I say without fear of my figures being challenged successfully, that today India is more illiterate than it was fifty or a hundred years ago, and so is Burma, because the British administrators, when they came to India, instead of taking hold of things as they were, began to root them out. They scratched the soil and began to look at the root, and left the root like that, and the beautiful tree perished. (MAHATMA GANDHI AT CHATHAM HOUSE, LONDON, OCTOBER 20, 1931)
If you ever get a chance to talk to near and dear ones of a patient being treated in any super-speciality hospital, you would reach to the conclusion that there is no trust in the doctors who are treating the patients. By and large, we have given up on our politicians and accepted that any form of political power is meant for misuse and abuse. No businessman is trustworthy, as he is only profit seeker. In other words, all aspects of our national and social life are going through high level trust deficit. If we carefully analyse this scenario, then the root cause of this social ill is rooted the education system, where course correction has to take place. Even a teacher who is supposed to bring light in our life through knowledge is no longer trusted by parents, that is why business of private tuitions is thriving. In such a situation whenever there is a talk of transforming education in India, vested interests that benefited from the British legacy in education, start shouting about the ‘saffronisation’. Before pressing for such misleading terms, we need to debate and discuss the contour of Indianisation of education.
First of all, we need to accept the fact that British education was a design, as elaborated by many leaders including Gandhi, to uproot the Indians from their traditional knowledge system. The system they created was mainly to run the state machinery as per their convenience. Unfortunately in the post-Independence period, like all political and bureaucratic machinery, system of delivering education remained almost the same.
Secondly, the corollary of this British legacy is, we lost the treasure and techniques of our knowledge creation and application. At the same time we could not follow the path of excellence in material resource creation adopted in the Anglo-Saxon civilisation, as it was not in tune with our culture. The obvious outcome is neither here nor there. There are many more graduates but they are not productive in applied world. There are few high performing professionals but they are morally and socially disconnected. In short, the post-Independence education system did not produce the desired society.
Thirdly, few institutions of excellence created in Independent India are either replica of some foreign institutions or design of Eurocentric ideologies who take pride in denying India’s civilisational legacy. The likes of Ramachandra Guhas and Romila Thapars who talked about ‘change’ but benefitted from the status quo are the people who coined and abused the term ‘saffronisation’. Without getting into their malicious intentions, one needs to take an objective stand on connecting education to Indian realities.
When one talks about transformation, it means there is no need for revolutionary change. In a massive country like India, debating, discussing, fine tuning and then executing it with suitable customisations is necessary. It may take some time but meanwhile we need to develop consensus about the need for fundamental change in our approach towards education in terms of structure and content. People losing their ‘professional’ and ‘intellectual’ monopoly may create ruckus but Indianising education based on our socio-cultural roots is the only way to transform India’s population into a human development hub.