May , 2019
Give education the priority it deserves
17:10 pm

Buroshiva Dasgupta

Now that the elections are over and a new government is being formed – with a very clear mandate – we need to look forward.

 Managing the country for the next five years cannot be on the same lines as an election campaign. Focus has to change to real economic development of the country from the election sloganeering around  nationalism, Hindutva, castetism, and the rest. The ruling party’s communication strategy has to change along with its actions. Election frenzy has to give way to tolerance and patience.

It is easy to promise about bringing in radical changes but that needs careful planning and patience.  Demonetisation has failed, many agree, primarily because it was hurriedly implemented without a proper management thought in place. Otherwise ATMs would not have run out of money and the new currency would not have been printed ‘smaller’ in size than the measurement required for the ATMs to function properly. Deaths at ATM queues could have been avoided. The simplification of the taxes through GST has created more complications at the ground level – since again a proper implementation plan is not in place.

If one is genuinely interested in the development of the country, there is no harm in admitting failures. If employment has gone down, why hide the figures or try to fudge them? Transparency brings credibility. It needs guts to admit failures and then pledge ways to set things right.

The real test of the new government will be in its attempt to change mindsets. To bring in fresh thinking it has to give a hard look to the country’s education system. An ‘illiberal’ mindset cannot replace the present so-called ‘liberal’ mind, if one really finds fault with it. An ‘extremist’ point of view will only generate clashes to counter another extremist view. Let there be more debates. Why - or how much- is the traditional Indian thought relevant as the Western ways of thinking?  Dropping chapters on ‘democracy’ from books of history will just give a wrong signal.

Proper communication – or powerful debates – runs the parliament. Unfortunately, nowadays we notice more of scuffles, shouts and blocking of discussions within the parliament. We lack parliamentarians like Atal Behari Bajpayi or Hiren Mukherjee. They were not just excellent speakers, but also erudite people. Today we find MPs hiding or manipulating their university degrees. We have an impressive list of ‘crorepatis’ among the MPs, but not many enlightened and educated people.

Something is basically wrong with our education system. Beginning with the Kothari Commission, we have had several attempts to reform the system. But did it make the system relevant with the changing times? Either the recommendations of reforms have been shelved or kept pending for lack of funds. Education has been a low priority area for every government of the past. If advanced countries (which today includes China) can spend 3 to 4% of their GDP on education, we still allot a sum around one per cent of the GDP for education.  We are proud of our defence forces; but  we need to give a hard look  to the fact that the budget allotments for Defence is more than double the amount allotted   to  country’s education and health put together.

Excellence in education sometimes lead to elitism; but not the kind of elitism which the country’s so-called liberals would want us to believe. Without compromising in excellence, we need to reform our education system through healthy debates, with more transparency and better communication.


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