Your describing the backwardness and the lack of education in Banda was almost heart
rending. It is not that we are not aware of the pathetic lack of progress in educating our
people. We all know that even, graduates of some of the universities in our country are
effectively uneducated and therefore unemployable except as manual workers. Nevertheless,
your first hand description of the situation in your area provoked me to think hard as to
what can be done quickly.
From my experience in Gujarat, I know that even if we wanted to go all
out and get things moving, it will be difficult to go far. The quality teachers thee we
require are just not available. Many a school, especially in the villages, is just an
excuse for a teaching institution maybe two rooms and a verandah and one or two teachers
who attend only irregularly. We have, therefore, got to think of a novel method of getting
past these enormous handicaps which are spread, more or less, across our whole country.
When we do come across a reasonably good school in a town or a city
which is run by the municipality, it teaches quite well. But at the end of class X or XII,
the student is incapable of finding a remunerative job. The primary reason for this
unfortunate phenomenon is the English language. Most of our people take naturally to their
mother tongues. They have also striven to learn Hindi. But to what use does all this come
when finding a job higher than that of a skilled worker?
I have myself experienced this extraordinary paradox of our situation.
I was once the chief executive of a company which employed approximately 25,000 workers.
The overwhelming majority of them were adivasis who spoke either their own dialect or
simple Hindi. The dominant shareholders of the company were more at home in Hindi than in
English. The consumers of the company's products were common folk most of whom could not
have known English. Yet, would I have got the opportunity to be the chief executive if I
knew as much Hindi as I know English? And as much English as I knew Hindi? The answer is
no. When the workers, the shareholders as well as the consumers are non-English speaking,
why need the company's head be au fait with English? I do not know what the real
reason is. I only know that it is, however unpleasant, a fact.
In Gujarat today, it is extremely difficult to find an English knowing
stenographer who hails from Gujarat. That in itself is not
sad for it gives an opportunity to people from other parts of India to come and work. But
it is a symptom of the paradox whereby a large number of Gujarati people must be finding
it difficult to find well paid jobs, not necessarily as stenographers but as anything
else. Do nor for a moment think that all Gujaratis are businessmen. Fifteen per cent of
the population of the state is adivasi, nearly 10% are dalits and atleast another 15%
would be truly backward. And many others who do not have the aptitude to be businessmen.
In Calcutta, it is quite common for a middle class family earning only
Rs.5,000 per month to spend upto Rs.500 over and above the normal school fee on the child
learning English through private tuition.The excruciating messages are clear. One, the
school does not teach English well enough. Two, the parents are aware that their child
would not grow up to get a lucrative job unless he or she learns English. How true! Even
more with the advent of information technology. Computers are difficult to operate without
a reasonable knowledge of English. Nor can the operator exploit its advantage without the
Not to say that the other subjects are not as important. Of course they
are and they must be taught with equal seriousness. The question was, Ansari, as we
discussed: how? The enormous skill that is required to educate our teeming millions? My
submission is let the education department of every state get a team of the best teachers
in the state for a particular subject in the particular language and for every
class. One teacher par excellence. He or she should be required to teach a class for a
period and do so for the whole year as would be norms while teaching in a school. The
lessons should be recorded on video tapes and the tapes multiplied into thousands of
copies which should be made available, more or less at cost, to anyone and everyone
wishing to buy.
Enthusiastic adults in cities, towns as well as villages should be encouraged to set up
their private schools in or near their homes. The schools can use these video tapes to
conduct classes as appropriate in their circumstances and their localities. To arrange for
the lakhs of students who would be taught in such mini schools, a computer system would
have to be devised to give examinations and issue certificates. Private candidates passing
the normal board examinations is not a new idea. For example, in Bengal, I myself appeared
in the school final examination of theWest Bengal Board of Secondary Education as a
private candidate and was initially tested by the Ballygunge Government High School in
south Calcutta. Of course, there was no computer to help at that time. What I am
suggesting is I that students taught in any number of mini schools should he examined by
the Board of Education. In other words, the proposal would involve widespread teaching but
No doubt, my layman's suggestion should be processed by experts. But, in principle, its
advantages are self-evident:
viz.unlimited number of students being given excellent
education by the best teachers in the state and yet all examined systematically by one
authority. A beginning can be made in less than a year. It may not be along time before
internet would begin to replace video tape, at least in the urban centres. I feel, this is
the only way to lift our uneducated masses out of their morass and give them almost an
equal opportunityand quickly.