When the whole world is talking about innovation-driven economy powered by growing Human Capital formation, we are talking about “Schooling without Learning” in mushrooming “Learning Shops” operating unmindful of negative externalities and cascading erosion suffered by larger section of the society. To-day in Manipur the ideal outcome of Academic Citizenship is extremely low; to such an extent that the virtues of “social Capital” have been consciously or unconsciously defiled and diluted; and that the very foundation of development remains threatened with dismal future in all manifestations while education is largely meant to strengthen both mental and physical power of community. We should keep in mind that autonomy does not mean separation from the society.
One experiences the crippling phenomenon of young minds with confused aspirations in the bewildered age of cut-throat competition. We have been, it seems, running in the beaten track. We get weighed down by the mounting burden of blind imitation and borrowed system of routine exercises in the four corners of rooms. What about home-grown system with commitment rooted in domestic institutions ? What about our core competence which is expected to lead and excel ? Remember, we are in the age which respects “strength” only. How to evolve the State identity of excellence ? What about the Vision of human resource development ? Vision, mission and action should go together.
The big question before Manipur is how far the New Education Policy of 2020 could be a path-breaker in a backward State like Manipur. Yes, opportunity is given. But utilisation of opportunity is entirely a different thing. Are we ready to break all speed breakers ? What is plan of action ? What is the road map while the administration has yet to gear up and tighten the belt to manage education sector for the change. As a matter of fact brain power, money power and manpower should go together. What works in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan may not work in Manipur. The regional realities are different. The starting base is different. There cannot be “one size fits all”. National ambition cannot be fulfilled without fulfilling regional aspirations.
One thing we should keep in mind is that development of education cannot be created overnight. It evolves and passes through challenging stages in response to changing imperatives of the society. We have to tune the trend to comply with the demanding circumstances. It cannot be static. It has to be dynamic and equally responsive. We are now required to follow the principle of ‘reform, perform and transform’ (PM).
While there are many objectives of education, Human Capital formation comes into centre stage in view of the fact that knowledge, skill and health of manpower remains overriding in any commendable intervention for development. Besides, professional discipline goes a long way in creating a healthy environment. Man behind machine is as important as machine. Machine hardly works unaided. They are building blocks to harness the benefits of modern technology and to blunt its unusual disruptions. In fact, human capital compliments physical capital in production process and becomes an important input for technological innovation and long term growth. As such, the three components of human capital need to be enriched and given equal attention.
While good background of comprehensive education is required for better understanding and quicker adaptability, equally important is skill formation. It is not easy to acquire and cultivate three types of skill such as ‘cognitive skill’ ‘socio-behavioural skill’ and ‘skill combination’. Another fact to be kept in mind is the changing nature of production and work demands enriching skill. Building these skills require a strong human capital foundation and lifelong learning.
A sound foundation of human capital is that early childhood generates significant social returns. A high quality programme for 3-5 years developed in 1960s by Perry School in Michigan revealed a return to the society over and above of USD 7-USD 12 for each dollar invested (World Development Report-2019). By the age of 3, children of low income countries have heard 30 million fewer words than their affluent peers. The earlier children are exposed to better neighbours and environment, the stronger are benefits. Investment in first thousand day of child’s life is considered extremely important.
As children turn into teenagers interventions to close gap become more expensive and may not yield better result. It is here that the findings of Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) facilitated by PRATHAM Mumbai, appreciated by World Bank Group, could be taken advantage of.
Manipur needs an in-depth study on critical gaps in education sector to know where do we stand now, where to go, how to go and how soon to catch up with the rest of the country. Remember, wrong information leads to inability to work correctly.
Inspite of best possible interventions made so far, the performance of India in Human Capital Index, remains fairly low with 115th position out 157 countries in the world. India scores only 0.44 as against 0.88 of Singapore, 0.84 of Japan and 0.67 of China. The economy achieving “full health” and “full education” scores value of 1 (World Development Report, 2019).
Now what about Manipur ? The State, right now, is a classic example of professional backwardness; a convincing product of low level of human capital. The State should not expect sustainable flow of private investment in the absence of sustainable availability of professional workforce.
How far the present system of “remote control without accountability” can remedy, improve and develop the process of human capital formation ? Do we have a vision ? Do we have a road map ? Do we have decision with determination to break all speed breakers ? How far we have changed the concept of education; from class-room-certificate-oriented system to human capital formation ? How far our teaching-learning institutions have gone beyond four corners of dilapidated buildings ?
Go to villages and only then, one can see and feel the dismal picture. It is going to be an uphill task of the new Ministry. Education is a State subject and a commodity in free market economy. Only quality matters. We cannot control preference and price and at best we may regulate – not at the cost of rising spirit of competitiveness. What Manipur needs is “controlled expansion” as part of New Education Governance. We can think of District Directorate of Primary Schools with directional departure.
There is need for rigorous monitoring and institutional parenting within the parameters defined by the School Quality Assessment Framework provided by Prime Minister-Schools for Rising India (PM-SHRI). Just change 2 ‘Ts’ – TEACHER and TECHNOLOGY for transformation as first step.
Dr. Singh, the writer, former Professor of Economics, Manipur University, is currently Chairman, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Manipur. E-mail: [email protected]