Social Scientist. v 3, no. 26 (Sept 1974) p. 72.


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Democratizing University Education

IT is generally assumed that the essential function of education is the acquisition, expansion and transmission of knowledge. Unless this knowledge is instrumental in promoting and changing man's life and environment, education becomes devoid of any social relevance. A socially relevant education should be organized on democratic lines for the simple reason that maximization of its social utility is best achieved by harnessing the intellectual abilities of not only the few at the top, but of the largest number at all social levels.

Though a subject of debate in some form or the other among teachers and students, at the higher echelons of university administration like the University Grants Commission, Ministry of Education and the committees appointed by them, the basic fact remains that the atmosphere in our universities and colleges is far from being congenial for a healthy and fruitful discussion on this subject. The country boasts of its democracy:

'the largest democracy in the world5 goes the cliche. But even minimum democracy is not extended to the teachers and students, at the university level, supposed to be the finest and most educated elements of society. If this is the experience in these select circles, the limits of democracy in the country become all too obvious.

To make matters worse, a sense of insecurity hangs like a stifling smog over the entire academic life. After 27 blissful years of independence the situation is that a teacher, regardless of his length of service and academic standing, is under constant threat of dismissal without even knowing the reasons. Between June and August 1974 alone, at least 600 teachers have been summarily discharged from colleges and universities in India. No court has been able to save a single teacher who 'got the sack'. Non-statutory status of the managements, the master-servant relationship between the university/government/management and the teachers and Article 30 (1) of the Constitution of India, all these conspire against legal safeguards. University legislation with.progressive aspects like the one enacted by the United Front government in Kerala, 1967-69, has been quashed by the courts zealously safeguarding the fundamental rights of the managements, and overlooking those of the teachers. Even women



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