Contradictory Trends in the Development of Indian Education

One side, government schools are getting closed due to the shortage of students. On the other side, government is pumping in huge resources into the education sector. This is because of the very late realization of the government that education is the life-line of nation’s development. A government which succumbs to the pressures from different quarters is extremely dangerous for the public welfare and its very existence itself.. From eighties till 2007, state investment into the education sector was steadily declining. This was due to the multiple reasons. Primarily more than fifty percent of the Indian income was going into the interest payments. In the period of license permit raj, all the vital stakeholders were hand in glove and completely ignored the significance of education. In this merry go round, there were no genuine advisors for the government to develop the education system. In comparison, the Nehru era was instrumental in establishing the world renowned institutions like AIIMS, IITs, IIMS, ISRO, RECS (now NITs). Such visionaries who planned and aided the path breaking education system were missing in the post 80s. It was the greedy private business houses in tandem with the power brokers who dominated the scene.

Rajiv Gandhi was giving a lonely voice to develop the information technology. The I.T education brought glory and put the nation in the eyes of the world. But the rest of the education sector was left ailing. The dream projects of Rajiv Gandhi such as Navodaya Vidyalayas did not take off as desired. Operation Blackboard, adult literacy programs evoked some responses but not sizeable. This may be because of the state leaders who lacked vision to develop the education. In the post Mandal phase, emergence of OBC leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav in the Hindi heartland gave identity to subaltern communities but not adequate education. They conveniently ignored the development of basic education. Identity politics combined with all round corruption completely paralyzed the growth of crucial phase of national development.

From the unproductive debates about the necessity of basic education versus higher education to the privatization of education more than two decades of precious time was wasted. Vested interests were compelling the governments of various periods from post eighties to keep away from the education.  It is to the credit of governments in the past three decades that the voices of vested interests were not fully followed. Had it implemented the advices of the vested interests, India could have lost completely  in the global development race. 

The success of Indians in fixing the Y2K bug, literary breakthroughs through Booker Prize wins; strong footprints in NASA, dominance in Microsoft and other software mammoths compelled the world to celebrate the Indian talents. When the world was singing the Indian talent tunes, Indian government could not afford to just watch the show. It jumped into the bandwagon of Indian talent jubilation. The UPA government appointed the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) under Sam Pitroda to unleash the human capital. On the recommendations of the NKC, Central University, AIIMS, IIT, IIM and IIIT  are established in each state. Now enormous funds are pouring in but the quality has been conveniently compromised.

The Indian education has passed through community driven to commercialized to now aggressive state funded stages. In all these stages, quality has been conveniently compromised. Education without quality is like body without life. Immediate surgery is needed to save the education. If it is not done now then India may see its vitality vanishing in the world stage sooner or later.  It is not one surgery, but three crucial ones. First, the debate about private or state controlled education must end. It is both state and private driven state. Government cannot exploit the private education players with the help of constitution and legal actions. The private players must get reasonable payments for their services. Now it is either too high or too low. This arbitrariness must go.  Second, corruption must end. With high corruption from head to toe, Indian education cannot achieve its purpose. Third, the habit of quality compromise has to go.