ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On Education

One of the greatest unmet challenges of contemporary India has been education. The state has not been able to live up to its self-professed role of providing education to all. It is necessary, in a context of massive and rapid changes brought about by a globalising world and a transforming society, to reiterate the well known but oft-forgotten adage that education is, in essence, about opening up the student's mind to the riches of the universe.

Historically, education, and especially universities, have played a central transformatory role. The development of education and universities in the different areas of Europe moulded the mind of the Western world over the centuries. The same is true for the rest of the world, although with different temporal depths.1 Above all, universities have been the custodians of the intellectual capital of the world and promoters of culture and specialised knowledge. In the words of one of the most beautiful minds of the last century, Alfred North Whitehead (1929: 13),

Culture is an activity of thought, and receptiveness to beauty and humane feelings. Scraps of information have nothing to do with it. A merely well informed man is the most useless bore on God’s earth. What we should aim at producing is men who possess both culture and expert knowledge in some special direction. Their expert knowledge will give them a ground to start from and their culture will lead them as deep as philosophy and as high as art.

Before I proceed to make some remarks on our universities, I should like to draw attention to our schools from where the students in our universities are recruited. In a country of the size of India where material, social and cultural endowments are so unevenly distributed, our school system needs to make massive advances not only in terms of numbers but in terms of quality. Elementary education has to be made available to all. It was part of the directive principles of our Constitution; it is now a right. A beginning has been made. I hope that from this stage itself, sufficient attention is paid not merely to the enrolment numbers but also to the standard of education imparted so that children are able to use it as they grow up in life.

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