Before the western model brought by the British or the Church, there were ezhuthu pallis, or writing schools, run by ezhuthu ashans, or writing masters. There were also schools run by wealthy individuals in their homes for their daughters.
In these tutorials, generations learnt to read and write using writing nails, palm leaves and sand, paying fees in kind. Outside Kerala, gurukuls functioned successfully for centuries. And these were always privately-funded. Is this model better than pumping in more public money into inefficient government schools?
That is the question that James Tooley, a British researcher and writer on education, asks in his recent book, The Beautiful Tree. He sees existence of private education in pre-British India as an argument in favour of low-cost private education that can cover every child. He finds virtue in the large number of private schools that are run in the slums he visited.
This goes against the thinking of development experts, including Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze. A study by the latter argues that the solution is to improve government schools rather than close them.
Madhav Chavan, the founder of NGO Pratham, which in its study found that the poor also preferred to send their children to private schools, sat close to Tooley at the launch of the book. But he made it clear he did not share the views of the author.
To say that private schools hold the key to universal education is to say the unspeakable. As unspeakable as saying that the king has no clothes. (via Sreelatha Menon: A new lesson).
End of the road … the bankrupt model
The health care (USA), social welfare (USA), employment benefits (UK), showcase countries (Japan), are running countries into the ground. India has, as yet, not gone down that path. Though, the Indian State has been trying – quite hard.
My first glimpse of this model was through the draft of Parag Tope’s forthcoming book – Operation Red Lotus.
I say without fear of my figures being challenged successfully, that today India is more illiterate than it was fifty or a hundred years ago, and so is Burma, because the British administrators, when they came to India, instead of taking hold of things as they were, began to root them out. They scratched the soil and began to look at the root, and left the root like that, and the beautiful tree perished. (Gandhiji, at Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, Oct 1931 - extracted from Indian Models Of Economy Business And Management By Kanagasabapathi; Page 60).
Gandhiji, in correspondence with Sir Philip Hartog, (chairman of the Auxiliary Committee on Education), laid out the the pre-colonial scenario, which has now been buttressed by research by Dharampal, a Gandhian, in his book, Beautiful Tree, Indian Education in the 18th century.
Sreelatha Menon, seemingly, depends on Tooley’s own PR handouts to write this up. In the entire post in Business Standard, she never makes a mention of Dharampal, whose work is the most authoritative today. Tooley, a (for sometime) IFC-World Bank employee, this research resulted, (funded by the Templeton Foundation) in a book - of course called, The Beautiful Tree.
Between a rock and a hard place
Dharampal’s pioneering work, in 1983, has, not surprisingly, been ignored by the Amartya Sens and The Jean Drezes of the world – all their avid followers in India. Kapil Sibal has been trying to further the colonial British efforts by laying out a red carpet for foreign universities – while tying up Indian institutions into-knots-into-knots-into-knots. The ‘modern’ theory about Indian education goes that all credit for Indian education should go either to the British Colonial Raj or the Christian Missionary Benevolence.
This Indian education model was, till about a 150 years ago, unique in the world. With the highest literacy ratio in the world, and completely privately funded, it set global and historic benchmarks. This model has been buried under a mound of silence – and once in a while you get a glimpse of this.
As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take office this month, he has avoided the fawning praise of India that has become fashionable in some Washington circles. But experts on the region say that India-US ties now have a momentum of their own. Industries in each country now have a vested interest in deepening ties with their counterparts.
“In 20 years, I expect the Indo-US relationship to resemble the Israel-US relationship, and for many of the same reasons,” said Shashi Tharoor, an Indian writer and former undersecretary general of the United Nations. (via Will the love-fest stoked by Singh, Bush bear fruit? – Economy and Politics – livemint.com).
Why is the Israeli model a bad idea
The first disqualification against accepting the Israeli State model is the fact it is heavily dependent on America, for fiscal and military aid – which “since 1974 totals roughly $80 billion”.
Do I sense envy when an article from Daily Times Of Pakistan says “The United States has poured $140 billion into Israel since its formation”. That is about a US$56,000 for every Israeli family.
Is this what you learnt at the UN Tharoor Saar …
First, did it ever occur to Tharoor Saar to check where is the guarantee that the US will be in a any position to underwrite India’s long term requirements?
After satisfying himself, did Tharoor Saar ever ask, “Why would the US underwrite India?” In case of Israel, the US had good reasons. After all, (as NYT says)
America has vital long-term strategic interests in the Middle East. The gulf has well over 60 percent of the world’s proven conventional oil reserves and nearly 40 percent of its natural gas.
To some it may look like a boon, but is surely the kiss of death.
American policymakers began regarding Israeli strength as an American asset in the Cold War, they supported significant aid as a matter of strategy, not charity. … American aid continues to flow to Israel. … critics on the opposite end of the political spectrum argue that while aid to Israel may be tied to the best of intentions, it does more harm than good to the Jewish State by propping up a big and inefficient government and making Israel dependent upon the U.S.
For how long can any country, society, individual survive on foreign largesse? Note how during the 1973, Arab Israeli War, the tide of battle finally turned when the massive US airlift of weapons, tanks, spares happened! Which itself, is self-serving – “American assistance, emerging as a disjointed policy that urges a peaceful resolution to the conflict while boosting military aid to Israel.”
Another client state of US, Pakistan enviously records, that
“Israel is the only country that receives all of its U.S. aid in a single package, while others only receive it in quarterly installments.” It continues, “Most recipients of military aid are obliged to spend it in the US but Israel is permitted to spend 25 percent of what it receives to subsidize its own defence industry,”…
Doubtful motives, suspect intentions
Three aspects of the Israeli behaviour makes Israeli intentions doubtful.
One - Israel surely knows that US support cannot continue ad infinitum. What will be the Israeli response after they stop getting US support?
Two - After consistent and constant efforts to make enemies, over the last 50 years, how does Israel plan to continue living in a hostile neighbourhood – without American aid?
Three - With a population of little over 50 lakhs (5 million) in Israel and a world Jewish population of less than 1.3 crores (13 million), how does the Jewish population stop itself from going extinct?
Is there a pattern …
Tharoor Saar’s statement needs to be read in light of two other incidents. For starters, read Manmohan Singh’s speech at Oxford, praising the Raj, while receiving his honorary doctrate. Continue with Chidambaram’s decision to end “abject poverty” in India that he seems to “have known for 5,000 years.” And now add Tharoor Saar’s stated objective to make India into a US-client state in another 20 years. Are these three incidents stray and unrelated? Do they form a pattern?
Any which, Tharoor Saar’s thinking is a cause for concern.
Indians are a news-crazy lot. By all reckoning we have the largest number of news channels and are the second-largest newspaper market in the world. If you add up the average across newspapers, news on TV and news online, in 2008, Indians spent an average of 50 minutes a day consuming news.
During the same period, advertisers spent Rs 12,000-odd crore to reach news audiences in those 50 minutes, according to data put together by Starcom MediaVest, a media buying agency. Add in subscription revenues and news is a roughly Rs 16,000 crore market. That makes it the second-largest media business in India after entertainment — in audience share, topline and (arguably) investor-interest too. (via Vanita Kohli-Khandekar: The future of news).
How Big Business and Big Government combine against the aam aadmi, the common man.
- 1857 – A Failed ‘Mutiny’? (2ndlook.wordpress.com)
- Reports: India seizes $44m guarantee from IMI (haaretz.com)
- China: India ‘not rival’ after launch (cnn.com)
- Vodafone Threatens India With Arbitration Over Tax Issue (voanews.com)
- The feeding frenzy of kleptocracy (thehindu.com)
- India may see internet boom by 2015 – report (blogs.ft.com)