
” Education for all” is a Millennium Development Goad! Yes, there is a terrific effort towards this noble goal. Realistically speaking, the 11th Plan is spending Rs.34,000 crores for education. A big jump! In the 10th Plan, the percentage of education allocation was just 7.7 per cent. This has now been raised dramatically to 19%.The government has done a good job. Congratulations!
Now, where does the money go?
It goes into a wide variety of schemes and programmes, infrastructure and class rooms, teachers pay etc. But then after the next five years where we will be? In our MDGs?
Even then, if optimists and pessimists are to be counted, we would still be lagging behind our targets. Not all school-going age children will be in the class rooms. There would still be many left out.
It is here we need brave hearts and bold minds and much more challenging, an honest moral fibre to do lot of introspection and heart-searching.
First the optimists. Surely lot of progress will be made and almost all the school-going age children can be brought into the class rooms. That is the purpose of the government schemes.
The only questions are the very many different education visions and goals as put forwards by different educators, visionaries and good souls!
The best path is freedom of education, freedom to pursue any education one parent thinks important. So, if we leave it to the freedom concept, there would be the other reality checks, the social and economic and cultural and even the political barriers.
It is here we enter the controversial territory.
Before that we should ask the pessimists! The pessimists are first two types, there could be more types, and we just take two types. One, the really skeptical without being brave hearts. These skeptics won’t be taking any one’s efforts seriously. They argue: people are not all the same. There would be laggards and there would be bright and self-driving motivated souls. So, the education path is not the same for all. So, education would still leave out from its purview.
The other ,second type of pessimists, are that however much you try, whatever funds you allocate, it is the society, the government, the political class and the corrupt bureaucracy and the lazy teaching community that would all come in the way and there would always be left outs!
So, education for all, at all times, is a noble goal and it won’t be reached easily, not in our lifetime, not surely in the MDGs scheme of things.
Now, what is the way out. There are men like Sam Pitroda and even our own government headed by men like the education minister, Arjun Singh, who have their own ideas of how to go about the MDGs.
Sam has the political clout with Sonia Gandhi and hence he is taken seriously by everybody. Sam wants the private partners in education. One suspects he is so sure of this private-public partnership. May be he has his own arguments.
But once you all the PPP in elementary education, where the MDGs, are critical, there would be what we are having today. There would be so many undesirable side-effects. So many issues that we hold dear, education in mother tongue would surely suffer. Air and equal education in government-funded schools would also suffer. How to ensure a fair and free and almost equal type of quality education to be provided?
Not an easy question. Even Sam, we believe, has an answer!
Now, comes the reality.
Education has never, that is never in history been an equal opportunity. Only a section always had the education, the best education was only for the privileged.
This is class education.
Should we have the public schools, as in UK?
The Indian society is rapidly changing and so too the pursuit of exclusive and private and expensive education, we mean at least up to the secondary education.
The subject is very controversial at this stage and we leave it to readers to form their own judgement.
Now there is the higher education.
New issues are only now cropping up.
Opening more institutions, the new 6 IITs, already face problems. Where do you find the faculty, resources and also the students? All the newly opened engineering colleges already face the prospect of not enough students!
Also, the changing perceptions of what is good for the new middle classes.
Engineering ,for instance, in the USA is a professional liberal course, not in India.
So, what is really job-giving education and what is liberal education would be a question that only the dominant society would decide.
So, there would be enough work for the government in education; education for all.
There would also be demand for class education: the give the best to the best sections!