India, after sixty years as a Republic, continues to demonstrate the strength of its political institutions. Economic growth has brought significant improvements in material conditions and opportunities in most parts of the country. Yet, it is still home to too large a number of citizens who are unable to live lives of dignity, free from the fear of poverty, preventable disease or social and political oppression and violence. In spite of constitutional directives the possibility of basic liberties and a more equitable society does not seem any closer for many.
Rapid economic growth has also led to increasing disparities and often diminished quality of life in urban and rural areas. This is potentially a source of future conflicts and a matter of concern in the face of rapid environmental degradation that affects all but especially threatens the poor.
Education and institutions of learning are crucial both to creation of individual capabilities and also strong social responses that might help us meet these challenges. Education and learning contribute not just to livelihood and marketable skill but also nurture the sensibilities needed for human well-being and flourishing. Equally importantly, education helps build the capabilities that promote just and equitable social and political arrangements.
The vision of the Azim Premji Foundation is deeply rooted in the Indian Constitution which establishes the idea of the Indian republic. As the Preamble to the Constitution states, all Indians are constitutionally guaranteed the following rights:
Our vision of education has been drawn from the National Policy of Education which flows from the values articulated in the Constitution. The aims of education stated in National Policy of Education have been the cornerstone of our approach to education reforms and are worth examining here:
While the policies and philosophy of the Indian education system have been deeply informed by Constitutional values, and are laudable in all respects, the results on the ground have been mixed. This is not entirely surprising given the vast, complex and diverse canvas covered by the Indian education system. A few facts may serve to illustrate this point:
Despite the complexity of providing quality education in this environment there has been significant improvement in areas such as infrastructure, access and enrolment. Some key elements include:
However the goals of universalization of education, quality of learning and equitable opportunities for all have remained elusive.
State-run education systems which represent the lion’s share of educational activity in India in both school and higher education are in need of urgent reform and revitalization. The Foundation partners with various state governments in its goal to facilitate deep, at-scale and institutionalized impact in these areas.