In our country is by far the most serious problem. We all recognize that illiteracy is bed, that it prevents the cultural growth of a people. But illiteracy in our country continues to exist on an appalling scale. Even today among ten in India about five are illiterate. Nor is there any organized effort to do away with this deplorable state of backlog. We tinker at the problem instead of tackling it thoroughly. We made experiments. The States have ambitious programmes of setting up primary schools in every village, but these are yet in the cold shade of neglect.
But illiteracy can be removed and that quickly, if concerted efforts are made both by private organizations and the states. Within a decade, the Russians got rid of ignorance as colossal as ours; and now the Chinese have also achieved it. They took at once a total war against illiteracy for which the services of all educated men and women were conscripted. Gurudev Rabindranath also praised efforts of the Russians.
For this, education must be made free and compulsory at least upto the age of fourteen. That is the plain directive of our Constitution. Recently a bill was adopted in the Parliament of India to make primary education a fundamental right. But even where education is free in India, it is not compulsory; and it is free only at the lower primary stage here and there. The result is that most of those who give up learning after this stage, are the drop-outs, lapse back, into ignorance. Of course, making elementary education compulsory demands money. Children of workers and peasants have to think of earning before they can think of learning.
Mahatma Gandhi recognized this basic difficulty and he suggested a scheme by which children would begin to earn while they were learning. In that scheme, known as basic Education scheme, it is not only craft-centered, but the crafts are so chosen as to have a profit basis. The scheme however did not make much headway in free India. The function of...
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