By Dr. Kallol Guha
Future of a community or a nation, to a large extent, is determined by how their educational institutions are run. It cannot be ascertained by the number or type of buildings and infrastructure but by developing the quality of human resources and conditioning them to become a tool for meaningful national development. Educational institutions ultimately decide the quality and sustainability of growth and development of a given nation. No special inquiry is needed to see that during the middle ages all-round glory of ancient India and its share of 25-30% of world GDP must have been derived from the quality of training in the universities like Somapura and Munshigunj Vihar of Bengal, Odantapuri of Magadh, Pushpagiri of Kalinga, Valabhi of Gujrat, Vikramashila of Bihar, to say nothing about Nalanda and Takshashila and numerous others. By 1947, India’s share of world GDP came down to less than 1% . The figure has not changed much since then, though Macaulay type education which replaced indigenous education in vernacular medium-specially designed to breed (clone) Englishmen through English-based education, is spreading rapidly and its acceptability is being consolidated by fierce and widespread marketing.
What is the worth of education system(s) that does not facilitate in-depth understanding of one’s ancestral contribution to knowledge and civilization and does not make the nation aware of the greatness, if any, of its own heritage? Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore stated that ‘Shiksha ko dohan karna nahin, vahan karna chahiye’. It is tempting to speculate whether widespread Macaulay type education explains why during the last 65 years India has not made any contribution that is remotely comparable to that of the ancient saints?
112 crore Indians who are unable to communicate in English Language are, for all practical purposes, excluded from the scope of higher technical education and consequent decent living. Unnoticed amid these indigenous Indians, undoubtedly, there are traits of great soldiers and athletes, brilliant professionals and administrators, genius scholars, performers etc., but their talent could never find expression through use of their own languages. Native languages are now being reduced and demeaned as the language of backward and underdeveloped masses whereas English is symbolized as the language of superiority and aristocracy. Instead of being concerned about such wastage of human resource, the prevalent system has developed numerous arguments to justify blatant discrimination of regional and national languages alike.
Let it be emphasized that a language may flourish and develop when linked to the means of livelihood. Single most dominant factor for widespread influence of English is that it has been made a key toward earning a decent living. De-linking of regional and national languages from the means of livelihood is being made acceptable through highly sophisticated and subtle marketing to favor use of the English language, at the expense of indigenous languages. Any topic pertaining to linkage of indigenous languages to the means of livelihood is instantly interpreted as plot against English.
State and central administration are neither willing nor honest in their intention of allowing masses to earn a decent living by using local languages. Hence common people, in order to restore the disrupted link between language and means of livelihood may consider taking two useful measures:
First: Mobilize Public Opinion. Initiate a campaign- at first- through social media- propagating the viewpoint that language is not just a means of communication but is linked to the sense of both self- and national respect. Perception of pride and identity-crisis are linked to language. Issue of culture and heritage is linked to language. Since higher technical knowledge is best absorbed through native language, material and spiritual development at individual and national level is linked to language. One of the most effective measures a victor takes against the vanquished to subjugate is to de-link the masses from their native land by not allowing to make a living in their native language. A task accomplished through specially designed education as it is the case with India.
Second: Higher Technical Education in Vernacular. Public opinion has to be mobilized to compel and/or persuade government and private enterprises to employ graduates of vernacular medium schools by allowing tax deductions. Government and private initiatives must be mobilized through public opinion to install higher technical education in vernacular medium.
Basically, mobilization of public opinion in favor of opening up educational and economic opportunities to all those who are from vernacular medium is the first initial step towards a long and arduous task.
The author is a Chicago-based entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Image/s Credit: Sean MacEntee