Azad on Education

Irfan Engineer

If Maulana Azad had succeeded in persuading the Indian State to adopt his policies, the scenario would have been different today. For him, appropriate education policy of independent India was even more important than the industrial policy. Maulana Azad, being the first education minister of the independent India wanted to democratize the education system. He worked for democratizing of education in order to universalize achievement and thereby break the dominating structure of hegemonic hierarchies of caste and class. His 4 objectives were :

1)    Removal of illiteracy through universalization of elementalry education up to secondary level and drive for adult education, including education for women.
2)   Equalizing educational opportunities in Indian society regardless of community and class.
3)   Three language formula.
4)   Sound primary education throughout the country.

Azad viewed "Every individual has a right to an education that will enable him to develop his faculties and live a full human life. Such education is the birth right of every citizen. A state cannot claim to have discharged its duty till it has provided for every single individual the means to the acquisition of knowledge and self-betterment." ... "regardless of the question of employment the state must make available to all citizens the facilities of education up to the secondary stage."

For Maulana Azad, education was a crucial tool to inculcate the citizenship among the people who just emerged from colonial rule and hierarchical structures like caste and gender. Citizens needed to imbibe the values of equality and needed to be sensitized on the religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity of the country. In order to achieve universal primary and secondary education according to Maulana Azad, India needed to allocate at least 10% of its budget for education. The allocation for education in budget was at best 6% and often times, merely 2 to 3%. Maulana Azad wanted a substantial portion of the educational budget to be spent on primary and secondary education and adult education, including women. This would mean expanding and strengthening schooling in every village and kasba and equal access to all—Hindus or Christians or Muslims. The schools in India would teach values of equality and justice, and sensitize the younger generation to the diversity. Maulaiia Azad laid emphasis on teaching of values drawn from all religions.

The Indian state not only gave less importance to education, but substantial portion of its budget on education was allocated to creation of higher institutions like IITs, IIMs, AIIMS, JNU and the rest, mostly based in the four metros and accessible to relatively richer class who could afford costly tuitions in competitive entrance examinations in English language and after schooling in expensive public schools. The doors of these elite institutions were not entirely closed to those from poorer backgrounds and marginalized sections like the SCs, the STs, the OBCs, women and minorities but the barriers were so high that these sections entering these institutions was more of an exception rather than rule. Expenditure on these islands for elite education was at the cost of expansion of primary and secondary school networks.

Education is one instrument that can help members of a community to take part and contribute meaningfully to the collective social life of the community. Education helps imbibe values necessary for harmonious and peaceful collective life, as well as for the environment and nature, for the development of frontiers of knowledge and new understanding.

Education is a continuous process in the life of all individuals. People get educated through their struggles for survival, interaction with other human beings; through interaction with nature and through varied experiences. Some minimum education is acquired by all individuals from the family and the members of extended family and community. However, meaningful education takes place through institutions of learning, like—schools, colleges, research institutes, universities, seminaries, institutions imparting professional and vocational knowledge and skills. Access to quality education, professional courses and higher education is always limited to the privileged elite. It is the structure of education system in India that has not included Muslims and at the same time laying the blame on the community. If the persons in authority do pursue the dreams of Maulana Azad, the whole nation would be benefited.

Vol. 46, No. 1, Jul 14- 20, 2013

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