Written-off in the hinterland

The Editorial mainly focuses on impact of education on rural life

  • Our education system has failed to integrate the rural into the larger political community, the nation.
  • The impact of education on rural life has remained consistent since colonial days. When a village boy did well at school, he was expected to shift to a nearby town. That is where he could expect his talent to be recognised. Gradually, villages became the supplier of talent to the city. Only those who were dependent on land stayed back.
  • With the passage of time, land got subdivided into smaller pieces, making agriculture unattractive. In recent times, investments made land more productive, but real income declined. Work opportunities in villages in non-agricultural pursuits remained scarce, and, in the recent past, job growth has come to a standstill. 
  • As a broad spectrum industry, coaching now represents an acceptable way of spending much of your youth. It fills time and protects you from feeling constantly frustrated. Lakhs of students from rural and semi-urban areas spend their youth getting coached indiscriminately for competitive entry into an ever-shrinking opportunity market.
  • Despite better connectivity by road and phone, villages continue to be alienated from the state’s imagination.
  • Modernity for the village can only mean its merger in the urban landscape. The legitimacy granted to panchayati raj has not diminished the political isolation of the village.
  • The recent protests in Mandsaur and surrounding areas show that higher productivity and relative prosperity have not given the farming community any political clout or relief from uncertainty.

Education could have been a means of integrating the rural into the larger political community symbolised by the nation.

This did not happen for several reasons.

  • To begin with, schools in rural areas remained neglected and attempts to improve them never gained momentum.
  • Policy focus remained on selecting the talented from among rural children through schemes such as Navodaya Vidyalaya.
  • The larger cohort of rural children suffered the consequences of low budgeting and poor staffing.
  • The message that rural children received and absorbed was that they must change their behaviour and values in order to become good citizens.
  • Education of the rural child has failed to depart from the stereotype which associates modernity with city life.
  • Education has, indeed, exacerbated the rural-urban asymmetry, deepening the alienation of the rural citizen.


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