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