Noted historian Romila Thapar on Saturday argued that the country faces a crisis today as literacy is being palmed off as education. Giving an example of the education system brought in by Maulana Azad, she said India's first education minister and a few others understood that education is not just literacy."I am emphasizing and underlining it because I think it is 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 Habib's biography of Maulana Azad, published by Aleph Book Company. Thapar added that it was fundamental to realize the purpose of education as it was not just about knowing the alphabet. Talking about Azad's "tremendous emphasis and interest in 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 memorizing a few questions and their answers but being able to think freely."I think that the purpose of functional education is not just to provide 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 to the education system by establishing several "academic" like Sangeet Natak Akademi, Lalit Kala Akademi, and Sahitya Akademi to encourage the pursuit of humanities. Azad also emphasized scientific temper through the founding of the Indian Institutes of Technology."They (academics) 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, that's when the IITs were set up...scientific temper grows out of these IITs," Thapar noted.