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How To Improve India's Education System

The book makes a thought provoking read not only for the informed but also for those trying to simply understand the relationship between society, government and institutions

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In his book Ignited Minds (2002),  A.P.J. Abdul Kalam wrote, “The way to development is through purposeful activity. The young especially have to be guided properly, so that their lives find proper direction and their creativity is allowed to flower. To facilitate this certain educational reforms must be initiated.” It is true, along the years, several changes have been introduced at all levels of education. Yet where does the Indian education system stand today? Has it benefitted, has it regressed and what is the course for the future?

The editors of  Education At The Crossroads’ have presented a varied collection of papers by intellectuals well known in their field, each opening interesting windows. The articles provide a deep insight into the education scenario afflicting institutions today. Any policy maker having an intent to improve the education system or even to understand the realities of it must read the articles presented. The book will also be a good read for anyone interested in the various facets of higher education in terms of policy, implementation, privatization, RTE etc. It initiates the reader who can then advance analyse for themselves. That’s why I use the words ‘windows’. All the authors have been part of esteemed research institution or have headed prominent institutions.

The essay ‘Why Educate’ introduces the narration well. The fundamental question raised by Romila Thapar is, ‘Have we seriously addressed the question of what constitutes education and enquires as to what needs to change to ensure its relevance?’ The question leads one to introspect the conditions afflicting our education system. If the educational policy has to get better results, it is the primary and secondary schooling that needs  improvement, writes Romila Thapar.
Jyotsna Jha’s ‘Private Education India Limited’ brings to the fore the plethora of issues affecting private education at the school level. Her statement that education is increasingly becoming like other industries in which production is increasingly deterritorialised, and parts are procured in bits and assembled by a global firm at high cost hits home a hard reality.

Pushpa Sundar’s ‘The Gift of Knowledge Philanthropy and Higher Education’ reminds us of the enormous contribution private philanthropy has made in Indian education. The article traces the change in private philanthropy over the years and how there is ‘trouble in distinguishing real philanthropic activity from masked profit making’.  Majumdar Mukherjee’s article studies the effects of privatisation in terms of the effect on household expenditures.

Articles discussing diverse scenarios like the role of parenting, socio-economic conditions and gender biases on the educational development of children give an understanding of  how deeply all these factors are interrelated.  Where schools and teachers have understood the home situations of the wards and given due flexibility to accommodate it, there has been better retention of the wards. Issues relating to adolescent girls, sexual harassment are put forth well in ‘Drawing Pictures: A review on the policy and action on adolescent girls’ and ‘A Silent Revolution? Gender, Sexual Harassment and the Democratization of Higher Education’.

While a  majority of the essays reflect the poor scenario of India’s education system mainly stemming due to inflexibility in policy, state meddling, dwindling autonomy and sheer apathy that plagues our system, there are some that offer a refreshing insight into certain other aspects. For instance Manoj Kumar emphasises on teaching poetry in schools. His analysis in ‘The Making of the Hindi Literary Canon and Literary Common Sense’ is an eye opener. Similarly, Indira Chowdhary’s discussion ‘How oral histories help us understand institutional memory’, gives a fascinating insight on the importance of oral narratives.

The book makes a thought provoking read not only for the informed but also for those trying to simply understand the relationship between society, government and institutions.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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book review magazine 22 december 2019

Hema Tiwari Chaturvedi

The author is a freelance writer

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