The ninth anniversary of EducationWorld — this month we complete nine years of uninterrupted publishing as India’s sole education-focused news and analysis publication — coincides with hard times for the Indian economy and society. The financial markets are in a meltdown; inflation is stubbornly double digit; the law and order and justice system countrywide is on the point of breakdown; there’s widespread distress in rural India where bewildered by unremittingly adverse terms of trade between town and country, farmers’ suicides continue unchecked. Moreover in an era of turmoil and terror, fissiparous impulses and balkanization movements are manifesting themselves around the country as saw-dust caesars masquerading as leaders randomly terrorise minorities and champion narrow particularisms.
Nor does Indian education present a shining picture. Of the country’s child population of 450 million below 18 years of age, an estimated one-third is out of school. This is hardly surprising given that the government (Central, state and local) school system, which dispenses rock-bottom quality education to 60-70 percent of the over 220 million children enrolled in 1.25 million schools countrywide, is in a mess, crippled by abysmal infrastructure, overcrowding and chronic teacher truancy. Neither is the country’s higher education system which accommodates a mere 9 percent of youth in the age bracket 18-24, inspiring either. A few institutional islands of excellence apart, tertiary education in India is characterised by pervasive mediocrity.
Against this gloomy backdrop, a moment’s reflection will make clear that whole-hearted societal commitment to contemporisation, revitalisation and universalisation of Indian education — the prerequisite of endowing generation next with the skill-sets to resolve the thousand intractable problems that afflict the Indian nation — is a non-negotiable necessity. Fortunately, there is slow but perceptible progress towards reformation of the hitherto obdurately change-resistant education system. Despite the strenuous efforts of a corrupt and uncaring educracy and the indifference to public education of the country’s myopic intelligentsia and selfish middle class, a new genre of education visionaries, pioneers and edupreneurs are master-minding novel initiatives to re-define and revive the subcontinent’s ancient tradition of knowledge creation and socially-beneficial scholarship.
In our ninth anniversary issue, we present snapshot profiles of 50 education leaders/innovators around the country who in our considered opinion are positively (with one exception) impacting Indian education. However readers should note that our list of 50 great education leaders is illustrative rather than exhaustive. I’m sure that in our huge subcontinental land mass there are many heroes and heroines toiling unsung and providing the priceless gift of real education to the populace. We would like to hear about them and make their cause our own.
Meanwhile on our ninth anniversary, we reaffirm our dedication to the mission statement of EducationWorld, viz, “to build the pressure of public opinion to make education the No.1 item on the national agenda”. We invite all readers and citizens to join with us to debate, discuss and examine education issues and trends. Because let’s entertain no illusions: root and branch education reform is the pre-condition of national development.