RASHTRIYA SHIKSHA SAMMELAN
RECONSTRUCTION OF INDIAN EDUCATION
VIDYA BHARATI AND OTHER EDUCATIONAL
KIREET JOSHI President, Dharam Hinduja International Centre of Indic Research
28-30TH AUGUST, 1998
SANATAN DHARMA SARASWATI BAL MANDIR, MARG NO. 70, PASCHIMI PANJABI BAGH, DELHI – 110 026
We all feel honoured and privileged by the presence and message of our Hon'ble Minister. We are grateful for his assurances that the deliberations of our Conference will receive his support, and we can expect some concrete action to emerge in the near future.
Your message, Sir, elucidates the goals that we must strive to attain, and this gives a sharp edge to the programmes of action that have been presented at this session.
I am reminded of the famous book by Sri Aurobindo on national system of education. As a youth leader of the country, his call was to the young and he wanted them to be torchbearers who would carry the light of India in the service of the entire humanity. He wanted our education to be based upon profound psychological truths so that the methods of training of the intellectual faculties and moral nature could be so guided as to build up integral personality of students. I feel gratified that we witness here today once again the resurgence of the spirit and drive of that vision of a national system of education.
The problems that our educational system is confronted with today are formidable. During the last 50 years, our country has been struggling to make the educational system meaningful and relevant; unfortunately, although our system has grown manifold and is rated to be the second largest system of education in the world, we feel disappointed that 16 crores of our children drop out of the system of education before completing elementary education, that the curriculum has remained basically confined to the framework that was designed under the British rule, that the prescribed books are largely uninteresting and uninspiring, that the examination system is frustrating and it is losing credibility, that only six per cent of the young people of the relevant age are in our higher education, and that the spirit of nationalism has suffered serious injuries because we have not been able to affirm the national identity and we have also failed to assimilate the influences pouring on our country from all over the world in such a way that all that is beneficial is absorbed and all that is hurtful is discarded.
It is against this backdrop that this Conference has been conceived and conducted on a pattern, which could be considered to be quite different from the usual run of conferences. This Conference is action-oriented and was preceded by five preparatory meetings of educationists and experts as also suggestions received from all over the country. This Conference, with its composition and nature of deliberations, has attained an all-India character, and it has identified specific areas and
formulated also the lines of action, which are both implementable. We all feel happy that participants of this Conference have been able to present conclusions of the deliberations directly to the Hon'ble Minister of Human Resource Development, who is himself an educationist par excellence, and who understands the problems of education in all their depth and width.
We speak today of education for all, and our country has been promising universal literacy and universalisation of elementary education for the last several decades. But instead of lamenting on the failure, this Conference has suggested an approach of a mission and of harnessing the energies of young people to educate their own younger brothers and sisters who still remain outside the portals of schools. It may also be added that the open school system, which has a great potentiality, has not yet been employed on the required scale. It is felt that this nonformal system of education should be applied right from the primary stage and should be so designed that at higher levels, it merges with the system of distance education.
The curricular reforms, which have been suggested, are thoroughgoing. They avoid the approach of tinkering and patchwork. What is suggested explicitly and implicitly is that the curriculum should be guided by a holistic nationalist vision, culminating in the inculcation of the idea of the entire humanity as one family, ‒ appropriate to the ancient adage of vasudhaiva kutumbakam. An assembly of distinguished educationists and teachers needs to be constituted, and while designing a new curriculum, it should also ensure publication of the relevant teachinglearning material; it should also take into account the dynamic methodologies inherent in the child-centred education as also in the messages of learning to learn, learning to do, learning to be and learning to become.
The present examination system has proved to be the knottiest problem. In spite of severe criticisms, we continue with the same old and increasingly deteriorating system. It has been rightly suggested that a National Testing System should be established, which can not only suggest bold and radical reforms but would also institute an alternative system which would have such characteristics that it will not only test rigorously the academic abilities but also oral and practical abilities along with physical fitness, national spirit, global and universal concerns and value-orientation, ‒ integral and all-comprehensive. It should again be so designed that it can facilitate delinking of jobs from degrees and it can be taken voluntarily by any candidate whether he or she possesses any previous certificate, degree or diploma or not.
The theme of value education has come to the forefront; this is highly salutary because it has been increasingly recognised that the modern crisis is basically a crisis of character and a crisis of disbalancement between scientific and technological progression, on the one hand, and moral and spiritual development, on the other. Actually, education by its very nature has to be value-oriented. But the present situation compels our system to be so radically changed that value-orientation becomes the very breath' and soul of education. At the same time, it should be realised that value-orientation can easily degenerate into dogmatic imposition of do's and don'ts, which can become counterproductive. Value-orientation is not merely cognitive in character but also conative and affective, and the curriculum for value-orientated education should be so designed that the faculties of both Knowledge and Will can be cultivated by harnessing methods of exploration, free inquiry and experimentation, pari prashnena parisevaya.
Closely connected with reforms in curriculum and in the examination system as also in value-orientation radical reforms are needed also in the field of teacher education. If we aim at integralism, and if we aim at value-orientation, teachers themselves have to be integrated in their personality, in their abilities and in their vision; they themselves have to be value-orientated and must be able to influence and inspire students by their own idealism and character. The very aims of teacher education have to be so framed that not mere skills in the art of instruction but also the operations of thought, feeling and action receive necessary training. A new curriculum for teachers needs to be evolved; recruitment to the training programmes must aim at tapping young talents, and the duration of the programmes should be much longer than what it is today. We have also to realise that both pre-service and in-service training programmes have to be massive. Apart from any other programmes, we need to organise inspirational programmes of training, which can be led by those leaders of education who can inspire by the very contagion of their learning, their character and their wisdom.
Teachers' training programmes need to be organised on a massive scale also in the field of higher education. The present small number of staff colleges and the short duration that has been assigned for training programmes are inadequate, and fresh thought has to be given for designing a new mode of recruitment and also new modules of training of teachers of higher education.
Higher education has grown enormously in our country with more than 200 universities and nearly 10,000 colleges catering to 60 lakhs of students by about 3,20,000 teachers. The country is spending a huge
amount on this sector. In 1995-96, the Government expenditure was of the order of Rs.36846 million and during the next two years it has risen still higher.
alone crisis, and
We have to reckon the fact that there is a serious financial while more and more funds are required, resources available are becoming scarcer and scarcer. We have also to visualise that with the increasing success of the programme of universalisation of elementary education, pressures for admission to higher education will multiply enormously. There has been no adequate perspective planning in regard to education. Even the major Reports have only painted a hazy picture of the possibilities of expansion, and we do not have even one simple perspective plan for the next 25 years. Hence, whatever can be seen from now, it is certain that the country will have to pass through an extremely difficult period during which we shall have to play a crucial role, particularly, leaders like our Hon'ble Minister, who are both educationists and leaders of politics.
Let us recall that India's tradition of education has been derived from the ancient search of Rishis and sages for higher knowledge para vidya, and although it has played a great role in determining the direction of higher education and other sectors of education throughout the history of India, and even during our freedom struggle, this theme has come to be relegated to the background during the last 50 years. The Kothari Commission did speak of "sa vidya ya vimuktaye”; but our educational policies and programmes did not reflect any special concern for this great adage. If curricular reforms in the school education are overdue, the same can be said, perhaps even more emphatically, in respect of those in the field of higher education. Similarly, the examination system at the school level cannot undergo any major change without a similar change in higher education.
Again, higher concerns of India and the world in regard to the establishment of durable peace and world unity must get reflected in the goals and programmes of higher education. It has also to be noted that the coming decades will be marked by a synthesis of knowledge and culture; frontiers of knowledge are today pressing for a synthesis of science and spirituality, and multicultural network of today imposes the recovery of ancient knowledge in the context of modern advances. Implications of these developments have to be realised and a major effort has to be initiated so that our young people are enabled to become vehicles of an unprecedented synthesis of the East and the West, of the past and the present, and of multiple disciplines that are relevant to the integral development of individuals and collectivities.
As we look at these few glimpses of the growing perspective, we are bound to feel overwhelmed. And we should ask the question as to how the challenges of these perspectives can be met. A general feeling that is now spreading in our country is that there should be a permanent council or a commission, which would reflect on all these problems on a continuous basis. Such a body, it has been suggested, should also be given adequate powers to ensure that educational reforms are implemented, not by methods of imposition but creating a favourable climate of co-operation of teachers, parents, students, educational administrators and policy makers. It is felt that constitution of a National Council for Educational Reforms should be effected without delay, and even if it has to begin functioning as a council under the auspices of Ministry of Human Resource Development, it could, in due course, be given statutory status. But the programmes we can envisage for it are so important, and considering that these programmes are overdue, there should be no delay in setting up such a council.
There are also problems of educational administration, and this Conference has done well to highlight these problems and suggest, basically, that administration of education should be entrusted to educationists or else, administrators in charge of education should transform themselves into educationists. Many problems have arisen because educational administrators do not appreciate the thrust of educational proposals or their justification. Educational administration is further getting vitiated by continuous political interference, and even a routine matter like transfer of teachers is being conducted on the basis of political considerations. This is also one of the causes of friction between politicians and bureaucrats, and it has adversely affected our educational system. Here, again, the proposal of the establishment of the National Commission for Educational Reforms would be directly relevant. For the reforms need not be confined only to purely academic matters but should also extend to the ſicld of educational administration.
There are many other problems, which the Conference has discussed at length, such as problems emanating from some of the provisions of the Constitution of India. But it is not necessary to dilate on them at this stage, and I am sure that since the reports have been placed in the plenary session before the Hon'ble Minister, we can be sure that due attention would be paid to them.