The birth anniversary of India’s first Education Minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad is being celebrated across the nation as National Education Day on November 11. Abul Kalam Ghulam Muhiyuddin served as the first education minister of independent India from 1947 to 1958. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (now Ministry of Education) on September 11, 2008, announced, “The ministry has decided to commemorate the birthday of this great son of India by recalling his contribution to the cause of education in India.”
Born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 1888, Azad’s family relocated to Calcutta to provide him a better education. His quality education reflects in his work as a journalist and a poet. In 1912, Azad started publishing a weekly called Al-Hilal to criticise the British policies. After it was banned, he started another weekly Al-Bagah, following which the British government banned him under the Defence of India Regulations in 1916.
Azad strongly advocated for the education of women. In 1949, in the Central Assembly, he emphasised the importance of imparting instruction in modern sciences and knowledge. He also said that no programme of national education can be appropriate if it does not give full consideration to the education and advancement of one-half of the society – that is the women.
He is responsible for shaping the modern education system of the country. The first IIT, IISc, School of Planning and Architecture and the University Grants Commission were established under his tenure as the education minister. The most prominent cultural, literary academies were also built including the Sangeet Natak Academy, Lalit Kala Academy, Sahitya Academy as well as the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
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For his contribution – both as an educationist as a freedom fighter – he was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1992. Azad breathed his last in 1958.
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