Importance of education to uplift weaker sections

Following is a slightly abridged text of the inaugural address of Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India, at the seminar on Educational Development of Weaker Sections of Our Nation at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on 29 July 2016:

It goes without saying that the base of the educational structure is school education, beginning with elementary education. This is particularly relevant to the subject matter of today’s discussion. Allow me to mention a few harsh realities relating to it:

“Answering a question in the Rajya Sabha, on 10th March 2016, the Minister for HRD said that in 2014, some 6.064 million children remained out of school. Of these, a massive 4.6 million or 76% belonged to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other religious minorities.

“The recent Report of the Committee for the Evolution of the New Educational Policy, set up by the HRD Ministry, states that while the gross Enrolment Ratio in elementary education is satisfactorily high, “the quality in terms of learning outcomes is undeniably poor.” It cites as evidence the ASER 2014 Report. One of the causes for it, it states, is “teacher absenteeism estimated at over 25% every day.”

“Another document made public by the HRD Ministry recently states that “though India has made significant progress in terms of enhancing access to and participation in all levels of education, the overall picture of education development in the country is mixed and there are many persisting concerns and challenges relating to access to and participation in education, quality of the education imparted, equity in education, system efficiency, governance and management, research and development, and financial commitment to education development”.1.

“Despite all the governmental and societal effort, the overall literacy rate in 2011 was 73 percent, with a noticeable gap between male literacy at 80.9% and female literacy at 64.8%.

“If the SC, ST and religious minority children comprise 76% of those out of school, the levels of literacy among them cannot but be reflective of this state of affairs. In regard to the largest religious minority children, the 2006 Sachar Committee Report had observed that only 17% of them above the age of 17 were found to have completed matriculation as compared to the general average of 26%. Another report, in 2013, found that the level of matriculation education among Muslims both in rural and urban areas is lower than even SCs and STs. This is also evident in higher education.2

This then is the challenge. It also means that despite the initiatives of successive governments, the corrective in its totality cannot come from the government alone and has to be supported and supplemented by public and community initiatives. Excellent examples of the latter are to be found all over the country. The lament is that this is sporadic, patchy, and very unevenly spread geographically and community-wise.

This lack of community level effort is particularly noticeable amongst the Muslims. In 2014, the then Chairman of National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions had observed that “in south India, the Muslim community has established centres of excellence. But in north India, they cannot even maintain the educational institution established by their forefathers.”

Surely, the good examples can be emulated and instances of inaction overcome. In today’s India in which the operative slogan is’Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, educational progress starting with quality elementary, secondary and skills education is imperative if all segments of society have to be together on the starting line.


The Preamble of our Constitution and its sections on Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles represent a national consensus on the type of society which we as citizens wish to create. These, in a nut shell, stipulate a society based on the principles of secularism, socialism and democracy, seeking social, economic and political justice, providing for liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, equality of status and opportunity, and based on fraternity assuring the dignity of individuals and unity of nation.

These lofty ideals are realizable only through equality of status and opportunity which, in turn, are contingent on an educated citizen body. We would do well to recall Nelson Mandela’s observation that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It contributes to nation-building and growth of an egalitarian society. Education means more than acquiring knowledge. It empowers people to develop personally and become politically active. It is the fundamental precondition for political development, democracy and social justice.

It was for this purpose that the Constitution was amended to insert a new Article, 21 A, which made elementary education a Fundamental Right. Recognizing that large sections of our people have been disadvantaged due to a long history of social, economic and political discrimination, we also adopted a policy of positive discrimination or affirmative action by reserving seats in educational institutions for socially and economically weaker segments.

The fundamental right under Article 30 of religious and linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice has to be viewed in this context. Many minorities have benefited from it. Can the same be said of segments of this audience?

A century back Mohammad Iqbal had summed up the requirement:

Is daur main taleem hai amraz-e-millat ki dawa

Hai khoon-e-fasid ke liye taleem misl-e-naishtar

The requirement is to go beyond guftaar. A need of the hour is a corrective step with all the energy and intensity that can be mustered. This must be focused not only on the well-to-do but principally on the poor.


1. Some Inputs for Draft NEP 2016, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India seen at

2. Report of the Standing Committee of the National Minority Committee for Minorities’ Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, April 2013 pp 21 and 23.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 September 2016 on page no. 11

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