“The forest school was typical of the Indian system of education with its emphasis on three basic elements of Indian culture, namely Advaita (non-duality) in the field of knowledge, friendship for all in the field of feeling, and fulfillment of one’s duties without concern for the outcomes in the field of action.’’
—Rabindranath Thakur on Tapovan, Narmadeshwar Jha, “Rabindranath Tagore”, PROSPECTS The Quarterly Journal of Education. (Paris: UNESCO National Bureau of Education: 1999) p. 5
In a famous business fable 'Who Moved Muy Cheese?', through a motivational tale of ‘Hem and Haw’ and ‘Stiff and Scurry’, Spenser Johnson gave a message ‘If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct!’ Today, this message cannot be more relevant to any other field than education. If we scrutinise series of incidences that took place in the last week or so, one realises the need for an urgent and drastic transformation in this field.
At this time of the year, when examination results become matter of life and death for many students, suicides and disorders due to stress and disillusionment, is common news. The recent suicides by two girl students in the highly commercialised educational hub of Kota again brought the murky side of our ‘booming’ education industry to the fore. In a disconcerting note, a sensitive student urged the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry to shut down the coaching institutes as they suck the students through unbearable stress and depression. While warning her mother not to use ‘manipulative stuff’ with her younger sister the deceased girl bluntly alleges that “You manipulated me as a kid to like science”. It is time to ask some hard questions. Are only the coaching institutes or the parents to be blamed for such tragedies or as a system we have failed to create conditions that will allow our future generations to prosper and realise their inherent potential?
Unfortunately, people who are busy in playing politics around a suicide at Hyderabad Central University (HCU) are not uttering a word about other suicides forced by the system they are defending. If they were really interested in giving justice to the departed student one would have appreciated that piecemeal effort. Instead, if words of one of their former members of students wing of a Communist party, SFI, Rajkumar Sahu is to be believed, the ‘movement is externally funded’ and in hosting ‘lavish’ get-togethers ever since the protest began. The tragic part is that the malady is not limited to HCU. The other two citadels of the extinguishing ideology also witnessed the ugly side of so-called ‘democratic and progressive’ forces. In Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), teachers and students vouching for ‘liberal’ ideas allegedly manhandled the Vice-Chancellor of the University. At Jadavpur University, same groups fighting for ‘freedom of expression’ in support of Yakoob Menon, ransacked the screening of a movie exposing their ‘revolutionary ideas’. The reality is in the name of ‘revolution’ and ‘social justice’, the vested interests in the system have become most regressive and status quo-ists.
The suicide incidents in Kota and politics of intolerance in our institutions of higher learning may look distant but if carefully analysed, they indicate the same root cause i.e. grave crisis in our education system. This crisis is originated in the British Policy which Gandhi beautifully explained in his speech delivered at Chatham House, When they came tio India, they (the British administrators) scratched the soil and began to look at the root, and left the root like that, and the beautiful tree perished.” Unfortunately, even after the Independence we continued with the uprooting process and completely missed out on the basic elements of education as envisaged in our culture. Any attempt to revive those roots is labelled as ‘saffronisation’.
Now, instead of sticking to the ‘Hem and Haw’ mindset of blame-game, we need to adapt to the changing situation. Education is the edifice for bringing about such systemic change. If we want justice for our students then we need to move with the sense of ‘from the past, through the present, to the future’. Negativists would follow or else will perish as they did in their ‘ideological motherlands’.