Social Scientist. v 27, no. 316-317 (Sept-Oct 1999) p. 70.

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Secular and Democratic Education

The democratisation of education is universally recognised as integral to a secular and democratic polity and society. What constitutes democratisation in the field of education has different interpretations. One view tends to equate democratisation with universalisation. The limitation of such a view is obvious. The access to education does not exhaust all the possibilities inherent in democratisation, which to be really meaningful has to be holistic, embracing both the structure and content of education. Even after fifty years of a democratic polity in place, such a holistic concept of democratisation has not yet become central to educational policy and practice. More alarmingly, democratic education, which is also secular in the Indian context, is under serious strain due to the recent communal inroads into it.

In a class society education being a part of the ideological apparatuses of the state, the struggles for its democratisation has a broader political and cultural meaning. The incorporation of such struggles into the existing structures is, therefore, a distinct possibility. The elected representation on the decision making bodies, a necessary component of democratisation, often runs such a risk, due to a variety of reasons, including the institutional interest, which is often not different from class interest. The democratisation is possible only with autonomy, not for the institution alone, but mainly for those who constitute the institution. It involves the creation of an autonomous space for knowledge transaction, which admits of creative and innovative engagement.

The educational reform in independent India had to contend with the legacy of colonialism. The reformers were quite sensitive to the enclavised and alien character of the colonial system. In fact, almost every report on education recognised the importance of overcoming this legacy. Yet, it was not realised in practice, mainly because of two

* Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Social Scientist, Vol. 27, Nos. 9 - 10, Sept. - Oct. 1999

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