Country faces crisis as literacy being palmed off as education: Historian Romila Thapar


Noted historian Romila Thapar on Saturday argued that the country faces a crisis today as literacy is being palmed off as education.

Giving example of the education system brought in by Maulana Azad, she said Indias first education minister and a few others understood that education is not just literacy.

“I am emphasising and underlining it because I think it is terribly important. There is a crisis today in which literacy is being palmed off as education. It is not just literacy, it is opening of the mind,” Thapar said.

She was speaking at the launch of historian S Irfan Habibs biography of Maulana Azad, published by Aleph Book Company.


Thapar added that it was absolutely fundamental to realise the purpose of education as it was not just about knowing alphabets.

Talking about Azads “tremendous emphasis and interest on basic education”, Thapar said the nationalist leader argued that citizens cannot discharge their duties unless they are educated.

However, she noted that basic education was not merely memorising a few questions and their answers but to be able to think freely.

“I think that the purpose of functional education is not just providing questions and answers, it is to learn how to think. You have to teach the child how to think, the child must be encouraged to ask questions. Questions can only be asked if you are allowed to think freely,” the 91-year-old said.

She commended Azad for having thought of a comprehensive approach towards the education system by establishing several “akademis” like Sangeet Natak Akademi, Lalit Kala Akademi and Sahitya Akademi to encourage pursuit of humanities.

Azad also emphasised scientific temper through the founding of Indian Institutes of Technology.

“They (akademis) did have a role as they did make people conscious of the fact that humanities are a part of cultural living. And sciences were not to be left behind, thats when the IITs were set up…scientific temper grows out of these IITs,” Thapar noted.

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