Friday, October 7, 2011

Education and Social Justice

Let me quote George Orwell, from '1984' -
"Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle and the low... the aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable. The aim of the high is to remain where they are. The aim of the middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the low, when they have an aim... is to abolish all distinction and create a society in which all men shall be equal."
Social Justice. Education can bring balance.
Although, the general rule of generalization (that all generalizations have exceptions) applies. This seems to be true of not only our (Indian) society, but of societies across the world and across different time periods. In our country, the High, Medium and Low applies to classes as well as castes.
It is no secret that certain classes were marginalized in our society for decades. Just like everything else, the High and the Middle of the society were the ones to jump at the opportunities provided by the British education system. Education was the way out of agriculture and an entry into the service class.
Bigger than the problem of inequity in social status, income and representation is that in education. 
Nelson Mandela said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
At the very least, education gives you the weapon to change your own world.
Today, the inequity in education is leading to national problems. Economists question if India can reap its demographic dividend due to lack of proper education and training.
India's expected demographic dividend could rapidly turn out to be demographic nightmare unless the country promptly addresses the many structural and systemic problems in its education and training system. (

Equality of input, not outcome 
For over two decades, our governments have tried to set the balance right by adopting a policy of reservation in jobs and higher education. An recently, by providing foodgrains and jobs under MGNREGA. There is no doubt that these have provided opportunities to the marginalized classes. However, these measures compromise on meritocracy and create an artificial result. Even in the marginalized classes, it is the educated classes among them who are able to make use of such opportunities. Additionally, it accounts to increased fiscal burden.

Policy-makers would do better to focus on providing education-for-all, an equality of input. Leaders developed countries such as the US, US to under-developed ones such as Kenya have understood education to be an answer to poverty, unemployment and social development.
If we can provide good quality education to the most marginalized and downtrodden of our society, we would be giving them the power to be the masters of their own destiny. Simple measures, such as ensuring proper school infrastructure, ensuring presence and quality of teachers would be steps in the right direction. Free and universal education is being targeted under the Right to Education Act. 
What is needed is to invest in such schemes, so that social justice is not limited to its historical connotations of caste and creed, but it takes a broader meaning of providing means to people for enhancing their own lives.
"Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime" 

1 comment:

  1. It is true that education empowers. A true education enlightens a person but not a mere certificate of education does so. The policy makers should ensure to inculcate education but not for acquiring a certificate.
    Reservation system is a mere politics. The politicians never want their next generation to be educated, scared of being taken over power from them. They just ensure giving education- certificates to some selected followers of theirs.