By: Amar Yumnam
There was a recent flutter when the Minister looking after Education in Manipur uttered about the impossibility of recovery and reforms in the most important social sector, which Education is. What I see in this is a warning to all those who have been putting constant pressure on him and behaving almost like obstinate constraints to his endeavours to do something significant for the sector. One prominent manifestation of his statement is that he has already applied his mind on the issues plaquing the school education sector. This is what Manipur needs today. We also need an Educated person to lead this sector. This is where the present Education Manipur is the one we look up to for leaving a legacy behind in the education sector. Manipur today unavoidably needs something here.
Education is both a process and a product. This process aims to result into something good for the future. This process has to yield results at the individual levels whose benefits the society would collectively harvest. Further though the process has to work through individuals, the efforts have to be provided at the collective level with none leaving out. It has to create responsible citizens. This criss-crossing between the private and the public certainly needs particular attention to be provided to the parochial elements in a place like Manipur. Now this imperative to attend to the contextual (Manipur cannot as yet think of attending to the global needs) needs necessarily generates political agents who are more committed to manufacturing citizens to attend to his needs rather than the democratic citizens as outputs of the education. These political agents intending to manufacture citizens must have put maximum pressure on the EducationMinisterand hence his recent wager.
Let us remind ourselves that Education is something which needs constant efforts being maintained and it is never a once in a while endeavour. Introducing the perception of Plato in his Republic, Robin Barrow (1975) writes in Plato, Utilitarianism and Education: “What is particularly important aboutPlato is his ability to take a comprehensive view of the logical consequences for society ofhis ethical standpoint, and hence his ability to consider education in the context of ethical,social and political considerations rather than in isolation. Stated simply his ethical andpolitical philosophy is based upon the principle that all men are equally entitled to happinessand that consequently provision should be made for the happiness of all men in the idealstate. This ultimate moral principle has the immediate consequence for education that itsprime object should be to produce adults who may successfully contribute to the happinessof the whole community, while themselves enjoying happiness within that community. Thisin turn leads to the view that the claims of freedom must be subordinated to the claims ofhappiness..”
In other words, the content and orientation are paramount in education. But just this is not enough, there is the need for control and leadership. Here is where the paramountcy of state arises. But the state ultimately implies the people manning the state.
The challenge of leading a sector like education very well evident when Bertrand Russell wrote in 1926 On Education: “There must be in the world many parents who, like the present author, have young children whom they are anxious to educate as well as possible, but reluctant to expose to the evils of most existing educational institutions. The difficulties of such parents are not soluble by any effort on the part of isolated individuals. It is, of course, possible to bring up children at home by means of governesses and tutors, but this plan deprives them of the companionship which their nature craves, and without which some essential elements of education must be lacking. Moreover, it is extremely bad for a boy or girl to be made to feel ‘odd’ and different from other boys and girls; this feeling, when traced to parents as its cause, is almost certain to rouse resentment against them, leading to a love of all that they most dislike. The conscientious parent may be driven by these considerations to send his boys and girls to schools in which he sees grave defects, merely because no existing schools seem to him satisfactory — or, if any are satisfactory, they are not in his neighbourhood. Thus the cause of educational reform is forced upon conscientious parents, not only for the good of the community, but also for the good of their own children. If the parents are well-to-do, it is not necessary to the solution of their private problem that all schools should be good, but only that there should be some good school geographically available. But for wage-earning parents nothing suffices except reform in the elementary schools. As one parent will object to the reforms which another parent desires, nothing will serve except an energetic educational propaganda, which is not likely to prove effective until long after the reformer’s children are grown up. Thus from love for our own children we are driven, step by step, into the wider sphere of politics and philosophy.”
As Harry Brighouse emphasises in his 2006 book On Education: “Schools are increasingly expected to make up for the failuresof other social institutions. For the first time in history, weexpect schools to educate everyone, not only those whoseparents were educated themselves. We expect them to do thisdespite keeping high proportions of children in poverty, anddespite surrounding children, at ever younger ages, with afervently anti-intellectual popular culture. We expect them todeal with the emotional consequences of fractured – and evermore complex – family arrangements. Our economy demandslong working hours from adults, and even when both of achild’s parents live together, they frequently need to workthose long hours in order to feel they are keeping up withtheir reference group – and in order to provide their childrenwith the material goods they expect from watching televisionand observing their peers. Schools therefore deal with significantnumbers of children who do not have a single adult whoselife they share when they leave the school gates. Our economiesare also complex and wealthy; we expect schools totrain a labour force that is large and diversely tooled. At thesame time schools must deal with the demands and interferenceof parents who feel, reasonably enough, a sense ofentitlement to have a say over what happens to their childrenin the 15,000 hours or so they spend in school. Politicians,parents, employers, and even children, are constantly proclaimingon what schools should be doing.”
Well Education Policy should be framed and pursued for there is no alternative. John Dewey said: “a community or social group sustains itselfthrough continuous self-renewal, and that this renewaltakes place by means of the educational growth of theimmature members of the group. By various agencies,unintentional and designed, a society transforms uninitiatedand seemingly alien beings into robust trustees ofits own resources and ideals. Education is thus a fostering,a nurturing, a cultivating, process.”
Manipur Education and Manipur Leadership
By: Amar Yumnam