Friday, September 5, 2008
Dnyaneshwara, the great Marathi saint, described education as knowledge poured from one heart to the other. Our society has always valued the importance of knowledge, learning and scholarship. The ancient Indian system of gurushishya parampara is one that illustrates the traditional approach of holistic education, where it moves beyond the confines of imparting knowledge and becomes a process that leads to enlightenment. Education rouses the mind from the slumber of ignorance and it is only when provided with the nourishment of education that the mind of a person is truly awake. This metamorphosis through education plays a crucial role in our life as it awakens the minds of people and turns them into thinking beings. The irresistible power of human thought is what shapes not only our consciousness but also our perception of the world around us. It is only a thinking population that can truly participate and therein transform the society we live in. Hence education, with its power of awakening the minds of a billion people, can play a critical role in determining the destiny of our great nation. The social context, within which education as a tool of empowerment functions, is also equally important as it helps in understanding the dynamics of its impact on the process of nation-building. In a democratic and secular country that revels in its diversity and spirit of tolerance it is essential that education upholds and imparts these values to successive generations to strengthen and protect such traditions. Education is the path to knowledge and knowledge is the path to truth. No education can be truly enlightening if it fails to instil in people a respect for truth and purity of purpose and with it the nobleness of humanism. The issue of providing education to every child in this country is very close to me. I have emphasised my desire to see every person to be touched by the light of modern education. Education must teach the lesson of gender equality to both boys and girls and negate the deep-rooted influence of gender bias which forms the bedrock of social prejudices. With determination and popular participation the vision of universal education can be realised. The government is committed to providing elementary education to all under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Our concerted efforts towards universal elementary education have resulted in a manifold increase in educational institutions and student enrolment. However, there are still many impediments and we need to put in place practical solutions to make our education system more effective. Poverty remains the biggest hurdle in the path towards universal education. Our drive towards educating the nation must focus on poor and remote areas and be sensitive to local problems that come in the way of families sending their children to school. The high rate of school dropouts in economically backward regions and tribal areas is directly linked to economic compulsions where girls and boys have to often work to earn a living for their families. Even though laws are in place to deal with the evil of child labour, it is still present. Only through increased awareness and sensitivity can we succeed in ensuring that every child is taken away from the grip of exploitation and delivered to the doorsteps of a school. It is also important that the education imparted is relevant to their needs.