- Education influences different domains of social life. It not only influences social change, but also acts as an agent of social change. Education is the process of facilitating learning or the acquisition of knowledge, skill, values, beliefs and habits. Education engages itself in a much more positive action and can perform the function of an initiator of change. It inculcates in the younger generation whatever changes are desirable for rebuilding a society. Moreover, it cultivates necessary intellectual and emotional readiness to deal with challenges of change.
- Education is an important instrument of modernization. Modern values in social economic and political spheres have to be instilled in the minds of people to achieve the goal of modernization. Values such as equality, liberty, scientific temper, humanism and ideas against blind faith pave the way for modernization. This task can be effectively performed by education.
- In ancient India education was provided by the family, kin group and society as a whole through participation in daily life. But, as the needs and activities increased in course of times, a more systematic means of instruction was introduced and a specialized occupational group of teachers was formed The Brahmans acted as formal teachers and were repositories of knowledge and learning. Teaching centers functioned around individual scholars and the learning process also emphasized the role of each individual student This system of education emphasized more on life than on instruction. Thus curricula varied from center to center. The transmission of religious ideas and the interpretation of Gurukula and Vidyalayas. However, this educational system was available only to small section of the population that constituted the upper layers of the Varna hierarchy under the pressure of social and economic change.
- Historically speaking modern education appeared in India with the establishment of British rule. Initially, the British rulers supported traditional schools and encouraged their expansion and growth. But by the middle of the nineteen century, the colonial policy changed and a decision was taken to introduce European literature and science in India. English was made the medium of instruction in the higher branches of learning. This policy concentrated on the education of the upper and middle classes. Little progress was made in establishing a suitable system of primary education.According to one estimate in 1881-82,1in 10 boys and 1in 250 girls between the ages of 5 and 12 years attended schools. About 90 per cent of the populations were illiterate even in the early part of the twentieth century.The educational system thus not only maintained the gulf between the upper classes and the mass of the population but also increased it further.
There was significant limitation of the educational policy of the colonial period
- Priority given to higher education over primary education. The enrolment in colleges and universities increased at a higher rate than in schools.
- Modernization through education remained confined to the educated and elite groups that ordinarily belonged to the upper castes. It hardly affected the mass of the population.
- However, the system of education introduced during the colonial rule had several good points.
- It gave a fundamentally different orientation to the educational system and laid foundation of modern education in India.
- Its content was liberal and modern. The teaching of several new branches of learning such as science, technology and medicine created an environment congenial for modernization.
- The structure of educational institution was developed on professional lines. This structure, which classified institutions under categories like primary schools, high schools, college and university, continued even after the Independence.
Education in Indian Society has achieved amazing success during the last fifty-five years. Its achievements, both in absolute and relative terms, have been remarkable. The fact becomes more visible when we compare the present situation with the one existing at the time of independence.We inherited an educational system which was largely unrelated to national needs and aspiration. It was quantitatively small and qualitatively poor. Only about 14 per cant of the country’s population were literate. Only one child out of three had been enrolled in primary schools. In addition to low levels of enrolment and literacy, regional and gender disparities were also very apparent The education system faced problems of expansion, stagnation and wastage. It lacked vocationalisation and had no relationship with the social and cultural needs of the Indian society.
After the independence, it was recognized that education formed a vital aspect of the modernization processes. Therefore, educational reform was accepted as an important agenda of national development. A comprehensive constitutional and policy framework was developed The successive Five-Year Plans augmented the goal by launching several programmers of educational development.
We may assess the educational profile of India by first touching upon the literacy scene.
- In 1951, we had a literacy rate of 18.3 per cent which went up to 52.2 per cent in the 1991 census. The rate of literacy, according to the 2001 census, was 65.38 per cant.
- While the literacy rate in the case of the male was 75.85 per cant, it was 54.16 per cent in the case of the female. It is apparent from these figures that there has been unprecedented growth in the field of literacy in India.
- The female literacy rate has increased by14.87 per cant as against 11.72 per cant in the case of males. Such a remarkable progress in the rate of literacy has primarily been due to two major factors. First, the government-sponsored national campaign for literacy which has made tremendous impact As the scene has been decentralized, its accountability has increased Second the considerable involvement of Nongovernmental Organization (NGOs) which have made the literacy campaign more flexible.
- The expansion and the consolidation of elementary education have been equally remarkable. Universalisation of Elementary Education (U.E.E.) has been accepted as a national goal This programme envisages universal access, universal retention and universal achievement.
- Now, almost 94 per cant of country’s rural population have primary schools within 1 km. At the upper primary stage 84 per cent of the rural population have schools within a distance of 3 kins.
- The enrolment at the primary stage has gone up from 42.60 per cant in 1950-51to 94.90 percent in 1999- 2000.Similarly, the number of primary and upper primary schools has gone up from 2.23 lakh in 1950-51 to 8.39 lakh in 1999-2000 and the number of teachers in these schools from 6.24 lakh in 1999-2000.
- A new scheme called Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has been launched to pursue universal elementary education in mission mode. The goals of SSA are to send all children in the age groups of 6-14 to school by 2003 so that they complete five year of primary education by 2007 and complete eight year of schooling by 2010.
- Secondary education acts as a bridge between elementary and higher education. It prepares young persons of the age groups of 14-18 for entry into higher education. There were 1.10 lakh secondary and senior secondary institutions in 1999 in the country. 272 lakh students were enrolled in these institutions, of which 101 lakh were girls. In 1999, there were 15.42 lakh teachers in these schools. The vocationlisation of secondary education has been implemented since1998.
- The expansion of institutions of higher education has also been exceptional. On the eve of the independence the country had only18 universities. Now there are 259. There are 11,089 colleges and 119 autonomous colleges. The growth of technical and professional institutions has been equally phenomenal. At present, these are 7000 teacher education colleges,110 polytechnics, 600 management institutes, 550 engineering and technology colleges and 170 medical colleges.
- Apart from expansion and spread of education opportunities at different levels, special emphasis has been put to improve the status of women through education. It is believed that empowerment of women is a critical precondition for their participation in the development processes. Girl child has now become a target group. Similarly, educational development of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes has received added attention.
The educational scenario presented above quite evidently looks impressive, but actual efforts have fallen far short of the goaL The National Policy on Education envisages that free and compulsory education should be provided to all children up to the age of 14 years. This target of universalizing elementary education is yet to be achieved.
Social Change brought about in the Indian society by the spread of education :
- The transition from ‘class education’ (education for a few] to ‘mass education’ (education for all) has widened the scope of unlimited entry into the educational system.
- The groups and communities who were deprived of access to education have now joined the national mainstream of development.
- It has not only disseminated universal values such as equality and humanism but it has also transmitted scientific world view. Education has been one of the most important factors in transforming the outlook and attitude of the people.
- The quantitative expansion of education has spread into every nook and corner of the country. It has shaken the age-old inertia and indifference towards education. The phenomenal growth of literacy and education among women is unprecedented It has radically transformed their attitude and improved their status within and outside the families. Their economic contribution has also become conspicuous. The difference in attitude towards boys and girls is no longer prevalent as before. Such a change in society’s attitude towards women s role has enabled them to enter spheres of occupational activities that were virtually closed to them.
- As a result of the expansion of education, the degree of mobility among the member of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes has considerably increased The overall state of affairs, however, is not so encouraging in this respect The problems associated with these disadvantaged groups have been so deep rooted that their solution requires overhauling of the social system itself. The national policy of providing equal opportunities as well as special opportunities to the underprivileged classes has begun giving positive results. Member of these communities have achieved considerable success in education.The rate of literacy has increased and the enrolment in primary and secondary schools has improved a great deal. Of course, their presence in higher education is still very low. The upper castes continue to dominate almost all areas of higher education.
- It should be apparent by now that education has acted as a strange modernizing force in Indian society. It is changing the world view of the people. The growth of educational institutions based on the rational principle of science is itself an expression of modernization.
- Increasing urge for education among the deprived and the downtrodden reveals change in their levels of aspirations. It has given an additional responsibility to the education system. The education system till Independence catered to the needs of the upper and the middle classes.A momentous change has occurred in this situation after Independence. A large number of lower caste children have entered educational institutions at all levels. Their aspiration and abilities being different, a new orientation is necessary to find out their talents and capacity so that their educational needs can be fulfilled.
- Levels and the degree of mobility have also been influenced by education. Studies in India suggest that mobility at the level of caste generally operates in the socio-cultural domains and in respect of pollution and purity. Such changes are, however, reflected through changes in customs, practices, occupations, education and income of particular groups.Although these changes do not bring large scale change in the structure of stratification, some families or groups of families may raise their status within their own castes and in relation to some other castes. What we are trying to emphasize is that, education has played an important role in effecting mobility at the individual level which is gradually spreading out to the group level.
- Increase in the number of caste-free occupations is thoroughly the result of educational progress in the country. Education is a major element in the honour assigned to occupations. It plays a major role in determining what occupation one will achieve and, in turn, the level of one’s income.
Ambedkar’s view on Education and social change. Ambedkar believed that education would greatly contribute to improvement of untouchables. He always exhorted his followers to reach excellence in the field of knowledge. Knowledge is liberating force. Education makes man enlightened makes him aware of this self respect and also help his to lead a better life materially one of the cases of the degradation of untouchables was that they ware denied the right to education.Ambedkar criticized the British policy on education for not adequately encouraging education among the lower castes. He felt that even under the British rule education continued mainly to be an upper caste monopoly. Therefore he mobilized the lower castes and the untouchables and funded various centers of learning while a labour member in the executive council of the governor-general he was instrumental in extending scholarships for education abroad to the untouchable to undergo both liberal education and technical education. He was particularly opposed to education under religions auspices. He warned that only secular education could instill the values of liberty and equality among the students.
However, as we move away from the spectacular gains of education in India since Independence we are confronted with the problem which the Indian system of education is facing today. The problems of standard content and the social purpose of education are basic to our system of education. Several sociologists like
A.R. Desai S.C. Dube, M.S. Gore, K. Ahmad and A.B. Shah etc., have focused upon the issue of education as an instrument for social reconstruction and modernization.
- Ahmad has said that although formal education can play a vital role in ‘ideational’ change through transformation of knowledge, attitudes and values of the people, its effectiveness in bringing about structural changes in society is extremely limited This is because of the linkages between the existing practices and procedures in education and vested interests.
- A.R. Desai too, has questioned the validity of education as an instrument of social change. His contention is that after independence, education has not been purposively geared to obtain the desired changes. He has criticized the policies and funding and financing of education to attain the goals of social mobility and equality. To support Desai, we can give the example of education of SCs, STs, women and the minorities which has failed in uplifting their status. The unemployment and under-employment of uneducated youth is another example of failure of education for achieving the aspirations of youths. The failure to achieve development of the rural areas and alleviating poverty is yet another example. Unless the pattern set by the prevailing distribution of power is broken and there is a tilt in the policies towards the poor, it will be difficult to find resources for the necessary transformation. Change in higher education is also necessary for social change.
- M. S. Gore has pointed out the necessity of change in the content and methods of education in the environment and context in which it is conducted and in the convictions and the commitment of teachers and administrators responsible for education for the effectiveness of education in achieving the required development.
- Some empirical studies have been conducted in India on the relationship between education and modernization. One such study was conducted by the NCERT in Delhi covering eight states. These studies described the extent to which the attitudes, aspirations and outlook of school and college students and teachers in the country have ‘modernized’. Modernization in these studies was measured in terms of an adaptation of a scale developed by Alex Inkles. The results pointed out low effect of education on modernization. Students continue to be traditional in matters of family life, etc.
- Yogendra Singh conducted a study into the implications of attitudes and values of teachers in Rajasthan University to modernization. This study measured the levels of aspirations, commitment, morale and authoritarianism among university teachers with a view to understanding how the role structures and value systems of teachers affect their role as agents of modernization. He found significant relationships between the two and thus held that teacher’s values influence the modernization of students. These issues have to be seriously debated and remedies evolved to make the system more effective and persuasive. As the nation has accepted the significance of education for the social and economic development of the country, its educational planning has to move in this direction. The report of the India Education Commission, entitled Education and National Development, forcefully stated, “Education cannot be considered in isolation or planned in a vaccuum. It has to be used as a powerful instrument of social, economic and political change”