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Un-educational education: Not just Madrassas, whole education system of India is ‘non-educational’

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Students-recite-lines-at-a-Madrassa-in-PakistanBy Ishan Kukreti

The timing of the Madrassa controversy courted by Maharashtra government is eyebrow raising (during the holy month of Ramzan/d and especially the ongoing reports of scams from the state).

However, the question itself, away from any political ramification, that whether or not students of religious institutions can be considered ‘educated’ is a relevant one. Education, in India, needs a broader debate than a bickering over its lack or presence of religiosity.

Let’s start with basics

Although there are various definitions and meanings of “Education” but a subtle similarity running parallel in all of them is the functionality of education to draw out the best in a human, to make her be her best self.

Education, whether religious or secular, would mean nothing if it fails to give a student the key to unlock her potential. If the kind of education given to someone with an artistic bent of mind does not nurture her creativity, it is a waste. Similarly if an education system smothers a student with a spiritual bent of mind, it is doing her more harm than good.

Viewing education thus, makes it ‘un-educational’ in most of its present forms in India today. The Xerox photocopy machine that works in the name of education today assembling and exporting armies of doctors, engineers and MBA graduates is good at just one thing, creating copy, after copy, after copy.

Non-religious education in India

With all due fairness, if the point of contention is shifted from religion to actual learning in this debate, then most government schools with pathetic infrastructure and unqualified/absent teaching staff are more non-educational than any madrassa.

A UNESCO’s International Institute of Educational Planning study said that 25 per cent teacher absenteeism in India is among the highest in the world. Add to this the fact that only 5 per cent of teachers in government schools hold only Bachelor or Master’s degrees, while 13 per cent have only secondary or higher secondary certification, without any teacher qualification, and you know the educational level of the unfortunate students ‘studying’ in these schools.

Even the education in private schools, where 40 per cent of young India studies are systems which do not promote a free thinking, critically inquisitive environment. At best they act as laboratories where rats of the future are trained on the hamster wheels of today.

The medium of instruction is mostly English and the knowledge imparted creates an absurdity of an individual, too Western to understand and survive in 80 per cent of India and too backward to be taken seriously in the west.

Both these forms of educational institutes are in no way unlocking anyone’s potential. They are just creating a barely skilled workforce.

Religious institutes in India

Declaring religious institutions ‘un-educational’ by the Maharashtra government is a classic example of pot calling the kettle black. However, this doesn’t mean that religious educational institutions in India have not paved their own way to hell with good intentions.

Madrassas and Maths have had their names drawn into controversies over fundamental violence. Their cringing repulsion at the name of change has made them stick to courses best suited for someone from medieval times.

Although questions on their relevance have been raised a lot of times, as it is being done now, these do not take into account a very important factor that distinguishes religious from non-religious educational institutes. If the later deals with or ought to deal with improving potential in worldly matters, the former is geared towards or ought to be gathered towards increasing potential in knowing oneself, of matters more metaphysical.

Postlude

Among all the horrors modernity has made humans suffer, it has its positive aspects too. And one of its blessings is increasing possibilities.

While a debate depending on the stance taken by a contender, can be stretched, pulled and twisted in any way, one thing that remains true to all issues is that not all contentions are like apples and oranges. The grey area is where the answers usually lie.

Ignoring religious education as un-educational is nothing less than throwing the baby out with the bath water and claiming that the other kind is a model of perfection, is again, barking up the wrong tree. The present focus should be on increasing the possibilities for the students, despite what kind of education they choose.  A boy studying in a madrassa should be qualitatively as ‘educated’ as a girl studying in a government school.

Major reforms are needed for both religious and state-run educational institutes in the country and politics should be the last factor to base them on.

 

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The Critique Of The Indian Education System

The country's higher education system must be restructured, redesigned, and renewed.

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India, education
India needs a world-class higher educational system Pixabay

India has the third-largest higher educational system in the world. In 2016, there were 799 universities and 39,071 colleges spread across the country. These numbers are staggering. The growth of higher education in India over a little more than half a century has been even more staggering.

Between 1950 and 2014, the number of universities in India increased by 34 times. And, between 1950 and 2013, colleges increased by 74 times.

This quantitative explosion in higher education institutions has not been matched by the quality of the education they provide. In fact, the gap between quantity and quality is so large that it stands as one of the major obstacles in the way of India being a world leader. To become such a leader, India needs to develop a world class higher education system.

India
School Children in India. Pixabay

Two years ago, the Narendra Modi administration attempted to put some focus on quality in higher education with its introduction of draft regulations for a new initiative called the “UGC (Declaration of Government Educational Institutions as World Class Institutions) Guidelines, 2016.” By 2018, when the first six institutions were named under this initiative, they were designated as “Institutions of Eminence” as opposed to “world class institutions”.

Although the label has been changed, the intent remains the same. That is to give considerable discretion to and elevate the status of these institutions. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But, it will do little to address the underlying problems of higher education in India.

This is true because the focus is completely wrong. These universities are the tip of the higher educational iceberg. Enhancing the capacity of a few institutions, thus possibly enabling them to be rated a little higher in the world rankings of higher education institutions, does nothing for the many.

India, education
Smart boards projectors used in government schools enhancing the quality of education. AP Janmabhoomi

That’s not to say that India does not need world class institutions of higher education. It is to say that more, importantly India, needs a world class higher education system.

A world class higher education system is one that is student- or customer-centred rather than institution-centred. It comprises certified and caring institutions that have the resources required and the core mission of ensuring that students/customers acquire the knowledge/skills/abilities and dispositions that they need to achieve their individual goals and to maximise their contribution to society.

India’s current system has been almost exactly the opposite of that. The emphasis has been primarily on a select group of institutions and individuals rather than embracing and addressing the needs of the whole.

There are many steps that must be taken to change this and to make the Indian higher education system world class. They include:

India, education
The higher education system must meet the needs of potential employers and prospective employees.

– Increase public financing. The federal and state governments currently provide limited funding for higher education. As a result, over 70 percent of the higher education institutions are operated by the private sector. These institutions are not well regulated and are of highly variable quality. Public sector financing could be used to support existing public institutions and to establish new ones in regions in which there are limited higher educational opportunities.

– Enhance the infrastructure. Colleges and universities throughout India have inadequate physical settings, lack equipment, and suffer from a shortage of competent teachers. Ensuring that each higher educational institution is infrastructurally sound, establishes the proper environment for learning and growth.

– Expand access to and participation in higher education. The enrollment in higher education is approximately 15 per cent of the eligible population. This percentage needs to be much higher for India to be considered and to become a developed or developing country. It also needs to be representative of the entire population, including females, those from the weaker sectors, and rural areas.

India, education
he emphasis has been primarily on a select group of institutions and individuals

– Enforce standards and requirements appropriately. The announced replacement of the University Grants Commission (UGC) with the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) created considerable debate within and outside of the educational community. The essential question regardless of whether there is an UGC, HECI or some other agency with an acronym. must be: Is the proper data being collected and used to monitor performance and ensure accountability for each institution in the higher education system?

– Place an emphasis on vocational education. The higher education system must meet the needs of potential employers and prospective employees. Currently, there is a mismatch. The higher educational system must equip itself to be the provider of first resort and give the country the skilled workforce it requires.

Also Read: The Biggest Casualty in Yemen’s War- Education

There are many other steps that must be taken, such as addressing politicians controlling many educational institutions, to make India’s higher education system world class. But there must be only one mindset. That mindset must be that the country’s higher education system must be restructured, redesigned, and renewed in a way that benefits all of India and all Indians. (IANS)