It is a great honour that has accidently befallen me to deliver this convocation address at the 14th Convocation of the Karnataka state Open University. It might be the unique occasion in the history where a recipient of a degree also makes a convocation speech. Friends, my latest tag as the professor of IIT is incidental as I have passed most of my time in the corporate world which is the main consumer of the university output. And we are living in what is called neoliberal era, which is just a euphemism for the corporate-centric world. Here everything happens with the logic of capital, not the capital of previous centuries but its vicious form - the global capital. The logic of this capital vis-a-vis education is that it is the input to people to transform themselves into ‘human resource’ to be devoured by a giant mill of accumulation of the global capitalism. As such, I probably uniquely represent the entire supply chain, by being today a supplier in the education industry and a customer in my previous corporate avatar.
In the bygone era education was a sacred thing. In our Asian culture, it was akin to a worship of god. But even in the western world, it was not any different. John Dewey, one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century had famously said, “education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” Babasaheb Ambedkar was so deeply influenced by Dewey, who was one of his professors at Columbia University that he said in 1953, when he himself had emerged as one of the greats of the century that he owed his entire intellectual life to John Dewey. Babasaheb Ambedkar inherited the philosophy of instrumental education from Dewey and saw it as the key to emancipation for Dalits. He was perhaps the only one among the notables, who particularly emphasized higher education.
Take for instance; the Constitution makers had mandated the rulers of this country to provide universal and free education to all children up to the age of 14 within 10 years from the adoption of the Constitution. The importance attached to this matter could be seen from the fact that this is the only article which had its specific time limit for implementation. But nobody paid heed to it for over four decades. It is only in 1993 that the Supreme Court in totally unrelated cases — Mohini Jain and Unnikrishnan cases -- observed that the right to education was integral with the right to life, that our rulers were shaken out of their slumber. But they still played a mischief and amended the Constitution itself inter alia deleting from it the age group of 0 to 6 years and making it a fundamental duty of the parents and not the State. The process culminated into enactment of the so called Rights to Education Act in 2009. What this Act has effectively done is to legitimize the multilayered education system that had evolved in the country. It provided that a child will get education as per his parents’ caste and class, not much different from the much reviled Manu’s dictum. They have inserted a clause of reservation of 25% for the poor to be admitted in any school of their choice to hoodwink the people again. Anybody can see the spirit of the Constitutional mandate, although it was not worded in so many words, that no child will be deprived of education just because of his parentage.