April 26, 2006 12:15:16 am
While delivering the Patel Memorial lecture in 1958 Dr Zakir Hussain asserted that “our future as people will depend in no small measure on the ideas and principles which inspire Indian education”. Five decades later, one wonders how many policy makers ever care to recall these words. Hussain goes on to say,”If education is that important…then mere tinkering with administrative detail, by adding a year to one stage and subtracting it from another, by the addition of a subject here and a subject there, by the replacement of bad textbooks…and so on, the immense challenge of educational reconstruction will not be met. It will also not be met by an expansion of the educational apparatus without a full and cooperative consciousness of its real aims and objectives and without a close correspondence between the ends and the means adopted for heir realization.”
These words acquire importance in 2006. The government now proposes to meet the goal of educational reconstruction by enhancing reservations by another 27 per cent seats in schools, colleges and universities. Everyone by now understands the meaning of political gambits launched with great fanfare by successive governments. The period of nearly two years of ‘educational reconstruction’ and ‘institutional recovery’ initiated by the UPA government stands equated with desaffronisation and detoxification. Such political tokenism neglects glaring inadequacies of the system. The alarming drop-out rates, child labour, non-functional schools, schools with absentee teachers.. .why are these concerns — crucial to India’s future — not being voiced? If the commitments to the constitutional provisions were really sincere, someone would definitely have asked why the Aligarh Muslim University, fully funded by the government, never cared to provide the statutory reservations of 22.5 per cent for SCs/STs. Can any interpretation of the Constitution, or of the secularism, justify this?
There is an interesting aside to this. Part of the opposition to reservations is equally biased. A small group of elites would not like their institutional fiefdoms to be encroached upon by the “mother-tongue medium” educated! This attitude too has to be resisted. But after five decades of reservations in jobs and government institutions, it is time to measure the outcomes and institute corrections if needed. How can a young aspirant from a remote town in Bihar be expected to compete with another from Delhi who has been coached for CAT or JEE? How does it help this young person if the percentage of seats alone is increased? Is it not relevant that in period between ’99-’04, the admissions against the reserved seats for SC/ST categories in Delhi University never exceeded 10 (SC) and 2 (ST) at the undergraduate level as against the provision for 15 and 7.5 per cent?
It is worthwhile to recall what Nehru said on October 17, 1949, at Columbia University: “I think also that there is always a close and intimate relationship between the end we aim at and the means adopted to achieve it. Even if the end is right but the means are wrong, it will vitiate the end or divert us in the wrong direction.”
The writer is former director, NCERT
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