Monday, June 30, 2014

Education is taking Assam backwards !!

'Education is taking Assam backwards' sounds like a paradox, but I shall prove the same true in this discussion today, albiet unfortunately.

Although Assam is the largest tea producing region in the world, yet it does not have a subject on tea education till the 12th standard. There are a few diploma courses for graduate and post graduate students, which hardly get students because of lack of awareness and interest in businesses related to tea. This is obvious because less than 5% of the population in Assam have education above class XII, and our education curriculum till then does not introduce our students to a career in tea, to raise any interest levels. Tea gardens are for the rich, they say. Sigh!

Similarly, Assam (Government, bureaucracy and its intellectuals) has not shown any strategic focus in educating our young generation in matters of petroleum related businesses, coal related businesses, bamboo related businesses, weaving related businesses, fishery related businesses, tourism related businesses and agri-based businesses. None of these topics get its due attention in the primary and secondary school syllabus, so as to generate interests in the minds of the ever inquisitive youth.

Here is one funny yet sad anecdote to support the discussion. Dibrugarh University had proposed to set up a “Centre for Tea and Agro Studies” in its campus with effect from early 2007. On 20th june 2014, I was aghast to see the website of that initiative. This is what I gathered from the website of Dibrugarh University.
  1. There were only three names on the faculty page: Prof. P. K. Borua (Director), Assistant Professor; Ms. Monalisha Sangma and Guest Faculty Mr. Siddhartha Sharma. The page didnt carry any details of their credentials and their functions.
  2. In the 'Departmental Publication' page, it was casually written "The Centre regularly publishes the Information Brochure for admission into the course" !! Thank you, but I was expecting some kind of a journal publication.
  3. In the Collaborations and Projects page, it had said, "The Centre is having collaboration with the Tea industry, Tea Research Association and Tea Board particularly in teaching and training". !! Is it possible to get more vague than this?

Dibrugarh University

It is tragic because we all know that the region of Assam and the North East is rich in various kinds of natural resources. We also know that the economy of a region is dependent on its natural resources and the core competencies that we develop around these natural resources. The inhabitants of the region have to be experts in harnessing the potential of the natural resources available in the region. Only then, the region won't have problems of un-employment, poverty and other socio-political disturbances like terrorism.

Contrary to the above understanding, Assam has negligible intent and infrastructure to educate its young citizens about the natural economic opportunities available in Assam. The obvious after-effect of such absence of vision is responsible for what we see today in Assam. Gamucha (traditional towel) are imported from outside the state. Significant amount of fish comes from the south of India, when Assam has enough water bodies, rainfall and shallow water table. Above all, we have the huge Brahmaputra. India had the first oil well in Digboi but still Assam does not have local entrepreneurs doing business in the petro-chemical industry producing plastic and other petroleum bi-products.

Tea was made a cash crop by the British and I don't think that we are even thinking about creating the second cash crop after 60 long years of our independence. There have been some efforts in exporting agricultural produce from Assam, but the efforts are not comprehensive and well planned.

Assam Lemon, Assam Papaya, Bora Saul (glutinous rice), Joha Saul (aromatic rice) are few of the agricultural produce that has the potential to become the second cash crop next to tea.

India leads the world in terms of Papaya production, but Assam has one of the lowest productivity in spite of the preferable tropical weather conditions. Some research work says Assam may be the home of lemon. Lemons of various kinds are found even today growing in a wild state in the tropical forests of Assam. Pomelo (robab tenga) is one such example, which is known worldwide for its vitamin C content.

If OIL market Duliajan can sell apples sourced from America, there is no reason why we can not sell Assam Papaya and Assam Lemon in the shopping malls of the United States of America.

All that is not possible if the education curriculum does not support these knowledge domains required for the Assamese citizens to take advantage of the natural potential of the region. Many argue that Assam is a land of 'laahe laahe', which literally means that Assamese people are lazy and therefore they don't take initiatives and work hard. I have a completely different explanation. I blame the strategists, their strategies or the lack of it in education. Or perhaps, I sometime imagine that it is a well thought design by the ruling rich capitalists to keep the locals out of understanding the potential of our state and its natural resources. But that is just my imagination talking, perhaps.

Lets compare the state education facilities in Assam and in Andhra Pradesh. The data is from the websites of 'Directorate of Technical Education'.

Andhra Pradesh has 120 polytechnics with an intake of 21,210 students every year, 225 engineering colleges with an intake of 65960 students every year, 270 MCA colleges with an intake of 13,495 students every year, 205 MBA/PGDBA colleges with an intake of 11,230 students every year and 31 B-pharmacology colleges with 1770 students every year. Assam has only 25 institutes. Assam has 10 polytechnic institutes and 15 other institutes including the engineering colleges with a total intake of only 2520 students every year.

Karnataka has 566 institutes under DTE. Gujarat has 620 institutes under DTE.

Education in Assam
Annual Student Intake in Assam
Assam lags not only in terms of number of institutes and but also lags in the type and variety of courses offered in these institutes. None of the institutes really focus on the natural resources, ecology and culture of the state of Assam.

Am I then not right in saying, 'education (of Assam) is taking Assam backwards'? Education is intrinsically progressive, but the direction and velocity of progress has to be worked on strategically. If the direction is not correct, it would obviously take a region backwards. The local population, its economy, its art and culture, its people, its languages - everything will be history if education is not in the right direction of progress.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The fun is in knowing how nasty, boring or great fun, it was for you, reading my blog post... Just write in, criticize, praise, add to my thoughts or whatever you feel... it will only add to my perspective.
Thank you for your time. Cheers.