Role of Education in Social Development

Role of Education in Social Development

If you are reading this, of course you have internet access. Whether you are from the developed or the developing world, you are privileged because you don’t know what it is like to live in an African country where people can’t get one square meal a day – Education is a far cry! I live in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) which is the financial capital of India. A large population of India isn’t far different from the people from those African countries. To be honest, even I don’t know what it is to starve. Mumbai is a metropolis; and unlike the underdeveloped parts of Africa or the villages of India, Mumbai is a land of opportunity. There is economic disparity. There is uneven distribution of wealth. There is pollution. There is poverty. There are many such factors which make India a developing country and not a developed one. In spite of all this, Mumbai is a pretty safe city to live. I am Indian born Australian citizen who now lives in India. Privilege is relative. For an Australian living in Australia, to compare Australia and India, it is a privilege to be in Australia. However, when I see the struggle of the underprivileged people – the labourers, I consider myself privileged. To me, internet access is a necessity and not a privilege. I am now on the higher side of 50; and I have a bachelors degree in Electronic Engineering and a masters degree in Information Systems. I do not know what it is to be uneducated. When I consider all this, I consider myself privileged. It is this education that granted me the admission to an Australian university for a postgraduate course. Being educated therefore for me is not a privilege, but a fact of life.

If you can read this, you have been oblivious to the fact that you are literate. You belong to those people in the world for whom literacy (education) is a basic necessity just like food, clothing and shelter. During the school days we were taught that food, clothing and shelter are the basic necessities of life. It may be true. But without basic education (the school curriculum which taught us that) we would still be hunting animals, cannibalising, killing other humans for survival.

I have seen documentaries about how the human race evolved. Some skeptics challenge evolution itself. But at least as a society, I think it is quite all right to say that we evolved as a society. In India, it is documented that the modern school education began only during the advent of the European invasion. The British rule was mainly responsible for the modern Indian education system. Before that India was not a unified nation, but a land of kingdoms independent of one another. Education and literacy existed in a different form then. Before the advent of the printing technology, knowledge was passed from generation to generation by memorising texts. People knew how to read and write, but it was not enough to write huge books. Modern technology caused communication to penetrate the society in a far different way. Later on it became a fact of life. I was born in independent India(India achieved independence from the British rule in 1947). So I have not experienced the British rule. I have not experienced the Indian freedom struggle. I have only read about these things. I was born in 1966, but my schooling began in 1971 i.e. twenty four years after independence. By then India was a well established democracy. Both my parents were government employees. Both of them were well versed in English and the local language – Marathi. My mother who did not pursue university was fluent in English because of the environment she worked in. My father pursued the university education and got a degree in liberal arts. He further got a degree in Law. All this education, thanks to the British rule, happened in English in his case. As a result, he was well read, articulate and hence belonged to the elite world by Indian standards. His background was humble. But modern education gave him the platform to be a part of the affluent society by those standards. If it were not for his education, he would have probably been growing rice and milking cows. The modern Indian middle class, which is where I belong now, is an outcome of the educational system which India has adopted, or rather, been forced to adopt. Indians may love or hate the British. But it is they who brought the modern educational system into India. It is the twenty first century and India is experiencing an economic boom. Retail is growing and is providing employment opportunities to even those who have little or no education after school. However, in this organized sector, work itself is education. A lot of these young employees have had their education in the English medium and are fluent in English which is the business language in India. In addition to the many, many regional languages, Hindi is the national language. However, English is still the business language and is spoken in most urban areas. Anyone who has been to school has working knowledge of English. With some experience, people even speak it fluently. These retail employees are able to be a part of the English speaking business world of elite India. A lack of school education would most probably deprive them of the privilege of the English speaking world. English, after all, provides them with a larger platform as they can communicate with a wider audience. This economic disparity, I notice far more distinctly in India than in Australia. It is difficult to find anyone in Australia who does not know how to read or write. Education is a fact of life in Australia where I spent thirteen years of my life. For many people below the poverty life in India Education is a privilege.

The modern society has a replicable structure. Modern society has an economy, infrastructure, healthcare, educational institutes and government. Underdeveloped or unstable countries look to emulate the countries which have stabilised these aspects of their nationhood. A large country is a large society; and the size is its strength. All these factors, and many more which I might have overlooked, need a large intellectual input. It needs strategic thinking. Larger, developed countries have mastered these areas of their national existence. They have educated their citizens in managing these areas of their civilisation. In mastering these competencies, they have put in years of effort. They have made their mistakes and corrected them. In a developed country like Australia, not everyone needs to go to University. University education does offer better opportunities, but not everyone can cope with university education and not everyone has the opportunity to study further. However, it is far easier for an Australian to make a decent living compared to an equivalent Indian just after school. The difference is that in Australia, the educated society has built enough infrastructure to employ and to train people after finishing school. Australia has built a more efficient economy compared to India. The people who finish school are much more in tune with the current economic requirement compared to those in India.

An educational system should be in tune with the economy.

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