think twice India: learn from mistakes made in the US


Well they have done it and the numbers are huge; this will be a certain income stream and that is the source of the economic development India wants to achieve, as the leaders of modern nation-states think literacy is the key to economic development.  The numbers are huge:
The Congress Party-led governing coalition has staked its reputation with rural voters on delivering education to the masses and other populist legislation, such as laws guaranteeing jobs and access to public information. The number of Indian children not enrolled in school decreased to an estimated 8.1 million in 2009 from 25 million in 2003, according to the World Bank, which says providing schools for these 8.1 million children—and making sure they don't drop out without at least completing elementary education—remains a key challenge.
The Indian educational system is now compulsory which guarantees a bureaucracy alienated from the people it should serve. The right of children to a free education is a wonderful thing as is the provision of resources for families and communities: but how anyone has a right to be compelled, I do not know.  

Does India fully understand the limits of the public school system model? Are they learning from the US, another country that is quite large, unlike the smaller and often more homogenous European nation-states that have also instituted mass schooling?  What are the long term costs of a mass, compulsory public school system?  In the US, active educational reformers were writing about the many issues with this structure in the 1960s and 1970s,  40+ years ago. That's why I started homeschooling but one rarely hears about these issues anymore.


Dear India, have your many gifted scholars studied the history and structure of mass public schooling with a critical eye?  There are many lessons to be learned: and one is, I believe, that schools should provide educational services to the citizens and not the other way around.  The children and youth should not provide compulsory labor for an educational institution.  Children and citizens need learning centers providing educational services for their communities but using schools to manufacture literacy and gaining an economic boost from the jobs in these literacy factories is not a sustainable economic plan as it brings a factory approach to human learning and relationships.
BELOW: One view of compulsory attendance in literacy factories, note the emphasis on the nation-state and state allegiance:


The long-term failure of many schools, the huge inequalities, and the many attempts at reform and change of the schools in the US are evidence, in my view, of the poor system design inherent in a compulsory system that focuses on a factory model including grading and ranking of children for jobs.  The US system grew rapidly, consolidated rapidly, and has grown moribund as the institution has no design whereby the people using it can affect change or even have much input.  One of the greatest structural weaknesses of this mass institution is the compulsory attendance which overrides any ability of the children and their families to affect change.  It is assumed that school officials know best and it is an undemocratic and unworkable design.


Education is completely about human beings:  it cannot be manufactured like cameras and to limit the input and role of the human beings in this system is illogical and ultimately inhumane.  The US system now wastes an enormous amount of human capital.  It is a 19th century idea of education and it is costly and wasteful.  That the select topmost portion of people benefit from such a system is true but at what cost? And there is a growing body of work on the side effects of literacy itself and its linkage to hierarchical systems.  The socialization of children within such mass institutions is another issue of growing concern unnoticed when schooling was still contained within strong communities that have eroded.   
BELOW: Another view of compulsory attendance and how the bureaucracy it creates actually works, note the negative interactions of children now state-socialized in age-restricted groups for long hours:


India is rich with human capital resources, human beings who with all their talents and abilities could be a source of strength.  Utilizing our human capital is the challenge before us and a compulsory system which must, by definition establish a police arm, is not the way to nurture citizens.  And it creates a bureaucracy, perhaps wonderful at first, but later on, this bureaucracy, not tied to the people it serves, becomes a burden as it can only consolidate and grow obsolete as there is no mechanism for innovation, change or growth within the system itself.  An administrative structure must be in place no doubt but it must have an integral way to adapt, it must be open and accessible if India is to benefit for the longer term.  Changing the structure of mass public schooling after several generations have been indoctrinated and trained into the system is not easy.  Most importantly, the knowledge and strength that is found in each individual is easily lost within such a system, contrived to utilize only a few of the innate talents and gifts of human beings, to cull certain talents and discard the rest. 

If India believes that it is creating literacy factories and that these factories themselves will help the economy, it is the wrong path.  However, if India could provide community learning centers as a service to the people themselves, the costs of all kinds are far more sustainable in the long run. Learning centers may limit the  negative side effects of mass schooling that are emerging more clearly. Learning centers that do not impose pre-set ways of learning but are supportive of families and children could be similar to the public library system, only offering classes, studios, workshops, labs, and resources.


Education must, when all is said and done, be voluntary.  Forced education is mass brainwashing; true learning is undertaken by a human being.  And learning is something human beings do naturally.  Punitive or compulsory approaches add police and enforcement and though many poor families and their children are easily coerced, the real damage of the enforcement arm is the attitude it creates among the schools themselves and among the citizenry, as they begin using and accepting coercion in their daily life.  It is an open question whether mass public schooling in the US has not increased acculturation to hierarchy and authoritarian methods as seen in the inability of the US to stay out of foreign wars.

Think twice India about the long road you are embarking upon.
A third way is here (from a previous post).  Entire learning centers could be run on an open-access basis, with interest-driven as well as family-driven services provided. Negative socialization would be lessened in a more diverse social environment and instead of nation-state emphasis, voluntary and open-access would create democratic context:
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