What education can do?
Our school education needs a fresh vision and a new common initiative
This School Journal was founded in a village school many decades ago. Thanks to two, why, three American volunteers, one from the Quakers, two from John Kennedy’s American Peace Corps. It was started as a newsletter, metamorphosed into several versions and shapes and generously nurtured by various benefactors, from all through the world. It is now in your hands in the present format. One French Pasteur, Father Montiel, from Montage near Paris invited us as a visitor to promote Indo-French friendship in 1971 and thanks to his support and enthusiasm we travelled through many parts of France and visited and spoke to many French Lycées and met with a wide variety of great minds. We stayed with urban and rural French families.
It was a different world and an altogether different vision of life and humanity. Now we are, it seems, a very difficult world altogether. India with other nations battles the Corona virus and is in the midst of many disruptions including the schools, displaced students from their exam schedules. In India education is going through a rough patch. Education lacks leadership and vision. Education policy making is as good as dead, it seems.
No person of any consequence or merit speaks out his or her mind. Is India a democracy? Or, supposed to be a democracy? Only education and culture can give a country its uniqueness, right? Or is there any other different definition? When the new government came to power in 2014 there were many voices to go for a new type of education. Now, after so many tumults and shakeups even the weak voices then have fallen silent. India has great historic past. No doubt about it at all. Then why don’t we look at our past and draw some inspiration?
Indo-European languages and history seems one origin and beginning. We visited the Mycenae archaeological site in Athens, the site that linked the Troy civilizational site, many thousand years before that expedition. We were exhilarated by the discoveries and ever since our visits to Greece, before that date a visit to Rome and these two visits and study of their civilisations, later the rise of Renaissance in the 14-15th centuries and the evolution of the Christian religion and its forerunner, the Jewish heritage, all had enriched the human race.
The Hindu heritage is unique and we live at a time when the whole world is agog with uncertainties and many questions about the current turmoil and the future.
These thoughts run my mind ,almost unceasingly and many questions arise for the thinking minds, thinking animals(!) as to how to fashion our common future.
I am of the firm view that education policy can’t be made by practising politicians of the present day politicians. This applies to America, India or to the older countries like UK or France. As a mass democracy at best we can make our secondary education as broad-based as possible. Make them some what like the French Lycées. The British Public Schools themselves are caught between state policy of reservations and quotas for the socially and economically deprived
Also, the cost of British education is high and the placements are too few for the current state of migration, unemployment and let us admit, the very general poverty that seems widespread. Even in the USA there is poverty.
In India, we have somewhat succeeded by many progressive policies and the education of the girl child is succeeding. What we need today is to have a long term vision. India has to remain a unique, liberal and open society. Culturally diverse and a miniature Santiniketan, culture must be strong. Many humanities course, from Indology to arts and social sciences, education must be very strongly founded. Our colonial history has made Indians weak still, low-self esteem and inferiority complex and so on. So, a pride in our past, current achievements in a liberal, open and secular society and much else can be incorporated.
There must be Public Schools to produce leaders of society and politics and entrepreneurs and many other achievers in sports and culture, creative fields and maths and sciences. How can we frame our school education curriculums? Please depoliticise the whole exercise. Give the task to educators, neutral minds and also bold minds with a vision and well-qualified backgrounds and achievements. Let us be humble and at the same time bold and decisive! Principles and ethical conduct and self-honour are critical for Indians to become men and achievers! Money power and political power are transitory!