Perspectives change. Sometimes by something as small as a little hyphen. Education in India is surely poised to be e-ducation now! With the growing influx of the internet, a global perspective to the education values as they exist in India, is a reality that must necessarily be navigated and simply cannot be ignored. But before all this, let me first lead you all to the evolution of the education system in India.
To begin the discussion here’s a strong idea – ‘we are not human beings on a spiritual journey, we are spiritual beings on a human journey’.
Wisdom of the ages:
Even the “Katha Upanishada” (a Hindu sacred text scripture focused on meditation and philosophy) elaborates that an educated man who possess supreme knowledge by concentration of mind, must have his senses under control, like motivated horses controlled by a charioteer. From the Vedic age onwards, the central conception of education of the Indians had been that of a source of light giving us a correct lead in the various spheres of life.
During the epic periods the conception of education was based on spiritualism and self realization. It was not that students were not taught the modern education like medicine, chemistry, military, art or mechanics; they studied all this during the course of their study. It was a sense of perspective and proportion in which the material and the moral, the physical and spiritual values of life were clearly defined and strictly differentiated. Education meant self realization which was treated as “Mukti” or emancipation. Education was imparted to know life and death, and not the mere objective knowledge of the materialistic world.
The process of learning started with an inaugural ceremony called “Upanayana”. The ritual of Upanayana meant new birth of the pupil. The pupil was then known as Dvija, “born afresh” in a new existence or “twice born” (Satapatha Brahmana). The pupil then was supposed to find a guru who could impart him the education.
It was the “Ashram” or “Gurukul”, home for both the teacher and the student. It seems that in the early Vedic or Upanishadic times that education was esoteric. The Rishis of the Vedic period had acquired personal knowledge by tapas (austerities), hence they used to impart the same to their disciple and it thus became a personal property of their family.
The future of education – higher as well as that on the primary and the secondary levels has had its share of influence from its western counterparts too. According to Nobel laureate Sir Rabindranath Tagore: “The Western system of education is impersonal…it dwells in the cold-storage compartments of lessons and the ice-packed minds of the schoolmasters…it represents an artificial method of training specially calculated to produce the carriers of the white man’s burden”. Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, a great nationalist and philosopher, criticised the British system of Education and called it one-sided. The system only stressed on the qualification of the candidates and not on the cultural aspects of the country. Hence, the British system of education was not useful for the all round development of the nation.
A slow turnaround:
We missed track during the last 300 years and started falling behind others — slowly but steadily. In this new millennium, India has again been blessed with an opportunity to rebuild itself and re-occupy centre stage. It would be really sad if we missed the opportunity now since it may well be another millennium before we get another one.
The positives of the present era are strong, and will dominate. We have now a young population that has no “memory” of the past and hence it can break away from whatever shackles that restrained India in the previous 5-6 decades. Indeed, if the recent past was worth emulating, then we would not be so low on almost every indicator of human and socio-economic development. Pt. Nehru’s mixed economy model did not bring the change he envisioned. Blame it on botched-up execution or wrong strategizing, one whole generation missed out on the fruits of a better and more enriched lifestyle.
Entrepreneurship is now spread across the length and breadth of India. A large number of young people are taking the plunge into the unknown, at times backed by the biggest of the Venture funds. Failure in business is slowly getting the respect it deserves – as a tool to genuine learning – more than success.
Moreover, globally (as I have pointed out earlier) we now value intellectual capital more than any other physical resource. This obviously implies that the technologies that are now moving the world have to be an inherent part of the education system here too. Thus e-ducation has to be promoted and preferred.
There is a rapidly rising literacy rate in the below-25-year age group, holding out hope that the youth of today will be far better educated than their parents and grand-parents.
And finally, as emphasized throughout, there are signs of increasing penetration of information technology that potentially brings a global “library of knowledge” with the help of internet to the individual, giving an unprecedented potential for self-learning.
Towards the take-off:
The year 2007 thus has all the advantages of an evolved educational-value systems that have the power and the necessary process engines to chug it along the international lines with a very indigenous flavour! India thus remains amongst the most optimistic and enthusiastic about its future compared with any other country.
This optimism is reflected in myriad ways, e.g. world-class education in India, rise in end user spending including that on credit, investment plans in every sector, buoyancy in the job market, etc. No wonder then that many Indians have already started believing that the future is here, now.
Time for some optimistic statistical verities now! More than half of the Indians are literate. There has been a steady increase in the literacy rate in the country. The country is expected to achieve 100 per cent in not too distant a future. Already, the southern State of Kerala and many districts in India have attained full literacy. We are an old nation, but today’s India is a country of young people with 36 per cent population below 14 years. That’s a huge demographic advantage we enjoy.
So where do we stand today on the global stage? The verdict is: We are ready! Ready to make our presence felt, ready to inform and educate through dynamic systems that not only enhance learning but also prepare us well to implement learnt values to benefit everyone.
This indeed gives India a unique opportunity to propel itself into a golden era within the next 20-30 years. Pages of history suggest that India has experienced golden eras a few times in the past. Some of these eras included the Indus Valley Civilisation almost 5 millenniums ago; the Magadha empire including the Maurya dynasty 2 millenniums ago; the Gupta and Chola empires a millennium ago; and surprisingly, even as late as the early 19th century, when India and China accounted for a significant part of the global GDP.
Thus, despite a flawed democracy that is creating more disintegration on the lines of caste, community, religion, and geography; a complacency amongst our planners and bureaucracy, who have a rather poor understanding of the fact that we have to catch up with the rest of the world very rapidly to make up for time that has been lost; and a vision that is very near-term (next election, next session of Parliament, or the next fiscal year) rather than the next 100 years or next 50 years or even next 25 years, we need to think and plan about our education, and also urban development, healthcare, and environment needs for the next 25 years and put into motion the appropriate action.
It’s all about replicable, affordable, edu-systems:
The fact remains : we do not have enough good quality teachers. And going by today’s societal preferences, this situation will not ease in the next 10 years at least. So where do we get the most basic driver of an education revolution – the good teacher?
The answer, surprisingly, is sensitive technology deployment. If we cannot have a million good teachers, we can use a thousand and multiply their effect to a million, using the right technology that enables smooth learning. To begin, we must focus hard on the process engines here to give ourselves a kick-start! Success is not an accident, but a planned process. It is this technology driven process that must be smartly built into the study and preparatory systems across India. The advantages will be
- high quality teaching, repetitively
- stringent operational discipline
- standardized services, and
- high quality courseware
All this can be achieved through rapid deployment of latest technologies. To truly make us 100% literate, Education in India will have to be very rapidly and systematically e-enabled. And it has to be done for the masses at the grassroots. This can be a broad flexible functional philosophy which cuts across all the products and services so far as education in India is concerned.
A lot of hard work still remains to be done to out-compete, outperform and promise ourselves to achieve the success rather than just be a journeyman. India can then be a guidepost than a mere hitching post to a global development that is inevitable!
True to Gita’s spirit of Lok Samagrah, our dharma will lie in the right actions that benefit everyone in this web of life.
Personally, I do believe that as a nation, we surely will ‘kar ke dikhayenge!’
01 February 2016
This article was originally written to be published in DNA