The world’s largest democracy is ailing. The economy has failed to respond to the government’s various stimulus plans, most politicians meant to serve this democracy are a little too busy serving themselves generously, and social issues plague India a well. This seemingly diverse pool of problems has one shockingly simple solution: education. A majority of the Indian polity is under the age of 25. In the next two decades, these citizens will walk into different spheres of life in different capacities, shaping the new India. I believe education can play the key catalyst in this positive transformation. Currently, our nation’s public schools are undervalued, overexploited and considered a means to an end. There are a limited number of career prospects after studies, and the exchange of knowledge is executed in an extremely utilitarian manner. Words and numbers are ingested the night before and vomited out on exam day. Even in St. Stephens and the other bigwig colleges, the situation is dire. Having spoken to some alumni from these institutions I can confidently say that we have a long way to go.

The common man couldn’t care less about corruption. He just needs to fulfil his immediate requirements: if he has to pay a cop a commission to keep his plot of land or grease the palms of a lowly government employee to get the job done, he will. It’s because everyone is just accustomed to it now. If one’s sense of morality is tuned in the early years of development, these positive values would stick, and activities that operate in the grey wouldn’t be tolerated later on in professional life. Instead of carrying out a rational cost-benefit analysis of a situation, the briber of the ‘bribee’ will remember learning in class the importance of the community and how one’s personal gain should be harmonious with the state’s gain. Yes, this may be slightly quixotic, but it’s still the only true way of cleansing our social order.

An informed citizen is an involved citizen. A large chunk of our nation is now rearing to make a change by voting and getting involved in their own spheres of society. In all likelihood, this sudden enthusiasm will bring with it a renewed interest in the much neglected Humanities segment of our education too. As people will learn more about governance with respect to India, they will want to change the country we live in. This can only be made possible with a solid method of providing education in a sustainable and multi-dimensional manner.

Even the infamous rape ‘epidemic’ stems from school and college times. The lack of sexual awareness and excessive conservatism creates a potent mix of confusion and frustration that has had revolting ramifications. Sex and gender is rarely touched in government schools and rural colleges etc. The middle and lower class have little or no means of information (internet, other media) about this. The illiberalism that’s enshrined in the system leads to social ineptitude. This, coupled with raging hormones and an inability to actually engage in appropriate conversation with women leads to assault and molestation. In no way am I trying to justify this behavior: I’m trying to get to the root of it. The other kind of inappropriate sexual behavior is seen in the workplace, where power is abused. There’s no denying that India is a sexist society, and many men take advantage of that. This morally depraved behavior can also be linked to one’s upbringing. In and out of school, a student’s formative years are spent experimenting and learning. If a 4 year old boy crushes an insect, and isn’t told by his parents or teacher that his actions have caused great harm, then he wouldn’t learn. Similarly, when an eight year old boy pulls a girls hair or playfully tugs at her blouse in school, it is the teacher’s duty to correct him. If seemingly ordinary acts such as these go unchecked at that young age, there a much larger chance of the boy behaving impertinently with women when he works. This disposition can only be corrected with proper guidance. Developing an extremely relative sense of morality that accepts sexual assault as something ‘right’ is lethal. This can only happen over a long period of time and must be stopped at a young age.

Since the importance of education is established, a course of action is the next step. An engaging academic environment can be created with the appropriate facilities and able leaders: academicians who have experience under their belt. Unfortunately, the nation hasn’t been doing this, and almost all the universities are running on low funds. The United States government has an annual education of more than 69 billion dollars, while India invests less than a third of that into their education, though we have many more institutions. Even if we look at the grants and endowments on offer there, some of the top universities in U.S.A have billions of dollars to make world class education available to as many talented students as possible. However, this endowment system is virtually absent in India.

The revamp of the education sector will cost us. Genuine high quality education requires resources and a lot of money, and since most citizens are used to the nominal amount paid for the IIT’s and D.U, paying more for what appears to be the same end result is out of the question for most. This is precisely where the Education Ministry comes in. the government needs to formulate plans to subsidise higher education and provide more scholarships to deserving candidates. And what’s more they should ensure that there is a focus on quality education as well, not just quantity, as was the case in the Union government’s effort to boost primary school enrolment.

With a new generation of informed global leaders, our nation will easily restore its place in the pantheon of socio-economic superpowers. A well-rounded education is necessary for everyone to develop the appropriate professional and inter-personal skills. India’s history is steeped in education and learning, from the first ever university to the Gurukul system, we have pioneered in the field of teaching. With a country as large and young as ours, good institutions and education hubs should be a norm, not an abnormality.

Madhav Dutt is the resident cartoonist for The Young Citizen. Madhav has always been intrigued by journalism and reportage. He believes that the ability to convey your views on issues of global importance is unparalleled, be it through the written word or the illustrated figure. As the erstwhile editor of his school's newspaper, Madhav enjoyed drawing and writing on a wide range of global events. As an editorial cartoonist, his goal is not just to trivialise, but to sensitise!