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Special Report: Education
Author # Title:  Click to visit article
Soumendranath Tagore 1 Excerpts from 'Chapter II: Rammohun and Educational Reforms' ;in 'Rammohun Roy: His Role in Indian Renaissance'; The Asiatic Society, 1975; page 79 to 85.
Rammohun's contributions to educational reforms; his methodology that lead to success even when pitted against the virulent prejudices of the prevalent society on the one hand, and the might of the British Empire on the other.
Amartya Sen 2 Education and economic growth: The three Rs as levers of change'; first appeared in The Statesman on Wednesday, 26 August 1964, and reprinted in 'Perspective' dated October 19, 1998; page 9.
Amartya Sen 3 'Education is the cradle of economic success'; excerpts from an interview during a recent visit to Calcutta, published in The Telegraph on 15th October,1998; front page.
Amartya Sen 4 'Undue sacrifice of primary education'; first appeared in The Statesman on Wednesday, 19 April 1967, and reprinted in 'Perspective' dated October 21, 1998; page 9.
The Statesman 5 'Toppers keen on seeking future abroad';report dated Sept. 4, 1998, on the front page.
Reports the dissatisfaction of this year's Higher Secondary Exams toppers with the educational facilities for higher studies; why they want to go abroad, and the complacency and hypocrisy of the education establishment towards this preventable brain drain.
Gretchen Goodale 6 Excerpts from 'Training in the context of Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Development'; Chapter Six; 'Empowerment: Towards Sustainable Development', edited by Naresh Singh and Vangile Titi; Fernwood Publishing Ltd, 1995; page 829.
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Preamble:
Today, especially in Bengal, things are going terribly wrong. Many people believe it is because of the moribund bureaucracy - government, institutional, private ... whatever - that is responsible for this unacceptable state of affairs.

The objective of 'Stop'n Look!' is to throw the searchlight on the problems created by those people who are thriving in an obsolete bureacratic system - at our expense. We compile information from the media, as well as first-hand reports from our correspondents, that show how callous our elders have become.

You will be the ultimate judge of our future direction.

Viva la vox populi!

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Special Report: Corruption (Public Life)
1. Chapter II: Rammohun and Educational Reforms' by Soumendranath Tagore; in 'Rammohun Roy: His Role in Indian Renaissance'; The Asiatic Society, 1975; page 14 to 25.
As Rammohun believed that the highest realization of man was built not on a supernatural, metaphysical foundation, but rested on man's consciousness, and so he was always eager to arouse this inner consciousness of his countrymen through general enlightenment. It is true that at no stage were the people in India totally illiterate - as there was always the village tol to impart some rudimentary ideas about reading, writing and arithmetic - the prevalent systems of education were not calculated to enlighten the mind or infuse a spirit of inquiry. It was Rammohun who first realized that these systems of education were totally inadequate to meet the requirements of a society which had any expectation to measure up to standards of the enlightened countries of his days. The existing 'Sanskrit' system of education could at best load the minds of the youth with grammatical niceties and metaphysical distinctions of little or no practical use to the society. Besides, the Sanskrit language itself - the vehicle of this education - was very difficult for the common people to learn. This alone, in no small measure, had checked the spread of knowledge and learning in India for ages. The Sanskrit system of education, Rammohun felt, was best calculated to keep his countrymen in ignorance and darkness.

But before we consider the ideas and contributions of Rammohun in the realm of education, it is necessary to trace back history, and discuss the efforts that were being made by the Government and other agencies for the education of the Indians.

Prior to the establishment of the Calcutta Madrassa by Warren Hastings in 1781, hardly any efforts had been made by the East India Company to assume any responsibility for the spread of education among the Indian people. The Calcutta Madrassa was set up with the primary intention to promote the study of the Arabic and Persian languages, and a deeper understanding of Mohammedan law. The ultimate objective was to produce qualified men for the existing law courts.

The next educational institution established by the Government was the Benaras Sanskrit College in 1792. This college was set up by the Resident of Benaras, Mr. Jonathan Duncan, to employ "usefully" the large amounts of revenue supplies available. The objective behind its establishment was the preservation and cultivation of laws, literature and scriptures of the Hindus - particularly their laws. Both these institutions were formed with the basic objective of producing scholars who could help European judges in understanding and appreciating traditional law and dispensing justice. But oriental learning  as such did not receive any appreciable patronage until 1811, when Lord Minto, the then Governor General, seized with the apprehension that the revival of oriental learning had little chance of success, took the initiative to recommend the long felt need of reform of the Sanskrit College of Benaras to ensure greater diffusion of knowledge among the people. He proposed the establishment of two similar institutions in Trihut and Nuddea. Although this recommendation was accepted by the authorities in England, nothing further was done till 1821 when it was brought up once again as part of the general question of Hindu learning. It was ultimately decided in 1821 to establish in calcutta an institution similar to the one at Benaras. Mr H H Wilson, the great Orientalist, first mooted the idea and his proposal was readily accepted by the Government.

Rammohun, on the other hand, since settling down at Calcutta, advocated the need for the spread of education in a direction entirely different from the one followed by the authorities.

Rammohun's approach towards the nature of the educational system was clearly stated in his famous letter of December 11, 1823 to Lord Amherst, in which Rammohun wrote:

    "We now find that the Government are establishing a Sanskrit school under Hindu Pandits to impart knowledge as is already current in India. This seminary (similar in character to those which existed in Europe before the time of Lord Bacon) can only be expected to load the minds of youth with grammatical niceties and metaphysical distinctions of little or no practical use to society. The pupils will there acquire what was known two thousand years ago, with the addition of vain and empty subtleties since produced by speculative men such as is already commonly taught in all parts of India. If it had been intended to keep the British nation in ignorance of knowledge, the Baconian philosophy would not have been allowed to displace the system of the schoolmen, which was best calculated to perpetuate ignorance. In the same manner, the Sanskrit system of education [my emphasis - S.T.] would be best calculated to keep this country in darkness, if such has been the policy of the British legislature.
    "But as the improvement of the British native population is the object of the Government, it will consequently promote a more liberal and enlightened system of instruction, embracing mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry and anatomy with other useful sciences which may be accomplished with the sum proposed by employing a few gentlemen of talent and learning educated in Europe, and providing a college furnished with the necessary books, instruments and other apparatus."
Bishop Heber, the Metropolitan of India, put this letter in the hands of Lord Amherst. However, Mr J H Harrison, the then President of the General Committee of Public Instruction, in the typical bureaucratic fashion commented on this letter that it was entitled to no reply. It is interesting to note that in the Report of the Education Commission appointed by Lord Ripon in 1882, it was however stated:
    "It took twelve years of controversy, the advocacy of Macaulay, and the decisive action of a new Governor-General, before the Committee could, as a body, acquiesce in the policy urged by him (Rammohun)."
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2. Education and economic growth: The three Rs as levers of change' by Amartya Sen ;first appeared in The Statesman on Wednesday, 26 August 1964, and reprinted in 'Perspective' dated October 19, 1998; page 9.
In a recent study on education and economic growth, Professors Harbison and Myers classify 75 countries in the world in four groups according to  their "levels of human resource development", "under-developed", "partially developed", "semi advanced" and "advanced". In this classification India is put flatteringly in the "semi advanced" group, in the company of such countries as Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Norway. In terms of income per head, India is much behind every other country in this group.

It is possible to make a number of criticisms of Harbison's and Myers's method of classification, which is based on a weighted index of the enrollment ratios for secondary and higher education but their exercise does serve the purpose of pointing out that in the development of secondary and higher education we are considerably ahead of other poor countries.

In view of this one might be tempted to suggest that the development of education cannot really play a very creative part in Indian economic advance because we are already ahead of other under-developed countries in this respect, though behind them in other fields. This conclusion, however, is too hasty.

Harbison and Myers chose to construct their indices by taking secondary and higher education, but if they had taken primary education, they would have placed India in a lower group. Not only is our literacy rate one of the lowest in the world; our current effort towards reducing this gap is still far from satisfactory.

PRIMARY LEVEL GAP
Figures of the ministry of education suggest that by 1960-61, the proportion of people of the elementary school-going age who actually went to such schools was 62 %, and the ratio is supposed to be somewhat higher now. These are low figures, because unless the ratio come closer to 100%, we cannot really expect to have universal literacy for many decades. Besides, the official figures seem to overstate our achievements, and other sources put the enrollment ratio much lower. Since the official figures are collected from that have some interest in overstating the enrollment ratio (government grants to school depend on enrollment), there is a systematic bias introduced in the official figures. So while the situation represented by the official figures is depressing enough, the actual position seems to be even worse.

The sharp contrast between our achievements in the field of higher education and our poverty in the field of elementary education is extremely significant in the context of India's economic performance. Behind our overall economic growth of around three and a half percent lies a rate of growth of industries of well over seven per cent (in the case of most modern industries, more nearly 15%), combined with a sluggish agriculture.

Our industrial productivity is still low, but there is no doubt that the essential process of learning to grow into an industrial civilization has already begun in the Indian economy. But in agriculture we are still far behind even the first stage of learning. Agricultural productivity per acre remains dismally low, much lower than even in other Asian countries, not to mention countries further away from us.

The two problems that make such a mess of our agriculture are poverty of material inputs and the inefficient systems of ownership and cultivation. There is no dearth of labor, and for the same reason there is little need for laborsaving equipment like tractors and threshing machines.

But there is need for water where water is scarce, and the need for fertilizers and pesticides is perhaps even greater. That this requires a massive expansion of industries which provide material inputs to agriculture is obvious.

What is more difficult to see, though no less true, is the link between all this and the peasants' education, motivation and skill. There have been cases where even the small amounts of modern inputs for agriculture that we produce today have not been  properly used. And when we start producing these commodities on a massive scale, as we must very soon, the wastage may increase many times.

There is an ever closer link between the two aspects, given the nature of the Indian political economy. Governed by day-to-day political pressures, the government has shown itself ready to give its full attention to a problem only when there has been a strong public clamor for it. The peasants' lack of motivation and interest in demanding modern inputs has contributed considerably to official lethargy in this field.

MODERN INPUTS
The first Five Year Plan made little provision for fertilizers. The second Plan laid some emphasis upon it, but when the time for pruning came, fertilizers did not find a place in the crucial "core" of the plan. The third Plan has started to redress the balance to some extent but it is still scratching at the surface of the big problem.

The same is true of pesticides. It is not sufficient for a few planners to recognize the the need for a massive expansion of modern inputs to agriculture. The peasants themselves must demand it, agitate for it, for in the Indian polity pressure is the main means of achievement.

This brings us to another drag on Indian agriculture - the unjust and unproductive systems of property ownership. Laws on land reform were rapidly made after Independence. The big landlords, with very few exceptions, were squeezed out, but the small landlords remained; none of them holding enormous areas of land, collecting perhaps more interest than the big landlord but a great deal less than the land-owning peasant.

Through a variety of means such as benami holdings, occasional visits to the field and through sharecropping the small non-cultivating landlord has come to stay in Indian agriculture. He is the big problem in the expansion of our agriculture, for while the big landlord was the keystone in an edifice of injustice, the small landlord is the key figure in robbing the cultivator of incentive to improve his land.

Even the under-utilization of irrigational opportunities can be largely blamed on him. The government has been fairly helpless in dealing with the small non-cultivating landlords, and while it can do a little more it cannot do much until the peasants and cultivators agitate and provide the initiative which would pave the way for the decline of the small non-cultivating owners.

In both these field education has a crucial role to play and in both these fields our lack of emphasis on elementary education has cost us much. Our relative success in the industries and failure in agriculture are not unrelated to our success in expanding secondary and higher education rapidly, and failure to achieve satisfactory expansion in primary education, especially rural primary education.

READABLE MATERIAL
While it is often pointed out, correctly, that literature is only a small part of education, it does not seem to be adequately recognized that it opens up other possibilities of education in a way nothing else does. The complaint is often heard that the Indian rural youth who is lucky enough to learn his letters forgets them rapidly once he leaves school. This is not surprising, for there is very little literature today in India that a rural youth can easily get a hold of and that he can read with interest and profit.

It is not sufficient to leave the rural boy with some knowledge of letters and a couple of boring textbooks indicating the position of the cat on the mat. In all countries where the rapid spread of rural education has been achieved, discussions on vital political, economic and social questions have played an important part.

This is true not only of Communist countries but also of others such as the UAR. A more purposive educational policy can bridge a vital gap in the Indian rural community. If the peasant does not use much fertilizer because he is suspicious of it, and does not make full use of the irrigational facilities because he does not have permanency in the land he cultivates, expansion of rural education can play a vital part in solving these problems.

If the expansion of rural is accepted as an integral part of India's economic development, and not as a luxury to be indulged in as circumstances permit, a generous allocation of resources for this should not be grudged. Luckily the foreign exchange content of a scheme of massive expansion of rural education is low, and if well planned it may not even make a great demand on domestic resources such as steel and cement. 

The main requirement for this activity is secondary and higher educated men and women, one of the few resources we have in plenty. Thanks, however, to the low wages paid to teachers - lower perhaps than in any country - we have not succeeded in attracting many good people to this field. In view of the crucial importance of rural education, the cost involved in raising the salary of teachers even several times their present level would certainly be in order, considering the benefits that would accrue.

What we need in the Fourth Five Year Plan is a bold plan of rural educational expansion to bring life into rural society. We have, luckily, the resources to do it, thanks to our developed base of secondary and higher education.

If we still hesitate to make adequate use of our resources for fear of having to pay high salaries to teachers so as to attract people to the rural areas, we shall prove to the world that we richly deserve the trouble in which we find ourselves today.

DISCUSSIONS:

Editorial Comments made at the beginning of the article:
That Indian planning erred in its over-emphasis on physical capital at the cost of investment in human resources, especially in universal primary education, is a widely accepted assessment today. In the mid-1960s, however, this was by no means an academic/policy consensus, and Amartya Sen's was one of the few strongly dissenting voices. This contribution reflects his belief in the liberating effects of education. He pointed out that teachers at primary levels are paid shameful salaries. They still are.

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3. 'Education is the cradle of economic success', by Amartya Sen; Excerpts from an interview during a recent visit to Calcutta, published in The Telegraph on 15th October, 1998; front page.
Q: You have been the most consistent voice on the importance of education in the development of a nation. But of late, your ideas appear to have become particularly relevant. Globally, education is now considered to be the vital key to the wealth of nations. Why this new focus?

A: Well, the reason could be that the economies that have been the most successful in the recent development of world trade, namely Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and now China, have all been very oriented towards education. Learning from their experience, education has been emphasized. Unfortunately, in India, education is still a neglected and under appreciated virtue.

Q: Why do you think this is so? Is it a public policy failure?

A: There has certainly been a public policy failure, whatever else it might be. I think one of the minimal duties of the State is to provide basic education across the population. And this has been widely recognized across the world. For some centuries now, somehow, a skepticism about the importance of basic education has been quite strong in India and it certainly did translate into neglect of this part of public policies.

Q: What about the political parties?

A: I was particularly struck by the skepticism among the Left wing political leaders in the 1960s, some of whom were friends of mine. In fact one of the real achievements of the communist countries was precisely the expansion of basic literacy.
But somehow, that did not translate into Left wing commitment in India, with the exception of Kerala where left movements were a successor to the anti-upper caste movements which treated education as a great leveler and the communist movement inherited that. Elsewhere in India, including West Bengal, not only is there a shocking neglect of education by right wing parties (that is often the case across the world) but also by the Left parties - a rather peculiar feature of Indian politics.

Q: But now basic education is a fundamental right and there's a lot more expenditure in this sphere. Do you think this is just a populist stance?

A: Since I have been agitating for this so many years I welcome the move, in so far as this is an indication of a new commitment and some recognition of past failures. On the other hand, this does not in itself make a basic change in the situation. A right is only something you can invoke if you are suing another party, in this case, the government. So, the value of it isn't that great.
Still, it is an important gesture, even if it is a populist one.

Q: Do you think there is something fundamentally wrong in our social values and attitudes towards education?

A: I think there is a fundamental flaw in the Indian value system on the subject of education. In particular, the hold of elitism. In the dominant religions of India, Hinduism and Islam, there's a kind of intermediary between the individual and god - the Brahmin in one case and the maulavi in the other. That has the effect of making education not only important for the priesthood but also a prerogative of that group. Contrast it to the Buddhist culture where intermediaries are not encouraged. In Buddhist countries, therefore, the level of literacy has always been higher. Look at Sri Lanka, Thailand, Japan.

Q: Unlike many of your contemporaries you have always been a teacher. What has been your motivation?

A: Well, I think that's a rather complex question. I was born in Santiniketan. My father was a teacher, so was my grandfather and we were in a household where teaching seemed to be the natural thing to do. So, I guess, teaching was my obvious option. It is, in fact, a very important part of my life, not just a way of practicing a profession. I revel in being a teacher.

Q: You have been teaching abroad for a long time now. But your concerns are generally the developing world and especially India. How have you matched the two?

A: I have never been far away from India for very long. For various reasons I have continued to teach abroad. Originally, it was for medical reasons, as I had cancer at a young age. Now, I am well settled. I find the particular equilibrium I now have, whereby I teach abroad but also come home very often and join in the debates and discussions here, to be a good balance.
The pattern of my work has not been guided by my location. I did most of my technical economic work which was not related to  India when I was a professor at the Delhi School of Economics in the '60s. Similarly, I have done more India-related work since I have been abroad. So for me, location is not a barrier.

Q: As a teacher in Western Universities, have you ever felt that you have been orating into a void? Are your students really interested about your concerns for the developing world?

A: Some of my students are interested, some aren't. Some are working on technical economic problems, dealing with social choice theory, utility theory, sometimes with modern ethics, logic, epistemology. And these may or may not relate to India. But I also taught courses in development. There of course I got students who are very interested in India. But, generally, I have always had students of different kinds.
I think variety is quite a good thing. I don't consider one course to be adequate for the whole meal. Sometimes I ask myself whether there was anything in particular that I learnt when I was a student in Santiniketan. I think, one of the things I did learn was the importance of variety in life. I think, that has affected me in all kinds of ways, including the fact that I taught all kinds of subjects: economics, philosophy, political science, mathematical logic, law and so on. And I enjoy that.

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4. 'Undue sacrifice of primary education', by Amartya Sen first appeared in The Statesman on Wednesday, 19 April 1967, and reprinted in 'Perspective' dated October 21, 1998; page 9.
Cost figures are obviously relevant if the pattern of education in India has to be determined. According to the Education Commission Report, if we look at the relative expenses of education at different categories, the average annual cost per pupil is estimated to be Rs 328 for undergraduate studies in arts and commerce, and Rs 1,167 for that in science and vocation training. This has to be compared with Rs 30 per pupil per year in lower primary education. That is, when we decide to give undergraduate education to one or more persons in arts and commerce, we sacrifice resources equivalent roughly to the that needed for 11 persons primary education. A person in science and vocation training absorbs each year resources equal to 39 persons' lower primary education. The seriousness of the gross over-estimation of the higher educated manpower requirements can be fully appreciated only in this context.

The contrast is even sharper with post-graduate education. Figures of estimated costs are given only for 1975-76 and 1985-86. In 1975-76, the cost of educating a person in post-graduate arts and commerce for a year is expected to be Rs 3,000, and that in science and vocation Rs 5,000. They imply sacrifices of resources equivalent to the lower primary education respectively of 58 and 96 persons the cost of that per pupil per year being estimated to be Rs 52. It is to be noted further that post-graduate education is the only field where acceleration, as opposed to slowing down, is planned and that even without any direct manpower estimates.

Lower Social Rungs
We must bear in mind, in this context, the fact that the people receiving primary education come by and large from much poorer sections of the community than those receiving graduate and post-graduate education. The productivity of post-graduate education has to be extremely high to compensate for both its strikingly higher costs as well as the unfavorable income distribution effects involved in supporting higher education vis-a-vis primary education. The over-estimation of the manpower requirement of different categories of higher educated labor should thus be a cause for much concern.

It may, however, be said that all these comparisons are meaningless since primary education is not being held up by lack of resources. This will, however, not be correct, as the Education Commission itself indicates in a variety of places in the Report. But more important than this, the Education Commission seems to have been involved in some considerable quantitative errors in calculating the actual amount of primary education that is being imparted today.

The enrollment figures in lower primary education that are given e.g.. 55% in 1960-61 and 69% in 1965-66, are taken from sources in Ministry of Education. The figures for 1960-61 seem to much higher than the corresponding figures estimated by the Census of 1961. Which of the two sets of figures is nearer reality? My own inclination would be to go by  the Census figures since its methods are much more scientific than the estimates that provide the basis of the calculations by the Ministry of Education. For one thing, the figures of the Ministry of Education take too little notice of dropouts. For another there is an unholy connection between the data gathering by the Ministry of Education and the financial grants given to different schools on the basis of number of pupils.

There is therefore a built-up bias towards over reporting the enrollment in schools in general, including that in primary education. Therefore the Education Commission is probably unduly optimistic in assuming that in the next 10 years we shall "near the saturation point" in lower primary education. Indeed, we seem to be far away from such a point, and if the Census figures are accepted, it will be seen that in some states, the battle has hardly begun. If we wish to raise the speed of expansion, the question of finance must must be very important. So that it will not be right to argue that the over expenditure in higher education will have no real consequences on the progress of primary education.

Low Salaries
Closely related to this question is also the point about the appallingly low salaries of school teachers on which the Education Commission has many good things to say. Here, once again, finance is a major bottleneck, consequently, wastefully large expenditure on higher education may reduce the possibility of raising salaries of school, teachers on which the success of primary education in this country will very substantially depend.

I have concentrated here on only a few aspects of the Report of the Education Commission, especially those where there seems to be evidence of quantitative errors in the calculation. In spite of the general excellence of the Report, these errors are important, since they provide the basis for some crucial policy recommendations of the Commission.

My conclusion is that the Education Commission vastly over-estimates the requirement of university educated manpower, and vastly under-estimates the necessary speed of expansion of primary education to fulfill the stated objectives. And as a consequence, it indicates a manpower policy which is neither economically efficient nor oriented towards creating a just society in this country.

DISCUSSIONS:

Editorial Comments made at the beginning of the article:
In the concluding part of the review of the 1967 Education Commission's Report, AMARTYA SEN argued that the needs of primary education had been officially underestimated. Among the reasons he cited is a malady that afflicts official statistics even now - over-reporting of school enrollment.

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5. Toppers keen on seeking future abroad;news report in The Statesman dated Sept. 4, 1998, on the front page.
STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE

The 1997 Higher Secondary Examination toppers:

(From left):Pampa Datta, Sanghamitra Niyogi, Subhashish Chakraborty and Arijit Ray Chaudhuri at Rabindra Sadan on Thursday.

CALCUTTA, Sept. 3 - "This place has only a few good engineering colleges and still fewer number of good universities. Educational infrastructure is not good, with hardly any facility ...", said Arijit Ray Chaudhuri, the 1997 Higher Secondary topper. He could have gone on and on to justify his decision to pursue higher studies abroad.

And so would have the other rank holders of last year's HS Examinations, who came to be felicitated by the Higher Secondary Council today at Rabindra Sadan.

They only needed the cue.

A medical student, Satyajit Chakrabarty, who stood 13th in the examination, minced no words to say that the state with its law and order problems does not merit a decent living, let alone education.

"Why should I come back?" he shot back straight to the correspondent's face, when asked if he would like to serve the state as a doctor. "A doctor's primary duty is towards mankind and not any particular country. Besides, can you give me one solid reason why we should come back here?" was another salvo form Satyajit.

There is no laboratory facility, no infrastructure. The ambience is also not conducive for academic and career growth, the students echoed, referring to the recent spate of doctors' and teachers' strike that has come to paralyze medical and educational institutions.

This was a scene off the podium, sans the flashlights, the adulation and the rosy dreams that the education ministry was trying to sell for the budding careerist. A little earlier, on stage in the midst of the award-giving ceremony the education ministry's think-tank was trying to drill better sense into the students' heads.

Forget the lure abroad, stay here and work for the state. It is your commitment and responsibility to serve the state, that has taken care of you: this was the running theme of all speakers, waxing eloquent on how the students should focus their career hre and not abroad.

The former Vice-Chancellor of Rabindra Bharati, Dr. Pabitra Sarkar, made it clear that easy, attractive alternatives, meaning the lurings of abroad, do not pay in the long run. Whereas those who manage to grow in the midst of odds and adversaries (meaning here) actually win.

The primary education minister, Mr Kanti Biswas, who reportedly faced a lot of flak in the recent state committee meeting for a deteriorating education standard, was at his best explanatory self.

"This is for those who try to malign our state of education. Take the statistics of colleges and universities abroad. You will find at least 50% of the student population represents our state," he said. He went on to add that most of the students who left a mark in the international realm, studied in vernacular medium and learnt English from class VI.

For Mr Biswas, this was another opportunity to prove that the stand taken by him on the issue of the study of English was correct.

Unlike the higher education minister, Mr Satyasadhan Chakrabarty, or many of his colleagues in the Left Front, who want re-inrtroduction of English from class I, Mr Biswas is in favour of a late baptism in English in the government educational instituions.

All said and done, for ambitious students, a flight abroad can only fulfill their dreams, aspirations and knowledge.

DISCUSSIONS:

Comments received from S. Mukherjee on October 22, 1998:
Having read this article, coming just after three of Prof Amartya Sen's explosive indictments of the country's - and particularly the communists' - indifference to education, makes me think, how many more Nobel laureates shall we lose before the people of this state and country wake up to the harm that selfish politicians and bureaucrats are inflicting on the people?

And somebody should tell Mr Kanti Biswas (Hon. State Minister for primary education) that he should probably stop sitting on his brain, for what else could prompt him to think that his logic (that "50% of the student population (abroad) represents our state") makes the communists look good? If that is at all true, it must be the most damning indictment of the state of education in West Bengal, for why else would there be such a massive student exodus?

And finally, to address Mr Biswas's illusion that his educational policies have illuminated the people, he should know that many intellectuals in the state fear that after Prof Amartya Sen, there will be no more Nobel Laureates from Bengal. They are all probably resigned to the scenario that the communists will rule West Bengal forever. And to quote the last paragraph of this link (which underscores Mr Biswas's blissful state of ignorance)  :

    Ignorance may be bliss. At least it helps foster the hope of glory. The city has produced a Nobel laureate about once every 25 years. A quarter of a century is time enough to dream.
The author of this piece also says "... The aging Bengal tiger Jyoti Basu seems to be the only one who basks comfortably in the glow of international arc lights."  What poetic justice ... if not Charlie Chaplinesque ... The last limelight of West Bengal also presided over the dropping of the curtains ... 

But the show must - and will - go on, whether our current breed of politicians and bureaucrats like it or not. Anybody remember Romania and Nicolai Ceausescu ? ...

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6. Excerpts from 'Training in the context of Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Development' by Gretchen Goodale ;Chapter Six; 'Empowerment: Towards Sustainable Development', edited by Naresh Singh and Vangile Titi; Fernwood Publishing Ltd, 1995; page 82.
Investment in human resources has long been recognized by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as an essential component of economic and social development ... with ample evidence of non-economic benefits also, such as:
  • improved hygiene, nutrition practices and the use of health services; 
  • improved management of household and natural resources; and
  • higher returns in environmental protection.
Education and training are also potentially poweful instruments to:
  • reduce inequalities in the distribution of income and for raising the productivity and earnings of the poor;
  • provide a sound basis not only in literacy and numeracy, but also basic job-related knowledge and skills and in the facts of life;
  • encourage a greater understanding of how individual and group action can help meet the immense challenges of today, be they:
    • combating or preventing environmental degradation;
    • preventing and coping with HIV / AIDS ;
    • promoting processes of democraization
  • develop the ability for critical analysis and problem solving;
  • impart values and attitudes which lead to a more global sense of responsibility; and
  • greater participation in democratic processes.
... With the post World War II independence of many African and Asian countries, and their subsequent process of modernization and industrial development to solve the problems of "underdevelopment" and poverty, the ILO stressed in its assistance the provision of employment as one of the key policies to alleviate poverty. Workers' right to full, productive and freely chosen employment and the right to organize to defend their own interests were the cornerstones of ILO action at that time. Governments were encouraged to develop comprehensive economic and social policies to support these objectives ...

The question of which development strategies to pursue to alleviate poverty was the dominant concern in the 1970s. As a consequence of the failure of "trickle down theories" it was felt that prevailing strategies should be re-oriented towards the satisfaction of basic needs ... The notion of poverty now embraced other essential elements of well-being than income, notably education, health, water, housing etc. ... and suggested that overcoming poverty would entail:

  • enabling poor households to have access to productive asssets and employment opportunities and to receive adequate prices and wages;
  • increasing the productivity of the labour and assetts of poor households through education, skills development, capital;
  • providing adequate access to basic services and infrastructure;
  • protecting the economically or socially weak against exploitation and violence; and
  • influencing economic policies that determine the structure of production, factor use and primary distribution of income.
Governments have a key role to play in demonstrating the political will to support development policies and strategies which will promote the alleviation of poverty and environmentally sound and sustainable development ... The complexity of the problems entailed in alleviating poverty and in achieving sustainable development requires an integrated, multi-sectoral response involving a range of actors. In the field of labour and social issues, tripartite collaborations between governments, and employers' and workers' organizations have been effective in creating the necessary broad-based political consensus and committments.

Several targeted initiatives to redress the labour market vulnerability of specific groups among the rural and urban poor are addressed [in the Agenda 21 proposals of UNCED]. The labour market situation of women in poor households - in the context of their diminishing access to natural resources and of environmental degradation - is a particular concern. Another targeted approach to poverty reduction and environmentally sound and sustainable development is the labour-based public works program. Evaluations show that their effectiveness depends on program design, decentralized planning and the early involvement of local populations.

The progress in reducing rural and urban poverty remains to a large extent dependent on the degree to which various groups among the poor are organized in bodies of their choosing and on the effectiveness of these organizations in defending and advancing the interests of its members.

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