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One of Gujarat Children’s University jobs is to send a functionary to the house of a pregnant woman to read out scriptures!

By Prof Rohit Shukla*
Gujarat is one of the fastest urbanising states. With increase in population and rising aspirations, a large number of young people are in search of good education. But this whole process is nipped in the bud with wrong policy set up, poor administration and prejudiced behaviour.
At the primary level there is a very high drop out rate. The infrastructure is poor and even many centrally sponsored schemes are not fully and properly utilised. According to a survey undertaken by the State Government, it is found that hardly 10 percent of the schools qualify for quality education.
There are ill‐conceived efforts at privatisation at all levels of education. The schools run by the private and ‘only for profit’ individuals or institutions charge exorbitant fees. There are many agitations by the parents, which remain unfruitful. The rumour has it that many of such institutions are run by the people who are in close proximity to the seats of power.
Higher education, which is to be viewed as a harbinger of the future of the country is under stress and is a worst victim of short‐sightedness and antipathy. Some of the main symptoms are as follows: o In most of the grant‐in‐colleges, the staff recruitment is under suspended animation for almost two decades. This has resulted in loss of quality education.
The mindset of the government is not forward looking as, in schools as well as colleges very little encouragement is provided for scientific way of thinking. There is an effort to homogenise the thought and disagreement or discourse is disallowed. Orthodoxy and exclusivity are used to divide the society.
While education is privatised and exorbitant fees are charged, appointment of faculty with good and commensurate salary is a day dream. There are many bright careers which are lingering either as part timers or daily wagers, despite possessing degrees and qualifications prescribed by the Universities Grant Commission (UGC).
While old and established colleges are feeling suffocated, the Government keeps on establishing newer universities. It is even hard to decipher the purpose of some such universities. For example, there is Children’s University, which is perhaps the only one of its kind in the entire world. Under the scheme of the things, a functionary of the university goes to the house of a pregnant woman and reads out from the scriptures! Such process of giving “Sanskaras” is continued till the child reaches the age of 18. Is this a process of creating some super race?
We also have yoga, petroleum and Sanskrit universities. Does one require special universities subject‐wise? This is an avoidable waste of resources. Function of the education is to equip the society and its members to become more productive. Education is expected to provide a framework and a perspective for future and balanced development of society. That way this sector is expected to generate externalities such that the dreams of our constitution are realised.
There is a feeling of nostalgia when one thinks of the decades of sixties and seventies. Education atmosphere was more democratic and progressive. Control of feudal mind set and influence of money bags was on the wane. A very large number of poor and deprived class students could take advantage of the inexpensive education.
Gujarat has lost the trail. It has become less and less democratic and more and more monolithic. People who work very closely in this field and have a long trail of experience behind them find that it requires an immediate course correction. Future of an entire generation is under siege.
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*President, Save Education, Gujarat Chapter; Editor, “Abhidrashti”, a monthly journal devoted to education for the past almost 50 years; President, Gujarat Economic Association; formerly with the Sardar Patel Institute of Social and Economic Research, Ahmedabad

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