BHARAT KI KHOJ
In 2014, AYUSH - ayurveda, yoga and naturotherapy, siddha and homeopathy, after having upgraded from a status of a department to a full-fledged ministry are since envisioning and approving plans to set up a major Ayurveda Centre – All India Institute of Ayurveda – equivalent of AIIMS in Delhi , to promote the alternate treatment industry in India. Given the political canvas, the push towards promoting ‘traditional’ therapies in understandable, but this ought to be viewed in a larger canvas. The national canvas.
In the same year, it was also announced that continuing the earlier expansion plan of the preceding government, IIT’s and IIM’s will be set up in all states across the country. The idea was to ensure that these "institutes of excellence" that exist as islands are accessible to all. The reactions were split between those who congratulated the proposition and among the peers who deduced that it was almost impossible to achieve this status.
But the lens that still eludes the general purview in the country is the continuing agenda of what constitutes the idea of higher education.
Even far after the establishment of the industrial makeover, the nation has continued to focus and strengthen the higher education sectors pertaining to engineering, education and management. These three sectors that have been impressed upon the nation as stable academic pillars to define INDIA as ‘a new star’, ‘a new hope’ that was promised to rise on the midnight of its independence.
This recurring theme has been so rigorously looked after and has spread so deep within the landscape of the country that today it has become a tradition – of both education and profession. And what does not fit within this formal system have suddenly assumed the names of a parallel or an alternate or a ‘persuasion of a dream! This is not so much a political propaganda passed from one to the other, but a ‘tryst’ between the nation and education "with Destiny"- that decision makers are materialising – so unaware and obscurely.
It was during the second five-year plan of Independent India where the establishment of modern-day nation was being envisioned that find its roots in today’s higher education system. To establish development and supply of trained personnel saw the rooting of the Indian Institute of Technology as well as the REC (Regional Engineering Colleges). At the same time to manage people in the in public sector enterprises saw the birth of Indian Institute of Management. In tandem was the establishment of the first All India Institute of Medical Sciences. All a spin-off of the industrial policy agenda.
Unlike the management school, education in engineering and medicine long superseded the time frame of independence. But only in 1956, with the establishment of IIT Kharagpur, was the term ‘institute of national importance’ coined. That according to the then Prime Minister's words was representing India's urges, India's future in the making. This picture seems to me symbolical of the changes that are coming to India.” A picture that till today resonates the only symbol of ‘making future’. So much so that a leading political leader recently remarked “Had Nehru spent crores on a statue and not on IIT, I would have been on the streets.”
Well, there is no denial that with the changing face of the world, India as a developing nation had to invest effectively into the domains of technology and innovation to supplement the demands and secure the future. A cursory glance at the ‘public institutions’ in the country as well as a listing of the institutes of national importance today is a testimony to this recurring investment. A phenomenon that on one side exercises an image of a future, while important, the other side expresses imbalance and blindness.
The question here thereby is directed to those policymakers and visionaries as to why has not the nation focused with equal rigour on educational fields such as mathematics, physics, art, design and even law? Are there enough institutes to provide education for the same, or is it that it does not require attention? The answer may find its bearing in the idea of image making of a nation and development. But then how does one portray a 'developing nation'? A canvas painted by contributions of engineers, doctors, managers and technologists, and by erasing imprints of lawyers, physicists, biologists, social scientists and literary workers who brought the nation its independence!
“Papa Kehate Hain Bada Nam Karega,; Koi Engineer Kaa Kam Karega, Business Me Koi Apna Nam Karega”(Father says that you will make a name; either working as an Engineer; or doing well in business) the classic song from the late 1980’s movie best captures the pulse of every parent in the household of a nation . Across classes, across decades, across masses - every parent wants their son or daughter to either pursue engineering, medicine or management. For even today, they remain the only field through which the astuteness of an individual is evaluated.
At the individual level, this prompts an immediate reaction to point a finger at these parents and state that they are ‘spoiling the dreams’ of their children by thrusting their own choices. It is valid – each of us in some capacity have either faced or seen others face it. But is it really their ‘aspiration’ or are they merely following that the nation wants to pursue! If at the national level – one is creating important institutions and opportunities just for a particular sector; what else will an individual be prompted to aspire? What is the point of blaming the individual, if for once you don’t question the nation?
On the other hand, the society, has managed to create a distinct difference between the normative and the alternate. A certain elitist bias has crept towards individual’s either studying medicine, management or engineering. And on contrary, most often they are looked down upon in a dismissive manner or at best acknowledged in a passing reference by those who don’t pursue the normal trajectory. A response arising from a sense of (mostly a false one) certain achievement by choosing a different field of study from the ones currently determined as a norm.
At the day to day level, especially when it comes to education as individuals, as families, as a community we are either making decisions out of pressure arising from the demand supply chain, or by merely making choices to ‘stand out of the rest’ – both not the best ways of shaping an individual's career, or even importantly the growth of the nation. Both in fact are just reactions to a system that is indeed flawed. But rather than (at any level) questioning it or even trying to address it, we are standing aloof and choosing the best possible manner to play ‘victim’ to this system.
With the focus of the nation resting primarily on innovation, invention, technology and management the other benefactors of this set up are the private bodies that entered this set up. Initially to supplement but then to cash in on the opportunity. The result is the unaccountable number of private engineering, medical and management colleges and institutions that are mushrooming and nestling in all tiers of cities across the country. Where the impetus is structured not so much on development but that on production. An equation that, over the years, has started questioning the credibility of education imparted as well as the quality of students entering these professions.
The resultant is that - imagination of the nation still rests heavily on trusting and upholding the public institutions those are scrutinised under the ‘government acts’ are more capable than those run by private bodies or societies. And, to an extent rightfully so. Even though today there are questions raised on the mannerism in which even these notable public institutions are conducting education. So, the nation cashes upon this imagination as well. Located even deeper into the strata of the cities are ‘coaching classes’ that are focused to ensure admissions in the public institutions in a chosen hierarchical manner. A further corrosion on the imbalanced education profile that render the nation.
Well, blame it on the education itself. After all, people who are encouraging such deep seeded patterns of catching up with the nation are the product of the same system.
As a country we are currently trapped in this system where on one hand there are mechanisms to open one new institution after the other (as a profitable business model); increasing the number of intake and even collating heads in the name of teachers but in no way are there reforms to better the quality of the education system of these institutes that are primarily oriented to the so called vision and progression as laid out by the nation.
Even if one was to say that the only impetus to the country in the next decade or so will be the continued focus of engineering, medicine and management, then least what is required is a proper education foundation, and not an act of setting up more institutes – to curtail the ocean of mediocrity that looms large over the technical education sector in the country.
India as a country has been built on curating and creating skilled individuals that at once are capable to deliver to the demands of the world and provide professional services based on the needs of the country. This has been the foundation of every planning commission that has investigated the progression of the country. But it is time where the progression is not only evaluated on how well the country is able to provide service for but also how much it is able to engage within.
And here lies (may be) the most important reform – to create a nation that has an equal distribution, if not equal then a well distributed education of national institutes that are themselves invigorating as well as have the potential of galvanising the country. Institutes under specific act built towards literature, pure sciences, arts and liberal arts, design, heritage, communication, social sciences, law, politics etc. Branches of those education whose outcome is not always seen as a tangible result to measure growth but are able to stimulate growth.
There are of course very few noted institutions providing education in these fields, but they are few and far.
The result of which is that not every individual in the country is aware, not everyone’s imagination equally held by these dotted institutes and hence not part of every parent’s dream, not every child’s reality. At the same pace as every state is being awarded a technical educational facility by the ministry even these fields need to be brought into attention.
Can the individual sitting on the desk – you or I, do anything to make this change or demand this. Yes we can, by bringing these branches of learning into attention. But importantly, attention to education is not brought about by demeaning the other, by discouraging the obvious and most importantly not by dreaming for the other. We can bring it only into attention by opening the doors of opportunities for the one next, for the one who must decide and if possible, for the one who is envisioning INDIA. As they say, “Kholo Kholo Darwaze, Parde Karo Kinare; Khutey Se Bandhi Hai Hawa, Mil Ke Chudao Saare” (Open the doors, put the curtains aside, the wind is trapped behind a stopper, get together and let it out) - Taare Zaamein Par, 2007.