The twin problems of appalling poverty and inequality which the world is facing nowadays have a lot to do with the politico-cultural attitudes towards human capital formation. Education, an integral part of human capital , plays an important role in dealing with these twin problems. Now, it has been empirically proven that education has contributed greatly to the prosperity of First world. The lame-ducks of the 21st century who remain far off in development race are the ones who have paid little attention to make their societies literate. Investment in education connotes at the same time low fertility rate, low infant mortality rate, improved sanitation, undernourishment and better health outcomes. These are the other main development goals which countries must try to achieve.
Education may be regarded as the backbone of an economy. But, it is not the quantity but quality that matters. If a nation succeeds in imbibing and instilling in its citizens quality education, it has won the half battle in its fight against poverty, inequality and malnutrition. If a nation fails to do so consequences may be disastrous. The greater achievements of western world in science and technology, astronomy, and other fields has not come all alike manna from heaven but the result of their consistent effort towards a literate society at earlier stages of development.
Take the case of Japan, immediately after the Meiji Restoration in 1867 , the country launched a country wide campaign against illiteracy. As a result by 1912 Japan was declared a fully literate country. It issued the Fundamental Code Of Education in 1872 expressing the commitment to make sure that there must be ‘no community with an illiterate family, nor a family with an illiterate person’. Kido Takayoshi, one of great leaders of Japanese Reform Movement explained the basic idea: ‘our people are no different from the Americans or Europeans of today; it is all a matter of education and lack of it.’ The transition dynamics of Japan were so strong that by 1920’s it emerged as an important international player.
It will be interesting here if we add some insights from our own education system to the above analysis so that we may be able to highlight its certain odds and evens. But before adducing its current degenerated character, it will be better to evaluate it through a historical context. The rich educational legacy of Kashmir can be seen in various ancient accounts particularly of Huient Sang’, who visited the state during the reign of Harsha around 631A.D. As per Huen Sang, Kashmir ( Ka Shi Mi Lo ) was the centre of highest learning and people from all over the world mainly from china and India came here to complete their studies. During his stay in state, he found here Buddhist Scholars with great acumen. Students from Nalanda University came here for their final studies. This rich history continued all throughout the middle ages when state was under the Muslim rule. But education system that was imparted was mainly of religious type. State was full of Patshalas and Madrasas. The medium of instruction was mainly Persian and Sanskrit. When British came here they find that the education system was not able to prepare the people to meet the needs of modern age. They basically came with a mission to promulgate their own ideology (Christianity). They laid the foundation of modern education in our state. Then again it witnessed various ups and downs under various regimes.
In 1947, the region had a very low literacy rate with an upward trend since then. But the trend has worked differently in our state, it led to the, “Dichotomization of Education’’. Education, a merit good is supplied by both public and private sector in our state. While the presence of private sector is very nascent, public sector remains a giant supplier of education. Economically, the private sector is regarded as most efficient but it fails to provide this essential service to entire society due to the shyness of capital flowing into it. So the main supplier of this essential service remains the public sector.
As major portion of populace is living below poverty line, they are wholly dependent on education imparted in government schools. So the quality of education provided in these schools have an important bearing on how it reacts with other development indicators and how it offers them a way to move out of poverty. Assessing the quality of education is very difficult but achievements of students will serve as a good indicator. As is evident that students who have received their education in private schools have done really well in their lives. While on the other hand we have ideologically rich students coming from govt. schools but are unable to give their ideas a definite shape. As a result a lot goes unutilized and this way of proceeding forward is clearly a retrograde.
The Government is seeing all this like a silent spectator. This dichotomous nature of our education system is a big contributor to our failure in dealing with the problem of poverty. Majority of the students of government schools are coming from poor families who are willing to provide better education to their children but lack of resources impedes them to do so. Unregulated private schools and lack of proper monitoring mechanism to judge the quality of education of both the private and public sector schools are serious issues which need to be taken into consideration. The lethargic mode of government schools in instilling the rosy type of education among the poor youth is adding to a stock which will ultimately burst leading the region nowhere.
Primary education is very important in terms of its returns and when a child is being deprived of an excellent education, it will necessarily perpetuate inefficiencies in him and will always keep him at a comparative disadvantage with respect to his counterparts. Before it is too late our administrators have to look into the matter given the growth potential of education. As improving the quality of public education will go a long way in reducing the intergenerational mobility of poverty and inequality.
—The author is at the Department of Economics, Kashmir University. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org