It is no longer a cliché that education is the only hope for the human existence in a strife-torn world that is facing ever-increasing violence, distrust, bigotry and fundamentalism. Never before in human history had education reached such a large chunk of global population as at present.
The content and process of education are supposed to accept that honesty, integrity, creativity, commitment, and caring and sharing are part of every successful life and, hence are to be designed accordingly. This realisation is not new.
After the WW II and as the colonial era was coming to a close, the need for peace was realised prominently. That such a realisation just cannot ignore education; preparing people, it finds the lasting echo in the emblem of the UNESCO:
“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defences of peace must be constructed.” Sri Aurobindo had already indicated:
“The true basis of education is the study of human mind—infant, adolescent and adult. Any system of education founded on theories of academic perfection, which ignores the instrument of study, is more likely to hamper and impair intellectual growth than to produce a perfect and perfectly equipped mind”. He had very clearly indicated the ‘mind has to be consulted in its growth’.
Every day one witnesses children being made to study in areas and subjects that do not interest them. Among the educated parents and families, ‘hammering the child into the shape desired by the parent’ is a common practice.
This, and several other factors arising out of intense competitive job market and unbridled materialistic pursuits in the society hamper the process of consulting the mind of the learner.
India now has a huge education system and the numbers are ‘mind boggling’ to the international communities. Such systems can be managed and made to achieve their objectives when sincerity, commitment and integrity, apart from professionalism, are witnessed at every level and stage. The actual situation is, unfortunately, not that encouraging.
India has 15 lakh schools and over 80 lakh teachers, which is a great achievement after Independence. With over 800 universities, 40,000 colleges and institutions of higher learning and 2.3 crore enrolments, the knowledge hub of India should have been leading the global knowledge quest. Quality, however, is declining across the board.
It is not only a decline in measurable learner attainments that is regularly reported in various surveys and studies; the more disturbing is the erosion of values in the functioning of the system. Teachers, Vice-Chancellors and even ministers are sacked for presenting fake degrees! For decades, teachers’ vacancies are left unfilled.
The practice of bringing teachers on deputation to teacher education colleges, appointing part-time and para teachers has flourished under political patronage. Several states have even more than 40-50 per cent vacancies. Conditions are no better in state and central universities.
Adhocism in education just cannot work; insecurity of job dislocates young persons rather irretrievably. It is no secret that the entry of private entrepreneurs in education has led to widespread exploitation of teachers who are paid low salaries.
Unfettered proliferation of tuition and coaching business impedes quality-enhancement initiatives. This year, one would expect significant increase in the GDP allocations in the Union Budget. It crossed 4 per cent only once, that too only marginally in 2000-01. One expects it at least at 6 per cent and more in succeeding years.
To begin with, let government teacher education institutions be fully staffed and equipped. They deserve congenial working conditions to embark upon curriculum renewal, innovations and research. Quality of the academic output would go up and institutions shall again become visible hubs of value nurturance.