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Schools and the State

The Kerala Government’s bill for reorganising and reforming school education has been necessitated as mach by the need to bring about uniformity in the three different regions for Travancore Cochin and Malabar as by the Communist urge to secularise and standardise education. While it seeks power to take over, for a limited period, any aided school whose present management had neglected its duties, the main purpose of the bill is to deal with the general situation rather than with particular institutions. The provision for taking ;over “any category of aided schools in any specified area” has naturally roused much opposition; the bishops in charge of missionary schools have threatened to invoke Article 30 of the Constitution guaranteeing the rights of minorities to start and run their own schools.

Teachers would generally welcome the direct payment of salaries and the extension of pension, provident funds and insurance benefits without any reference to the ability or willingness of managements to meet a share of the cost. The preparation and maintenance of a register of persons eligible for appointment as teachers would only be the tightening up of existing practice. Perhaps the most objectionable feature in the specific provision attempting to oust the jurisdiction of the courts to restrain by injunction or temporary order any proceeding under the Act. Education being a matter in which the parents and the public are deeply interested and the present Government in Kerala being identified with a clear-cut ideology, it would be too much to ask that the Government should be allowed to have its way while the courts decided in substance any issue referred to them by an aggrieved party.

At the same time, it is too late in the day to cite John Sturart Mill against state interference and to insist that the nation’s education should be left to the family, the church and philanthropic organisations which the State may merely assist. With the formulation of agreed syllabuses and teaching methods in the ordinary school subjects universal literacy widespread general education and the efficiency of workers and citizens can be best promoted buy a large degree of uniformity in administrative structure. In a recent number of Confluence. Dr. Havighurst of Harvard analyses the function of education in a changing society and comes to the conclusion that the old idea of using education to perpetuate a particular set of beliefs or a particular type of social organisation is no longer tenable. In the conditions of the modern world, formal or school education is bound to work for a change “whether in industrial processes, religious beliefs are aesthetic standards.” The limits to the change that can thus be brought about by the system of public education are set by the free functioning of the family the church and other social institutions.

Even the bishops welcome wholesome changes in educational structure, but would resist any disturbance of ‘fundamental ideas or immutable values of life to suit the taste of changing ministries.” Schools, even those run by the State, can teach only what can be readily taught and what society as a whole approves, How far the reforms ;are in the interests of uniformity and efficiency and not for the propagation of a party ideology will depend on the constitution of the state advisory board and the local educational authorities. While it is open to the state of streamline and speed up the teaching of the three Rs. and the recognised body of linguistic and general knowledge included in the school curriculum, any attempt (direct ;or indirect) to weaken the basic institutions of the family and religion or faith in democratic ideas and methods will be fatal to the scheme. The Government would do well to treat the matter as above party and to seek and secure understanding co-operation from all shades of public opinion before embarking on this far-reaching programme.

(The Indian Express- 9th July, 1957)