Whither Education – An Apathy
Even after half a century of Indian Independence, the fate of education, educators, and students has hardly improved. The apathy of the power, including a large section of society, has not changed regarding human resource development and education. Even now, there is more than four crore educated unemployed youths in India. India boasts of being the world’s third knowledge power, but effectively this is the lowest when judged against per thousand population base. Societal degradation, inflicted by political might, is reflected in educational institutions across India. Aberrations have become the rule on campuses that are infested with self-seekers and politicians.
The democratization of higher educational institutions, though a noble concept, has in the past 20 years turned campuses into a cauldron of stinking filth. These are managed by affiliations charged with little regard for excellence, honesty, and intellectual probity. Unethical and politically motivated decisions serve a few and are reflections of societal catharsis. Geographic India consolidated into a policy by the British has muted into conglomerations of politically charged, disjointed entities and facsimiles of democratic degradation.
The classic conservative yearning for an ordered polity and commensurate pursuit of knowledge on the campuses are missing. Whichever brand rules the country, this section of society commands no respect now. May it be students or teachers, they don’t have a voice, they don’t constitute an essential service, and education is not a national necessity. Moreover, being a state subject, educational policies suffer from innumerable deformities.
Though it is a constitutional obligation, the non-availability of funds and vested administrative setup have led to the mushrooming of universities, fake campuses, private enterprises, numerous makeshift centers of education, and fly-by-air foreign campuses. It has proved to be a great financial endeavor with hardly any risk involved because it does not come under VAT or other financial constraints. India has by now more institutions of such type than colleges, an excellent opportunity to rope in knowledge-seeking youth and those who desire to fly off to greener pastures.
When it comes to formulating policies about higher education, structuring the system, financial assistance, grants, and salary, the statutory body-University Grants Commission is mentioned like a sacred cow worshiped and butchered in the streets. How far the UGC is autonomous is common knowledge. It has become a post office, a government organization, disbursing petty grants, sanctioned by the Central Government, among universities or institutions with several tags attached to them depending upon the status of the recipient institutions, state, Central, autonomous, or deemed universities. There is a perpetual complaint about the non-availability of funds. The administration should appreciate that the jumbo cabinet and expenditure on legislatures could be cut down to feed and educate a few villages. The teacher wants to be a ladder upon which students could climb and scale new heights.
The Central and state governments invoke ESMA to curb the voice of agitating people, but it takes no time to give benefits to politicians and bureaucrats. It is essential to please them to maintain a symbiotic balance and oblige a few of them. The government has failed to take effective steps to curb the industrialization of education. Within hours the doles given in Parliament and honorarium were doubled. Still, the 6 percent expenditure of the GDP on education has proved to be dogma persisting right from the Kothari Commission recommendations for over four decades now.
Students of various educational institutes go on strike almost yearly, demanding withdrawal of excessive fee hikes. The tuition fees make up only about 13 percent of annual expenditure in the present university education. It is now a formidable industry, and the aim is to make money. However intelligent they may be, poor students cannot afford to join colleges, professional institutions, or courses. They may join such courses by putting their families under heavy debt from banks or financial institutions.
Even in the USA, tuition fees contribute to about 15 percent of the total annual expenditure on higher education. But, Nehru said: “If all is well with universities, it will be well with the nation.” Whereas Rabindranath Tagore once compared educated classes in India to “A second story in an old building that was added in; unfortunately, the architect forgot to build a staircase between them.”
The teaching profession is devalued because the teachers can’t compete in our society, have no muscle power, are educated, and behave differently. Neither do they have the guts of creamy bureaucrats nor institutional support of any kind? A teacher can entertain you with a pale smile on hearing that this is the profession of nation builders, the cream of society, and a noble profession.
The next moment teacher will be branded as cancers in societal marrow, getting a salary for no work, craving for power, equality in salary, and status with the Class A government servants. The teacher was the consultant and conscience keeper of society till the mid-century. One could identify him by his tattered clothes, emaciated, pale face, soft voice, and meek behavior. He was the guru. That guru, comparatively having a better outfit now, has metamorphosed into a present teacher.
Newspaper reports are replete with his shortcomings; his misconduct in preaching indiscipline is paid to him for no work, as he has to teach only for 181 days in a year. How could he dream of parity with his bosses in the secretariat, his class dropouts in Parliament and the government? To save our hard-earned “democracy,” which is being strengthened by a few hooligans, politicians, and administrators, the government has to suppress the genuine demands so that education does not progress to the detriment of “illiterate democrats.” A handful of teachers adopts unethical means to become rich just like any other segments that are designated scamsters today. Exceptions, however, do not make the rule.
Most of our Presidents, many of our bureaucrats, including ministers, parliamentarians, and others, had been in this profession. Did they not do any good work to better society before their elevation to these posts of governance and reverence? Can’t the authorities assess the strength of the demand vis-à-vis the qualification, age at the time of being recruited as a teacher, lack of promotional avenues, stagnation, and competency in terms of hiatus in the inflated societal values, urge and the necessity to improve qualification and experience to remain in the fray? Education for teachers is a continuous process, unlike “one-time-degree-obtaining-education” for others. Evaluation is paramount in this profession for every promotion. Classroom education has become drudgery afflicted by societal unrest, absolute lack of infrastructure, fear psychosis gripping the powerless parents, and absences of administration.
My perception is that politicians take less interest in improving the standard of education and living because they know that they would neither listen nor elect them once the poor knowledge about their corrupt practice. So political parties make promises in their election manifestos to reduce employment, poverty, and corruption. But this can’t be achieved without education. To me, education comes as a discipline, which is all-pervasive. Enshrined in our directive principles and ensuring our countrymen, “right-to-education” makes me feel that we possess the right to educate.”
Even when we have ushered in the new millennium, education remains a password to those who make an arrogant assertion that they know best and serve the public interest an interest, which they determine. By the perception entrenched with the British subjugation of our people, elitist education occupied the center stage to produce Macaulay’s clones who were Indians muted to be “English in taste, in opinion, in morals and intellect.” “Educated slaves became strong props to sustain the British rule.” Lord Curzon favored the bureaucratization of education since he opined that educational institutions had become factors for the production of political revolutionaries. By the Act of 1919, education was transferred to the province.
When we educate, we are involved in politics. Educators often think of education as being disjointed from politics. In fact, education is perhaps the most political activity in the community. The state has always influenced what is taught in educational institutions. The socio-political (and in some cases religious) ideology colors the learning content and emphasizes various aspects.
In fact, based on where the child was educated within India-whether it was a large city or a village, whether the school used English or a regional language as a medium of education, among other factors- the child will have a different world view. However, education, based on the syllabus, in India has largely strived towards imparting a temperament of religious, political, and social tolerance. As a result, the social mores and hierarchies often seep into the arena of learning and color education.
Given the political potential of education, there have been numerous attempts to use education as a way of indoctrination. Sometimes it is covert; at other times, it is over. Sometimes it is subliminal; other times, it is deliberate. However, political forces have always used education to further certain world views. Today, numerous educationists and political thinkers in India are afraid that a deliberate attempt to use education as a way of social-religious indoctrination might be the agenda of the new education policy.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Not gold, but only teachers can make people great and strong the persons who for truth and honor; sake stand fast and suffers long. It is they who build a nation’s pillar deep and lift them to the sky”. The teaching profession is a bed of roses. A good teacher is always his/her student’s guide, friend, and philosopher. A boy looked at the sticker on a car, which said, “Trees are friends.” He challenged this statement and started cutting trees, saying, “Trees are not our friends, but our enemies.”
When asked why he thought so, he said in his science textbooks that “trees bring rain.” Since his village gets flooded every rainy season, he thought that “all trees must be cut down.” Confucius wrote, “If you plan for a year, plant a seed. If for 10 years, plant a tree. If 100 years, teach the people.” Literacy is not enough. It is good to have a population that can read, but infinitely better to have people able to distinguish what is worth reading. With overcrowded classrooms and ill-paid teachers, coaching classes are the commercial fallout of a system bursting out of the seams. How can idealism be expected from someone as concerned about the quality of life for you and me?
We have grown up with cherished memories of special teachers who made us love a subject we could actually whither have been frightened of and who we respected unconditionally. On the other hand, I have come across many persons whose mediocrity is reflected when they project themselves best. In contrast, the fact speaks otherwise, and those who criticize their alma mater forgetting that they passed out from the same from which they graduated. Education can have a great role in decreasing social disparities between groups and promoting social mobility. For instance, the tremendous expansion of the middle class in India can confidently be attributed to the investment in education, especially in higher education.