Essay on Education and Social Change!
Social scientists have been giving thought to this important issue ever since education assumed the form and proportions of a large organized sector in society. Inevitably, they have held extremely differing views on the relationship between education and society. At one end of the spectrum education is considered the most important ‘ideological state apparatus’ devised by the ruling classes to ensure that society largely conforms to their ideas and interests.
Gramsci is even more specific when he says that intellectuals, i.e., the upper sections of the products of the education system, “are officers of the ruling class for the exercise of subordinate functions of social hegemony and political government.” Evidently, thinkers of this persuasion hold that education is an instrument forged by the ruling classes to serve and preserve their own interests, and thus to maintain the status quo in the existing economic and political power structure.
At the other end are many social scientists, politicians, educationists and educational planners who consider education as a very important instrument, if not the most important one, of social change. This, they maintain especially in the context of the Third World countries. For instance, the Third Five Year Plan document (1961-62) of the Indian Planning Commission described education as “the most important single factor in achieving rapid economic development and technological progress and in creating a social order founded on the values of freedom, social justice and equal opportunity.”
The Report of the Education Commission (1964- 66)—bearing an eloquent-enough title, Education and National Development— makes the even stronger assertion that for achieving “change on a grand scale. . . there is one instrument, and one instrument only, that can be used – EDUCATION.”
The Commission also believed that, “In fact, what is needed is a revolution in education which in turn will set in motion the much desired social, economic and cultural revolution.” The sequence is therefore very clearly indicated between education and social change.
Here, education is clearly elevated to the position of the most important prime mover of economic development and social change. It is well known that during the post-Second World War period the UNESCO consistently upheld the primacy of education in its publications. Not only the savants, the political leaders and educational planners in the less developed countries, but also the majority of Western social scientists, have often subscribed to this view of education.
In a country like India there are also the overtones of a feudal, religion-dominated past, with education held sacred, and other material life held profane. Thus we have still with us the imagery of the Goddess of Learning and (educational institutions as) the Temples of Learning. Although the actual practice of education belies not only sacredness but often also elementary honesty and decency, this imagery is still with us in its verbal manifestation, fostering both the vision of a non-existent glorious past and a double-think in the present, and causing all-round confusion about the role of education and its relationship with society.
In actuality, views of education are mixed-up affairs combining one or more of these main elements with one’s own other pet predilections. Whether these views are reconcilable or not, it is clear that it is necessary to place the educational system in its proper perspective with respect to society.
There are two characteristics of man which distinguish him from other species. First, man shares with others a common life, a common culture; in other words he lives in society.
As Worsley puts it:
“Man is man because he shares a common culture… not only [of] its living members but also members of past generations and those yet unborn.”
Secondly, most of his behaviour is learned, not instinctive. Socialization is the process through which man learns to live in social groups, to participate in their productive activities and cultural life. Through this process of socialization is culture transmitted from one generation to another. Education or deliberate organized instruction is a part- only a part, but an important part—of this process of socialization.
Until a few centuries ago, education, that is, deliberate organized instruction, reached only small selected groups, certain elite in society, like the priestly class, traders and merchants, and the warrior class (or the army). It is only in the era of capitalism and industrialization, the age of modern nation-states, that education began to spread to wider and wider sections of society.
In most contemporary societies, education has differentiated itself from other socialization processes and has become a highly complex and ramified organization. In a modern society, the educational system tries to embrace almost all the young people and equip them with some minimum skills at least, like literacy and numeracy.
On the other hand, with the growth of modern economy and the complexity of the socio-economic structure, the educational system has also grown in its coverage and specialization and turns out trained personnel equipped with information, knowledge, skills and values for fulfilling various roles and manning a variety of jobs at various levels in society.
Thus, the economy—as a consumer of the educational product—wields considerable influence on the levels, specializations and content of education. This is usually achieved through the political and administrative apparatus. The knowledge, skills and values acquired through education, not only meet the economic needs of society, but they are also permeated with a social content corresponding to the socio-economic and political structure, and the consequent social stratification and distribution of power in society.
Another aspect of education in the modern era is its allocative function. The educational process, with its different specializations, different levels, and the inevitable certification process which goes along with it, distributes the younger generation to various roles (or jobs) in society according to the diplomas and certificates they possess, which specify their particular skills, abilities and values.
Thus, it legitimizes the existing distribution of positions, of socioeconomic gains and power by convincing the ‘losers’ that their ‘failure’ in life is due to their failure in education which, in turn, is due to their (inherent) lack of abilities. Moreover, this allocative function induces greater and greater demand for more and more education, thus contributing to the expansion of the educational system and increasing the common people’s dependence on, and subjugation to it.
What about the goals, objectives and structural pattern of education? It is true that some of the so-called universal goals of education in a society are the manifestations of the thinking of philosophers and social reformers of the time, some of it even projecting a desirable future society. This can be illustrated by examples of many Western and Eastern educational philosophers. In our own country, for instance, Gandhi’s influence on the educational thought in India before and after independence, and the ideas on national education during the nascent period of Indian nationalism, illustrate this point.
But, in practice, goals, objectives and the structural pattern are largely influenced by the dominant politico-economic structure and the various powerful groups in society. As an example of the last, one may point to the bureaucracy in India (British in the earlier stages, both British and Indian in the later stages of British rule, and the Anglophile Indian bureaucracy of the present times), which has exercised a powerful influence on Indian education in these respects.
In the actual operation of the system it has been shown that, in most countries, the system works—both in its form and content— with a decisive social bias heavily in favour of the upper or dominant strata of society. At the same time, it provides occupational and social mobility to a small number from the lower strata. And those from the common people who—in spite of their inherent handicaps—make the grade are gradually co-opted into the upper strata, so that with this adjustment and accommodation the socio-economic structure carries on more or less as before.
Thus, the educational system is largely conditioned by the prevalent socio-economic and political power structure. Its expansion, growth and development are tuned to the requirements of this structure, and the changes in it are directed by the changes in this structure, particularly, by the changes in the distribution of power-economic, social and political—in society. The educational system which is a social product and a sub-system of the entire social system, acquires a collateral relationship with it.
We have so far described the general character of education and the educational system in relation to society and the social system, their general nature of being supportive of, and supported by, the prevalent socio-economic structure. But this relationship can never be, and never is, an exact correspondence, and imbalances and incongruities do occur, giving rise at times to dissatisfaction, dissent, disharmony, dissonance, even revolt. In other words, along with correspondence and collaterally, there are also contradictions.
First, the social situation, together with its underlying socioeconomic structure and the political power structure, is never static. These have a movement of their own, depending on their inherent contradictions. The more irreconcilable these contradictions, the more serious become the socio-economic and political confrontations between opposing classes in society. These have repercussions on the educational system and within it as well.
Second, the educational system, like every other sub-system in the general social framework, acquires in the course of its development certain autonomy and, therefore, its own dynamics of development, depending on its own contradictions, as well as contradictions and conflicts in relation to the socio-economic system. It can, at times, produce serious value conflicts between its different components, as well as with ruling values and practices.
The latter happens particularly when there are serious structural contradictions within the social system itself, as can be seen in India these last few years. Under these contradictions, internal and external to the educational system, it may even at times become dysfunctional (as is happening at the moment to a large sector in higher education in India).
Finally, there is the characteristic of education (in fact, of all human thought) which we have not mentioned so far, but which is of fundamental significance to the development and progress of human society. All education qua education has a dual character. Although education as a process of socialization, as explained above, generally dominates and domesticates individuals, that is, socializes them to conform to the norms and values of society and its establishment, it has also the capacity of generating a spirit of enquiry and questioning of the accepted ‘truths’.
In other words, education has also the capacity to liberate the human mind from the shackles of the past and the present. It has the potential to make men question the ruling values and norms in society to make them rebel against the existing social constraints, and seek solutions, outside the framework of the established system, to the social contradictions that have developed.
Even the limited amount of autonomy and independence in the modern system of education can provide some (limited) opportunities to set off this process of questioning, demystification, and demythologization leading to conscientization. Thus, within the educational system itself, in spite of its generally confirmatory and confirmatory character, lies potential of ‘rebelatory’ character. Because of this, there may arise specific focal centres which anticipate, germinate or support, from within the educational system, the movement for social liberation actually taking place, or likely to arise, outside in the society.
This bring us back to the questions which were raised in the beginning of this article, viz., the relationship between education and social change, and the use of education in bringing about social and economic development, and socio-economic transformation.
There are three or four positions usually taken with regard to education and social change:
(i) That education is for itself and has nothing to do with social change;
(ii) That education is determined completely by social factors and has, therefore, no role in social change, at most, it follows social change;
(iii) Education is an autonomous, or relatively autonomous factor and, therefore, can and does induce social change; and
(iv) The position that educational change and social change must take place simultaneously.
No sizable opinion now takes the first position although the Indian hangover, of the sacredness of education along with some nineteenth century Western thought, still persists. The UNESCO (it is the author’s impression), and Indian educationists generally, taking the third view (that education, being autonomous, does induce social change), have now veered round to the fourth (that educational and social changes occur simultaneously). Contrary to popular misconception the second (education is determined by social factors) is not the correct Marxist or the dialectical-historical paradigm. It is the position of what may be described as the ‘mechanical’ Marxists.
If social change is meant to connote fundamental structural changes in society, it is clear that the socio-economic factor and its executive arm, the political factor— and not education—have primary importance in the process of social change. They are, by and large, the real prime movers. (There are a few other social scientists and educationists who take a similar stand, although their number is not very large.)
Education, no doubt, can help the process of social change as a necessary and vitally important collateral factor. It can help to stimulate, accelerate and work out that process by disseminating and cultivating knowledge, information, skills and values appropriate to the changing socio-economic and political structure.
Moreover, in a rapidly-changing situation (e.g., in a post-revolutionary period) when fundamental structural changes are rapidly taking place, education can undoubtedly operate as a powerful weapon to demolish the old cultural and ideological superstructure, and to build in its place an altogether new and appropriate structure in harmony with the newborn society.
For instance, in some countries, the old effete system of education was replaced by a newly-evolved one, after revolutionary socio-economic and political structural changes; and this new system, in its turn, supported and consolidated these changes (e.g., USSR after the October revolution and recently, Cuba and Viet-Nam). This also happened in India, in a distorted and arrestive manner after the British conquest of India when a system of modern education was introduced here under the aegis of the British.
The only other manner in which education may help the process of far-reaching social change is by using its liberating and ‘rebelatory’ role, by examining and analysing the existing social situation, by contra posing an alternative ideology to the established one. Thus, committed individuals in academe can create foci of dissent in the existing educational system and become heralders and harbingers of on-coming change.
How then does one construe the many statements by political leaders, by educational thinkers and planners and by social scientists, generally speaking, from the developing countries, that education is the ‘main instrument’ or the ‘single most important factor’ of social change? No doubt, some of these statements are made for rhetorical, exhortative purposes, sometimes even to bamboozle the common people (particularly when made by politicians), and they need not be taken seriously.
But when made by others they mainly indicate the following three possibilities:
(i) An incorrect understanding of the role of education;
(ii) An empirically incorrect assumption that a far- reaching structural transformation is already (or at least should be) taking place and education should, therefore, come forward to play its crucial role in consummating that transformation;
(iii) An essentially social-reformist and welfare perspective of social change with no bid for far-reaching structural transformation, wherein education is expected to play its role in the furtherance of economic growth and social change within the current socio-economic structural framework.
Let us ignore (i), although that possibility cannot be ruled out since it flows from the assumption of a relatively independent role for education. A careful examination of the statements (e.g., those of the Third Five Year Plan in India and the Report of the Education Commission) shows that there is no reference in them to basic changes in the socio-economic structure and, therefore, the underlying position is essentially what is suggested in (iii).
But some of the latest formulations in this respect, in India, hint at possibility (ii) where it is pleaded that socioeconomic structural changes and educational transformation should simultaneously take place, with a lurking hope that they will not jolt, too much or too rudely, the politico-economic apple cart! It is clear that both (ii) and (iii) visualize essentially an evolutionary perspective of change (some of their advocates take an elective view often pointing out that there is no prospective revolution round the corner). Thus (i) to (iii) are all variations essentially of an idealist position in contrast to the dialectical-historical paradigm of social change.
Whatever their assessment, it is, therefore, necessary to consider the relationship between education and rapid socio-economic development and change in their limited context, that is, without fundamental socio-economic structural changes.
In the post-Second World War period the relationship of education to economic development received serious attention in national and international forums. It was made out that education is one of the most, if not the most, important factor in economic growth. This had two important consequences. UNESCO and Western social scientists, and in their wake the Third World educationists and planners, supported education as a prime mover in the developing countries.
This initial enthusiasm about education as an important input in economic growth provided a justification for the massive expansion of education together with a large allocation of funds; which any way had to be done in response to the great demand for educational facilities from various segments of society.
But it was soon discovered that education strengthened old inequalities—and created new ones—in the absence of any fundamental change in their dependent relationship with developed countries on the one hand and in an out-dated internal politico-economic power structure on the other. That is, the causes of underdevelopment essentially lay in structural (both external and internal) factors and not so much in the educational backwardness.
Education was supposed to be the main instrument of change in the social sphere as well. Here change was visualized and hoped for in the framework of the tradition-modernity paradigm, with stress on the cultural rather than on the structural change. But here too it was soon discovered that education, by and large, works towards maintaining the existing social stratification and continuance of the ideas and values of the dominant social classes and their economic, social and political interests.
We must point out here that these interests are not necessarily as forward-looking and rational as the modernization-wallahs and their protagonists liked to believe, and, in fact, may often be anti-rational and regressive. All in all, what education has helped to achieve is a limited embourgeoisement of certain segments of the population.
What then is the actual assessment of the role of education in economic and social development in a non-revolutionary perspective? The achievements are extremely meagre as compared to the grand design: a limited independent economic development, the rise of new affluent classes, and, after a limited initial advance, inequities in the socio-economic and political structure growing harsher. Moreover, in addition to the socio-economic crisis, education too enters a crisis phase.
What education achieved was: a limited increase in literacy and numeracy on the one hand, and a limited advance in science, technology and other higher education on the other, both contributing to restricted socio-economic development. It confirms our postulation that education is just one variable in the relevant cluster of variables, and that it is not a prime mover of social change.
Little else can be said about the role of education in social change and that little has been indicated, viz., education has a great deal of correspondence with society but this relationship is neither unilinear nor isomorphic; and hardly anything definite—which is universally valid—can be said about the quantum and kind of education which will help, even towards a limited measure of social change, in this non-radical perspective.
The history of education in relation to society (here as well as in other countries) provides illustrations of all the features of this relationship. There may be times when education merely reflects society and changes with it. At other times, education—itself conditioned by social and economic developments—reacts with them and influences further developments. At yet other times, education, although conditioned by society and its prior development, because of its autonomy and own dynamics, develops contradictions and conflicts within itself, and in relation to society.
And there are also situations when education plays a vital part in consummating a desired social change that is already taking place due to the prime moves of socioeconomic and political change. What is of relevance to us and to many Third World countries is that—as recent experience has shown— the desired developments in the educational sphere to bring about the desired social change do not ordinarily take place because of powerful structural constraints in society.
Reviewing the last hundred and fifty years of modern education in India we find three sub-periods when education has been an influential co-factor in the process of change:
(1) The early British period to the end of the nineteenth century;
(2) The period between the two world wars; and
(3) The post-independence period upto the mid-sixties.
During the first period, the new English education actively collaborated in the establishment of the colonial socio-economic and political structure. In this general process of subjugation, it also played a kind of liberating role in breaking down traditional norms to the extent needed and in inducing values of a bourgeois society and modern nationalism.
In course of time, this liberating influence was internalized and worked in two directions; first, towards a close scrutiny of the indigenous social system and culture leading to powerful movements of social and religious reform and protest movements like the Satya Shodhak Samaj; second, towards the process of self-discovery and self-assertion in the context of the new situation, leading to the creation of an alternative centre of social cohesion—the anti-imperialist movement for national liberation.
While the British rule tried to use the domesticating role of education for the creation, support, and continuation of the colonial structure and succeeded in their objective in an appreciable measure, the nationalist intelligentsia used its liberating potential for social and political awakening to mount a powerful national offensive against the colonial rulers.
During the period between the two World Wars, education for the first time began to assume a mass character. This carried its liberating influence and its potential for occupational and social mobility lower down the social pyramid—to segments of population hitherto untouched. So far education had spread mainly to the upper castes and urban upper strata in society. Now it began to reach sections lower down the social hierarchy, the middle castes and the middle strata. It carried the process of national and social awakening still further, to the working class in towns and to the peasantry in the countryside.
This strengthened considerably the movement for national liberation as well as the movement for (colonial) social change. In the meanwhile, the growth of the colonial system of education was developing serious contradictions within itself, and also vis-a-vis the colonial socio-economic structure, giving an added edge to the principal contradiction between the British imperialists and the Indian people. The contradiction in relation to the colonial structure was reflected in the large-scale unemployment among the educated on the one hand, and the liberating influence in the strength and militancy of the powerful youth movement on the other.
Finally, in the post-independence period, with the further spread and growth of education, the process of social and political awakening took further strides. Its two aspects of conformity and liberation, operated simultaneously. At the same time, the contradictions within the educational system, and in relation to the developing socioeconomic structure, also sharpened.
Education is a process of socialization which has, in modern times, taken the form of an elaborately organized system of instruction. We will examine here the relationship of education to society and social change from this viewpoint.
The three main elements in any process of socialization are:
(1) The socializers or the agents of socialization;
(2) The socializes, that is, those who are sought to be socialized, or here, the receivers of education; and
(3) The message or content of education.
To these should be added:
(4) The general social context in which this is taking place and, in particular,
(5) The distribution of power—social, economic and political—in society.
All these are, of course, interconnected and interacting; and obviously, (4) embraces all the others and also implies (5). The latter two, (4) and (5), are specifically listed here since they have vital significance in the determination of the other elements, particularly, the content of education, as well as the likely social change that may result. An additional reason is that some social scientists and educationists in their wisdom ignore them or assume them away!
The agents of this socialization process of education include:
(a) the political, administrative and educational leadership;
(b) the managers, trustees, etc., of educational institutions;
(c) the actual disseminators of the message, that is, the teachers; and, indirectly,
(d) the users of the product of education, that is, the employers.
The goals (and, therefore, principal contents) of education are usually determined by the thinking and the interests of (a) and the classes they represent; and this means they take into consideration the requirements of (d)—the employers.
As mentioned earlier, the content, methods and organization of education are often effectively influenced by important pressure groups like the bureaucracy (which is often, as in India, the single largest employer of the product in a developing country), religious groups, etc. These (particularly the content) may also carry an impress of the ruling educational ideas, the ideas of the prominent educational thinkers and philosophers of the times.
The educational goals—whether implied or publicly enunciated— and the practical needs of the production process and the social structure, largely determine the contents of education. Invariably, the actual content has, along with the formal curriculum, a ‘hidden’ curriculum, depending on the social context in which the system is working and the distribution of power in that society.
These latter influence the written texts and the attitudes and values of the teachers who are the purveyors of these contents, that is, the manner in which the contents are conveyed to the receivers (students). As a result, as Davis has indicated, “Institutional education, as much as politics and religion, is an attempt to initiate students into the rituals of the dominant culture.”
The teaching community, which is the ultimate and direct agent of this socialization process, may have a heterogeneous composition in terms of social background and their attitudes and values. These latter are largely the resultant product of the social context, that is, the social structure and value pattern of different sections in society, as well as the socializing process of education which the teachers themselves have undergone.
The receivers of education (students) are also a heterogeneous group; they may differ widely in their social background and, consequently, in attitudes and values, as well as in their motivations towards the learning process.
If we view the educational process as analysed above, we can immediately draw two basic conclusions about the relationship of education with society and social change. First, education in its actual practice cannot transcend the socializing agents taken collectively, that is, above the prevailing social interests.
Second, it follows that the desired social or economic change through education can occur in society only to the extent that the socializers, the educating agents, intrinsically desire it, and not the usually employed pious hopes and rhetoric. This will, therefore, depend on the extent that the change accords with their actual interests.
At the same time, it must also satisfy the interests and motivations of the students and the social sections to which they belong. The closer these two correspond, the more rapid is the pace of change. This is what usually occurs in post-revolutionary periods, and to some extent even in evolutionary periods when society is responding to a new situation (normally brought about by economic and political factors).
But, if the socializing agents and the receivers of education are themselves heterogeneous multitudes, there will be instead a number of pulls in different directions not only between different sections of each of the two categories but also between the socializers and the socializes. This will result in a heterogeneous and confused pattern of social change—as we can see happening in post-independent India.
Perhaps, at this stage, it is not inappropriate to raise and discuss the point of ideational contribution of education to social change, the instilling of values and attitudes as a precursor of intended changes, that is, a sort of anticipatory socialization. Here, it is adduced that the educational system has a certain autonomy of its own to imbue the receivers with ideas, values and attitudes, different from theirs.
According to our analysis the desired social change can be brought about effectively only if and when those who are heralders of this change are themselves catapulted to positions of political power (and, therefore, educational leadership) in a post-revolutionary era, and are the centres of these economic and social structural changes, or are enforcing them. Exceptionally, such ideational foci of change may develop in the educational system itself, in a situation of acutely developing structural contradictions, that is, a pre-revolutionary situation.
In ordinary non-revolutionary (or patently evolutionary) context, such anticipatory socialization or ideational contribution of education can hardly produce far-reaching social transformations. They can, at most, help effect some necessary adjustments in the social milieu but cannot go further.
Those socializers (including teachers, the proximate level of socializers) who seek to force the pace and actively transcend the system will come into conflict and confrontation—and, perhaps, to grief—with the principal socializing agents, viz., the powers-that-be in society and in education on the one hand, and the receivers of education and their parents on the other.
It is futile to expect change from this end—this thin end of the wedge, as it were, this ‘autonomous’ ideational end. Here we return to the barren hypothecation of the idealist school of educationists. The results of such efforts (including the double-think of practice divorced from precepts) and slogans of social change through education are all there for us to see in India over the last thirty years.
With this framework in mind, we shall now briefly review, as illustrations—two periods in the last hundred and fifty years of modern education in India:
(1) The early British period, and
(2) The period between the two World Wars.
What was the general social context in the early British period, say, about 1850 and thereafter? Aggressive British capitalism was invading this sub-continent and subjugating it by imposing on it a colonial capitalist economy, the corresponding social structure, and a colonial administration. The old power structure in society was a feudal one, together with the caste system which largely determined the occupational and status hierarchy in society and also the (Hindu) cultural ethos.
The apex of the new power structure which superimposed itself was in Britain, and its main objective was to transform the native economy into a suitable form of colonial economy for the benefit of British capital and the British imperialist ruling class. It is under these conditions that Western education—English education—was introduced in India.
The principal agents of this socialization (which may be described as anticipatory socialization in the sense that this education was expected to help bring about economic and social change which would be conducive to the continuation of the British colonial rule) were the British administrators in India and their policy makers in England.
There were three or four main lines of educational thinking among these socializers according to their goals in respect of education:
(a) Pure administrators who wanted the spread of English education in India in order to obtain intermediaries and interpreters (of British rule and culture) in adequate numbers, to man various subordinate posts in administration and to otherwise support the new colonial structure;
(b) Political pragmatists who wanted to build an Indian replica of British education which would produce not only junior bureaucrats and professionals but, in general, produce a Western-educated Indian intelligentsia in the image of the English intelligentsia, as a supportive political base in India;
(c) Evangelists, that is, Christian missionaries whose main objective was proselytization together with the spread of Western learning and ‘Christian culture’ in this ‘dark’ land; and finally,
(d) Liberal humanists who wanted to disseminate through education not only new knowledge and skills but also the values of liberal humanism (of British progressive bourgeois thinking) – the values of individual liberty, equality, rationality, secularism and (also) democracy.
In actual fact, such pure categories never existed, there was always a considerable overlap; such categorization only helps to lay bare the main motivations of the principal (British) agents of socialization of that period. Moreover, excepting a few in category (d) and fewer still in (b), all were in agreement that Indians were an ‘inferior race’ and Indian culture an ‘inferior culture’ which needed improvement but that, however, it would never make the grade.
In course of time, as a result of developments in India (e.g., the 1857 revolt) and in the world (where British and Western imperialists were aggressively conquering the globe and encountering resistance in the process), the liberal humanist goals of education fell into limbo, leaving the field mainly to the imperialist’s aims, viz., to maintain colonial rule, to aggrandize and exploit.
The initial receivers of education in this early period were those sections of Indian society who had already come into contact with the British for trade and business or in junior administrative capacity. But soon the lure of jobs (and, to a lesser extent, of modern learning) attracted a sizable number of students to English education. A large majority of those who joined high schools and, later on, colleges, belonged to upper status/strata of society, mainly the literate castes (Brahmans, Kayasthas and others), many of them not very affluent.
Then there was a sprinkling of non-Hindus (in Maharashtra, for instance, the Parsees, Anglo-Indians, Christians, and a few Muslims), a much smaller number from the middle strata and middle castes and rarely, if at all, from the lowest strata. The receivers were more or less a homogeneous lot in social composition but, obviously, from a cultural tradition and milieu whose ideas and values were poles apart from those who came with Western education.
The message or the content of education reflected the goals, the main elements of which have been described earlier. It is true that the actual curriculum had to temper these goals with the realities of the prevailing Indian social context, including the composition and background of the receivers. Moreover, although the goals of education were set by the British rulers (both in England and in India), the secondary agents of this socialization, the teachers who – actually conveyed the message, were mainly Indians belonging to the upper caste clusters whose cultural values were altogether different.
Consequently, the message which was actually conveyed to the receivers got considerably modified when passed through this filter. Only such elements of the content reached the student community which either had to be transmitted because of the exigencies and compulsions of British rule and the colonial economy, or which appealed to the teachers in question.
As time passed, the composition of agents at the level of managers changed very considerably in favour of indigenous management. The composition of the teachers and students also changed in terms of traditional social strata. The social context also changed; Indian society began to rise in confrontation with the British rulers, and stake their claim for national freedom. So the actual content of the message transmitted to the receivers changed in large measure too.
It is, perhaps, appropriate here to make a point of some relevance – that the educational process may give rise to social changes which were not originally intended or, at least, not consciously aimed at by the socializing agents. One such consequence of the introduction and spread of modern learning in India is already mentioned, viz., the rise of the national movement for freedom.
Another such consequence, not wholly intended, was the alienation of the English-educated Indians from their own society. (It was partly intended in the sense that one constituent in the goals of the Britishers who introduced modern education in India was to create people in India who were to be, according to Macaulay, ‘British in everything else except in the colour of their skin’.)
Now it is true that in an illiterate or semi-literate society all education, even indigenous education, separates the educated, alienates them from the mass of common (uneducated) people. Higher education does it to a much greater extent. This is, perhaps, a natural consequence of education, in general, and higher education, in particular, in an unequal society.
And yet there is a link—through the common language—between the educated and the uneducated in society. But here both the alien language, through which the new learning came, and the fact that the newly educated class became (at least in the initial stages) a close ally of the alien rulers, combined to make the English-educated Indians even more alienated from their society. A major contributing factor was the ideas and values which this new education sought to instill.
They had not grown from the soil but were deliberately forced upon the receivers by forces external to the social system. This alienated the newly-educated from his family, his community and members of the larger society who were outside the charmed circle of new education, because this alienation plagues the Indian educated elite even today.
The second period of change, partially affected by the spread of education, was that between the two World Wars. The end of World War I heralded the era of widespread political and social awakening and appreciable advance in the economy, although, of course, within the constricting confines of the colonial economy and polity. The national movement was going from strength to strength and had entered the militant phase.
As conciliatory gestures, the British imperialists had to concede partial political reforms in 1919 and again in 1935. Under these Government of India Acts, some powers at the provincial level were transferred to elected Indian Ministers, education being one of them.
This, together with the nationwide national awakening, led to the spread of education to newer strata, particularly, to the middle caste-clusters and to a lesser extent to the lower and lowest social strata. In Maharashtra, for instance, this is the period when Bhaurao Patil established his Rayat Shikshan Sanstha with the objective of taking primary (and, later, secondary and higher) education to the rural people.
The socializing agents, the managers and teachers, and their composition started changing, incorporating larger contingents from the middle-caste and lower-caste educated. The receivers of education were also different they were from the lower rungs of the social pyramid. Partly in response to them, the medium of instruction in high schools was changed to the Indian languages.
The resulting educational spread in rural areas, as well as in urban areas, meant not only that these middle and lower social strata began to enter the educated middle-class in the economy—particularly, the bureaucracy—but it also meant their social awakening and the raising of their political consciousness. One can trace the origin and rise of a substantial non-Brahman political leadership of the later period to this spread of education.
Because of this awakening there sprang up a mighty working-class movement and organizations of peasant masses. With these big battalions entering the mainstream of national awakening, the liberation movement assumed a militant mass character. This period also saw the emergence of socialist and communist ideas and formations within and outside of the National Congress.
It was a time of new currents in literature, social reforms, caste organizations, and in other facets of social and cultural life. All these changes mustered strength from the new advance in education. At the same time, the middle castes (the non-Brahman non-SC sections, at first separately, and then under the aegis of the National Congress), the untouchables, the tribal people, and the then large religious minority—the Muslims—were undergoing a process of self-discovery and self-assertion.
In the meanwhile, the spread of secondary and higher education was already developing a contradiction—the contradiction between massive educated unemployment and the colonial economy—which in its turn strengthened the forces of the national liberation movement.
Thus, looking at it as a socialization process, the expansion and consolidation of education during this period supported—relatively more rapidly—the socio-economic, socio-political and purely social changes which were taking place during this period. The third period of rapid expansion and growth of education in India, which helped in bringing about far-reaching socio-economic, socio-political and social changes, is the post-independence period.