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Panel Discussion On Education And Economic Development
J. Felix Raj, SJ.

St Xavier’s organized a panel discussion on the “Role of Education in Economic Development” on February 17 on the occasion of its 125th anniversary celebrations.

The main participants were the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mr. Jyoti Basu, Mr. L. K. Jha, Chairman Economic Administrative Reforms Commission, Mr. Siddhartha Sankar Ray, former minster of West Bengal, Dr. Barun De, Prof. Sukanta Chowdhury, Fr. Joseph D’Souza, Prof. P. Lal, Prof. Arindam Sen, Mrs. Anuradha Chowdhury, and Mr. Robin Robins

Mr. Jha who chaired the discussion, said there is an urgent need to restructure the educational system by de-linking degrees from jobs. The need of the hour was to properly motivate people to influence educational policies.

Mr. Jha said, “Students who come to study with jobs in mind are not as motivated as those who study to carry on research and enhance their knowledge”.

He emphasized that only the “brightest students should go for higher education and the rest be inducted into technical training. This would avoid wastage of valuable manpower needed for productive activities, he added.

Mr. Jha said educational programmes should not be allowed to be considered by the rural people as an “interference”. He suggested, in order to infuse interest in education among rural people as an “interference”. He suggested, in order to infuse interest in education among rural children, the school timings could be adjusted so that the children could study as well as help their parents in the field.

English, though important as the official language, need not be emphasised at the primary level, Mr. Jha said, But when it is learnt at the high­er level, it must be up to the mark, he added.

Mr. Jha said the disparity between the educated and the illiterate in the country is as wide as the unequal economic development of the country. He suggested that, some practical measures be taken to fit education into the programme of economic development.

Mr. Jyoti Basu said there had been no clear-cut Central policies on education. What ­ever steps were taken by the government had proved to be "negative".

He said that nearly 20 com­missions on education had submitted their reports to the Government, but there had been no progress at all. Mr. Basu urged the planners and educationists to find out what had gone wrong with the country's planning and to take up education seriously as it deserved to be.

He invited serious discus­sion on education and how it should be fitted into the so­cio-economic welfare of the masses. He said that education needed to be more work, oriented.

Regarding the teaching of English, Mr. Basu said that there was no question of dis­carding it. In a multilingual country like India English could be the link language. But he maintained that at the primary level, children should not be burdened with any other language than the mother tongue.

Mr. Ray said education should not be an end in it­self but should aim at acquiring some values. He suggest­ed that youth be persuaded to serve the people for one undergraduate year by teaching in the village, primary schools. The scheme, he said, had been tried by Dr. Fidel Castro in Cuba and was made successful.

While English was the ''Language of the world", West Bengal was saying "no" to it. Mr. Ray said. "This is suicidal, he added. Disagreeing· with Mr. Basu on the teaching of English after the primary level, he said that Eng­lish should be taught from the first class.

Prof. P. Lal of St. Xavier's College said that education should be life-oriented and the syllabi should be made "relevant to the Indian context.

Pro. Sukanta Chowdhury, while agreeing with Mr. Basu's suggestion on a work oriented education, said that degrees and jobs should be linked in an "organic manner”.

Mr. Barun De, an alumnus of St. Xavier's College, said there was need for a greater clarity in planning education. A “socio-economic transfor­mation in the country" was vital for policy implementation and providing jobs for the surplus labour, he added.

Prof. A. Sen of St. Xavier's College was critical of the present education system in the country. He said the "perverted aristocracy", which ruled the country at present, did only "marginal service" in the name of programmes for education and economic development. He wondered how long the people would tolerate "such hypocrisy".

Fr. Joseph D'Souza, the Principal of St, Xavier's Col­lege, emphasised wider use of the mass media to teach the large section of the people living below the poverty line. He called for greater allocation of funds for "non-formal education".

Mrs. Anuradha Chowdhury, teacher of St. Xavier's School, said that education should be Faith-and-justice oriented. She said the "content and curriculum" of secondary edu­cation was overburdened, and stressed the urgent need for pragmatic policies.

Mr. Robin Robins, secretary, St. Xavier's College Stu­dents' Union, emphasised the need for further investment in "human resource development”.

[The Herald, Friday, March 1, 1985.]


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