President Pranab Mukherjee, while addressing the 125-year celebrations of a school in West Bengal, recalled Jawaharlal Nehru: “If India is to be a great nation, it must begin in her classrooms.” Ever since he took over the new assignment, the President has repeatedly emphasised the need for constant upgradation of education at all levels. Further, he wants “compassion and concern for the underprivileged in society inculcated in our children at an early age” to enable them to become change agents for leading India to a brighter future. And this future is being shaped in schools, classrooms, game fields and co-curricular activities. As this emphasis comes from the person who occupies the highest constitutional position in the country and is respected among political circles for his ingenuity and acumen, one expects the politicians in position of power to pay attention to his words. Once they become convinced that education alone has the potential to prepare enlightened citizens imbued with the spirit of humanism and who could rise above the narrow considerations of caste, creed, regionalism, hatred and violence, Indian education could generate unprecedented cognitive capital and spiritual wisdom. If politicians and bureaucrats together could give education the priority it deserves, the products could prepare a far better, stronger, vibrant and shining India. It would also require serious policy initiatives on common school system and the neighborhood school being made available to all. It is a tough proposition though.
The above reiteration on the meaning and import of education comes at a time when most politicians and their parties are focusing only on devising strategies that could fetch them votes. Most of them look towards the young to become their cadres and take over the responsibility—from publicity to bringing the maximum number of voters to polling booths. The electoral fate of every aspiring politician and political party depends on its outreach among young voters, particularly the first-timers. They promise the young good educational institutions, removal of unemployment, creation of greater entrepreneurship opportunities, easy bank loans and a lot more. As these gradually became stale, young were targeted through some innovative offers. We all have recently seen how the promise to give free laptops to students turned the tide in favour of the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh. Not many may recall that the same party had, over a decade ago, come to power by promising to repeal the Anti-Copying Act “within an hour of coming to power”. It worked and was one rare instance of a pre-election promise being fulfilled. In practice, quality was knowingly sacrificed.
One could cite several other instances of electoral promises being made at the cost of diluting moral and ethical values. They distributed laptops to those who had never touched a computer in their schools as no provision to that effect was made by the state government. The government thus created conditions under which the recipients even resorted to selling their privileged possession at a much lower cost. Who should be held responsible for leading them to indulge in this unacceptable practice? Certainly not the student but those who planned and executed the design for electoral gains. While the pass percentages and marks secured in Board exams are showing steep rise, the fall of educational standards in the state is alarming.
The energy, enthusiasm and restlessness of the young was seen by the entire nation when they came on roads during the fasts of Anna Hazare and Ramdev. The other occasion was the tragedy of December 16, 2012 when the expression of anger and shame combined together. On these occasions, the government of the day was visibly unnerved. Who can forget the Saturday session of Parliament to give assurances to Hazare on the Lokpal Bill. Credit must g0 to the young. firstname.lastname@example.org