Role of education in promoting economic development

Debapriya Mukherjee
The 2017 Indian general elections was a landmark in the nation’s political history, as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured a record win and came to power. The electoral process for the 17th Indian general elections lasted over a month, from April to May, 2019  and was conducted in seven phases. During the entire period of election campaign, media was actively engaged in reporting mob violence, lynching, intimidation, corruption, violation of the model code and so on. The nature of campaign made by the politicians of all parties is root cause of all these happenings .  The campaigns were practically driven by mudslinging, defamatory political speeches and the spewing of venom. Though issue related to development was focused but that was practically unclear because the meaning of development in relation to the limitations of economic development was not clearly focused in their campaign.  The major role in promoting development is the education that was practically ignored. Development and education are the two central questions if we really concern in promoting development. In many parts of the developing world, there is always a potential con?ict between short-term economic benefits and long-term investment in education and learning for promoting development. Generally, human beings always consider economic bene?ts for a more comfortable and convenient life.  Thereby the economic factor is closely related to comfortable living. The development virtually indicates change in society and is closely connected to economic change and economic growth. But economic growth can not be the only indicator of development. The economic growth is defined based on per capita income. The economic development is accompanied by changes of structure, participation of nationals, and consumption patterns; not simply an increase in income. Initiation of large projects with the involvement of, foreign corporations and foreign technicians, mainly from the developed countries may lead to an increase in income for the country.  But the government and people of the nation have little involvement in the innovation of technology although they are able to enhance their income monetarily from this project. So there is an emergent need to have participation of country’s own people in innovation of technology so that there will be change in the social structure and consumption patterns as well as economic growth to achieve ‘economic development’. Education can play crucial role to bring satisfactory changes in society considering the balance among diverse perspectives of lives, especially, between materialism and humanism in terms of development and education. The Prime Minister, Mr. Modi also advocates that Knowledge and education are not restricted to books; the purpose of education must be to enable balanced growth of every dimension of a human being, which is not possible without innovation. PM also emphasized on enhancing the trend of innovation in schoolchildren. Though newly formed government has time and again committed to overhaul the education system and policy has been framed to focus on Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability of the education system in the country with emphasis on quality of educator and overhauling of the curriculum to utilize human resource in the  innovation of technology.  They are poorly executed. In reality, after visiting more than 50 schools, education system particularly in rural areas has not been designed to promote thought and encourage a culture of curiosity. As a result in most Indian schools, at least in the Public schools system, the kids do not really attain knowledge and skills commensurate with their age. The major reason is that the pedagogy is boring. It mainly focuses on cramming the textbook information and the best crammers are rewarded by the system. The "Crammed Knowledge" is largely forgotten after the exams are over. The curriculum is designed to leave the kid with no skills or perspectives to be able to build a working life. The quality of education in India is as unequal and fluctuating as any other parameter such as income, health facility or lifestyle. The gap between the good and bad institutes is staggeringly wide. Many institutes are founded just to make money, not with the purpose of imparting education in the first place.  The main purpose of so called “good” institutes is to ensure- everyone with a decent effort scores high. Competition to achieve high score in particular environment ruins the innovative skill of the students. Another major obstacle is the lack of laboratory activities even up to Class-XII standard that practically deprives the student to get exposure to technical knowledge. Government funded school can not improve their infra structure to carry out lab activities on account of financial constraint. Most interestingly, our  government promises to improve our education system but the total spend on education is 3.4 percent of total spending  in 2019 budget dropping from the 4.3 percent of total spend in 2014.  In this piquant situation how we can promote economic development though the ministers or decision makers regularly promise to develop the innovative skill of our youth to international level. Further quota system has been a cause for depriving deserving ones of facilities.  At present, a degree has become status symbol for marriage, for jobs, for parties, for matrimonial advts, for prestige and for dowry but not for developing skill to innovate technology that can change our society.  Of course exception is there, otherwise how so many Indians are engaged particularly in research work to discover advanced technology in developed countries.
I have observed that rich people are not interested to get their kids admitted in Government-funded school because of poor quality of teachers as assumed by them.   In this context it is pertinent to mention if all the kids of ministers, decision maker and government servants are bound to be educated only in government school by law, there will be good change in society in very short time. Competent authority must be rigid and honest in checking the quality of teachers of various streams. If good teachers are present in schools and colleges, coaching will be diminished. Automatically private institutions will be sincere to impart quality education at reasonable fees.  Media in this respect must not be silent to focus the necessity in some major changes to enhance the creativity of the child. In India, hard but true, marks overweigh talent. This has lead to side effects like emergence of coaching centers and all.   In developing countries like India, most important factor is to balance basic education and higher Education. Basic education is fundamental to keep people's basic necessities and rights in place Higher education offers high technological skills and expands the range of knowledge to those who acquire it. In addition to these, vocational education must be strengthened. Teachers are essential players in promoting quality education. Their teaching skills and knowledge are directly linked to the quality of education.  Lastly, fundamental subjects, such as ethics, philosophy, and literature should be emphasized because these kinds of education can be the basement for the whole meaning of development. Even on fulfillment of the above requirement, everything depends on an efficient and honest government for economic growth and effective education. Also a life-long education for adults after they graduate from a regular course at a school is required in order to adjust to rapid changes in society. Indian mainstream education needs not just a rethink, it needs total redesign. If we really solve the problem in education system, we have to attack at the root of problem based on root-cause analysis. This requires a huge mindset change and a new political party- which has core ideology of freedom and liberty and takes on socialism. If the people like Albert Einstein, Who quoted- "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid" - will become policy maker, then there is hope for a better India.
The writer is former Senior Scientist, Central Pollution Control Board and can be reached at 919432370163, [email protected]