Once the land of wisdom that glorified rationality, India’s education system today is in shambles.
Amongst civilisations across the world, India has always been the torchbearer. History has witnessed our rich education system. We were among the most rational people on this planet. This rationality of thought produced the most just and lawful rulers of the country. We propounded the 'Gyan Yoga' school of thought and paved the way for the philosophy of unification with the almighty through knowledge. 'Gyan' which according to our ancient scriptures is considered as the highest virtue, is not confined to bookish knowledge; it is the amalgamation of knowledge, wisdom, values, and Dharma.
India had always been the land of gaining enlightenment through knowledge. We propounded the world's greatest universities when half of the planet was under the darkness of barbarism. These universities were showering the nectar of their knowledge not only to the natives but to the foreigners as well. The recent news of the excavation of another university named Vikramshila at Telhara near Nalanda glorifies the rich past of our nation. Telhara was visited by Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang in the seventh century AD, mentioned as "Teleadaka" in his account. These institutions were ransacked and destroyed by the rulers of the Mamluk Dynasty gradually taking India into its darkness. With the advent of the British Raj, the ancient education system got its last nail in the coffin.
Since Independence, we have failed to carve out an education policy for us. Numerous commissions have been set-up for this purpose but failed to deliver a policy to take the entire nation under its purview. From elementary education to research and development, the chains were all broken. The state has failed to produce even a single university featuring in the world's top twenty. School education is amongst the worst sufferers. There is no praiseworthy state-run school in India. Educationalists are of the view that we are currently in the third phase of our education system. Education comprises of three vertices—the teacher, the syllabus (subject), and student. The first phase of education had its focus on the 'Guru' (teacher). The teacher had autonomy to decide the time, place and domain of education. Neither the subject nor the student had any predomination. Ancient Gurukuls are examples of this system of education. The second phase shifted the limelight to the syllabus (subject). Neither the teacher nor the student enjoyed any privilege with a fixed syllabus for each subject. Markets were flooded with guides, help-books, and kunjis. All those above thirty years of age are products of this system. Phase three culminated about a decade and a half ago where all the focus shifted to the student. Now, the student has become the centrifuge of the education system. Neither the teacher nor the subject enjoys any prerogative.
With over a decade of practising this system, the teachers and students have been duly conditioned. Private schools remained at the receiving end as they have gradually become pampering agents rather than agents of education. There is a huge paradox between the proposed moral values and actual practices. On the other hand, being a teacher, particularly in a private school, in today's employment pyramid is seen at the bottom. The respect this profession once commanded has become extinct. Degradation of values among students has not happened overnight but is the outcome of a silent churning in the society that has caused the gradual decay of the fabric of our education system.
The Finance Minister of India proposed an increase in the education expenditure in this year's Budget speech. He even talked about reforming the sector by introducing new schemes like in-service teacher's training, setting up Ekalavya Model Residential schools and instituting a "Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) by 2022". This is a positive step, but our education system needs a complete overhaul. In order to refurbish the education system, some immediate steps need to be adopted by the government. First of all, the government should announce a uniform pay system across the country for all the school teachers, both public and private. The education boards should monitor this and the dereliction should be liable to scrutiny. This will attract the best young minds towards teaching assisting in regaining its lost ground. Second, the state should allow professionals like engineers, management degree holders, chartered accountants, doctors, national level sportspersons and lawyers etc. to teach in schools. This will not only open new employment opportunities for them but also help in building the quality of education. These professionals will also aspire and motivate students to chase the best career graph in life.
The government should implement the recommendations of the Subramanian Committee on a new education policy. An Indian Education Service (IES) should be established as an all India service with officers on a permanent settlement to the state governments but with the cadre controlling authority vested in the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry. The outlay on education should be raised to at least 6 per cent of the GDP without further loss of time. Compulsory licensing or certification for teachers in government and private schools should be made mandatory, with provisions for renewal every 10 years based on independent external testing. A national level test for every student who has completed Class-XII from any school board should be designed. Top 200 foreign universities-schools should be allowed to open campuses in India receiving the same degree-certificate which is acceptable in the home country of the said institution.
In this upcoming age of artificial intelligence, we need teachers equipped with technological expertise, more importantly, equipped with the mental setup to accommodate the ever-changing intricacies of education. The need of the hour is to make the education sector alluring for today's youth entering the market forces as precious human resource. At last, what can only be said is, that "the future of the country is in what lies in my classroom today."
(The author is an educationalist. The views expressed are strictly personal)