By: Amar Yumnam
Society is never of a unitary dimension. It is necessarily and always of a multidimensional nature. In the interplay of the various dimensions, some are critically important in the sense that happenings in that particular dimension determine the long-run pace and direction of the society, explain how it emerges into an equal or unequal society, rationality decides or hooliganism prevails and you name it. Yes I am talking of Education.
There is a directed fight going on against drugs. This is important as it is but the significance of education is altogether different and is of a much higher order. The necessity of reemphasising Education arises inter alia because of two factors.
First, the behavioural displays of the political leadership of present-day Manipur reminds one of the phenomenon of Demagogues and what Plato wrote in his The Republic: “The tale is that he who has tasted the entrails of a single human victim minced up with the entrails of other victims is destined to become a wolf. . . . And the protector of the people is like him; having a mob entirely at his disposal, he is not restrained from shedding the blood of kinsmen; by the favourite method of false accusation he brings them into court and murders them, making the life of man to disappear, and with unholy tongue and lips tasting the blood of his fellow citizen; some he kills and others he banishes, at the same time hinting at the abolition of debts and partition of lands: and after this, what will be his destiny? Must he not either perish at the hands of his enemies, or from being a man become a wolf—that is, a tyrant?”
Second, robust education is definitely the Enemy of the Demagogues. I am afraid if education is being murdered intentionally. This fear is something applicable at every stage of the teaching-learning process in Manipur today where the state has a critical role to play.
Education starts from the pre-school days. Fortunately for Manipur, almost all the parents, except the very down-trodden, by and large do love their children with attendance to their pre-school learning requirements. The problem in Manipur starts from the school-learning stages and till the terminal ones. On the eve of the Pandemic, a cross-country study of the World Bank found that India had one of the highest productivity losses of human capital due to “inadequate human capital investment.” The scenario could have been only worse in the case of Manipur. The COVID19 has added to the global worries to the challenges facing education provision. In the United Kingdom, calculations are already coming out that the educational losses the kids suffered during the two years of the pandemic would socially require two decades to recover; the social cost involved in this is the worry of the intellectuals and the policy-makers.
Education is something very contemporaneous. The education the children need today should be provided today; it can never be postponed to the next day. Education is such a sacrosanct input to social advancement that it should be made available to all the children of each age group without leaving anyone out. Further, education has a spatial dimension unique to it. While a drug transported from Churachandpur can be caught in Kangpokpi, it cannot so in the case of education. Education of the children in a village in Ukhrul has to be provided in that village itself and it can never be replaced by education provided in a village in Mao. This provision of education to all the villages has to be marked by simultaneity. This temporal, spatial and demographic coverage would decide the future social scenario and determine the higher education to be provided. The success or otherwise of our ending as an Open Society or a Closed Society as Karl Popper envisaged in Volume I of his classic The Open Society and Its Enemies would be determined by what happens to our education. This envisioning is given in a shorter form by Eliot Cohen in his 2009 book, Critical Thinking Unleashed, thus: “In his classic book The Open Society and Its Enemies, philosopher Karl Popper distinguishes between two types of societies—one “open,” the other “closed.” An open society, he says, “sets free the critical powers of man,” while a closed society stresses “submission to magical forces.”1 The “critical powers” unleashed in an open society engage the rational capacity of human beings to reach conclusions on the basis of evidence and to revise these conclusions as the evidence changes. This openness to evidence distinguishes it from closed societies, which submit to ritualistic, superstitious, and blind thinking impervious to evidence. In an open society, political leaders are not to be idolized and worshipped as gods among humans. Like anyone else, their views can be called into question if they fail to fit the facts as rationally determined. Such a society is anti authoritarian, realistic, and democratic in its emphasis on enlightened self-governance. In contrast, a closed society is authoritarian, and its leaders lead by demanding blind obedience. Here there is typically an appeal to the supernatural instead of reason and a tendency to make the facts fit the political policy rather than vice versa.”
Such is the nature and significance of education. But education is in complete shambles in Manipur. The teachers are being treated as disposable commodities by the government. The schools were linked with a government scheme but the service conditions of the teachers are as unclear as they can be; a robust education can never be founded on the uncertainty of service conditions of the teachers. The same is the case with the colleges as well. These are coupled by the lack of teachers in the schools around the villages while there is no dearth of qualified people around.
There are four immediacies – two physical and two behaviouristic – to be attended to. First, the Vacancies in the schools should be filled-up within a time span of weeks. Second, the service conditions of the teachers in both Schools and Colleges should be given Final Form within a period of three months at most. Third, education should not be allowed to be dictated upon by half-educated hooligans. Fourth, doing something about education in Manipur should be based on the knowledge of what is happening around the globe relating to education.