Education is almost entirely driven by the Government. Education in India
is primarily a State matter although there are several elements in the
concurrent list. The Right to Education Act takes this further in prescribing
free and compulsory Government provided schooling from ages 6 to 14.
It is interesting to note that historically, education in India was managed by
the community and it was a job rather well done. We were the most
prosperous country till about 250 years ago, and it is worth taking a look at
Macaulay’s statement on February 2, 1835 in the British Parliament:
“I have travelled the length and breadth of India and I did not meet a single
person who was a thief. I have seen such affluence in that country, such
competent individuals and such talent that I do not think we will be able to
conquer that land so long as we do not break its cultural and ethical
backbone. I therefore state that we change the ancient education system
and culture of India because if the inhabitants of India begin to think that
the ideas and thoughts of foreigners, of Englishmen, are better than and
superior to their own, then they will lose their culture and self-respect and they will become a dependent nation, which
is what we need.”
Mahatma Gandhi referred to this in his Chatham House speech in London on October 20th 1931, before a select
audience said “I say without figures of mine being successfully challenged that India today is more illiterate than it was
50 or 100 years before, and so is Burma, because the British administrators when they came to India, instead of
looking at things as they were, began to root them out. They scratched the soil and began to look at the root and left
the root as it is and let the beautiful tree perish”.
In modern times we are again at a situation when harnessing the cognitive surplus of the community would deal with
the educational challenges of the country much more effectively than the low quality State apparatus. I had thought I
would at a later date introduce the thought leader who had convinced me about the role of the community in the
educational transformation. But the news of her death on June 12, 2012, has made me refer to her singular role in
convincingly demonstrating that people can work together to do what neither the Government nor the private
Corporates can. ‘The tragedy of the commons’ is giving way to the wisdom of the crowds in the post Internet
World. Prof. Elinor Ostrom was awarded the 2009 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of
Alfred Nobel, which she shared with Oliver E. Williamson, for “her analysis of economic governance, especially the
commons”. She was the first, and to date, the only woman to win the prize in this category. Her work was associated
with the new institutional economics and the resurgence of political economy.
The link here connects you to the obituary article on Prof. Elinor Ostrom in the Economist, and of course there is a whole lot of information on her accessible from the Internet.
I do hope that in the coming years we will be able to demonstrate her theory by applying it to community based
learning. The theoretical framework for the Higgs Boson was published in 1964 and today we have some evidence of
it. The positron was predicted by P.A.M. Dirac in May 1931, purely on theoretical grounds and discovered. experimentally in September 1932 by Carl
Anderson and today Positron Emission Tomography is a common medical
Maybe in a decade the Nobel Prize winning ideas of Prof. Elinor Ostrom, technologically empowered with teachers
and learners having Tablets and Smartphones connected on high bandwidth networks result in a community led education that serves the good of the Aam aadmi.
Maybe the exhortation of Vivekananda of ‘ Awake, arise and stop not till the goal is reached’ is what we have to follow.
Do write to me your views on how we should develop this community.