Chapter I: Empowering India through Quality Education
“The most important and urgent reform needed in education is to transform it, to endeavour to relate it to the life, needs and aspirations of the people and thereby make it the powerful instrument of social, economic and cultural transformation necessary for the realization of the national goals. For this purpose, education should be developed so as to increase productivity, achieve social and national integration, accelerate the process of modernization and cultivate social, moral and spiritual values.”
Report of the University Education Commission (Dr. S. Radhakrishnan Commission), 1948-49
1.1.1 The 2016 National Policy on Education, which is being formulated nearly three decades since the last Policy, recognizes the criticality of Education as the most important vehicle for social, economic and political transformation. It reiterates the role of education in inculcating values, and to provide skills and competencies for the citizens, and in enabling him to contribute to the nation’s well-being; strengthens democracy by empowering citizens; acts as an integrative force in society, and fosters social cohesion and national identity. One cannot over -emphasize the role of Education as the key catalyst for promoting socio-economic mobility in building an equitable and just society. It is an established fact that an education system built on the premises of quality and equity is central to sustainable success in the emerging knowledge economy. Education is a powerful tool for preparing our citizens in the knowledge society. Education will amalgamate globalization with localization, enabling our children and youth to become world citizens, with their roots deeply embedded in Indian culture and traditions.
1.2 The Education System in India
1.2.1. The Education System which was evolved first in ancient India is known as the Vedic system. The importance of education was well recognized in India, ‘Swadeshe pujyate raja, vidwan sarvatra pujyate’ “A king is honoured only in his own country, but one who is learned is honoured throughout the world." The ultimate aim of education in ancient India was not knowledge, as preparation for life in this world or for life beyond, but for complete realization of self. The Gurukul system fostered a bond between the Guru & the Shishya and established a teacher centric system in which the pupil was subjected to a rigid discipline and was under certain obligations towards his teacher.
The world's first university was established in Takshila in 700 BC and the University of Nalanda was built in the 4th century BC, a great achievement and contribution of ancient India in the field of education. Science and technology in ancient and medieval India covered all the major branches of human knowledge and activities. Indian scholars like Charaka and Susruta, Aryabhata, Bhaskaracharya, Chanakya, Patanjali and Vatsayayna and numerous others made seminal contribution to world knowledge in such diverse fields as mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, medical science and surgery, fine arts, mechanical and production technology, civil engineering and architecture, shipbuilding and navigation, sports and games. The Indian education system helped in preserving ancient culture and promoting cultural unity and infused a sense of responsibility and social values. The ancient Indian education system has been a source of inspiration to all educational systems of the world, particularly in Asia and Europe.
The focus of the above is only on ancient education system. No mention of education in medival and modern period is made. For about 150 years East Indian company and british policies shaped the Indian education system. Their contribution, along with missionaries and Indians in 19th century is completed removed (as if they did not exist). The current system that we follow is largely an extension of British system
During the freedom struggle, several leaders like Gokhale,
Ram Mohan Roy (not part of freedom struggle) and Gandhiji worked for better education for our people, particularly women. Despite their efforts, India's literacy rate at the time of independence was 12%. Subsequent developments in education sector have to be seen in the context of centuries of apathy and neglect.
In the seven decades after independence while much has been achieved, many would genuinely feel that India has not taken its rightful place in the comity of nations. At independence, India had sound institutional infrastructure and an administrative system that was the envy of the developing world; even taking into account the major achievement in standing out as a stable democracy, India seems to have lost its preeminent position mainly because of poor education and health standards, which are both the cause and the effect of the current situation.
Right to Education was recognized by the United Nations as fundamental to man – indeed as the UN was being established, India had argued vehemently in favour of education as a fundamental right (Nothing to be proud of. India took another 60 years to legislate it.). The 1968 and 1986-1992 National Education policies in India recognized education as a precondition for development and set out three critical issues in those policies – equity, accessibility and quality ( Since this is about new NEP. Greater emphasis should be given - on elucidating main recommednations and implementation challenges of earliers NEP 1968, 1986 and program of Action 1992. Need to highlight how diffrent current NEP is about).
1.2.5. In the last twenty years, the educational scenario has seen major changes and new concepts such as rights-based approach to elementary education, student entitlement (enrollment?), shift in emphasis from literacy and basic education to secondary, higher, technical and professional education, the endeavour to extend universalization to secondary education, reshape the higher education scenario. Recent developments include a new impetus to skill development through vocational education in the context of the emergence of new technologies in a rapidly expanding economy in a globalised environment, need for innovative ways of student financing, addressing challenges of globalization and liberalization, recognition of multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary nature of learning and knowledge, efficient use of public resources and encouraging ways of enhancing private investment and funding.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that our education system is in disarray. Various evaluation studies show a decline in learning levels among school students. Teacher vacancies and teacher absenteeism continue to plague government schools in which dropout rates are still high. There is widespread
corruption in appointments and transfers of teachers and also in according approval and recognition to educational institutions. Donations have to be paid for several kinds of admissions and are particularly rampant in engineering and medical education. Examination papers are leaked, copying is widespread and mark sheets are often rigged.
While these issues are elaborated in the report, the Preamble seeks to highlight the focus of the Committee’s deliberations which was principally on improving the quality of education, and restoring the credibility of the education system. In an increasingly globalized and digital world, it is imperative for India to significantly change the methods of imparting education, to nurture and develop the qualities that can lead to a meaningful future – both for the individual and society.
There is now recognition that there are several imbalances due to social, gender and regional disparities, which can be remedied through appropriate interventions and a focused strategy. Sustainable development of a nation can be realized only if all sections of the society have equal opportunities and hence the
need for a clarion call for multi-pronged, inclusive measures such as provision of educational amenities, student incentives and financing, remedial coaching, special facilities for different disabilities, etc.
1.2.10. About 65% of India’s population today is less than 35 years old. A huge demographic dividend will be available, if India revamps the education sector. Not doing so will have serious consequences for the country. Many studies have shown that if a child is provided good quality education and health care in the early years of schooling, it enhances his/her ability to lead a more meaningful and productive life. Children in India have the necessary intelligence and potential; what they need are opportunities to access quality education.
Education is a great leveller, and provides the only sustainable route to reduce disparities. In the past a small proportion of Indians had access to quality education, but even so a large number of Indians managed to distinguish themselves in academics. The country has tremendous potential to become a world leader in several fields if there is a resolve to provide high quality education and health care to its children.
Fortunately, India is at the cusp of major transformation. Due to measures taken over the last few decades, the disparities between urban and rural. Village Panchayat will be digitally connected and the phenomenon of ‘remote’ schools will diminish rapidly. This is an unparalleled opportunity which needs to be fully harnessed. The education sector, both school and higher education, can greatly benefit by judicious use of Information Communication Technology (ICT).
1.2.13. Technology alone cannot be the solution to the problem of poor quality of education; the human factor is equally, if not more, important. The Committee recognizes that the teacher is the pivot around which the education system revolves; sadly, we have not succeeded in attracting good students to the teaching profession; added to that, most teacher education courses have little substance. The Committee has made several recommendations to improve the quality of teacher training and education because without good teachers, there can be no quality education.
1.2.14. To quote Swami Viveka nand, “Education is not the amount of information that we put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested, all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library….. …. If education is identical with information, the libraries are the greatest sages of the world and encyclopaedia are the greatest Rishis.” The statement of Swami Vivekanand assumes much greater significance with the advent of internet and ever expanding digital connectivity.
1.3 The Way Forward
The focus of the proposed New National Policy on Education is on improving the quality of education and restoring its credibility. It seeks to create conditions to improve the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, and promote transparency in the management of education.
The core objectives of education in the coming years should encompass four essential components – i.e. building values, awareness, knowledge and skills. While knowledge and skills are necessarily specific to the objectives of study and largely determined by factors like future employment or the pursuit of a vocation, awareness and values are universal in nature and should be shared by all. Education should aim to develop pride in India and in being an Indian. It should be seen as a powerful route to reduce regional and social disparities, and enabling choice and freedom to the individual to lead a productive life and participate in the country’s development.
1.3.3. Value orientation is an over-arching and comprehensive area that needs conscious integration with general education at each stage. An acquaintance with the Indian tradition of acceptance of diversity of India’s heritage, culture and history could lead to social cohesion and religious amity. The content and process of education, particularly school education has to be prepared accordingly.
1.3.4 The New National Policy on Education has tried to address the deficiencies and challenges faced by our education system, particularly the urgent need to improve quality of learning across all sectors. It offers a framework for change, make education modern with use of technology, without compromising on India’s traditions and heritage.
1.4 The Need for National Commitment
1.4.1. On the totem pole of the state management hierarchy, education comes relatively low both in status and recognition. This was part of the administrative ethos bestowed by colonial rulers who had no interest in imparting education to the bulk of Indians. This neglect should no longer be tolerated. Education must be given the highest priority. It is the duty of Central and State Governments to provide necessary resources and create conditions that are favourable for the process of teaching and learning to flourish. Every opportunity needs to be provided to young persons to get good quality education and acquire skills that lead to employment and entrepreneurship.
The basic education infrastructure already exists in India. The Indian child is as resourceful and intelligent as any in the world. New technologies are now available. Governments at the Centre and the States only need to understand the catalytic role they have to play in fostering an atmosphere that enables students to think, to learn, and contribute to the country's development. All that is required is a change in the mindset among stakeholders. Once the importance of ascribing the highest priority to education is recognized, the corresponding responsiveness and sense of accountability will inexorably emerge.
For two-thirds of mankind’s history, India as one of the oldest and most glorious living civilizations in the world dominated the world scene in every respect –in philosophy, economics, trade, culture as well as in education. If India does the things now required to be done, in 15 to20 years Indian Education can be transformed. The rest of the 21st century could then belong to India.