Education: The key to development (Part I & II)

by Karmayogi

Education is the greatest known civilising force. Education communicates the experiences of the past to subsequent generations in an abridged and condensed form, so that the youth of today can build upon the entire past achievements of the society. Education is the key to development. As Kamaraj said, "Educate a man, he will develop himself." Without education, development in any area has a very limited scope.

Data published in the 1980 World Development Report confirms the close correlation between education on the one hand and income, health, fertility and nutrition on the other. One study of developing countries revealed that farmers who received four years of general primary education obtained an average of 13% higher crop yields than uneducated cultivators.

Other studies show that educated mothers have lower fertility and child mortality rates, and that the health and nutrition of their children is significantly higher than that of uneducated women of the same income group. The Report concludes, "Educating girls may be one of the best investments a country can make in future economic growth and welfare -- even if girls never enter the labour force."

Studies on the rate of return to education all find that more schooling leads to higher earnings, and when the extra earnings resulting from primary education are weighed against its costs, high rates of return are consistently found. In fact the overall rate of return on investment in education in terms of increased national production, GNP, compares very favourably with investment in other sectors.

There is a pressing need to upgrade India's present system of education, in both its form and content. The form relates to the types of education, the years of schooling or degrees issued, the number of schools and students, etc. The content refers to the quality and relevance of what is taught.

Formal education is organised as a pyramidal structure with primary and secondary schools at the base and with graduate schools and specialised technical institutions at the top. For development to become a broad based social movement it is essential that every field of life receive the enrichment offered by education, either as information or training or skill. The hierarchical structure of education should be extended to all walks of life with the necessary adaptations.

Industrial education already has a well-developed hierarchy: engineering college - polytechnic -- industrial training institute (ITI). This gradation can be further extended to include craftsman training institutes (CTI). Organisationally the structure can be multiplied to provide a complete nationwide network as follows:

Engineering College             --       for every district

Engineering polytechnic      --       for every taluq

ITI                                        --       at rural towns

CTI                                       --       in the villages

If science should go to the village, the cart-maker, pump driver, taxi driver, flour mill driver, must be given the minimum scientific education. Innovation issues out of this level of talent. A chief engineer in Madras or Delhi trying to improve the bullock drawn tyre cart, will find it an intellectual exercise in a vacuum, and his imaginative effort will not be real in any sense or measure. Whereas the skills imparted at the levels of daily work make the nation production-worthy.

Presently the bus driver, the tailor, the printer, the book binder, car mechanic and craftsmen in every trade are trained by long apprenticeship in their respective industries. This is a slow unconscious process of transferring skills which imparts at best a partial training and often a wrong one. Out of 100 car workshops in a town, it is difficult to find even half a dozen fully qualified mechanics; and those that have learned the trade normally have acquired their skill over 10 or 15 years, much of it at very low apprenticeship wages.

By comparison to this, an institutionalised training program can be very brief, comprehensive and fully effective. Craftsman Training Institutes should be established for this purpose throughout the country on a graded hierarchy from the revenue village to the state level. To be viable, these centers should be located at the points where a need already exists, i.e. at places where a particular craft or industrial activity is already established and only informal training is available.

The rapid spread of typing schools to every small town in the country is largely due to the recognised need for minimum performance skills in this field and the introduction of the typewriting examination and certificates. In most of the crafts referred to above, examinations can be introduced and certificates awarded to those who pass. This will establish a criteria for the public in evaluating the capabilities of craftsmen in the field and help to ensure minimum levels of competence. Even where no training program is introduced, the introduction of an examination will act as a spur to improved training, as for example in the car driving test.

A parallel structure exists in Agricultural Education with the 22 agricultural universities under ICAR at the top supported by the agricultural colleges and polytechnics. This hierarchy also should be extended to include farm schools for every panchayat which would become the ultimate link between research, demonstration and implementation by the farmers.

Five or ten acre plots in each village can become centers for 6 month intensive training courses for young farmers, aged 15 to 20 years, to demonstrate new crops and new field practises. The income from cultivation at the farm can make them self-supporting.

The nationwide network of agricultural schools can be multiplied as follows:

Agricultural University     --       for every state

Agricultural College          --       for every district

Agricultural Polytechnic   --       for every taluq

Farm School                      --       for every panchayat

As the industrial workers and farmers need to be educated at all levels, there is a need for training of the population in every vocation. Thus far the need has been recognised in medicine where training is available not only to the doctor, dentist, veterinarian and pharmacist, but to the nurse and lab technicians as well. Whereas in law, there is training for the advocate, but none for the advocate's clerk or the judge's bench clerk. Similarly, there should be training for lower level government and bank clerks in areas like account book entry, filing, application filling, petition writing, etc.

Bookkeeping is a skill required today at every level of commercial, institutional and personal life. There must be institutes created to train store clerks, office bookkeepers, bank, government and income tax clerks, etc. There should be courses offered in income tax assessment for individuals and small companies along with courses in record keeping. There should also be brief courses m tax law for all entrepreneurs, proprietors, managers and tradesmen. State, district and taluq level Vocational Training Institutes should be introduced for teaching skills in these fields and many others.

As there are now examinations for post office employees, car drivers and typists, certificate level examinations should be introduced for vocational occupations such as bookkeeping, bank clerk, petition writer, advocate's clerk, etc.

As craftsmen, workmen, engineers and architects are trained, entrepreneurial talents must also be created and trained at all levels. Management training in organizational and decision-making skills provides only for maintenance of what already exists; whereas development requires a constant expansion of the existing structure by people with creative insights, innovative ideas, and the courage to take initiative. The entrepreneur must know how to create favourable conditions, gather and harness resources, and implement new schemes.

Entrepreneurial Training Institutes should be established to develop the nation's talents. The best teachers for such training programmes can be drawn from the ranks of already successful entrepreneurs at all levels. Courses can be organised and appropriate curricula developed for entrepreneurial training at the level of agriculture and plantations; cottage, small scale, medium, and heavy industry, as well as for traders, hoteliers, merchants and other sectors where initiative is to be developed.

For rural industries the candidates for training can best be drawn from families in the rural parts that already own rice mills, oil expellers, small industries like coir retting, lathes and others with substantial land holdings. These people represent the pool of most readily available talents for expansion of the rural industrial base.


The society whose system of education is integrated with the social aspirations of the country will develop most rapidly. Social development issues out of the creativity, dynamism, enterprise, and initiative of the people based on knowledge and executed with skill.

In India the system of education is primarily geared toward the outer form rather than inner content. The emphasis and importance is placed, not on the knowledge gained for its own sake or even for its utility, but on the college degree that leads to a salaried job.

In the salaried job, the employee supports the initiative and creativity of the founder or entrepreneur. The qualities required are obedience, acceptance of what is told, and absence of contradictory thought or action. The employee learns to subordinate himself to the personality of a boss or the impersonality of a system.

These qualities are just the opposite of the characteristics of originality, creativity, independent thought, innovation and initiative needed to build a nation. The Indian educational system is consciously fostering values which lead to the destruction of the innate power and content of real education.

To reverse this bias a multi-pronged strategy is needed to re-orient the educational system toward self-employment, to relate course material to the present day needs and conditions of the country, and to upgrade the quality of education at all levels.

It is a common complaint today that there are a growing number of educational unemployed which represent a serious problem. The implication of this criticism is that uneducated unemployment may be somehow preferable! The error lies in the very idea that a degree is necessarily a passport to an occupation. Education makes a person a better, more capable member of the society, but employment potential depends on many other external factors.

Steps must be taken to delink education and employment. The best place to start is in the colleges and universities themselves by inviting in proven and accomplished talents from outside to teach courses in their fields of eminence - management, engineering, arts, literature, etc. -- irrespective of their formal academic qualifications. Initial efforts of this type have met with intense resistance from the teaching staff, for the very reason that it challenges the prestige of their positions which is based in most cases on their degrees, not on their talents and ability to teach.

A parallel move can be made in government, banks and industry by eliminating or reducing the importance of the degree as a criterion or pre-requisite for employment and promotion. More emphasis can be placed on other criteria or on performance tests designed to measure employment skills and capacities. Here too, proven talents should be identified and supported regardless of their formal educational achievements.

The Chinese have adopted an innovative approach to this problem. Recently they introduced a new system under which all citizens are qualified to take examinations for college diplomas regardless of age or previous schooling. A special committee has been constituted to encourage self-education.

Recent studies published by the World Bank have shown that the quality of education in Third world countries is significantly lower than standards of achievement in the industrialised nations of the North. Students from developing countries place on an average in the bottom 5 to 10% of performance levels of students from developed countries.

In a country where education is spreading very fast, it is natural that standards come down. Since 1960 enrollment in secondary school has increased threefold. College and university enrollment has increased fourfold. Despite this the literacy rate remains around 35%. Until liberal education at the base level reaches 100% of the population efforts to improve the quality of schooling must necessarily be given lesser priority.

Nevertheless, it is wise to begin even now with some efforts to raise the quality of education as a basis for extension later on. In most universities there are highly qualified staff members, many of whom were educated abroad. A special division in each university can adopt the same syllabus as well know universities abroad such as Oxford or Princeton. Outstanding students at the graduate or post-graduate level can be invited to raise themselves to the level of the highest academic standards prevalent in other countries.

Initially the program can be confined to the Arts with foreign educated staff members recruited to the division and a foreign professor appointed at the head. This will initiate a movement for upgrading the standards to very desirable levels. Later the example can be extended horizontally to other courses and vertically to other levels of education.

A parallel move can be made to upgrade university staff. Not long ago the Tamil Nadu Government compulsorily sent several hundred college teachers to complete their M.Phil. degrees. From every department of each university, one member may be selected and sent to a foreign university for further education.

Mere numbers of schools and students are insufficient to achieve the nation's goals even if the quality of general education is very much improved. What is taught must also be relevant to the needs of the country and its unique milieu.

Christianity has spread all over the world, because Oxford and Cambridge were founded as seats of religious education 800 years ago. Civilisation itself has spread to all countries because thousands of universities have been established throughout the world. For development to really take off in India, development oriented education must be introduced at all levels to prepare the future generations for this achievement.

Already the importance of a relevant educational curriculum has been recognised in some quarters, and a few token steps have been taken in the right direction.

University Grants Commission has recently introduced a scheme providing funds to colleges for restructuring their courses to make them more relevant to the development needs of the community. In addition a high level working group headed by Mr.G.Parthasarathi, Chairman of Indian Council for Social Science Research, has been constituted to identify means to achieve a better linkage between education, employment and development.

Farther from home, but perhaps even more significant, is an exciting experiment now underway in France, where UNESCO and UNICEF are co-sponsoring a four year project in Development Education in French secondary schools. The programme covers theories, policies, strategies, and problems of development in the Third World as well as an historical survey of development in the West from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Research is underway to evolve a development-oriented syllabus for inclusion in the French national curriculum.

Educators in India today have an opportunity to make a bold departure from their unquestioning allegiance to an outdated, stale curriculum without relevance to the life of the country. A new development-oriented curricula can be drawn up which stresses that aspect of each subject -- be it history, economics, psychology, sociology, agriculture or engineering science -- which relates to the phenomenon of development and its expressions in social life.

Though such a step will be highly significant, it cannot have the full desired impact so long as development is considered merely as one among the many social sciences. As agricultural education really received the recognition it deserved only when the 22 agricultural universities were established under ICAR, the best way to promote development-oriented education is by founding Development Universities in every state under a National Institute for Planning and Development supported by the introduction of new colleges, departments, and courses for development into existing educational institutions.

The purpose of the National Institute would be to draw together the best minds from every academic field, and through extensive study of past events both within India and abroad, attempt to evolve a new science of planning and development incorporating and integrating all the social and physical sciences, to produce a unifying perspective of the nation as it has emerged from the past and moves into the future.

The research could form the basis for a graded national development curriculum which varies in form and content according to the level of education. At the University level, the focus could be national and international with emphasis on the theories and strategies. The stress should not be on technical training as in agriculture or engineering, but on a much broader-based study of development issues, successful models and programs, goals and limitations, and strategies for achievement. Other universities can also establish schools and departments for this purpose.

At the other end of the spectrum, there should be courses in the colleges and polytechnics which focus on the problems and potentials of the district and taluq in which the school is located. These courses should emphasize practical programmes rather than theory, with a view to equip the student with both the motivation and capacity to contribute meaningfully to the nation's progress. Such courses can be made mandatory for all those seeking employment as government officials, bank agents, engineers, scientists, etc.