Education - Challenges to Change
By Fr. John Felix Raj. S.J.
“Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the
heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightness, as
bright as stars for all eternity” (Daniel 12:3).
Education is a process by which a person’s body, mind and
character are formed and strengthened. It is bringing of head,
heart and mind together and thus enabling a person to develop an
all round personality identifying the best in him or her. It is
a humanizing process.
Education is for transformation, to be able to think by oneself,
to be able to relate to others meaningfully and to understand
the world and society clearly. Without education one cannot
discern what is good or bad? What is right or wrong? What is
true or false? What is lovely or ugly? The purpose of education
is, therefore, to make human beings capable, competent and wise
to meet the challenges of life.
Jawaharlal Nehru declared that if all were well with our
educational institutions, all would be well with the nation.
Educational institutions are intimately linked with society at
large. They are the temples of knowledge. They are the agents of
social change and transformation. Therefore, the general
condition of our schools, colleges and universities is a matter
of great concern to the nation.
The Kothari Commission has beautifully said: “ The destiny of
India is now being shaped in her classrooms. This we believe is
no mere rhetoric. In a world based on science and technology it
is education that determines the level of prosperity, welfare
and security of people. On the quality and number of persons
coming out of our schools and colleges will depend our success
in the great enterprise of national construction whose principal
objective is to raise the standard of living of our people”.
There has been enormous expansion in the educational system in
India since independence. Primary schools have increased from
2.23 lakh with 192 lakh students and 6.24 lakh teachers in 1950
to 7.75 lakhs with 1088 lakh students and 31 lakh teachers.
Secondary schools were 7416 in number with 31 lakh students and
13 lakh teachers in 1950. Today they are 1.2 lakh in number with
395 lakh students and 154 lakh teachers. There are 221
universities with 10,555 affiliated colleges where 3.3 lakh
teachers teach 71 lakh students.
The Educational system
The present educational system is a legacy of the British Raj,
which had the characteristics of western bias and elitist.
Though the western bias is disappearing in our schools with the
introduction of Indian languages as medium of instruction and
greater inculturation of syllabi and programmers, it remains
quite strong in higher education. The elitist nature also
continues as before.
Although under the British rule attempts were made to widen the
social base of education by removing the formal restrictions
based on caste, creed and sex, opportunities of formal education
were available only to the people from higher strata. In the
independent India, the Constitution guarantees equality of
opportunity for all citizens (Art.16.1), and forbids
“discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex,
The Government of India made a promise, reiterated in the
National Education Policy (NEP 1986) and the Programme of Action
1992, to provide free and compulsory education to all children
at least up to the elementary stage and to work towards
provision of education of a satisfactory quality to all children
up to 14 years of age before the commencement of the 21st
century. Yet, it is an embarrassing situation to note that only
62 per cent of the population are literate (male 73% and female
50%). About 480 million people are illiterate even now.
Education in India is a joint responsibility of the State
Governments and the Central Government. Many educational
programmes have been launched. To mention a few: Non-Formal
Education since 1979-80; The National Open School since 1989;
Mahila Samakhiya since 1989; The Operation Blackboard Scheme
since 1987-88; The Integrated Education for Disabled Children
since 1974; Computer Literacy and Studies in School since
1984-85 The District Primary Education Programme since 1994; the
Midday Meal Scheme since 1995 and so on.
What Mr. M. S. Adiseshia, an educationist, observed some thirty
years ago still holds true. “The real ills of the present
educational system are its elitist nature, its heavy pushout and
dropout rate, its scandalously poor school environment, growing
unemployed and unemployable product outcome, its indifference to
the illiterates, its minimal learning and evaluation system, and
its widening gap between the overt (prescribed) curriculum and
the hidden (real) curriculum”.
The ills in our system
The educational system has acquired a dualist character. It
operates with a strong class bias. There is a wide disparity in
quality. While 75 per cent of our Indian children go through an
educational programme of poor even rock-bottom quality provided
mostly by government schools and colleges, 25 per cent benefit
from a small number of quality institutions run by private
organisations. The former hail from the lower strata of society
while the latter come from the elite class.
The resources are inadequate. So the facilities offered in
our schools and colleges are below the level of qualitative
viability. In the 1st plan the Government of India allocated
Rs.153 crores for education (0.7 percent of GDP). In the 9th
plan, the allocation is to the tune of 20,381.6 crores(3.7 per
cent of GDP). The proportion is much less in comparison with
Academic and administrative problems faced by our educational
institutions are further compounded by government control and
council or university regulations.
One of the greatest difficulties is that teachers and
students feel a tremendous academic pressure on them. Our school
councils and universities produce curriculum as bundles of good
or package of values. It has been the practice of the
educationists to burden the students with heavy load of study
materials. The workload is still heavier in professional
Government policies and programmes are not effectively
implemented. There are administrative, operational and financial
problems. Reforms within the system or structure are slow.
Political interference especially in government schools and
college is rampant. Politicised teacher and student unions
interfere with the normal functioning of the institutions. They
use the institutions to gain credibility with their political
bosses and to climb the political ladder.
The syllabi of many universities reveal the extent of
academic backwardness. They spell out subjects which are neither
job-oriented nor life oriented. When students enter the world,
they are surprised that there is hardly any job for the course
they have studied. For an young ambitious man hailing from a
middle class family, it is sheer waste of time, energy and money
to have spent three or five years in a college. It is not
uncommon to see swarms of students finding no job eventually
throng the abode of unemployed.
The authoritarian system, and the rigid and undemocratic
structure in many of our schools, colleges and universities
still continue without much change. People who are active
participants namely teachers and students do not have a proper
Our educational institutions in general and those imparting
higher education in particular have become “knowledge
industries” manufacturing graduates and postgraduates unfit for
our society. Education, of late has become a commodity, which is
being sold and bought in our schools and colleges. It is a fact
that higher education has become costly like other commodities
because of a steep increase in demand.
The traditional “banking” method of education, which sees
people as adaptable, manageable beings, still continues in many
institutions. Concentrating on accumulating deposits of
knowledge, students do not develop the critical consciousness
that would lead them to involve with the social process and
The frustration of parents to admit their wards in
particular institutions so that they can gain some social
status. It has been the routine business of the parents and
their wards to make a beeline for the offices of schools and
colleges for admissions.
India lives in villages. Majority of the villagers belong to
SC/STs. They are, by and large illiterate. The SC and ST
literacy rates are 20 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.
Women literacy rate is poor, just 50 per cent. They lack
employment opportunities and are often discriminated against.
Provisions for educational opportunities for SCs/STs & women
have not been effectively implemented in our country.
Educational Reform & Remedies
We are on the eve of the third millennium, marked by the
phenomenon of “Global Village”. There is a process of global and
cultural unification. Revolutions in the scientific and
technological fields and cybernetic and electronic information
transmission are sweeping the world. The institutional education
is becoming an obscure one. We are faced with a challenge to
In such a situation, the relationship between the institutions
and the student community, between the teachers and the students
is bound to undergo major changes. For instance, The students’
active participation in the process of learning on their own
initiative will remove the one-sided authoritarian
teacher-student relationship. The teacher’s authority will now
be based on his ability and creativity to contribute and help
students to learn on their own.
The changes heralded by the recent technological progress will
bring about greater flexibility in the educational system, in
particular in regard to admission, attendance, the examination,
assessment and rewarding system.
The UGC document on development of Higher Education in India
(1978) and the Challenges of Education (1985) have suggested a
radical reform in the educational system: “If the present system
is allowed to continue, the chasms of economic disabilities,
regional imbalances and social injustices will widen further,
resulting in the building up of disintegrative tensions”.
In the context of the socio-economic, cultural and political
realities of India, many of the reforms within the system such
as academic freedom, college autonomy, open universities and
active student participation in classrooms which can cure the
illness of our educational system are inward looking and
superficial, slow of achievement and maintaining the status quo.
In the recent past some colleges have been selected and given
academic freedom and autonomy. They are called autonomous
colleges. Their over all performance seems to be positive and
quite successful. Among them are a number of Christian colleges.
They are re-examining their goals and redefining their roles.
They see themselves as centers of humanising process and social
transformation. Some of their new perspectives may be worth
Academic and human excellence
New and improved quality and methods of teaching;
The college community - staff and students - is seen as a
Forming men and women for others and country;
Preferential treatment given to the poor and the
underprivileged particularly SCs/STs and women,
Commitment to justice and culture,
Extension services and involvement in the neighbourhood
Multi-dimensional pedagogy as a creative art, a humanist
discipline and ethical transformation,
Religious and faith formation,
Inter-religious outlook and approach in the context of
multi-religious teaching and student communities;
A spirit of integration and decentralised administration;
Introduction of vocational courses;
All round extra-curricular activities and
Remedial and tutorial classes for weaker students.
Fr. John Felix Raj. S.J.
Perhaps the best-known education in India is imparted by
Jesuits. They conduct not less than 38 university colleges, 5
Institutes of Business Administration and 155 high schools
spread throughout the country, almost all of them among its most
reputed (for example: St. Xavier’s, Calcutta, Mumbai, Ranchi;
Loyola, Chennai, Vijayawada; St. Joseph’s, Bangalore, Trichy;
XLRI, Jamshedpur). In them, more than 250,000 students belonging
to every religious, linguistic and socio-economic group, receive
Ignatius of Loyola, out of firm in his determination to serve
God and His people, founded the Jesuit Order, called the
“Society of Jesus”. Pope Paul III approved it as a Religious
Order in 1540. Ignatius was an outstanding character of the 16th
century. One of his first companions was the then professor of
the Paris University, Francis Xavier, who came to India in 1542.
The Society of Jesus is the largest religious order in the
Catholic Church with 20,563 Jesuits spread all over the world.
It has taken up every conceivable form of work, which may, lead
to people’s total welfare. The Jesuits, according to Ignatius,
should be ready to undertake in any part of the world, work
which will be for the "Greater Glory of God" (the Jesuit motto:
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam). The Order remembers on July 31, it’s
Founding Father who died 445 years ago.
Though nowhere in the Order’s Constitution is it stated that
education is to be given special importance, the Jesuits have
come to be particularly known in the public mind for their
educational work and have acquired the reputation of being among
the world’s best educators; in every country a Jesuit school or
college is synonymous with quality secular education given in an
atmosphere conducive to character formation with emphasis laid
on spiritual and moral values and the development of an
integrated human personality.
India and the United States rank among the most important
countries in regard to the size of the Jesuit educational
undertakings. In the USA there are no fewer than 45 Jesuit
Universities, and 75 high schools. In other Asian countries such
as Japan, Nepal, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, the Jesuits
conduct reputed schools and university establishments, which
make a notable contribution to the education of their youth. The
situation is the same wherever the Society of Jesus has
St. Francis Xavier opened the first Jesuit school in Goa in
1543. It was named St. Paul’s College. Nothing exists of this
institution today except its memory, but it was the predecessor
of hundreds of other schools and colleges. The first Jesuit
school to be opened in Europe was in Spain during the lifetime
of the Order’s founder. As he explained to one of his close
friends, Ignatius saw in the school an opportunity to do good by
initiating the young into secular and human knowledge and
simultaneously into spiritual and moral values - the love of God
and human person. The success experienced here encouraged the
Order to go in for more and more schools and college of every
kind, so that soon education came to be considered the primary
work of the Society of Jesus. Hence, the Jesuit dictum “Give us
a boy and we will return you a man, a citizen of his country and
a child of God.”
Any worthwhile book on the history of education will mention the
contribution made to European educational thinking and
development in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was at this time
that Jesuit schools were opened all over Europe and in them the
newly discovered classics of Greece and Rome were successfully
used in the formation of the young. The “Rattio Studiorum” or
“Guide to Education” produced by the Jesuits at the end of the
16th century remains an educational classic down to our day.
Jesuit educational methods derive directly from the Order’s own
spirit. There is first a willingness to use any branch of human
knowledge, modern languages, philosophy, theology, medicine,
law, media and every branch of science and technology – nothing
is taboo in Jesuit education. Secondly, there is the stress on
character formation and discipline combined with the development
of freedom. Next is the continual drive towards
self-improvement, by stretching talents and abilities in every
field as far as they can go. Ambition and individual emulation
are stimulated by prizes and awards; simultaneously, teamwork is
encouraged through the “house system” in schools – a Jesuit
No Jesuit education is complete without attention to the
development of the moral and intellectual qualities of
leadership: love for the country, integrity, human relations,
understanding, hard work, organisational ability, cooperation
and teamwork, and the power of expression in speech and writing.
A Jesuit school or college aims to form “men and women for
others” who will be agents of needed social change in their
country. Jesuits view their work as “the service of faith in God
and the promotion of Justice in the world”. Special and
preferential treatment is given to economically poor students in
terms of financial and academic support.
Jesuit educational methods have been criticised by some as being
too rigid, too stereotyped, and geared chiefly to the elite,
intelligent and the determined, owing to the excessive
stimulation of ambition. Modern Jesuits are probably more aware
of their educational approaches in the context of the national
and local socio-economic realities, and as a result there is a
very different atmosphere prevailing in today’s Jesuit
institutions, an atmosphere at once more relaxed, less formal,
more pluralistic and more tolerant of individual idiosyncrasies.
One may wonder what keeps these Jesuits united or keeps them
going. The answer lies in their basic characteristics, which
are, first of all the Order’s “humanism” – its refusal to
condemn anything that is human – and its willingness to use all
human knowledge and achievements in the service of God and
people. Another Jesuit characteristic is obedience or
flexibility, willingness to adjust and to compromise. The only
thing a Jesuit is taught to be rigid and uncompromising about is
moral evil or sin. Another mark of the Jesuit is the way of
combining stern inner discipline with maximum freedom for each
individual member in external life and in the choice of methods.
Finally there is a certain typical thoroughness in all that is
undertaken. This is expressed by the frequent use of the word “magis”,
“greater”, “higher” in relation to the goals the Jesuits, as
individuals and as a community, strive for. Their age-old maxim
is to aim at the greater good for the greater number of people.
They must not forget to live up to that.