Thursday, January 08, 2009

Education Control

Should education be in the hands of the government as part of a ministry? Does the fact that the government was democratically elected change your viewpoint? It seems that education we've taken as a given is run by the education ministry. Have we even questioned whether that was the appropriate way to go about it? Maybe not. We've accepted the status quo since that's the way it's always been done.

A bit of context here, my interest in the education system or the reform thereof has been one that I've held for quite some time now. If I were prime minister for a day, I'd dedicate that day completely to revamping our education system. This idea however came to me from a recent obsession of mine. I've just got my hands on all 47 episodes of "Chanakya" and was working my way through episodes. The education system portrayed there seemed to spark this question.

I'm not sure how much the serial had basis in historical fact, but the education system in medieval India was basically a set of schools/gurukuls. The heads of the gurukuls (who were essentially the most experienced/the greatest genius or the most renowned in that gurukul) in a city formed a sort of ad hoc committee which essentially held discussions. However the gurukuls were still able to dispose of the education that they thought most relevant. That cognizance came from the years the acharya's spent tutoring pupils and their actions in public life. I began thinking a lot of rhetoric has been written of the guru-shishya relation and how that has grown dilapidated with the commercialization of education. However, very little has been written of the system of education prevalent at that time and age.

The thing that appealed to me most was the fact that the people who decided on what should be taught were not insipid politicians but were the true intelligentsia of the age. They say in Utopia the intelligentsia rules the country. Atleast ruling the education system would be a start. The administration was responsible for the present of the state and the gurukuls the future. The gurukuls guarded their education system from involvement by the state and were essentially responsible in keeping the administration in check. The best students went into service with the king as ministers and moulded the opnions and practices of kings. In short, the gurukuls debated and decided the future of the state.

Considering we had such a glorious system 2300 years ago, I'm afraid the current state is deplorable in comparison. Reservations, political horsetrading, ugly commercialization and lack of a credible education authority has our education system crumbling. I believe we're in a downward spiral rather than in a state where we're improving our education year on year. That too at a point when knowledge creation is at its fastest. Our education system is not ready to determine its own future let alone influence and improve the future of the state.

But this is the scary part. How do we change the status quo? I have absolutely no idea!

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