Dr. Dulumoni Goswami

             Maulana Abul Kalam Azad the first Education Minister of independent India, was no doubt a visionary leader and undisputedly a towering figure of Indian history of the 20th Century. He was born in 1888 in an orthodox Islamic family, but had developed a considerable  rebellious attitude against orthodox Islam, which was practiced in his family and society. In Nehru’s words, “Azad represented a glorious synthesis of cultures, civilizations, thoughts and philosophies which have powerfully influenced India’s history. He was a bridge between the old and the new.” Azad joined interim government which was formed in 1947 as Education Minister, believing that by formulating the education policy, he could contribute to the future of the country.

          In order to understand the existing problems and limitations of the education system, which was designed by the foreign rulers based on Lord Macaulay’s policy and to reconstruct Indian education system, Azad made various attempts like appointment of University Education Commission under the Chairmanship of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in 1948, Kher Committee for Elementary Education in 1948 and Secondary Education Commission under the Chairmanship of Dr. Lakhmanaswami Mudaliar in 1952-53. He followed it with many fundamental policy decisions and establishment of educational institutions which provided a firm ground for the development of Indian education system in the later years. Azad was totally opposed to Macaulay’s approach to education that was meant for the few elite class people only and which was being followed for a long time in India. He felt the need of education for the common people. It is true that without education no people, no society and no nation can achieve any kind of development. Azad especially emphasized on ‘Social Education’ by which he meant ‘the inclusion of the sense of rights and duties of citizens and the production of educated minds from among the masses.’ This was to include understanding of the social conditions of the country, health education, economic development, aesthetic development and development of universal human values. But the prevailing education system has failed to develop these understandings and values. Azad has criticized the traditional education regime on account of its curriculum, books and methodology of teaching. He devoted himself to the training of individuals who will have the qualities of vision, courage, tolerance and integrity. He wanted to develop a social order which will be inspired by the ideals of social justice, co-operation, broad mindness and the rationalism. In fact Azad was a visionary of modern educational enterprise who laid a strong foundation of a long term educational and cultural development of India. He wished that all Indians would appreciate and imbibe the social and human values of Indian culture which according to him should be inculcated through education.

         Azad was a strong believer of democracy and he felt that without education of the people democracy cannot be successful, therefore he wanted to democratize education first. In order to democratize education Azad emphasized on four major endeavors - (1) Complete eradication of illiteracy from the soil of India for which universalization of elementary education is must. To achieve this he also emphasized on adult education programme including education of women. (2) Equalization of educational opportunities among different sections of the society and different regions. (3)Three language formula where state language and Hindi should be the medium of instruction and English would remain as an important second language (4) Sound primary education throughout the country.

         Azad strongly believed that everyone has the right to education which will enable him to develop his faculties and live a full human life. Although various attempts were made to realize the dream of universal primary education to all children but the dream is yet to fully realized. However the 86th amendment of the Indian Constitution that made education a fundamental right was passed in the year 2002. The new article 21A says ‘the state shall provide free and compulsory education through a law that it may determine.’ Again it is also a matter of pleasure that Azad’s dream of right to education is likely to be fully realized, as now the country has finally accepted that elementary education is the fundamental right of every child. In order to ensure that the children really get their fundamental right, the historic Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 has already been passed by the Indian Parliament and is being enforced across the nation since 1st April 2010.

            Maulana Azad was responsible not only for streamlining the education system in India, but also establishing some of the important institutions and educational bodies. The credit of establishing Indian Institute of Technology ( IIT) which is the most prestigious technical institutions in India attracting many foreign students, goes to Moulana Azad. In 1951 the first IIT in India was established by Azad. India has at present 65 IITs.  The man was also responsible for setting up of Central Institute of Education, Delhi which later became the Department of Education, Delhi University.  The setting up of the University Grants Commission in 1953 are all credited to his vision. He was also the primary propagator of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and Faculty of Technology of Delhi University and a founder of Jamila Milia Islamia University.

        Swami Vivekananda believed on man-making education. Like Swamiji Azad also viewed that education should help the individual in realizing his immense potential. He stressed the importance on values like truth, tolerance, justice, equality, cooperation and unity which contribute to the making of man and his society in pursuit of excellence. One of the major objectives of education should be to promote national unity on the basis of our rich and diverse  cultures and beliefs. Therefore he stressed on the importance of subjects like history, geography, civics and literature for promoting nationalism and the idea of unity in diversity. The educational policy of India in the subsequent period like NPE 1986 has also stressed on these objectives. Apart from nationalism, education also has a role to play in promoting world unity and global citizenship. Azad did not support narrow nationalism and opined that our mind should be liberated from prejudice based on class, race and nationality.

        On becoming the education minister Azad tried to address almost all the issues of education. He felt deeply concerned about the quality of education imparted in educational institutions and the singular contribution that teachers can make in this regard. He therefore stressed on training of teachers for quality improvement of education. Due to persistent efforts of Azad on teacher training, the condition of teacher training had considerably improved but the pace of growth was still very slow. Due to the negligence of some state governments, the expansion of teacher education in the states was poor. However recently due the enactment of RTE Act 2009 certain reformations have been made in the field of teacher education. All states have now accepted the importance of professionally trained teachers for quality education.


Illustration By : Sukanya Bharadwaj

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