‘Dharm, Samskruti Aur Rajya’ by Guru Dutt – Chapter on Education: Part 3

This series of articles presents the English translation of the Chapter on Education from the book ‘Dharm, Samskruti Aur Rajya’ written by Sri Guru Dutt and published in 1964 by Hindi Sahitya Sadan. We hope this will introduce interested readers into the rich world of Sri Guru Dutt ji’s writings. Many thanks to Hindi Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi for permitting the English translation of this work. Other parts of this series – Part 1, Part 2


The Management of Education

Management of the following four items are the key factors required in freeing education of the political control:

  1. Funding
  2. Educators
  3. Quality of education
  4. Spread of education

We will describe each aspect separately. But before that, we would first like to discuss the classification of the different categories / levels of education. Education should be divided into four sections.

1. Elementary Education: Students between the age of 5 and 13 would obtain education under this category. Elementary education will be mandatory for all children. Every student, boy or girl, in this age-group will have to join schools split into two main groups: One to enroll students aged less than 10 where both, boys and girls, will study together. The second group is for students aged 10 to 13 where boys and girls would have separate schools. However, both the curriculum and the rule about compulsory attendance will be same for all the schools.

2. Secondary Education: Students between the age of 13 and 18 would be the target group for the voluntary enrollment under this category where admission will be via an entrance examination. The number of such institutions must be expanded so that every qualified student can get admission to a secondary school. It will be desirable to ensure that majority of children in this age group did attend secondary schools. Those who fail to get admission may take up some form of employment or start own businesses, and still should be able to improve their prospects in jobs and businesses through self-learning. We have already commented earlier that degrees from an educational institution must not be made compulsory qualification for obtaining any job.

3. College Education: College education is meant for students aged between 18 and 21 and will be voluntary as well. Admission to colleges will be based on the certificates obtained in the secondary education. They can also be based on entrance examinations. However, the requirement for such certificate can be waived in some special circumstances.

Students who had not joined the secondary education but have done self-learning may be allowed, after the scrutiny and special permission, to write the entrance examinations. There would be separate institutions for girls and boys. The certifying examinations of these colleges should be conducted by the universities to which the colleges are affiliated. Such affiliation shall be on the basis of the subjects taught, not merely their geographic proximity.

4. University Education: This fourth stage of education would be open only to students interested in pursuing post-graduate studies and research in any of specified fields. The entrance to such courses would be limited in number and will be available only to the top-ranked college graduates with the highest grades. The universities would bear full cost of education, including boarding, food, clothing, fee and other expenses related to their studies. Both faculty and students would live on campus. There can be co-education between boys and girls in the university education.
Those who do not qualify for university education can join high-end jobs or start own businesses. 

Only those with college degrees would be eligible to become teachers, engineers, lawyers, judges, vaidyas, hakims, doctors or hold other similar professional positions.

Those who are engaged in research at universities or have finished post-graduation would be eligible for external research-oriented jobs. Such jobs will be provided by universities, military, police and business enterprises. It would be very useful for individuals to first carry out the research independently and then seek satisfactory remuneration for their findings.

Funding

In providing compulsory, and free, education to the citizens of this country, the issue of funding is used as the main excuse to justify the State’s involvement and interference. The oft-asked question is: “Where will funds come from if the State withdraws from Education?” It is almost as if these apologists believe that the State is an entity that generates money! The money in government’s hands is public money, given to the State only for spending on welfare of the people.

So, the key question is: Can government, that collects taxes from citizens, transfer that money to others or not? Why not? A common excuse is that money will be misused in private hands. But then, are those working in the government any different from other citizens? And, can they not misuse those funds? Is it the case that persons working for State have descended from the skies, while we, the ordinary mortals, come from the earth?

These are all invalid arguments. Even today, governments provide grants and people who are not state employees spend those funds. The government accountants review financial transactions which by itself can’t be construed as interference by the State. The interference is mainly from the other activities of the ‘Directorate of Education’ and the result is the perversion of our education system.

There is no basic problem about funding. We have tremendous wealth in this country, but the State has ensured that this wealth always flows towards itself. Whether that is proper or not, is not the subject of this book. Our point here is that if people don’t have adequate wealth left with them for donations and charity – after paying huge amount in taxes to the government – then it is the responsibility of the State to fully fund the cost of education in this country.

It is our firm opinion that even today the state employees are not as prudent in spending public funds, as any common citizen working with the noble intention of free service likely will be. Therefore, if the education is handed over to people, it will not be as expensive as it presently is when the control is in the hands of the state officials.

Also, we observed that a sizeable part of the Education Department’s outlay is towards non-essential buildings, furniture and equipments. Under our plan, the education of all kids below 13 years of age shall be free and compulsory. In addition, the primary focus of education at this stage would be on languages, practical mathematics and basic adhyatma (spiritual) studies. For imparting such education, there is really no need for costly or elaborate equipment and furniture, or large buildings. Such schools can easily be located in public places such as parks, dharmashalas, temples masjids, etc. The panchayats in villages and municipal bodies in cities can work on making such places available for schools.

Any person with the requisite qualifications to teach should be eligible to open schools, and so should be any organization, society or dharma-sanstha. At the current levels of taxation, the State should fund every school based on the number of students admitted. Depending upon circumstances, the grant can be made per student on monthly basis.

We estimate that, at present, the funding of education will be needed for 8 crore students at yearly cost of about Rs 800 crore, and the State should provide this money. If the government really wishes to provide free and compulsory education, the grant of such funding is an absolute must. If this task is carried out by the State, the cost will be much higher.

The timings of schools can be set in such way that there will be no constraints on account of location or weather.

Is it the State’s duty to monitor and ensure that every child aged between 5 and 13 attends school? Yes, it can, by compelling the parents or guardians to send them to schools. Also, it will be incumbent upon the government to monitor and make sure that every teacher, school and organization, supported with the State funding, is providing education in accordance with the terms of aid received.

A teacher can easily teach up to 30 students, especially so when all are in the same grade or class. The government should provide grants to schools based on the number of children, plus some additional money for furniture, equipment and other expenses.

Such a model, where the State funds education and teachers perform ‘vidyadaan’, will serve as a great motivation to individuals and organizations, and may lead to opening of lakhs of such institutions. We believe that if the public is sufficiently motivated, large part of the funds needed for this project can be sourced through donations and the government can utilize the balance money for supporting higher education.

It is not advisable to make education compulsory for those aged 13 years and above. We estimate that out of the 8 crore students attending elementary education every year, 1-1.5 crore or so will complete their studies and about 50-60 lakh will go for entrance exams to join secondary schools. The estimated funds required for those 50-60 lakh students will also be about Rs 800 crores per year. Unlike the elementary stage, there will be needed quality equipment, furniture and buildings for secondary school education, and the same can be arranged via grants from the State and charitable donations from the affluent segment of the society.

The remaining 50+ lakh students who complete primary education but are unable to obtain admission to a secondary education institution will look for other forms of employment. The admission to secondary schools will strictly be merit-based. Those who are not successful in the entrance examinations can look for suitable jobs. Military, police and other government offices can also consider them for recruitment. Workers for fields and other vocations such as blacksmiths, forgers etc. can also be sourced from among those with only primary education. They also can join craftsmen as apprentices and acquire handicraft skills. All of these should be based on their individual capabilities and personal interests.

Secondary education should continue until 18 years of age. There should be annual examinations and those who do not pass the exams would have to leave the institution. As stated earlier, these schools should be separate for boys and girls.

The students, who successfully clear five years of secondary education, will be eligible for admission to colleges via an entrance test. We estimate that, out of the 40-50 lakh students who likely will complete the secondary education, around 20 lakh students will gain entrance into colleges. This type of college education will only be for the most qualified students. College education will be for 3 years, with about 60-70 lakh students at any given point in time. The quality of education should be kept exceptionally high and students should be able to earn degrees in their desired area of specialty.

Students should take the final examination to graduate from colleges and obtain a degree. These graduates will then qualify for various jobs such as teachers, doctors, vaidyas, engineers, lawyers, judges as also for the positions in various government departments.

Colleges, too, would operate courtesy grants from the government and generous charitable donations from the public.

We should ensure that only scholars and intellectuals are eligible to open universities. When a scholar or intellectual intends to open a university for teaching one or more specialized subjects, they should place a proposal to the public and the government, that also includes a profit-and-loss analysis. Once a public organization, or the government, is convinced about its desirability, the funds should be made available to enable launching of such university.

These universities should be dedicated to conducting research in a deep and profound learning of those subjects. While it is essential for university to offer studies in related subjects, its primary focus should remain research, to be conducted under the supervision of the relevant subject experts. If the university cannot find a suitable mentor to supervise a particular research area, that subject should be withdrawn. And, if it comes to a stage where no such experts are available, the university itself should be shut down.

There should be several such universities opened throughout the country, supported by the government grants and public donations.

Thus, the total funds required to educate 10 crore students at primary and 4-5 crore at secondary levels, 70-80 lakh in the colleges and 1 lakh students at the universities will come to Rs 2,000 crore per year. For as important a task as education, sourcing this money should not be that difficult in our country. The central and state governments, city corporations, village panchayats, affluent donors and charitable trusts have means and resources to provide this amount. In fact, the sales tax collected in the country presently is largely adequate to meet the funding needed to provide free education.

In summary, we believe that the amount of misuse and wastage of money is much lower in the hands of private individuals than by government employees. And, the government auditors can always insist on a periodic regular inspection and review of the handling of the finances by non-state players.

Standard of Education

Our main concern, of course, is about the content of education. We have described in previous sections the need to emancipate present education (system) from two things: materialism and political control. We have tried to clarify how material development, although desirable, is different from materialism. A materialist considers human beings as merely possessing physical body and assumes that acquisition of luxuries and comforts to satisfy that physical needs are the only life goals worth pursuing.

In contrast, an approach of material development consists of aiming for physical comforts, along with the development of manas and atma. Therefore, the management of education should remember these considerations (in designing the new education system). 

The second aspect is about liberation of education from the clutches of political control. This can happen only by a complete non-interference of the State in the world of education

When political control is removed from education, there emerges the matter of maintenance of uniform standards as also communal unity and harmony. It is our firm opinion that removal of political control from education has no connection with these two issues. So, even if we remove State control, high education standards and national unity can still be maintained – and much better than done presently.

If schools and colleges ensure that entrance examinations are conducted fairly, the quality of education can be raised to an acceptable level. Further, the anti-national education can be denied by adoption of suitable adjustments in the school curriculum. It should be illegal to impart any education that is anti-national, and such an offence must carry stringent punishment.

However, we believe that the main approach of removing such offensive actions should be driven by internal motivation, and not through law and punishment. By anti-national education, we do not mean to refer to propagation of any religion or community. We don’t consider communal education as anti-national, but with the qualification that it should not be based – or done – on political grounds.

Communities can be based on many factors. It could be, say, geographical e.g. Bengali, Gujarati, Tamil, Punjabi and so on. Similarly, the factors for considering a group as community could be language, dress, food habits, sampraday (sect) and so on. People should have freedom and approval to include these elements in education, with the one condition that solicitation of political benefits on these grounds would be treated as misdemeanor. Each segment can become part of the nation and flourish, but they cannot become the nation itself.

Consider the issue of our national language. If it is decided that a specific language shall be Bharat’s national language, then efforts to oppose that language or attempts to displace it with another language shall be deemed as anti-national. Certainly, it will not be an offence to build public opinion. However, when a minority opinion is attempted to be imposed on the nation, or if the difference of opinion leads to a claim of the minority to separate from the country or rashtra, such attempts to create public opinion will qualify as anti-national.

For example, the speakers of Tamil can very well teach their children Tamil. They can run their education programs in Tamil. However, if they demand that Tamil or English be made the national language and, upon its rejection, design to divide the nation, then such move surely will be counted as anti-national. The only lawful option available for them is to convince the country of their superior case for English or Tamil to be the national language. And, when they gain support of majority for their stand, such change can be enacted through the decisions of the Parliament.

It will be pertinent to make a mention here about those who plead for adoption of the English language and/or the Latin script. Of course, we can’t stop anyone from making case for English, with claims that it is a rich and universal language. However, the insistence of this literate minority on not learning Hindi or being adamant in claiming that the Latin script is easier to use than Devanagari script could be made punishable. It is true that use of harsh arm of law to punish people for such a small issue may seem to be excessive. There, however, is a need to quieten them through the force of public opinion, because we have got to put an end to spreading of false claims and continued efforts to get these implemented.

Similar examples can be illustrated about other communal issues. Thus, Muslims will have freedom to propagate their religion, as long as it does not teach hatred and violence against ‘Kaffirs’. Any discourse that encourages hatred against those who do not revere Muhammad Saheb, by calling them Kaffir, and promotes violence against them, goes against the law and, therefore, should be disallowed. The same rule will apply to every other community as well.

In this way, when education is no more an instrument of politics, provision of communal education can be allowed, subject to the restrictions, as discussed above.

Education is not just about legally staying within the constraints imposed by rules and regulations. The unity of the nation should also become a crucial component of education. The government has, by virtue of control over education, removed communal education completely, but also created a vacuum in education vis-à-vis teaching of national unity. In fact, it has very much perverted this concept.

It has been a perpetual enterprise of the government to create interest in jobs and business while ignoring its duty to promote dedication and loyalty towards the nation. To forge the notion that just roads, rivers, canals and bridges embody the nation, is to propagate a false narrative, because jobs and business, by themselves, don’t constitute a nation. 

Education has been preaching secularism as the true nationalism. But, nationalism – Rashtravaad – is a distinctly different concept, and encompasses those emotions in the hearts of people, because of which every individual and community feels a sense of respect and pride towards every section of society, and proffers affinity with all of them. Such awareness can be realized only through education, and therefore, the curriculum should be designed accordingly.

(To be continued…)

-Translated from Hindi to English by Hariprasad N


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