G is for Globalization
Here is the truth. I wished to write “G is for Gandhi” and to make a persuasive case for how Gandhi is relevant for our present-day dilemmas. Knowing that some may think that case was a weak one, I watched Lage Raho Munnabhai again to see how popular culture tackled the same subject, and was left refreshed but not quite convinced. In respect to the changes taking place in our country, therefore, let us face squarely the truth that “G is for globalisation,” which, since our Father of the nation loved truth always, he would also acknowledge. We could then connect our globalisation to Gandhi—or perhaps to our global warming and our need for a green planet.
Our educational system was already globalised two hundred years ago. This happened formally in the 1830s and 1850s, and then in an escalated way after that. Everyone need not know the names of Thomas Macaulay and Charles Wood. But they should know that between them these two officials ensured that education in India should we such as to discourage all manufacture at home, while promoting consumption of foreign goods. In the case of India ‘globalisation’ came directly from the utilitarian philosophy of the East India Company and the British Crown. This was supplemented by a cultural chauvinism that credited British and European knowledge with everything good and downgraded Indian sciences and arts.
A new global knowledge came to be enshrined in schools once the first universities opened in the 1850s. After that there was no fighting the global in India. But Indians put a new twist in the meaning of ‘global.’ A simple example is the case of medicine. There had been medical professionals and medical science and practice in India for centuries. Now, these older professionals came to co-exist with modern doctors and medical practice that had its roots in the West. An educated doctor in India was the same as an educated doctor in England or America, except that she was more global. She knew about the vernacular practices of her own country that were totally different to western ones. She knew they were around and she herself practised them or not as she chose to. Thus, in different professions all over the country, Indians are ‘global’ in this special way.The consciousness of educated Indians for at least seven generations has been a global consciousness.
Now, globalisation can flow in one direction of power, or it can be more egalitarian and flow in two. Post-colonial India is in the position of being able to produce and market what will bring it profit, rather than what someone else decides it should produce. Thus, it can market technology service and make profit from it. Its older globalisation has created a base of liberal learning and English that can result in further, more voluntary globalisation.
But what next? Is Indian education prepared to deal with the world as it is now emerging and the rapid and unpredictable changes that characterise it?
Hardly. Indian education has become split into levels each with its own problems. The lowest level, of government schools in town and village, is nowhere near appropriate for a modern country, leave aside a globalising country. These schools can barely cope with treating children as human beings to be respected, and they would then have to move on to educating them with imagination in the necessary skills of the 21st century.
Interestingly, most private schools have a similar problem: they are not victims of poverty or government control, but they are victims of an old mindset. Instead of rationally confronting their needs to produce certain kinds of citizens and developing the techniques for it, they are caught in a web of tired methods, failed ideas, and imitative practices. They are not even honest enough to admit their failure. Their products are smart and global only if they, with the help of their families, have personally worked hard for their success. The schools, left to themselves, could not produce graduates equipped with the 21st century skills of language, communication, self-confidence, flexibility, and the ability to learn constantly and lead change. Whereas schools took the lead in creating modern individuals and a democratic society in the US and Europe, in India the task is undertaken by families and private efforts.
Then there are the elite schools of India that give it its image of success, of trained professionals, of English-speaking literati. We could be tempted to give full marks to these schools for their work in providing a global education. But there is one problem. Our colonial-global history has made the educated classes of India very comfortable with Greek philosophy, French fashion, British law, American music. But these educated classes are still not exposed, in school or college, sufficiently to Indian schools of philosophy and law, Indian traditions of design, and hundreds of Indian performance genres. We like the freedom and power that comes with the global, but fashion and films aside, we still do not want to explore the riches of the arts trampled over by European boots in case it makes us smaller than we are. We are afraid of the parochialism of nationalism.
We were. Now a solution is being advocated that is itself small-minded, largely ignorant, and unnecessarily vengeful and aggressive: the Hindutva phenomenon.
Gandhiji was against the hateful politics of revenge. Among his many well-worn sayings is, “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”
On another note, is it possible for an educational system to produce geniuses? No, of course not. But suppose we undertook the fantastically challenging task of designing curricula that conceived of the world as an integrated, unified entity of which we were integral parts, and launched a terrifically serious campaign to have all children educated in an environmentally sensitive way?
Then the citizens of tomorrow, that is, our children, would become truly global citizens who could save the lovely Earth from global warming and greenhouse effects. Go, Generation Alpha, Go!