Read the following passage and answer the question that follow:
Amidst the increasing clamour for a discourse on educational improvement, on budgetary allocations and retention rates, there is one crucial question which is insufficiently discussed. And the question in this is: what is the purpose of education today? At various times, over the past $100$yr, that question has been answered differently, in colonial India, the official answer would have been, “ to create a cadre of clerks and officials to run the colonial state”, while in a newly decolonized India, the official answer could be, “to create a nationalist sensibility and the national citizen.”
Today, I suspect the official answer to the question about the purpose of education would be,”to give people jobs.” Increasingly the emphasis in education is towards vocationalisation and skills development. In a recent private conversation, the Education Minister of a North Indian state said, “we have a lot of jobs. We just don't have the people skilled enough to do them.We need bio-technologists, fitters, crane operators, nurses and lab assistants. But our education does not prepare young people for what we need. We need to change that.”
Similarly,we find that the Confederation of Indian Industry is showing increasing interest in school education.The CII recently commissioned a study to look at the challenges and opportunities which face the Indian industry and this is its thesis that in the year $2025$, there will be about $40$ million jobs worldwide, which need to be filled, India will be one of the few countries in the world to have a labour surplus of the right age group. It, therefore believes that we need to think about the kinds of education system necessary to develop skills whereby our children will be best equipped to function in this scenario.
Public consensus on the way to improve educational access is increasingly moving towards a public-private partnership. But we must be concerned about the terrible narrowness of the vision for educational improvement which characterizes our discourse. Education, in this picture, is about implanting of useful skills, the assumption being that it will ultimately lead to both personal and national enrichment but as Martha Nussbaum writes, education is not simply a producer of wealth, it is a producer of citizens. Citizens in a democracy need, above all, freedom of mind – to learn to ask searching questions; to reject shoddy historical argument, to imagine alternative possibilities from a globalizing, service and market-driven economy, to think what it might be like be in others’ shoes. Recently, the Israeli novelist,Amos Oz, spoke about the importance of reading novels as what he calls an antidote to hate. He said, “I believe in literature as a bridge between peoples. I believe curiosity can be a moral quality. I believe imagining the other can be an antidote to fanaticism. Imagining the other will make you not only abetter business person or a better lover but even a better person. Part of the tragedy between Jew and Arab is the inability of so many of us, Jews and Arabs, to imagine each other – really imagine each other, the loves,the terrible fears, the anger, the passion. There is too much hostility between us, too little curiosity.”
The skills and thought processes which engender the curiosity, the imagining are associated with the humanities, the arts and literature and despite the splendid interventions in the NCERT’s new textbook for History and Political Science, these areas are terribly neglected. Our dominant conception of worthwhile education is increasingly technical and mechanistic.Thethinking precesses engendered by the social sciences are today seen as quaint, vaguely lefty-intellectual, a kind of quixotic idealism which has very little to do with the real business of life. It is a strange irony that in educational world of Gandhi, Tagore and Aurobindo, there are tragically few voices which assert a more holistic vision.
In the author’s perception,our vision for educational improvement is narrow because our system
- gives importance only to vocationalisation and skills development
- believes in making people earn more so they can stand up to the challenges of a globalizing economy
- does not acknowledge the importance of humanist concepts
- does not support a public-private partnership in improving educational access to everyone