India has been a global learning center since ancient times. It is historical fact that students as far as China and Middle East countries used to come to study here. Taxila and Nalanda with thousands of books and best teachers were considered as the best universities where thousands of students were provided facilities of stay and study for years the subjects of their choice. Upon return to their native countries they used to spread far and wide the knowledge gained here.
The Varna system damaged the free flow of education among masses as learning and teaching was left to a few people in the society and the intellectual growth almost came to a standstill. If anything was written, it was based largely on myths and books containing such content decisively stunted the growth of human mind. At the time of Industrial Revolution and Renaissance in the world, the enslaved India was ruled by monarchies, founders of which came from foreign countries. During the time of Mughal Empror Akbar, the epics like Ramayana were being written in local language which further strengthened the enslavement of women, shudras and untouchables as they were equated with animals. Nowhere in the world at that time, the human values and especially the status of women were so degraded as in India.
Then came the British rule and western education system. Lord Macaulay studied and gave India a new education system which was implemented after 1857, when India came fully under their tutelage. The British rulers discarded the indigenous Madrasas and Gurukuls and established their own system of school education and the students educated so were taken as employees under the British rule. The Brahmins , the most educated class already in service, switched over to the system of English schools and came to occupy the government posts wherever the colonial rulers found difficult to appoint Englishmen due to shortage of manpower. This led to permanent closure of Gurukul system and no alternative system was developed by the Brahamnical class.
In the courts, offices, police thanas, revenue collection offices etc. only Brahmins were to be seen in the government offices to assist the British way of governance. Basically, they became a part of British culture and started looting the locals in a very brutal way. The best description of the looting of locals by Brahmins can be seen in Ramachandra Guha’s book ‘Makers of Modern India’, in the chapter on Mahatma Jyoti Rao Phule. It was Mahatma Phule and his wife Mata Savitri Bai Phule that social reform in women education and the education of the backward classes (Shudras) started taking place during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Phule even managed to get grants for the government schools from the British government where students from backward classes and the untouchables used to study.
In 1902, a revolutionary change took place in the State of Kolhapur where Maharaja Shahu ji Maharaj in announced that 50% government jobs would be reserved for backward classes and the untouchables. He faced a tough resistance from Brahmins who enjoyed a complete monopoly over the jobs in the then administration. Lokmanya Tilak, himself a Chitpawan Brahmin and his newspaper ‘Kesari’ tried its best to force the Maharaja to reverse his decision. But Shahu ji Maharaj stood by his decision and announced that whosoever unhappy with his orders wass free to leave the State of Kolhapur.
A turning point in the history happened in 1906 when the first boy from the oppressed class of the untouchables, later known as Dr. BR Ambedkar, passed the Matriculation examination from the then Bombay. It was then Maharaja of Baroda, Siya ji Maharaj granted a scholarship to him and subsequently he graduated from Bombay, then went to USA and England for higher studies. His contribution in the nation building, emancipation of the Indian women, as a law maker and architect of modern India including being an icon of the Untouchables is a different story. Mere mention of Dr. Ambedkar is enough to highlight the paramount importance of education in one’s life and making the country strong.
Now coming to the status of education in our country, it is suffice to say that Hindu Varna system and caste system ruined our society and the country by becoming the major cause of our enslavement for for centuries. In 1901, the literacy rate of India was 5.4%. By the time British left, it rose to 16%. But during 73 years of Independence, we have failed to achieve complete literacy in our country whereas during the same time span countries like South Korea, which got Independence in 1945, have achieved 100% literacy and 20 times more per capita income than India.
As per the NSO report, the literacy rate in India is nearly 77% in 2020. Why India is slow in education of masses and especially in quality education of our students? The caste biases are one reason, the liberalization of 1992s is the second most important reason. It has made the education a business and not the human resource development parameter. Thirdly, a very significant reason is the non-seriousness of the ruling parties in implementation of the provisions of the Constitution of India which envisage adequate representation to backward classes including Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in all walks of life.
The higher judiciary, the universities and the autonomous institutions of education are without the OBC, SC and ST representation. In 98 years of Delhi University’s history, not even a single Vice-Chancellor has been appointed from SC or ST category. During first few decades after the Independence, the bias in the appointments of teachers and VCs posts reflected in refrains like candidate ‘not available’ which has now changed to ‘available but not suitable’. How can India ignore the aspirations of 80% of its population from the socially and economically oppressed categories and for how long? On the Quality Education Index , India is ranked 112th among 153 countries in a survey conducted in 2018. As many as 25 universities have been detected by the University Grants Commission (UGC) as fake universities. It is learnt that in 54 Central Universities none of the Vice Chancellor is from a reserved category.
Under the RTI Act, the UGC submitted information on January 5, 2018 that out of 496 Vice-Chancellors appointed by the Government of India, only 6 belong to the SC, 6 to the ST and 36 to the OBC category against constitutionally grantyed representation of 80 from the SC, 40 from the ST and 360 from Backward Classes. Who is eating into this quota and why India is low on the quality index of education are the questions which must not be left unaddressed.
What should be the remedy then?
The answer lies in the immediate need adoption of the pattern of All India Services at all levels, in all services including education services and higher judiciary. Let there be recruitment at a young age with requisite qualifications at university level as Lecturers, their promotion as Assistant Professors and Professors from amongst whom Vice-Chancellors of universities should be chosen to ensure adequate representation to the OBC, SC and ST categories. There is no other way to demolish the nepotism and other biases which are keeping India low at every level.
It is high time that modern day rulers understood that the education system plagued by casteism and Varna system will continue to keep the country backward in education. The elected representatives from the OBC,SC and ST categories must unite irrespective of their party affiliations to put pressure on the ruling party that introduction of All India Education Services is in the interest of the country which will lead to the fulfillment of the Constitutional obligation. The coming generations should not be made to feel that we took the country backward by ignoring the needs of time. No nation can move without quality education and new methods must be tried as the time tested practices have failed to yield the desired results of the nation building in true sense of the word and in accordance with the vision of the Constitution makers.
The lip service in the form of new Acts like Right To Education have not changed the bias-ridden ground realities. The best example in this case is the Punjab where not even a single student has been enrolled under the new RTE Act since its enactment. The new laws will not help unless they are passed and implemented in letter and spirit. There is no assurance to the SC, ST and OBC categories under the New Education Policy 2020 regarding their representation.
Dr. Ambedkar, while speaking on the adoption of the Constitution of India on November 26, 1949, told the Constituent Assembly, “However good the Constitution may be , if the people implementing it will not be good, the good Constitution will prove to be a bad Constitution . And however bad it may be, it will prove to be a good Constitution if the people implementing it will be good people”.
In my view, going by the present state of education our politicians have, through their conduct so far, proved Dr. Ambedkar concern right. To ensure social, economic and political justice as enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution of India, Indian Education Service (IES) on the pattern of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is the need of the hour.
The author is a retired IAS officer of Punjab cadre and Incharge of the NGO, PAGAAM Punjab & Chandigarh region.Disclaimer: Opinion/facts in this article are author's own and famepunjabi.in does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.