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What Ails Education?

Tara Ali Baig

By V.V. John
Vikas, New Delhi, 1978, pp. 222, Rs. 50.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 1 July/August 1978

‘The humbug, the waste and the plain stupidity that constitute a distressingly large part of our educational scene today’. This is the basic theme of this provocative collection of essays. Though they relate mostly to higher education, Professor V.V John also makes trenchant comments throughout this book on the dichotomy that still prevails on educational policy and perspectives as a whole. Professor John is a distinguished academician, renowned for his progressive views articulated in many public forums with wit, wisdom and sincerity. This volume constitutes an important docu­ment on a subject of vital importance. No one is satisfied with India’s educational system, least of all parents and students. Since Independence a multitude of Commissions and Com­mittees have been set up on the problems of rural education, women’s education, physical education, moral and religious education, emotional integration, national service, the state of Sanskrit studies, the position of Urdu, the financing of three­-year degree courses, standards of higher education, and the condition of our libraries. We have even had a committee that toured the country extensively ‘to look into the causes for the lack of public support, particularly in rural areas, for girls’ education, and to enlist public cooperation’, and 14 very important National Commissions since 1947 ostensibly to find satisfactory solutions. If the National Policy on Education 1968 tried to supply the answers, it failed signally to do so since only lip-service was paid to the fundamental needs of rural children, to Gandhiji’s Basic Education, which was glorified and ignored, while elitist, urban objectives have continued to dominate the entire educational system. As one observer remarked, ‘Basic education is for other people’s children’. It is also a well· known fact that politicians and Ministers who routinely flay the public school system as ‘upper-class, catering to the needs of the wealthy’ which must be abolished, are in fact the first to seek admission for their children and grandchildren in these very schools. Higher education occupies a dispropor­tionately large sector of the educational spectrum, and according to Professor John, 150,000 men and women are currently teaching in colleges and universities with an annual intake of 6000 into the profes­sion. This is more than ten times the annual recruitment to All-India and Central Services. What is tacitly understood is the fact that universities are a major training ground for political life. Many evils of campus life originate here, and ...

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