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(Published in 'The Wire' on 3rd November 2017)

(A speech written for a nine year old child)

Good morning to one and all present here,

I stand before you on behalf of all the children assembled here. As you all know, today is a special day for all of us as we celebrate the PARENTS DAY.

Dear parents, you are the most important people in our life. You gave birth to us, bring us up and help us to have whatever is needed. You provide us with food, education, love and affection.

We know that you want us to be the best in the world. You push us up to cross boundaries. You cheer us up when we fall down. You console us when we fail. You forgive us when we commit mistakes. You encourage us to understand and recognize friendliness, kindness and compassion in others and God. You lead us through the path of correctness and righteousness. You are our role models.

On this journey with you, we may make mistakes. We may not follow what you say and what you do. We may question you. We may criticize you….

But later, we will realize that what you said was right. We will appreciate that we were wrong and you were right. However, we don’t want you to scold us because that makes us sad. We do not want to see your angry gestures. We want to see only your smiling faces.

Dear parents, when we make mistakes, please correct us with understanding and love. We look up to you. We love you from the bottom of our hearts. We care for you. We want to make you happy. We are proud of you.

Dear parents, please accept our parents’ day wishes on this wonderful day. Thank you for being our parents. We wish you all the best.

Thank you.
Changing face of education and educators in India

(Published in the 50th Anniversary special issue of my school magazine)

Education is a basic human right necessary for personal and societal well being. It equips one to fight ignorance, injustice, intolerance, hatred and inequality of all versions like caste, color, creed, religion and gender. It helps one to be more responsible to one self and to the society one lives and it compels one to take an active role in economic, political and social decision-making.

Education, in the broadest sense, is not just restricted to mere literacy, and educators have a defining role in the lives of man and woman in the vibrant tradition India. This goes back to about 3rd century BC. Sages and scholars provided knowledge to students in specially developed ‘Gurukuls’. Students were supposed to stay with the teachers under complete obedience and teachers provided not just the knowledge of the specialized subject but also the skills for life in a selfless way. The communication was more or less oral. With the development of letters, written letters using palm leaves and barks of trees supplemented oral mode of communication. Temples and community centers became schools of modern sense. Later, Buddhist monks spread education in an organized way and established world-renowned educational centers like Nalanda and Takhashila, which attracted famous scholars and students from all over the world. With the Mugal takeover of the political reign, India saw enriching intellectual exchanges between Arabic and Islamic traditions and Indian ethos. Then, with the British came the Christian Missionaries. They started modern, western education in India and spread English language, which later became a rallying point for the educated Indians to fight against British hegemony. The unifying point of all these attempts to impart education in India was the moral, cultural and spiritual flavor of the education and the role of educators as the mighty, selfless souls who work for higher goals in life.

When India became independent, the literate population was very small. Based on the then philosophy of centralized planning of the then governments, an impetus to the educational activities were done by investing huge amounts on education sectors. Universal elementary education was given importance and centers of excellence for higher education were started. To a certain extent, these attempts were successful. Literacy rates have improved substantially and premier institutes like IITs and IIMs became success stories. But there has been a large population outside these official efforts especially in BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) states. Whatever the governmental financial-aid for the educational activities, they were used mainly for giving salaries of teachers and related support systems. Governments found it impossible to support financially and infrastructure wise to the educational needs of the large population. Private initiatives on the principle of ‘not for profit’ have been encouraged. Unaided and self financed educational institutions and courses became the buzzword and government redefined its role mainly as a provider for primary education and facilitator for secondary and higher education.

Education sector is going to undergo fundamental changes in the near future and signs of it already started. Education, in all its practical sense is looked at just as an investment for a future job or a career. Anything, which supports and nourishes this objective, is taken with respect. Expertise, skill or technological superiority is given preference at the expense of humane, cultural, creative and intellectually stimulating educational environment. As education becomes an investment for the future, so came the service providers. As per the GATT agreement, education becomes a service, which cannot be curtailed by local laws and transnational establishments should be allowed to work almost like any other providers of consumer products like soap or toothpaste. So, making profit in educational sector is not looked down upon but encouraged as a successful business entity. In this scheme of things, our romantic role of teacher will have a total makeover. Society becomes a market. Education becomes a product or service. Schools and colleges become education shops. Teachers become commercial teaching workers. Renowned institutions become brand names. Quality, ideals and principles become brand images. Put it bluntly, education can become a shopping experience of another kind. Then the question remains: whether a child who goes through this will be able to face life confidently? Because as Whitehead said “There is only one subject-matter for education, and that is life in all its manifestations”.

The decision and policy makers of the nation have to think seriously to find a way out as that will affect not only generations of children but future of the country is at stake. Let us hope that the wisdom of our enriching past and tradition passed onto us through our great teachers help them in this regard.
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Dr. Siby Abraham
Guru Nanak Khalsa College,
University of Mumbai,
Mumbai, India.
Tel: +91 2224096234
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