A lot of new movies have released in the past few weeks. These new movies have been my only break from the monotony at work, since past several weeks now. This week a couple of them were on my radar - Righteous Kill and Welcome to Sajjanpur (W2S). In a way, I was spoiled for choice. But, a Shyam Benegal movie v/s a Pacino & DeNiro one. Shyam Benegal. Period. Decision was made.

After Bheja Fry, W2S is one movie that has made me laugh heartily in a long time. But I don't intend to review the movie here. There are lots of them around - I liked the Reuters one, though. The movie made quite an impact on me - a Benegal movie could not be without a message, even if he did not intend to pass it on.

In a way, I think the movie depicts, without being judgmental at any point of time, the state of a large proportion of this country's population, who were thrust to face the free economy completely powerless. A population who was told that they have the power to choose, without empowering them with the knowledge of their options and even less with with tools to evaluate them. I am talking of education here.

What is the difference between literacy and education? However, some may have defined it - for me education is about learning how to make choices. Literacy is about knowing that a gun exists, but not knowing how and when to use it.

The literacy infrastructure in this country is abysmal. Education infrastructure best not talked about. Even when it comes to the "premier institutes of higher learning" - their infrastructure is nowhere as good as universities abroad. They, however, do have some world-class faculty. With their limited infrastructure too, these institutes do provide one an opportunity to get an education. Nevertheless, the fact is that they only help a minority of this nation's large population.

What most would agree is that the education infrastructure at large number of primary and secondary schools is more dismal than probably at a levels of higher education in India. Our governments, have however been focussed with playing around with the existing institutes of higher learning, achieving nothing in the process eventually. That a learned economist like Manmohan Singh also would endorse the situation by not objecting to it is really a shame.

The whole vote-bank politics (a feature of democracy) combined with a large-number of uneducated / mis-educated mass of voters has ill-incentivised adopting, with mission-critical urgency, measures which will secure this nations future. We surely need nuclear power, deregulation of economy, growth of domestic industries, fiscal inclusion and all that. But what use it is to a people who don't know what choices these will create for them and how they would evaluate which is best for them. Unable to evaluate themselves, they have to rely on statements of politicians, who claim to be proxy evaluators of individual choices. Delegation (not alienation) of right to make decisions, is a feature of any democracy. However, whom to delegate these rights to is again a problem of choice. Can an uneducated/mis-educated individual who can't see the effect of his choice beyond a day's meal, make a choice which might affect him for years? Let's say s/he does see the effect of his choice through experience, but does s/he understand what his/her options are in the first place? Answer to both is in the negative. But a choice has to be made, a vote has to be cast, empty stomachs have to be fed. In darkness of ignorance, people end up making wrong choices, being forced to be educated by suffering, if at all. And thus, the cycle continues.

Is there no way to break the cycle? Yes there is. Apparently, the dominant view is that development will cause education - for why had the former BJP government and the present UPA government running after deregulation, nuclear power, etc. Obviously, both factors reinforce each other through the cycle, albeit slowly. But reinforcement does not establish causality. It merely models a dynamic behavior of the two. What is the trigger - development or education?

My hypothesis is that the trigger is education and not development. An educated people is aware of their options. They will be aware of how to evaluate them and choose that which is best for them. They will know that they have an option to assert their right to having an option - of a clean environment, of faster government services, of quick dispensation of justice, of growing their own business, of private property, etc. In short, as a book title succinctly puts it - options of exit, voice or loyalty. The knowledge of these choices will make them demand jobs, products and services; will make them know that they have to supply it; will make them demand better justice system; will make them demand better governance and governors. These exchanges ultimately would lead to development. On the contrary, a development hoping that education will happen as a byproduct will be met with resistance from the same people for they don't understand what it means for them and hence fear it. 

Of course, the onus of educating an uneducated people lies with its representative body. But how can the blind lead the blind in a right direction? It is sorrowful that the nation whose freedom struggle was led by educated people such as Gandhi, Patel, Nehru, Ambedkar, Bose, Azad, Jinnah, Naoroji, etc hardly has any politicians educated similarly and/or whose rhetoric stresses a dire need of formal education.

Why this sudden post about education, development? W2S reminded me of the importance of education and that the next general elections are not far, and I will have to choose the lesser evil. It is a matter of individual opinion what the lesser evil is. For me, it is a party who will promise delivery of an education infrastructure. Of course, what if no party promises it, which is very likely. I sure hope some of my educated colleagues who have a talent for politics enter the arena and have educational infrastructure improvement on their agenda. Why not me? Call me a hypocrite, but I have my reasons not to do it now.

Lastly, what would an improvement in educational infrastructure mean. Some ideas:
a) Improvement in the physical infrastructure of primary and secondary schools - which means not only improvement in school buildings but also availability of tables, chairs, computers, blackboards, playgrounds, art infrastructure, libraries, etc
b) Availability of soft infrastructure - books, teachers, coaches, stationery, etc
c) Improvement in adult vocational and civic education infrastructure

How? Well, there are answers to this question too, but it has been a long time since I have been typing now. So, I will reserve that for another post.


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Sachi said... @ October 05, 2008

I liked the debate AP... I watched the movie Sterday b4 reading the blog...will write my take on the movie soon... I really liked ur arguments here...

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