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Indian Education: “Challenge from Macaulay to Moksha”

India needs both quality and quantity education. Given 1.25 billion population out of which 400 million are youths, the importance of quantity education is quite obvious but quantity alone can take us only up to a point. Beyond a point, it is the quality of education that makes all the difference. For example, Harvard university of USA has produced more than 80 Nobel Laureates but India (even if we include Non Resident Indians like Amartiya Sen) has not produced even 8 Nobel Laureates.

Modern Indian education started with a subservient role. In 1832, Lord Macaulay told British Parliament that the idea of Indian education system is to produce a class of interpreters between those who govern (British) and those who are governed (Indians). So the idea was not to produce innovators or entrepreneurs or leaders of thought but only interpreters. India has a vast potential. It has 400 million young, educable population which is more than the entire population of USA. The challenge is how to convert this potential into performance. To convert potential into performance, we need certain key skills.

An Oxford research enquired into the question why oldest Universities of the World are still the Top Universities. For example, America’s oldest University Harvard is still top University of the World, followed by Cambridge and Oxford Universities of United Kingdom. The result of the research was that these Universities teach certain ultimate transferable skills which are as relevant today as they were seven centuries ago. They are:

(i) Learning attitude and ability to master new learning quickly and efficiently.
(ii) Confidence in one’s own ability and respect for those of others.
(iii) Communication skills – both written and spoken.
(iv) Ability to form team and be a good player in team.
(v) Power of networking and social skills.
(vi) Critical and constructive thinking and finally,
(vii) Specialization in a given field of enquiry and making significant contribution to the existing fund of knowledge.

We have to recognize that difference between mere information and knowledge, difference between knowledge and skills, difference between skill and mastery. To gain mastery, reconnecting with our own genius, restoring faith in our own independent perceptions, power of respectful but robust discussion and dialogue, institutionalization of research are very important.

Finally, India has great intellects but a poor ecosystem. India has intellects but a poor intellectual property rights system. We must learn and demand fair prices for our intellectual services and be ready to pay fair prices of the intellectual services rendered by others. Time has come when both Laxmi and Saraswati are to be combined only then quality higher education in Indian educational ecosystem will emerge and flourish. As per Indian Ethos, there are four goals of life:

(a) Dharma,
(b) Aartha,
(c) Kaama,
(d) Moksha

Upnishads say “सा विद्या या विमुक्तया” – means education is one that liberates. For this purpose, our culture says three virtues (competences) are required:

(a) Dharma – Knowledge and practice of right things
(b) Aartha – capacity and power to accomplish things
(c) Kaama – Ability to fulfill desires for yourself, for your family, for your society only then Moksha – the ultimate freedom will emerge. So, right kind of higher education will include creating competence in students and teachers to acquire and practice what is most important for them as individuals, for society, acquiring means and power to accomplish goals, satisfying your highest desires and thus having freedom and fulfillment as the ultimate goal of the education.

This exactly is opposite of what Macaulay prescribed for Indians in 1832. So the challenge is from Macaulay to Moksha.

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