2 SOCIAL SCIENTIST
Ramakrishnan. We end with a critical look, by Anita Rampal, at 'distance education.'
It is not the contention of any of our contributors that existing educational structures should, or indeed can, be left unchanged. The point is that the changes being pushed through seem likely to make things worse. Thus the virtual abondonment of the ideal of universal schooling, implicit in the Novodaya/non-formal bifurcation, is bound to make education even less democratic. Such elitism, Kamal Datta argues, would be disastrous particularly for natural sciences: precisely the domain often assumed to be inherently somewhat elitist. Again, the equation of knowledge with information—through gadget-based distance education 'distancing the learner' (Anita Rampal), for instance, or quiz type qualifying tests for research scholars and teachers—is unlikely to raise intellectual standards or promote creative thinking. The contributors also highlight the broader implications of the proposed changes, their linkages with overall political and economic trends. The connections with authoritarian tendencies are fairly obvious—an authoritarianism that seeks to extend itself precisely through forging unmediated direct connections between the centralized bureaucracy and a multitude of oHgarchically-constituted 'autonomous' units. A parallel with the recent panchayat bill suggests itself, and MMP Singh has also emphasized the interconnections between educational changes and current shifts in government economic policies. Struggle for a healthier educational system thus becomes inseparable from broader democratic movements:
it cannot be effectively fought or won in isolation.
No collection of articles can hope to adequately cover all aspects of the educational scene of a sub-continent. Our special number would have served its purpose if it stimulates further debate, in the pages of Social Scientist or elsewhere. One vital problem, touchc?d on by MMP Singh in his interview but requiring further exploration, is the extent of teachers' responsibility for the present educational malaise and what teachers' organizations could do about it. Several contributors have elaborated the linkages between the New Education Policy and the current Indian political scene. But a crucial aspect not adequately focussed here is the way in which 'autonomy' could encourage a variety of sectional fissiparous tendencies: vested interests among denominational groups have been advocating such autonomy for years. Social scientists (particularly historians) could contribute much to a further discussion of the influence of communal mentalities over the whole process of production and reproduction of knowledge and culture in India today. Inputs are needed also from research institutes, centers of engineering and technical education, school-teachers, and students.
All but two of our articles come from Delhi—a limitation that the educational team tried, but failed, to overcome. Regional variations in the educational scene are extremly vital. They often lead to varied responses to the New Education Policy, as indicated perhaps, by the