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recasting educational policy alongside other policie
Your mail on educational policy and the balance which is required
between primary and higher education is an excellent starting point
for any reconsideration of the subject.
My two-paise contribution to the debate:
1. There is no reason why we should have linked "chains" of such
institutions of higher education in the country (overly bureaucratic).
Independent institutions which slug it out in the market for students,
for funds, for developing particular areas of academic excellence, for
recruiting researchers and teachers at whatever rates of pay they deem
fit to attract such people, etc. is what is best: why lumber the
nation with a so-called "common" approach in institutions of higher
Research and teaching which is truly pioneering is not developed by a
"committee" approach to such things, but by allowing free rein to the
entrepreneurialism of knowledge producers and knowledge communicators.
2. You cannot build nationwide primary education by looking at
education alone. Why? Because we already tried to do that in the
First Plan period and discovered that it was difficult if not
For what reasons?
(a) the resources required were too huge;
(b) under the influence of our leading Socialist/ Marxist economic
thinkers at that time, the lobby for "draining the countryside of
economic resources to build up the cities and focus development
efforts in order to take us to world levels" was too strong to resist,
so that the Second Plan itself reversed the First Plan's intention of
improving the overall development of the nation's rural areas (by the
way, the First Plan was not entirely unsuccessful);
(c) we did not have sufficiently trained AND MOTIVATED people who
would go to the countryside - I recollect that, when I entered
University in 1965, I was shocked by newspaper stories that we had
60,000 registered unemployed doctors; in my second year, there were
newspaper stories that we have 70,000 registered unemployed
engineeers! All the while, it did not take extraordinary intelligence
or perception to see that there were enormous areas of the country
dying because of lack of such skills as these doctors and engineers
had. So why could the country not match demand and supply?
Because NONE OF THESE 130,000 TRAINED PEOPLE
W A N T E D
TO GO TO RURAL AREAS.
Of course, for a host of completely understandable reasons. Such as
guaranteed low pay in rural areas as against at least the hope of
better pay in the cities; lack of facilities for basic communication
and health and education for themselves and their wives and children;
and simple quality of life issues.
In a country such as India, a commitment to raise the overall income
in ten years by even a MILLION times will be meaningless for the
average person unless we have a properly integrated plan (I do not
mean at the bureaucratic level but at the policy level) for the
overall development of our rural areas.
In practice, this means that any policies for developing nationwide
primary education cannot be divorced from policies to develop
nationwide primary health care, nationwide sanitation and irrigation
systems, nationwide integrated transport systems, and nationwide
integrated communication systems.
Most important, we need to integrate all that with a change in the
ruling BELIEFS of our country. People who contributed most to
India's development, such as William Carey in the eighteenth century,
saw this most clearly.
What is the ruling belief in India today? It is personal survival,
maximising personal prosperity, maximising personal consumption,
maximising personal glory, maximising personal power - by any means,
and even at the cost of basic survival for others. (Please note: I am
not talking about the beliefs by which people such as those on the IP
list, live; I am talking about the beliefs by which the few tens of
thousands who form the Indian Establishment and actually rule the
Bollywood films specifically glorify the glittering lights of our
cities and the rush to maximise personal happiness in the city.
Why can Bollywood not join the IP group in glorifying people who will
go (and in cases such as those of Vishal Mangalwadi and Chandra Kant
Shourie HAVE gone) to distant rural villages in order to struggle with
What stops people finding stories of romance, struggle, sacrifice and
success in the struggle to transform our society instead of the
present pap that we feed our people?
We need a tremendous movement of our educated people, inspired by the
possibility of changing our country, prepared to struggle with the
difficulties of rural transformation.
If we do not want to do that on the basis of Marxist compulsion (and I
don't think any of us on the IP list do want to do that) then the only
other way is by incentivising people to go to the countryside. THat
is, by reversing the present system by which a primary school teacher
even in our cities is paid almost nothing anyway and of course even
less than that in the countryside.
What is an attractive level of pay for a rural primary teacher? For a
rural doctor? Such are the questions we need to answer if we want to
get good qualified people into the rural areas.
The points in the above para need to be seen in the context of what is
the minimum investment that is required in railways and roads and
telecoms to create a really integrated development for our rural
areas? Because without basic infrastructure we continue an invisible
disincentive, for which we can of course compensate financially but
few people will respond, in my view. In any case, the investment for
this item we can get from private industry anyway (at least for
reasonably major trunk routes).
But do we have any idea of what it would cost to develop the nation in
any systematic way so far as basic nationwide healthcare and education
is concerned? Let us do our calculations, taking regional differences
into account (Kerala and West Bengal, for example, have reasonably
good systems of rural primary education).
Let us also properly analyse what has made such areas more progressive
than others in India so that the lessons can be applied to other areas
of the country.
This is the only way of getting beyond merely pie-in-the-sky policies,
and of putting forward PROPERLY COSTED policies which have been
developed in the light of our HISTORY and of PRESENT REALITY ....
The experience of people such as Mangalwadi and Shourie shows clearly
that getting people to go is actually the LEAST of the issues. The
crux of the issue is can we get the RIGHT SORT of people to go?
People who are realistic about the nature of the struggles involved in
transforming the countryside, and who have the stamina and
stickability to last through the struggle....
By the way, for those who are interested in reading about the struggle
that the Mangalwadis had, and the lessons they drew from it, there is
an interesting book by him, TRUTH AND SOCIAL REFORM, now out of print
in the UK, but probably still in print in the USA as well as of course
in India, available from Good Books, Ivy Cottage, Landour, Mussoorie,
U.P., India. I think in the USA, the book is still available from The
MacLaurin Institute, University of Minnesota, 331 Seventeenth Avenue
SE, Minneapolis MINN 55414 (Tel/fax: 00-1-612-378.1935 or 2159).
My view is that the Mangalwadis experience is not valid for the
country as a whole, but is probably valid for most of the
Hindi-speaking belt, perhaps most of what can be called North (as
against South) India. I should make it clear that I do not agree with
everything that Mangalwadi says, or with all of his beliefs. But what
he shares of his experience and of the lessons he learned regarding
what is necessary to change our countryside is revealing and
Professor Prabhu Guptara
Director, Organisational and Executive Development
Wolfsberg Executive Development Centre
(a subsidiary of UBS AG)
Tel: + 41.71.663.5605
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