Speed is everything today. We are running a mad race today to catch something. We know that because we are told to catch that thing. But the sad part of the story is that we don’t know why we catch something particular but not something else. Metaphorically, the science has made our lives so simple that we want to complicate it now. We are hard pressed for time as we fail to secure time to do the basic things in life; like breath without fear, dream without anticipation and love with conditions. As Gandhiji said, ‘there is more to life than increasing its speed.’ Do we care to listen & understand it? Ailing South African revolutionary leader, Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The tragedy of life is that not many of us appreciate the value of education today and the very philosophy that education tries to imbibe into a person. The philosophy of reason and logic are the ulterior objectives of any education that help to quench the natural human inquisitiveness about the unknown. As we fail to understand the power that education has to bring changes in the world, do we see cracks in our social fabric that is crafted with innumerable years of human experience? I think we do.
A typical middle class family from relatively poorer eastern part of India lives a dream to catch something. The baby enters the earth with that very urge to catch something, he’s grown up in the cocoon of competition, he’s trained hard to fight to stay ahead in the competition, and finally he catches that something. But, all his life, he has known only one thing that to catch something! Once he gets his engineering or medical degree, because it is only thing to catch as rest are mere options, he turns to catch his next something, and then to next. He gets old catching some things, growing old accumulating something without really enjoying any of his prizes because he does not know how to relish them. He was never taught to.
The Indian education system remains largely the colonial heritage of past century. The legacy of joining, for lack of a proper word, the rat race and bestowing the winner with the trophy is essentially sums up our education system. It is classically based upon the carrot and stick policy. Never a sincere attempt was made to move over from this bequest but efforts were initiated & hastened by society to perpetuate it even further. For lack of a system to relinquish such obnoxious and obsolete education system, today we are facing a system of cut off in the recent Delhi University reaching 100%. The severance from the realities of society and time has made it an elite model, rather than an ideal universal model. The incapacity of the regional universities to learn new things, explore novel ideas, deliberate and imbibe them in their education process has led to their tragic decay in importance in the present education scenario. The intelligentsia of such universities forgot the very basic of education which Albert Einstein quotes as ‘the most important thing is not to stop questioning.’
Are we asking the right questions and making the right echoes in the society? The growing vacuum of brilliant minds moving away from the state should have been regarded as a state disaster. However, the way the educational bodies are encouraging and paving the way to excel in these rat races to secure an admission in the elite university, it is far from identify it as a crisis. Having lost its teeth to mismanagement, lethargy and archaic operation, then the Universities bask in glory of the past. They effortlessly forget to improve the education, relinquish colonial educational hangover and imbibe a tradition of inquisitiveness, invention and innovation in their academic lives. Sadly, this has not been forthcoming. There has been marked improvement in the infrastructure of education institutions in Assam today. The government on its part has made a remarkable thing by introducing Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) for recruitment of teachers. Many other innovative schemes like mid day meals, bio metric card system, digital classes & libraries, setting up of newer educational institutions etc are laudable and indeed a lot has been done to improve the infrastructure of the educational institutions.
But, did we miss the brief? Do we need physical assets or do we need human assets that result from a vibrant educational environment? As the Chief Minister set 2016 as the deadline to improve educational scenario, it will be interesting to know what we are trying to achieve here. Are we trying to regain the lost glory of the state language? Or, are we trying to find confidence in the student of a vernacular medium government secondary school? Does the creation of new universities in the recent past will bring about a sea change as teachers teach a subject? Or, do we recognize the increasingly diminishing importance of the state language and initiate steps to promote it, quite like the promotion of the national language? Can we bring back glory to our state level educational institutions so that students don’t need to go outside for study? Are we bold enough today to recognize that brain drain is huge issue for the future of our society? Do we appreciate the grave danger that future possesses of an intelligentsia less society if the educational exodus from the state is not checked? Can we expect our respected intelligentsia to stand up and vouch for a system that promotes inquisitiveness rather than simply ‘hoping for betterment of education?’ Are we ready to initiate a process of believing in education and its inherent philosophy to bring light in the dark?
If the government and we are talking about these questions and many others, then I think Chief Minister is thinking in the right direction. However, to bring such a metamorphosis in next three years looks impregnable, I think it is important for the polity and society to set realistic set of terms & a meaningful pursuit to achieve logical conclusion. The society is standing today at a peculiar crossing point. We are confused. We don’t know where we are, where are we travelling to and why are we travelling that way. People, who imposed faith in their land, society, culture and customs, are afraid to hold on to their ageless traditions as they are deceived politically and historically. The economic realities are pushing the society further to abandon them so that they can adapt to a certain short term arrangement that will get them economic rewards. But as human history tells us the real wealth is customs, traditions, social practices, languages and pride. Change remains the spice of life and education brings change in the society. An overhaul of education is the need of the hour and not to think of ways and means to increase marks of the students of the state so that they can get admission into the elite universities outside. Then, I hope to see cut off for subjects in our educational institutions scroll down in the ticker of at least our regional channels.