Twenty years ago on the eve of the 21st century when this publication was launched in modest circumstances but with the vaulting ambition to “build the pressure of public opinion to make education the #1 item on the national agenda,” it was an inflection point of euphoria and great expectations. Globally there was a surge of hope that in the new millennium all nations would unite, co-operate, collaborate to end the pervasive problems of deep poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and lawlessness which were making the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world nasty, brutal and short.
On September 8, 2,000, high-powered delegates of 191 countries of the world — representing four-fifths of humanity — met in New York and signed the historic United Nations Millennium Declaration which spelt out eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; achievement of universal primary education; promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women; reduction of child mortality, among others — to be attained by 2015. Two decades later, it’s plainly evident that the hopes and great expectations proclaimed at that shining moment in world history are nowhere near realisation.
Although the leaders of the 191 nations who were signatories of the Millennium Declaration seem to have forgotten about the MDGs, these goals, especially MDG-2 — universal primary education — became a watchword for this then nine-months-old monthly struggling to impact our missionary message upon an indifferent public, including the academy. Nevertheless, we persisted, broadening MDG-2 to propagate deep reforms across the entire education continuum from pre-primary to Ph D, firm in our belief that human capital development is the essential prerequisite of the country’s socio-economic renaissance.
Despite having failed to sufficiently arouse public opinion to realise our ambitious mission statement, your editors experience some satisfaction that from being a mere blip on the periphery of the national consciousness, public education has become a dot heading towards the centre. Certainly, the conversational buzz about education is louder and we derive some comfort from having highlighted hitherto unsung heroes of Indian education and providing them a credible medium and platform for the dissemination and articulation of their education reform ideas and proposals. Nevertheless readers may rest assured that our resolve to make education the #1 item on the national development agenda will not falter. We call upon all citizens to make common cause with us to reach high-quality education to all children and youth across the country.
In our 20th anniversary issue which features half a dozen insightful essays specially written for the occasion by some of the country’s most respected education pundits and leaders, the cover story debates the chances of Indian education — which two millennia ago was the envy of the world — recovering its lost momentum during the next decade.