EDUCATION FOR ALL: NEED TO GO OUT OF GROOVES
(Based on talk delivered at a Seminar on 27 â€“ 11 â€“ 2010 at New Delhi on Inclusive Education organized by Dayanand Institute of Education Management and Research (DIEMR))
Inclusion in education is a laudable concept. It has several dimensions. If one considers the Indian demography, and the social â€“ economic stratification, we can identify various diversities and many large pockets of exclusion. Superimposed on them are several historically derived distortions. Often many persons and policy analysts consider only a few of them as they are easy for analysis and also for special focus activism. While these are helpful in their own ways to highlight issues and draw the attention of the powers â€“ that â€“ be, oftentimes, such approaches themselves lead to special lobbies of their own. They in turn, lead to several other exclusions.
In the overall context, education in India has not spread to people. Only about 11% of the youth are able to obtain higher education (HE); of this only 2 to 3% re able to get some good form of HE, suited for the modern economy. Other 8 â€“ 9 % persons with HE have to struggle for some jobs. They in turn compete with persons who do not reach HE levels at all (10 (pass or fail), 11, 12 etc completed about 20%). Then there is a huge bulk of about 70% who are mostly 5th pass or less or 8th pass or less. Such is the huge wastage of newly formed human resources (which continues at the rate of about 20 million each year).
The slogans of youthful India (54% 25yrs ad below) sound hollow in front of the above facts. There is huge exclusion of about 90% of our youth. Our children are filtered out of (guillotined in) the system before they reach 11 or 12 years of age.
Add on to these numbers, the number of Indians who are upto say 45 years. Most of them are ill equipped for meeting the demands of modern economy. What will happen to them say a decade from now when they have to still work for a meager livelihood? We need to include them also as a process of continual education of newer skills or life long learning.
Therefore I am excluding the word INCLUSION as it can lead us to very narrow channels: new silos, new grooves! I would suggest that we address education for all â€“ children, youth and adults.
The reason is because the world has entered into the stage of Learning Economy and it is the responsibility of the State and all of us who are educated, to help all Indians to be ready for The Learning Economy.
THE LEARNING ECONOMY
Human evolution has brought our grand old ancestors from the forests to farmlands and human made habitats. Therefore LAND became importamt.
LAND is still important. But its use is different from what it was 10000 years ago or 5000 years or even 500 years ago. Science, technology and engineering have brought in many changes. Agricultural productivity is very high per unit area of land. Also human beings have packed a large number of habitats in an unit area. Also there are many new demands on land: for transportation; for leisure; for aesthetics; for industries; for ecological preservation etc.
In ancient times LAND and LABOUR together were formidable power: labour in agriculture, artisanal goods, transportation etc. That led to economies away from and much prosperous than, the earlier subsistence and pastoral economies. That led to increased trade, growth of art, architecture and literature and also big empires. Trade expanded the wealth. Such societies invented many technologies which not only increased productivity and efficiency but also led to use of many new materials, building big boats and ships etc.
Growth of trade led to increased CAPITAL. Later coupled with the Industrial Revolution which displaced human labour by automotive equipment led to speedy growth of the (current) developed world. The earlier economies of China and India who dominated the world trade till even upto 1800 A.C.E lost out due to superiority of engineered products churned out by automotive equipment, faster movement of automotive ships, better metallurgical processes etc.
With the growth of colonialism (which started in search of raw materials for the new factories), CAPITAL in the (now) developed world dominated. It is still important even as LABOUR is also important but LABOUR is bought in wage market and the dominant role of labour is taken by machinery.
By around middle of 20th century TECHNOLOGY (machines, electronics, software etc) took over every aspect of life. Even while CAPITAL is needed, those who possess technology were dominant. In the process much of the LABOUR force were transformed to highly skilled category â€“ hence there was a much greater demand for HE and several new highly specialized course.
Medical profession also for sub-divided with many super specializations Business Management methods had to be transformed to understand and manage the huge and complex systems spreading all over the world (globalization). There are thus diversities of and multiplicity of technologies. Also no single technology alone can provide a modern product or services. Look at any item: microwave oven; or a cell phone or shoe or medical equipment, there are confluence of many technologies.
Thus TECHNOLOGY is ubiquitous even is trade, commerce, finance or banking. Thus knowledge becomes dominant.
Thus around 1980â€™s onwards even as globalization was expanding the world was also ushering into KNOWLEDGE economy. Peter Drucker describes such a world which is dominated by TECHNOLOGY though of course CAPITAL is also important. But it is handled through technology. LAND use also has greatly changed. Agriculture started getting transformed through biotechnology and information technology. LABOUR now becomes a KNOWLEDGE WORKER with much more HE and continual acquisition of newer skills. Corresponding by those who do not acquire new knowledge and skills started getting into the wrong side of the knowledge divide.
With the beginning of the 21st century, demand for generation of and utilization of knowledge is at such a pace that many scholars have started using the word LEARNING ECONOMY to describe such a state of economy and society.
It is not intended to deal with it in detail here, except quoting from a chapter of a book Innovation Policy in a Global Economy, edited by Daniele Archibugi, Jeremy Howells and Jonathan Michie, Published by the Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. Chapter 2: Technology policy in the learning economy by Bengt â€“ Ake â€“ Lundvall. The quotes appear in a later section.
It has become essential for all societies and nations to orient and to enable all its citizens to be LEARNERS. Creation of such enabling systems and mechanisms cannot be left to the elite groups and / or market forces.
WHAT DID WE DO IN THE POST INDEPENDENCE INDIA?
Under the colonial rule the earlier learning systems in India were systematically eliminated. Modern (western) forms of educational systems including a few Universities and colleges were functioning. It is remarkable that these institutions also produced world renowned scientists, some getting Nobel prizes as well.
In the post â€“ independent India there was a rapid expansion of HE as well as primary / elementary / secondary school system. While the expansion was remarkable, it was not adequate. While we have some excellent world class institutions, we are yet to be front runners. We still find that bulk of the children and youth as well as adult population, is left out of the learning systems. Our recruiting systems (which incidentally do not have enough openings for all aspirants) keep on raising entry qualifications but the State or civil society is not providing adequate systems for the children / youth / adults to learn. Driverâ€™s qualification is raised to 10t standard; lowest levels of police recruitments may be raised to 10th or 12th standard, as they have to deal with modern forms of crimes! But the guillotines in the school systems continue to operate eliminating children at the early stages of their school.
We like to go around the â€œgroovesâ€ of slogans.
- In the name of uniform standards in education or well planned industry etc. we adopted massive centralization around Delhi. A few institutions like Govt. Departments, UGC etc were supported to be the sole guardians of the fate of Indian people.
- We continually missed many emerging opportunities under the slogan (groove) of self reliance such as the entire electronics revolutions, microelectronics etc around 1970â€™s. India could have been a global electronics power had we followed pragmatic policies of foreign investments and private sector freedom in electronics,
- In the education sector it was still worse. (It is still regulated severely with central uniform standard groove!)
- The â€œGroovesâ€ of 1960â€™s: Too much spread of colleges are not good for quality. Therefore limit entrance to HE. Too much power to UGC and such central institutions.
- Under uniformity of school education, we tended to accord single pattern of text books under NCERT, CBSE schools.
- For ordinary masses the 3Râ€™s Read, wRite and aRithmetic or literacy and numeracy was emphasized. What about economic skills. ITIâ€™s, paramedical education etc were neglected. Skill education in schools was totally abandoned, through in between â€˜vocational educationâ€™ was talked about. The groove of Literacy / Numeracy created many unskilled persons who later lost faith in education. That is why we have so many drop outs at elementary stages.
- When the economy opened up and as many new industries were coming up or getting expanded, we started the groove of â€œMarkets will decide!â€ and ignored the tasks of preparing the citizens / children for newer skilled required for textiles, herbals, automobiles, retails, construction etc which will place the learner at the right type value â€“ skill â€“ chain required for the global economy. It is remarkable that a number of Indians adapted to meet the newer demands.
- In the process of such adaptation by Indians to get modern skills many private sector self financing educational institutions started coming up. (It was a good business too.) Then we got back to the grooves of â€œuniform standardâ€ â€œQualityâ€ â€œEquityâ€ etc and created many new grooves of â€œRulesâ€ and â€œRegulationsâ€ without any care for ground realities.
- The groove of â€œequityâ€ and â€œjusticeâ€ created new â€œgrooves of objectivityâ€ â€“ cut off marks, objective Entrance Tests etc. They led to â€œROTEâ€. In the process we are destroying â€œCREATIVITYâ€ and â€œDIVERSITYâ€. Instead of increasing inclusion, they create more of exclusion. Only those who can afford private tuition can get through.
- The new grooves which have come to increase the lip services to the poor are â€œRIGHTSâ€ RTE etc. And the new carrots â€œWORLD CLASS UNIVERSITIESâ€ for upper middle class.
- Also expanding reservations etc. becomes corollary issues of â€œequityâ€.
- In reality most of Govt. (public) funds are poured into the existing already well funded institutions â€“ IITâ€™s, IISc, Central Universities etc While SSA is good, it is yet to address softer aspects of enabling diversities.
So we continue to exclude as we go round and round the â€œgroovesâ€.
THE NEEDS OF A LEARNING SOCIETY:
â€œâ€¦..the learning economy. This concept emphasizes that we today find ourselves in an economy in which the competitiveness of individuals, firms and entire systems of innovation reflects the ability to learn. Part of the reason for speaking about the learning economy today is new trends in production and in the labour market,. Changes in the structure of the labour market and production show how the economy is to an increasing extent becoming knowledge based. This naturally means that knowledge building and learning are becoming more and more crucial for economic growth and competitiveness.â€â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦
â€œThe analysis also showed how this shift in the demand for labour reflects two types of changes in industrial composition occurring simultaneously. Firstly, within each sector, there is an increase in the proportion of qualified labour, and secondly, there is a tendency that employment growth is most rapid within these sectors that are most intensive in their use of highly skilled workers.â€â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.
â€œOne of the things which serious economists normally agree upon is that the pure market cannot as matter of course deal with the trading of knowledge. Nobel prize winner Kenneth Arrow, who is adept at reducing complicated matters to apparently simple paradoxes, has observed that people will only pay for knowledge they do not have â€“ but that, on the other hand, it is difficult to assess how much to pay when you do not know what you are getting to assess how much to pay when you do not know what you are getting for your money (Arrow, 1973).â€â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦
â€œAn important consequence of this new perspective is that social cohesion and trust play a growing role in determining the long â€“ term performance of the economy.â€â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.
â€œAs a rule, what enables some people (and organizations) to earn more money than others is that they have access to knowledge which does not readily lend itself to codifying â€“ they have access to tacit knowledge. This type of knowledge, which is associated with any kind of professional activity, can generally only be acquired by means of an apprentice â€“ master relationship and by practical experiences gained in a close interaction with colleagues. Here it is absolutely imperative that a minimum of respect and mutual trust exists for the transfer of knowledge to take place.â€â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.
â€œIn the learning economy pure markets can only thrive on the fringes of the system where standardized products with stable traits are bought and sold.â€â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦
â€œThe general conclusion is that when shaping industrial and technology policy in the learning economy a pragmatic and practical approach should be adopted. It is pointless to latch on to ideological simplifications and opt for a pure planned economy or a pure market economy. The learning economy is perforce a mixed economy where the markets can only function if they are firmly anchored in a functioning social context and if they are supported by organizational elements.â€â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦
â€œThe negative aspect of the learning economy. An accelerating rate of change in terms of technology and organization places heavy demands on the ability of the individual to learn.â€
We can meet these needs only when we go out of our present grooves and face the real life of diversities.
HOW TO GO OUT OF GROOVES TO ENSURE EDUCATION FOR ALL?
Basic principles for getting out of our current â€œexcluding policiesâ€ into a phase of â€œeducation for allâ€ are relatively simple:
- Recognize the DIVERSITY of needs (of society), of people and their abilities, and of the country. Recognize the strengths of our DIVERSITY, be it biodiversity, cultural diversity, skill diversity etc.
- Change the mindset of DEAD UNIFORMITY â€“ firstly the civic society should understand that there is nothing like uniformity in education. It is highly contextual. Our rules, regulations etc which are created with the mentality of dead uniformity need to be jettisoned.
- Discover the Children (all) during the PRIMARY stages. The diversities in them will manifest then. Instead of suppressing their diverse capabilities with a uniform yardstick discover them. This cannot be done by central, state or district level standards. It can be done only be empowering (trusting) the TEACHER(S) in the classes of these children. TRUST them. Such a discovery is not around traditional subjects like languages, maths, sciences etc but should extend to all skills needed for the society: gardening, carpentry, story telling, dancing, music, art, nursing etc etc. Also we need to recognize that all children have MULTIPLE capabilities. We need to discover and encourage all these capabilities. Let us not create new strait jacketed filters in such discovery of children.
- Keep a whole CONTINUUM of all these skills in the whole pipeline of education. Pre â€“ school to 1st to 5th to 8th to 10th to 12th (or other specialized courses like ITIâ€™s etc) to Diplomas to degrees to PhDâ€™s. These should capture the real complexity of world and life. What is after all complexity? It is made of many hundreds and thousands of simple elements but interconnected beautifully.
Why not B.A. in gardening, carpentry or hairdressing? Or a B.A.(paramedic) which imparts training in softer aspects of dealing with patients, old age persons, etc. Later some of them even going to PhDâ€™s.
- To enable selective use of ICT technologies to spread education and skills and to provide these to dropped out youth and adults as well, ENSURE good electricity to each schools (govt or private) enough to operate a functional COMPUTER, TV, DVDâ€™s and a projector.
- Remove all Centralizing Control structures on Schools / Colleges etc.
Education is the MOST regulated sector in India more than what DGTD did to Indian Industries in the hey â€“ days of license â€“ permit â€“ quota â€“ inspector â€“ raj.
Post â€“ 1991, with liberalization Indian Industries grew rapidly.
If education in India is liberated, (but along with availability of Govt. funds to take care of social dimensions, without Govt. interference with newer approaches to public accountability). I can see a possibility that about 60% Indians will get the right type of HE relevant for India and the globe. Rest 40% will be talented in various skills giving them dignity and steady income.
Yes it is possible.
If we all, especially the middle class, go out of the GROOVES and explore the beauty of diversity.
It will be a real inclusion in practice, an EDUCATION FOR ALL.
Y.S. Rajan is Dr. Vikram Sarabhai Distinguished Professor, ISRO, Bangalore.