Henry D’ Souza, Ph.D. (Ed)
The Joint Secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Dattatreya Hosebale1 noted at a meeting recently that the Indian economy should be based on “Indian thinking, identity and conduct.” This is a sound principle that most developing countries that emerged from colonialism had to face. Since education is an important component of development, Hosebale added that, “education must be geographically accessible, financially affordable and socially inclusive.” Sound advice, which many nations tackled differently.
“Geographically accessible, and socially inclusive” are two phrases which summarize what is meant by “Education for all.” The next phrase, “financially affordable” is the key which accounts for differential education in quantity and quality: urban areas generally have better education than rural, and since money is scarce education at the lower levels is generally “chalk and talk.” Most developing nations have a major problem of supplying schools with equipment, the most important of which are labs and the portable computer, today. “Education for all” is already India’s educational policy and India seemed unable to fulfil its objective.
Russia made good use of its scarce resources: in 1914, it was an impoverished developing nation where most people were illiterate. Today, the UN declared that Russia is the best country for developing human capital. The Soviet Union did not have religious thinking to deal with during its developmental stage; its curriculum was utilitarian. In other developing countries, religious institutions are among other institutions delivering education, but it can be shown that religious thinking often hampers rational thinking.
India has recently experienced three high profile cases where educators were shot for independent thinking. Professor M.M. Kalburgi (77) was shot dead when he answered his door-bell for his views on caste, communalism and “meaningless ritual” for worshiping idols.2 In 2013, Narendra Dabholkar, a former doctor turned campaigner, and two years later, Govind Pansare suffered a similar fate from religious extremists.
These atrocities do not sit well with Indian thinking. The first universities in the world were established in Nalanda and Taxila. Indian rulers of that day encouraged independent thinkers by offering them exemption from taxation if they produced a theory which withstood the test of scrutiny by intellectuals. The modern “viva” for a doctorate is based on this custom. Indian media and thinkers, today, would not subscribe to any impediments to independent thought.
The notion of “education” and where it should be provided has changed in the modern environment. School, primary, secondary and tertiary, is just one part of education which extends from “womb to tomb.” Traditionally, the family usually provided the skills necessary for a trade; today, the school provides some training and industry penetrates the school system in many ways, through finance, apprenticeships, and, job fairs.
The West generally can afford to provide a rich environment for its schools. This is why wealthy Russians, like their counterparts in the developing world, usually send their children to schools in the West. But India has contributed, indirectly, to the educational development in the West through, for instance, the H-1B visa program.
There are other issues within a school which contribute to the nationalization of the system. The most important determinant is the place of vernaculars in the curriculum. In some countries children are trilingual which means that they have contact with three cultures. So the question arises whether the vernaculars should take precedence over the language of the imperialist? Tanzania decided on Kiswahili as the medium of instruction while Kenya chose English. Language and its accompanying thought is one of the factors which made Kenya forge ahead of its neighbour in development. The school cannot burden the child with more than two languages.
Nationalization of an educational system can only be limited as international culture predominates national and ethnic. Since science and technology is international, education has to follow suit. In 1914, for instance, The Russian and American systems were poles apart: one was communist, authoritarian and practical while the other was democratic and based on free-market thinking. Within thirty years the systems began to converge as Russia began to catch up with the West.3 This inescapable trend explains why the younger generations of today think and act alike in several ways.
Bibliography & Notes
- RSS advice to Government, PerformanceGurus blog September 4, 2015.
- Sania Farooqui, “Indian scholar who spoke out against idol worship is shot dead,” time.com, August 31, 2015.
- Most of the thinking for this article is based on the author’s research.
This article is dedicated to Prof. MM Lalburgi, Sree Narendra Dobhokar, and Sree Pansare who experienced a Gandhian death.