By Prof D S Chauhan
President AIU & Vice-chancellor GLA University, Mathura
I go on education tour of villages away from cities and towns in between my work when time permits. And I can count eyewitness accounts to say that schools in the other India are crying for attention. Most of the over 12 lakh primary school buildings, a valuable national asset, are not maintained. In fact, on a recent visit to a village when I pointed to a structure almost engulfed by tall and dense shrubs, the villagers told me it is a school. And it is used for open defecation resulting in gigantic growth of vegetation.
The community concept in villages is breaking, The irrigation canals, other infrastructure, family structure, traditional skills—all are breaking down. And education is a big reason for this rising mess. Agriculture is mainstay of our economy but there is hardly any input in curriculum that would render children useful on their farms in their adult age. All our education is doing is producing ‘Pant-shirt’ wearing youth who loathe traditional skills. People have become loners as the very edifice of village self-reliance is crumbling. Average villager spent 100 days in hospital with his family; he has no community support left.
In fact, I sometimes wonder why there isn’t something like UGC for to take care of primary education in the country. What prevents the central government from acting on dilapidated rural education. We need to revitalize schooling only then can village institutions like panchayats and others contribute meaningfully in future and pave way for village community centres to instil community sense once again.
As far as higher education is concerned, the scenario is chaotic There is this rush to spread the names of IIT, IIM, NIT, AIIMS and central university virtually to every state without having the people or money. You need Rs 10 lakh cr to make it happen. But on face of it, the budget of UGC has been slashed. There is still discrimination against private universities in grants when research whosoever does is useful for the society and country. We may have 800 universities today but the fact is there are about 200-250 institutions of higher education which are keep aloft the citadel of education in this country which is not good for a large country like ours.
There is a misnomer that creating a few world class institutions will pull up quality of our education. It is like a bullet train project thought. Tell me how many Muslims from India work in Middle East Arab countries, surely a few lakhs. Has it unburdened majority of poor Muslims in this country from poverty? Same is true for education. Unless you pay heed, listen to experienced educationists, make educationists with proven track record as heads of institutions, how can you address the deep systemic problems and challenges.
Violence in campuses and the charged atmosphere where respect for other cultures is mussing is one of the reasons not allowing India to grow as a global education destination. The student politics must be done on lines of Lyndon Committee to make it purposeful.
The arrogance in mind of politicians has given rise to parochialism in education establishment and often the nation loses. I think Prime Minister himself is not paying heed to education and that is why education has not become his mission till now.
As told to Autar Nehru