The greatest tragedy of post-independence India’s national development effort is an egregious failure to develop its abundant and high-potential human capital. The inherent capabilities of the country’s people are evidenced by consistently rising agriculture and industry output and the steady growth of the services sector despite the majority populace having continuously experienced sub-optimal education for over seven decades. As highlighted by eminent contemporary historian Dr. Ramachandra Guha in an interview with EducationWorld (https://www.educationworld.in/educationworld-interview-with-dr-ramachandra-guha), the greatest mistake of post-independent India’s leadership was failure to universalise primary education.
Indian society has paid a heavy price for this myopic failure to nurture and develop its human capital. In its 75th year of independence, the Republic ungraciously hosts the world’s largest number of comprehensive illiterates and total factor, industry, agriculture and government productivity is lowest among major countries. Moreover, it’s well-documented that in the country’s 1 million government rural primaries notorious for crumbling buildings, pathetic sanitation and chronic teachers truancy, over 50 percent of class V children can’t read or understand class II textbooks or solve simple sums.
It’s against this backdrop that Dharmendra Pradhan, hitherto Union minister for petroleum and natural gas, has been appointed Union education, skills and entrepreneurship minister. In keeping with the tradition of BJP/NDA education ministers, who know little about public accountability, Pradhan didn’t respond to our entreaties to grant an interview or even respond to an emailed questionnaire. This despite the unchallenged status of EducationWorld (estb. 1999) as the country’s premier education news and features publication. Nevertheless in this issue, we assess the chances of the new education minister succeeding in overcoming two formidable challenges that confront him — quickly placing the pandemic-derailed education system back on the rails and simultaneously implementing the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. To enable the minister to scale these daunting peaks, we present valuable expert advice about drawing up priorities from some of the country’s most knowledgeable and successful education leaders. In the national interest, Pradhan should heed this advice.
Our constructive cover story apart, there’s much else in this autumn issue of EW. The special report written by Delhi-based journalist Abhilasha Ojha highlights the selfless herculean efforts of several education evangelists to keep the flame of learning alive in rural India. Also check out the comment columns including an abridged version of a lecture by Dr. K. Kasturirangan and erudite historian Dr. Gitanajali Surendran.
Stay well, stay safe.