Being involved with higher education, like all else, I am often confronted with the question what is wrong with education. Now, if we believe that in becoming a lecturer / teacher we have done well, and if we are the products of the same educational system, then we should conclude that nothing is wrong. But, this is as bad as our assessment of the situation on the basis of various statistics. One of the areas where we are facing a severe crisis is in terms of the issue of equity in education. The policy reformulation exercise regarding this, the Moily committee for example, has to consider the fundamental malice in our system that has not only caused under-education, but also willfully dishes out substandard education. This can be seen in the disparity between the education that the haves get and what the have-nots get.
Our primary education where the state is the main provider of access to education to millions of lower class / caste population is in such bad shape that it is a shame it exists. Ditto in secondary and higher education. Let us not be carried away by all the hoo-haa about the IIMs and IITs, and the IIMS. Their health or lack of it is relatively speaking of less importance as the numbers they churn out is miniscule compared to the millions of under-educated, and hence disabled, youth that our general education system spawns. It is these youth who form the unemployed and largely unemployable army that end up as the malleable contents that politicians can use for their devious purposes.
It is not as if the Indian state is so dumb that it is unaware of the ills besetting the education system. It is not as if Indian state is so insensitive that it does not to care about the education system. It is not as if the Indian state is so stupid that it can’t find solutions to the problems it perceives to be haunting the education sector. I am sure there are enough intelligence within the state machinery and the public sphere in
India to find and operationalise solutions that time to time amend the systemic evils. But, let me say this loudly, our society (including the state and the public) does not want to solve the problems. Our society does not want all sections to get the kind of education that ensures improved standard of life. Our society does not want the lower classes and castes to ever become transformed into something other than lower classes / castes. Our society hence perpetuates a system of education that sucks the youth into the vicious circle of educated unemployables.
Don’t dismiss this as mere cynicism. We all know that education is an instrument of consent production, disciplining, homogenization, pacification, and indoctrination for social and cultural mores. Our system does all of these by providing rubbish quality education.
This can only be addressed if the larger public sphere including the employers see that quality education at all levels is an effective medicine for a number of evils that consume our society today. Quality education can increase skills, positive social climate, lessen social resentment and strife, and certainly help ‘productivity’. Our corporate moguls who are quick to wax eloquent on merit should realize that with a larger pool of skilled workforce they will get a better deal. The abominable situation that exists today of a small minority from a particular class and caste forming the primary supplier of skilled labor in most of the areas of economy, especially in the new economy, is a recipe for not only constrained productivity in the long run, but also civil unrest.
Right now the state as well as the elite society is keen on keeping our education system alive yet dead.