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Education--late points

I hope the debate on education hasn't closed.  Since I am a late
comer, I have had the advantage of reading what has been expressed.
However, because I was behind in reading my e-mail I had to do a
rather hurried reading.  My attempt here is not really to add as much
as to understand what has been talked and also to get a handle on

There was a general agreement that education ought to be accessible to
all in society.  The reasons why this should be so were a little
vague. I was also surprised that some economist did not view this in
the light of costs and benefits.

The other thing that surprised me was that there was hardly any
discussion on what we understand by "education."  No benchmark was
created.  Literacy is but the first step.  Education ought to
accomplish four things: 1. At the very minumum, give individuals basic
literary skills to read, write, and do simple maths. 2. Inculcate a
sense of self-worth in his/her intrinsic value  3.  Teach basic
manners and ethics  and 4.  Teach every individual about democracy,
democratic government, and individual's responsiblity toward his/her

Even the best of schools are not doing that.  Which means that we need
to invest heavily into trainors (teachers).  For example, if teachers
do not have a civic sense, how can they teach others?  In this field,
India has shown an amazing amont of ethnocentricity.  No one should
hesitate to learn from the experience of others.  Our training the
trainors curriculam is so hopelessly outdated.  The bottom line is you
cannot improve education without improving the educators.  If India
was to show some initiative and good sense, thousands of educators
from all over the world will be willing to come and help as
volunteers.  Why can't we invite them?  Well, of course, America will
use that as a cover for spies!!  There is so much help out there.  And
we close our eyes to it.  Has anyone tried to study the rigrous
training that teachers in the U.S., for example, have to undergo to
get their certifications.  Couldn't the government fund such a study
to research the educational system of all developed countries and
making the results available to all?  I am not suggesting that we
should not think on our own nor am I am discouraging innovation (there
were some good examples given).  However, in this age of information
why do we insist on doing everything from scratch???

LANGUAGE ISSUE: Some raised the issue of language.  It is not
irrelevant.  But what we failed to realize is that it is not a
question of English versus other Indian languages -- it is a question
of knowledge.  A child should not be burdened with another language
especially when the facilities to teach English are minimal.  I think
some people made compromises here.  Which is fine for the short term.
But as a long term policy statement we ought to make a strong
statement that we are committed to providing ALL KNOWLEDGE in Hindi
and other Primary languages.  What about vocational training, which
should start by ninth or tenth grade?  I cannot see how you can teach
people carpentery, masonry work, welding, auto-repairs and dyemaking
in English.  It shows how elitist this list is where people think that
like them, ALL will and ought to go to college and become economists,
computer scientists and telecommunications engineers.  Friends, we are
talking about the very basics, that which forms the bedrock of a
society -- the "working class" NOT the elitist Ivyleaugers.  It is
pathetic that we say that without English our "ideal" education system
of the future will not be able to impart basic education (the four
points mentioned above) in their own native language.

GOVERNMENT VERSUS PRIVATE:  There was abundant discussion on WHO
should be providing education, government or private schools?
Regarding this I will repeat my pet points.  Without professionalizing
and modernizing State and Local governments it is futile to talk about
government taking the lead in this area.  It will only open up doors
for more waste, abuse and outright corruption.  Moreover, because I
support a decentralized polity, I think the primary responsiblity for
education will eventually be at the district or local level.  It will
take a minimum of five six years to professionalize and modernize
Until then our best bet is with the private institutions.  However, if
any money either by way of vouchers, etc. is given to these
instituions then one will have to make sure that these private schools
are not violating the fundamental rights of the people by
discrimitating, are not extorting parents (as they do now), and are
maintaining a reasonable standard of education.  That brings us back
to square one!  We do not have the government institutions at the
state or local level to properly "monitor" educational institutions.
The States do not also have proper certification programs for
educators.  The idea that parents can fill in and do the job, to me is

To close this thread:  For a viable democracy and peaceful society,
education is indispensable.  Primary and secondary education must be
available to all at a minimal cost or no cost at all.   But without
reforming the State and local governments such a goal will be
impossible to achieve even if the government does not get directly
into the "business" of providing education.

Regards to all.
Kush Khatri.

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