Patna, Sep. 16: A three-day international conference on the above topic began here at the prestigious A N Sinha Institute with the recital of the holy Quran.
In his welcome address Patna’s famous surgeon Dr Ahmad Abdul Hai said that the locale of the conference was selected thoughtfully as Patna had been a seat of learning since ancient times.
Speaker: Dr Ahmad Abdul Hai
However, over the last few decades educational standards in Bihar had not risen. At a time when the developed world was reaping the benefits of having invested well in education, Bihar’s situation looked particularly upsetting.
He lamented low literacy rates among Biharis, more so among females. Among Muslims it looked even more grim. That had to happen when Muslims forgot the Quranic injunction “Iqra” (read), he commented.
Dr Abdul Hai said globalisation had a great potential for good. Conversely, it also had some potential for harm. “Good or bad, it is like a tsunami that no one can ignore, none can hold back.” He said we had to be cognizant of the changing times to meet the challenges through education. He also congratulated the IOS for its seminal work in research and propagation of knowledge.
Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) General Secretary Prof. Z M Khan introduced the delegates to the work of the IOS over the last quarter century and its ongoing Silver Jubilee celebrations, a part of which this conference was. Such conferences are being held all over India, including in New Delhi. Prof. Khan thanked the A N Sinha Institute, with whose collaboration this conference was being held.
Speaker: Prof. Z M Khan
Prof. Khan also talked about IOS work to “create and sustain intercommunity linkages” and a meditational space for intellectuals, ulema and NGOs as well as communities and professions to come together.
Speaker: Prof. Dr. Qamar Ahsan, Former Vice Chancellor, MMHAP University, Patna
Introducing the theme of the seminar, Prof. Qamar Ahsan, former Vice-Chancellor of B N Mandal University and Maulana Mazharul Haque University, said Bihar had a serious shortage of educational institutions, and educational material was often obsolete. He wanted a review and upgradation of educational material and creation of new, more efficient institutions.
In her inaugural address Ms. Margret Alva, Governor of Uttrakhand, talked about the impact of globalisation, liberalisation and corporatisation of education – a host of factors working together to shape the future of education, a veritable “LPG syndrome” that affected the economy and life in diverse ways.
Speaker: H.E. Ms Margaret Alva, Governor of Uttrakhand
She commended the IOS for its objective research on “policy, religion, culture”, and for creating “intercommunity linkages, a common platform for people and NGOs, statistical approach to research and Quranic paradigm for study of issues.”
She said she was happy inaugurating the conference at the A N Sinha Institute whose foundation stone was laid by Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India.
H.E. Ms Margaret Alva releases IOS Souvenir
She said India’s fast growing stature was based on several factors, one of them being high-quality human resource. In this particular regard India had an advantage over China as its population, on average, was 10 years younger than China’s.
However, she also took note of the weaker areas that needed to be improved for the country’s full potential to be realised. One of the lagging areas was the lack of proper education among Muslims. “We must know why it is so and seek to address the issues,” she said.
H.E. Ms Margaret Alva releases the book on Elements of Bias in Social Science Research Authored by Dr Ausaf Ahmad
India’s IIMs and IITs produced some of the best managers and engineers, but a large number of institutions were not doing well. Thousands of them had no infrastructure worth the name. She congratulated the IOS Patna Chapter for its research and studies and for fruitfully working with Maulana Mazharul Haque University under an MOU.
In his keynote address Datuk Dr Mohammad Ghazali bin Noor said Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam had, nearly three decades ago, pioneered a major programme at Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Jeddah. He had retained his pioneering spirit over the years, which was reflected in the work of IOS.
Speaker: Datuk Dr Mohammad Ghazali bin Noor
In his elaborate keynote address he dwelt upon a range of issues of education in a globalising world and brought an Islamic perspective to bear on it.
Justice S N Jha in his address said that between knowledge, money and military might, knowledge remained the greatest source of power. Thus education, the major mode of acquisition of knowledge, had to be taken seriously.
Speaker: Justice S N Jha
Putting education in the context of globalisation he said the scenario had become more complex as globalisation was both an opportunity and a threat. He said the Human Rights Charter had enshrined the right to education as a human right after great forethought.
Prof. John Arul Phillips (Executive Director Asia e University) elaborated upon the technology-enabled aspects of “life-long learning” and “anywhere learning”, the basics of e-learning.
He quoted the following remark of Bill Gates that he made in 2010: “Five years from now on the web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world…the best lectures in the world will no longer be at the hallowed institutions, reserved only for the privileged and elite, but on the web for everyone who wants access to them.”
In his presidential address, IOS chairman Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam made some observations, leaving aside his written speech, “because of paucity of time.” He said the Indian situation was riddled with paradox. To illustrate, he pointed out, “there is a lot of vertical growth, very little horizontal growth; some high-quality IITs, IIMs, but thousands of ill-equipped, poorly- staffed engineering and management colleges all over India.
Speaker: Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
He remarked that an all-pervasive “trust deficit” marked India’s governance, polity and public life. One example of this was the sorry state of India’s Muslim awqaf (religious endowments). These huge endowments that could potentially solve half of the economic problems of Muslims were virtually lying idle, or in the illegal possession of others, including government agencies.
He described the malaise as a “syndrome”, a cluster of symptoms of an ailing society. There was too much of official corruption, too many inequities, too much of anti-minorities prejudice in public sphere. “There is a relentless pressure and cultural coercion by entrenched cultural hegemonists,” he complained.
“For India to find its due place under the sun this relentless coercion has to stop and greater equity in social and economic spheres ensured.”
Speaker: Prof. D M Diwakar
In his vote of thanks A N Sinha Institute Director Prof. D M Diwakar advocated greater public and state support to alternative systems of education, including madrasa education.
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The second day, Business Session-I was chaired by Prof. Janak Pandey, V-C Central University of Bihar. Elaborating on the theme, “Expansion, Access and Inclusion in Context of Global Trends in Education” for the session, he said that Bihar had been badly hurt by the decline of older educational institutions like high schools and colleges.
He pointed out that higher education in the state was trapped in an unenviable situation. By way of illustration he cited the case of his own university that was caught in a web of political and administrative nitty-gritty.
Prof. Vinay Kantha talked on “Issues of Exclusion and Inclusion in School Education with Particular Reference to Bihar.” However, most of his allotted time was spent clarifying the concepts of exclusion and inclusion.
Some of his observations: “Exclusion is coterminus with social exclusion and economic deprivation. The exclusion-inclusion paradigm helps in understanding the state of education, among other things. There can be exclusion on the basis of ritual purity and pollution (the upper Hindu castes being pure, the lower polluted). Exclusion is denial of entry, denial of participation. Discrimination is different from exclusion. Prohibition of entry is exclusion, while negative play of participation is discrimination.”
Prof. Kantha said exclusion also meant violation of rights, including right to dignity. Exclusion could be ideology-based like caste and patriarchy. Quoting Gramsci and Focoult he talked about dominance and hegemony, the ultimate goal of exclusionists.
Certain “processes”, he explained, also led to exclusion, processes like colonisation and globalisation.
“Inclusion is the inverse of exclusion. It is eradication of exclusion, traditional as well as in its modern forms. Inclusion is equity and ethics at individual and collectivity level. Inclusion is a possibility, exclusion a reality,” he explained.
“On the ‘descriptive’ side of the term, we look at the features of exclusion; on the ‘analytical’ side we try to see the why, how and what of the phenomenon.”
Hierarchy being a central feature of Hindu religion, exclusion would have to be part of the warp and woof of the social fabric. Quoting Prof. Imtiaz Ahmad, he said such heirarchy was part of Indian Muslim society as well, which was vertically divided between the Ashraf (the highest castes), Ajlaf (the middle castes) and Arzal (the lowliest of the lowly). Again quoting Prof. Ahmad, he said such arrangements had the legal backing of some Islamic jurists.
(Intervening on the issue, chairman of IOS, Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam, explained that the Hindu caste system was ordained by religious scriptures, while the Muslim order was not. It was a “caste-like order” that had no sanction in Islam).
Prof. Kantha said education was a contested terrain, a site of struggle, contested from the margins as exclusion was imposed from above and resisted from below. “We have to situate the discourse on exclusion in pedagogic terms and see who is going to resist exclusion. We have to formulate strategies of inclusion,” he said.
In his presentation on “Social Concern of Higher Education: Some Reflections on Bihar Scenario” Prof. M N Karna, former Director A N Sinha Institute and former Professor of Sociology, Northeast University, Shillong, lamented the decline of institutions of higher learning in Bihar. “The strategy of securing equity and social justice in education can be translated into educational development programmes in terms of disaggregated targets, and area, community and gender-specific activities,” he observed.
Prof. P P Ghosh talked on “Policy Lapse, Resource Deficit and Educational Scenario.” He said that “many Asian countries with educational levels similar to India in the 50s had achieved 100 percent literacy in three decades.” For India to that a new strategy was required. He expressed the hope that Indian’s new policy initiatives would bring the desired change.
Mohammad Shahnawaz Abedin, who teaches at Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi presented a management teacher’s perspective on “Relevance and Importance of Inclusive Education in Contemporary Systems of Knowledge Development.”
Prof. M Akhtar Siddiqui, Chairperson of National Council on Teacher Education (NCTE) made the following observation in his address: “New Trends in Governance and Quality Assurance in Higher Education.”
It may be said that higher education is moving towards a new system of governance, where the power of markets and power of the State combine in new ways. Government is generally withdrawing from direct management of institutions, yet, and the same time, introducing new forms of control and influence, based largely on holding institutions accountable for performance via powerful enforcement mechanisms including funding and quality recognition.”
The theme for Business Session III was “Educational Policies and Programmes: The Challenges of Formulation and Implementation”, chaired by Prof. M Akhtar Siddiqui.
There were five participants: Dr S M A Yusuf (“Education and Development: A Study of Primary and Upper Primary School Teachers”), Madan C. Sarkar “Governance and Management of Educational Institutions in India”), Dr Srawan Kumar Singh (“Global Trends: Review and Options”), Dr Abid Ali Siddiqui (“Impact of Globalisation in India on Higher Education”), Dr Mohammad Shakir (“Principles of Higher Education in India: Some Issues to Ponder Over”).
Business Session IV (Theme: “Education and Empowerment of Marginalised Groups–The Minority Context”) was chaired by Prof. Z M Khan. “Educational backwardness would not be solved by any one group, including the government”, Prof. Khan said in his opening remarks.
Dr S. Ali Imam former Director DIET, Bihar, painted a grim picture of Muslim children’s education in his paper “Educational Scenario of Muslim Children in Bihar.” He said that of the 68.8 percent of youngsters enrolled for school education 40 percent passed class five, 23 percent made it to high school and only 16 percent passed class ten.
Eighty five percent of Bihari Muslims lived in rural areas and the rest lived in urban and semi-urban locations, he said. Dr Imam pointed out that as many as 729 Muslim-populated villages, with a population of about 1,000 each, had no schools. Two thousand and twenty five Muslim-populated villages, with a population of 2,000 each were similarly bereft of schools. He pleaded for concerted action by government to redeem the situation.
Dr J K Sinha, a former bureaucrat, made a presentation with the help of a documentary film on how quality education had improved the prospects of a section of Bihar’s Mushar (literally, mice-eaters) community, one of the most backward groups in Bihar. The work of bringing quality education and useful training is being done by an NGO headed by Dr Sinha, who said that given the drive, focus and dedication other laggard sections, including Muslims, could also come up educationally. Dr Sinha’s presentation was titled: “Mushar Community: Empowerment Through Education.”
Kumari Shikha of St. Xavier’s College, Patna and Dr Priyanka Sinha of Naubatpur School, Patna talked on “Local Culture: Seeking Identity in the Global Trend of Education Today.” Dr Jaismin Kantha’s paper was on “Folk Culture as the Basis of Environmental Ethics and Education: Interaction with Young Scholars.”
The fifth session of the day was chaired by Prof. Qamar Ahsan, its theme being “Right to Education with Reference to Disadvantaged Groups.” In this session Prof. Khalid Mirza read a paper “Empowering the Future of India-Right to Education”, which was an elaboration of the Right to Education Act. Prof. Mirza is Director IPA, Patna University.
Dr Ajay Kumar Singh of St. Xavier’s College, Patna presented a paper on “Education in India and the Effect of Colonialism,” while Dr Shakeel Ahmad Khan’s paper was on “Trends of Investment in Higher Education in India.”
The sixth business session was chaired by Prof. P P Ghosh, Director ADRI. The theme was “Dynamics of Educational Development–Bihar Context.” The following presented their papers: Prof. Qamar Ahsan (“Restructuring of Higher Educational Institutions in Bihar”); Prof. Shamim A Ansari (“Professionalising Education: An Appraisal for Human Resource Utilisation in Patna”); Prof. Hetukar Jha (“Malaise in Indian Academia”); Kumari Veena (“Higher Education in Global Era and Emerging Issues”).
Dr Sunita Sharma of Deptt. of History, B D College, Magadh University made a brilliant presentation on “Muslim Women Negotiating Space and Identity with Emphasis on Higher Education.”
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DAY III (Valedictory Session)
In his valedictory address, economist Dr Abusaleh Shariff argued through a power-point presentation that the Post-Sachar Report years had made no significant impact on the educational status of common Muslims in Bihar.
He looked at different segments of Muslim society and found different levels of progress.
An important observation that he made was: the highest rate of return on investment in education was in high school (matriculation) as the difference between an illiterate or semi-literate worker’s wages and those of a matriculate were substantial, though the investment in such education was not high.
In his presidential remarks Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam said that IOS belonged not to an individual, but the nation.
Muslims had been lagging behind in education and employment for quite a while and no meaningful intervention was made by the state. “The Sachar Committee Report generated a lot of debate, but no result,” he regretted. He advocated for serious change in society through access to education.
A view of audience
The following resolutions were passed:
- Education and the rise of a great civilization are inseparable. New India needs to look forward to education as the new agenda for all its citizens’ stake, security and survival.
- New India needs to rise as Asia’s beacon of a civilisational order of its positive glory unlike different global power of dominance and control.
- The transformation of Awaqf as an economic reengineering platform to Muslims social economic and technological progress will be a new source of funding for the education of the Muslim minority in India.
- Global new realities come as part of cycle of affairs of mankind, our anticipation, preparation and participation of this new scenario is key to the transformation role of the national leadership – political, corporate, academic, civil society and media – of India.
- Muslim leadership needs to assert its will to assume accountability and duty for community’s new fate and new fortune through making education its future Agenda.
- The IOS Chapter in Patna may constitute a team of dedicated workers named as “Education Task Force” to take necessary steps to sensitise the people on issues concerning education. It may also conduct meetings and other activities concerning spread of education particularly in the light of “Right to Education” and other government initiatives.
- Madarsa education in Bihar is as usual an important segment concerning education among Muslims. Adequate and appropriate channels of communication within these sectors are to be activated and their problems have to be addressed with their consent and support.
- Patna Chapter of the IOS should work in collaboration with the IOS Foundation for Education and use opportunities and resources meant for advancement of education in Bihar.
- Special efforts are to be undertaken for advancement of education among Muslim women. Rate of drop out in these sectors need to be seriously looked into.
- In the field of Madarsa education, the conference urges upon the governments to accept the recommendations of All India Muslim Personal Law Board.