Speech by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad at the Opening of the
Central Institute of Education
December 19, 1947*
India which has taken its place in the comity of free nations of the world has to march forward in every field of her national life with alacrity, but you will agree that none of these field is as important as the educational field. At present, the percentage of literacy in India is only 14.7, that is, out of every hundred nearly 85 persons are totally illiterate. Not counting the population of the provinces which have ceded from the Indian Union, the remaining population, according to the last census, is in the neighbourhood of 24,02,54,00. Of these, 2,93,72,000 are school-going children- between the ages of six and eleven. These statistics show that even if we ignore persons above the age of eleven, we have still to make immediate arrangements for the education of about 3 crores of school-going children between the ages of six and eleven.
I am sure you will agree with me that this state of affairs is most deplorable and no civilised Government can tolerate it. If we are unable to make arrangements for the primary education of about 30 million of our children, all our nation building schemes will, ipso facto, become valueless. The only way out therefore is to try and lift millions of these children from the depths of neglect and ignorance immediately.
The question is how best to solve this problem. The greatest hurdle facing us is the lack of trained teachers. Suppose, we take three teachers per 100 children, we will require a minimum of 9 lakhs of trained teachers for 30 million school-going children. If we want to break this vicious circle, we should not postpone our educational schemes simply because there are not sufficient trained teachers. Rather, we should mobilise as teachers all the educated persons available, and, at the same time, carry on the training of teachers with the greatest possible speed, so that trained teachers can be made available in sufficient numbers, in the shortest possible time.
The former Government of India has set up a Central Advisory Board of Education which the present Government has continued. This Board had, in the year 1944, submitted a detailed report on the post-war educational development. One of the basic recommendations in this Report was the establishment of new training institutions for teachers, both by the Central and the Provincial Governments. Accordingly, all the Provincial Governments, as well as the Central Government, while formulating their five-year post-war programme, had this recommendation in view. A number of such training institutions have already been opened and are still being opened in various parts of the country.
The educational plan of the Central Government included a proposal to establish a Central Institute of Education located at Delhi. In 1945, the details of this scheme were finalised and Rs. 18,00,000 for its buildings and Rs. 2,45,000 for equipment, etc. were set aside. It was proposed that the building of the Institute should provide class-room accommodation for 300 students of both sexes and hostel accommodation for 150 students. It was also decided to have the Institute within the University grounds and regard it as a Faculty of Education of the Delhi University. It is estimated that when the scheme is in full operation, its annual recurring expenditure will be in the neighbourhood of Rs.2 Lakh. This sum has been sanctioned by the Government.
It was decided in 1945, that this scheme should start from 1946-47, but it could not be taken in hand and a full year was, thus, wasted. The building programme was held up owing to the non-availability of building materials. This year, however, it was decided to start the institution in a rented building. Accordingly, the house in which we are at present assembled, was acquired in July last; but we could not proceed with this work earlier, owing to the recent unfortunate disturbances in Delhi. However, I am now happy that we have surmounted all our difficulties and that today this Institute is being opened by your Excellency.
The teachers trained at this Institute will, naturally, be employed in the teaching institutions in the Centrally Administered Areas. But, while gauging the real importance of the Institute, we should not give undue importance to this aspect of the Institute. The function of the Institute is something greater than this. It will turn out teachers who will be 'model teachers' for provinces but, over and above all this, this Institute will be a research centre for solving new educational problems of the country and will be a beacon light for the training institutions of the country. The problems facing the Institute will be: how to correlate the different systems of basic Education; how to reform the present system of examinations; and how to mould the primary education of a child, so that he is given full opportunity to develop his individuality and also to equip himself to keep abreast of world affairs. This, and similar other problems, will come before the Institute and it will have to find ways and means of solving them.
We have had to start this Institute in a building which is hardly suitable for it, but there was no alternative owing to the acute shortage of suitable houses. This house, as Your Excellency can see for yourself, is not big enough for our requirements, even with the two tents which we have had to pitch to supplement this accommodation. Because of this limited accommodation, our work and progress will necessarily be greatly hampered and restricted. We have every hope, however, that these difficulties will not hamper our progress for long and that soon this Institute will blossom forth and take its rightful place.
Your Excellency, we are fully aware of the keen interest which you have evinced in the social and educational activities of this country. We are deeply grateful to you for the zeal, the promptness and the personal interest which you have shown in dealing with the relief of the unfortunate and afflicted people from the Punjab. To show our appreciation it was only natural that I should have asked you to perform the opening ceremony of this Institute. I am thankful to you for your kindness in accepting my invitation. I will now request Your Excellency to perform the ceremony of opening the Central Institute of Education, Delhi. By pressing the electric button you will open the doors of the Institute. May the gates of darkness and ignorance which have prevented light from reaching the millions of my countrymen be thrown open very soon in the same manner.
* The opening ceremony was performed by H.E. Lady Mountbatten.