By Mohd Akhtar Siddiqui

 1.         Maulana Azad represented a glorious synthesis of cultures, civilizations, thoughts and philosophies which have powerfully influenced India’s history.  He was a bridge between the old and the new1.  Indeed he was a strikingly outstanding son of the soil.

 2.                 Mohiuddin Ahmad Abul Kalam Azad was undisputedly a towering figure in the twentieth century Indian history. Born in 1888 in a family of celebrated religious scholars, he was educated at home by his father and men of credit in Islamic learning. He was a scholar thoroughly trained in the traditional Islamic sciences, with great intellectual abilities and eloquence of pen and speech. He had, in addition, a remarkable openness to modern western knowledge even as he strongly opposed western rule over India. He was a skilled journalist and ideologue who played a leading role in the Indian struggle for independence and then in the government of the Indian Republic, remaining a symbol of Muslims will to co-exist with men of other faiths in modern India.

Maulana Azad was educated by eminent Islamic scholars and divines which in due course made him one of the greatest scholars in Islamic Theology and Islamic philosophy. His educational ideas drew their inspiration basically from that source. However, he was equally appreciative of and conversant with the other aspect of his cultural heritage – the Indian heritage and the total modern heritage of the age which cuts across the East – West barriers. It was this deep influence on his mind that emanated from other sources which was always reflected prominently in his speeches, writings and actions. This relationship between his Muslim heritage and his Indian heritage could be found most distinctively pronounced in his presidential speech at Ramgarh session of the Indian National Congress. He said “as a Muslim I have a special identity within the field of religion and culture.    But I have another equally deep realization.  I am equally proud of the fact that I am an Indian, an essential part of the indivisible unity of Indian nationhood, a vital factor in its total make up without which this noble edifice will remain incomplete3”.

 3.         While reading Azad’s story in his “India wins Freedom” the deepest impression  left is  of his sense of defeat at a price which had to be paid for independence, the  partition  of  India.  He   would   have   rather postponed freedom than have this.  One by one, the Congress leaders bowed before the inevitability of partition, but Azad-like Gandhi – could never be reconciled to it. His final plea, at the meeting of the All India Congress Committee that voted in favour of partition of Indian on 14th June, 1947 was that if this political   defeat had to be accepted, ‘we should at the same time try to ensure that our culture was not defeated4’

 4.         Azad was saddened and embittered by the partition, by the fact that his congress leaders had agreed to it, and especially by the way his fellow Muslims had not followed his lead. After partition, Muslims in Pakistan continued to slander the man who had aspired to lead all the Muslims of India into a bright future. Yet, at a huge meeting of Muslims in Lucknow, shortly after independence, when everyone expected him to condemn Jinnah and the policy that had resulted in partition, he refused to condemn anyone which was characteristic of his personality.  Instead, as a lion-heartened forward looking leader he said, ‘what was not to have happened has happed’.  ‘We have now to think of the future5’.

 5.         In this spirit Azad threw himself into his work as a leader in independent India. He had joined the interim Government in January, 1947 as Education Minister, feeling that, in formulating educational policy, he could contribute to the future form of the country. During his eleven years as Minister of Education, which continued up until his death in 1958, he preformed a number of important services for Indian education. In order to reorient and reconstruct the education system in the context of a changed perspective, he began his task with a detailed enquiry into the malaise and limitations of the existing educational arrangement by appointing University Education Commission (1948), Kher Committee for Elementary Education (1948) and Secondary Education Commission (1952-53). He followed it with many fundamental policy decisions and establishment of educational institutions which provided firm ground for the development of Indian education system in future.

 However, his most significant contribution to education in the post-partition communal violence ridden Indian society has been not in the details of the new pattern of education that was gradually emerging  but in the broad democratic, humane, balanced vision, which he brought to bear on the entire structure and content of education.

 6.         As Education Minister, his speeches often contained numerous references to the importance of education. He felt that education was the “ problem of problems for Asia,” and that “one of the surest ways of securing international peace is  fundamental education for the peoples of the world”. He especially emphasized ‘social education’, by which he meant ‘the inclusion of a lively sense of rights and duties of citizenship and the production of an educated mind in the masses in the absence of literary education7’. This was to include understanding of social conditions of the country, health education, economic improvement through crafts, arts, literature, music, drama, dance, poetry and instruction in universal ethics, including tolerance and mutual appreciation.

Azad was essentially concerned with the basic educational problem of shaping of hearts and minds of his fellow men and women.   He devoted himself to the training of individuals who will have the qualities of vision, courage, tolerance and integrity, and to the creation, through them, and for them, of a social order which will be inspired by the ideals of social justice, co-operation, broad mindedness and rationalism. Repeatedly he affirmed in his speeches that the central purpose of our Five Year Plans is not the production of material wealth and resources but the creation of a new mind and a new character for which right education is more important than the development of agriculture, industry, trade , etc.9.

7.         Azad never had the opportunity to formally experience the discipline of modern education.  It was out of his deep interest in learning and enquiry that he acquired fairly good knowledge of Western Philosophy; read Western history and English literature and was able to comprehend certain principles of popular science. Despite his informal exposure to modern education one finds in Azad a visionary of modern educational enterprise who laid a strong foundation of a long term educational and cultural development in India. (Even in the traditional educational regime which he experienced during his youth he did not attend any formal institution.  He could have been sent to study at the famous Madrasa Alia in his city of Calcutta but his father preferred to teach him initially at his own, and later through some men of letters appointed to teach him at home only. Perhaps, in the reckoning of his father the condition and educational standards in Madrasa Alia then (1890 onwards) had already deteriorated. Later, Azad is seen criticizing this traditional educational regime on account of its curriculum, books and methodology of teaching).

8.         Early in his career as a Minister, as he contemplated shaping the future of India through educational policy, he thus envisaged the possibilities: ‘Today India is free ‘’’’’’’’ she can have any kind of mental mould she pleases. Will it be exclusive ‘’’’’’’’’or will it be all- inclusive, which has been characteristic of the Indian culture throughout the ages ? ‘’’’’’’’In the advancement of nations there is no greater hindrance than narrow mindedness. It is our duty, to keep ourselves free from this disease in the new era of independence10’.

9.         ‘The tradition in India, he said, had been that ‘every kind of culture, every mode of living was allowed to flourish and find its own salvation11’. He emphasized, ‘the acceptance of unity in diversity has been India’s motto throughout the ages. The essence of this principle is a large and wide hearted toleration in which differences are recognized and given their due. The Indian genius always recognized that truth has many facets and conflict and hatred arise because people claim a monopoly of truth and virtue12.  Azad wished all Indians to appreciate and imbibe these values which, according to him, should be inculcated through social and general education and in this endeavour he always underlined the critical role of teachers.

10.      Azad’s contribution to education can be studied in two distinct categories. One may be the study of his general educational ideas as derived from his basic philosophy of life and the other may be the various educational changes and measures of re-construction which were attempted during his regime with the object of making education adequately responsive to the needs and challenges of the national life. There is a significant link   between Azad’s educational vision and his educational policy and programmes which is reflected in the important changes and development in the field of education that took place in the eventful early few years of the country’s independence.

11.      Vision of Education

Azad was a strong believer in democracy which he thought will take roots and benefit the masses if education is democratized. Democratization of education starts from the perspective of ‘achievement orientation’.  Azad pinpointed his efforts for the democratization of education through which he wanted to universalize ‘achievement’ – as the basic criterion in the social selection processes and thereby wanted to break the domination structure of hierarchical Indian society. For this purpose he emphasized four major programmes.

a)         Removal of illiteracy through universalization of elementary education up to secondary standard and a drive for adult education including education for women;

b)         Equalizing educational opportunities in Indian society where exploitations on the basis of class and caste divisions were rampant;

(c)        Three language formulae where the state languages and Hindi would be medium of instruction but English will remain as an important second language; and

d)                 Sound primary education throughout the country.

12.      Azad viewed, “every individual has a right to an education that will enable him to develop his faculties and live a full human life. Such education is the birth right of every   citizen. A state cannot claim to have discharged its duty till it has provided for every single individual means to the acquisition of knowledge and self betterment”14.  This dream of Azad is likely to be fully realized now as the historic RTE Act has finally been approved by the Parliament and its promulgation is going to start soon.

13.      He also held that in independent India, the planning of education at the National level was even more important than economic or industrial planning. He felt that if educational training was unable to inculcate right values and ideals, the security and welfare of the state would be in jeopardy15”.

14.      Azad geared his educational policies and actions to following main objectives of education.

1.         Making of man

Character Building Education should help the individual in realizing his immense  potential. The context of education, influence of home and religion and the role of the teacher should aim at building of the character and the choice and the practice of moral and cultural values. He stressed the importance of seven values which contributed to the making of man and his society in pursuit of excellence. (i) The quest of truth is the principal aim of education, but one should not impose one’s truth upon others through violence and dogmatism. It comes from openness to different points of view and through tolerance of belief other than one’s own. (ii) The concept of justice is another aim of education which is related to appreciation of rights and performance of duties as necessary conditions to the discipline of individual and the good of society. (iii) Spread of enlightenment through right type of education, for true civilization and equality of life. (iv) Co-operation and unity must be learnt through togetherness and friendship thus laying the foundation for peace and harmony (v) The practice of courtesy and chivalry is a grace of life and enriches its quality (vi) The spirit of daring is the most valued asset of youth – society and school should give scope and encouragement to the flowering of the spirit of pioneering and creativity (vii) Quality of humility which chastens and sustains the spirit of man and strivings of his mind17.

2.         Education for Democracy

Azad stressed that defences of newly-won freedom which has opened new opportunities had to be built in the minds of free men.  This was to be done through Social Education which was accorded a highest priority in his scheme of educational reconstruction.  He set up a section of Social Education in the Ministry of Education in 1948. Linking Social Education with Adult Education he emphasized three aspects:- (i) imparting  literacy, (ii) inculcating a lively sense of rights and duties of citizenship, and (iii) creating  an educated mind in the masses which are deprived of literary education18.

3.         Education for Development

Azad enhanced the role of education in national development and encouraged the growth of science and technology at all levels of education.  His vision was to make India self sufficient in higher technical education to meet all our needs and looked forward to a day when people from abroad will come to India for higher scientific and technical education. He expressed these views while inaugurating the IIT Khargpur in August, 1951.  Keeping this in view he reorganized the structure and activities of the AICTE and set up advanced research centres in science and technology19.

          4.         Education for National Integration and Secularism

One of the cherished objectives of education should be to promote national unity on the basis of a rich diversity of cultures and beliefs.  He supported this idea and stressed the importance of textbooks and reading material especially in history, civics, Geography and literature for promoting nationalism and the idea of unity in diversity.  India continues to work on this vision of Azad.  Kothari Education Commission (1964-66) also stressed this aim of education.  NPE 1986 and POA 1986 and 1992 reiterated these objectives of education and envisaged evaluation of textbooks from the point of view of promotion of secularism and social and national integration.

5.         Internationalism and Global Citizenship

Education has a definite role to play in promoting world unity and global citizenship. This he expressed at a function of the Indian National Commission for Co-operation with UNESCO in 1951. He believed that the cult of narrow nationalism which was inculcated in many societies,   conflicted with human progress and human mind should be liberated from prejudice and ill will based on race, class or nationality.  This he felt demands changing the entire method of teaching of history and geography in schools20.

15.                        During the Maulana’s stewardship of the Ministry of Education, some massive tasks of fact-finding, stock-taking and national planning in the broad fields of education were carried out, preparing for some successes in the decades that followed. The work of the Committees and commissions at various levels of education, notably for secondary and university education; and for universal elementary education is well-known. New winds of change began to blow. Special aspects of the problems of education such as the promotion of Gandhian teachings  and  way  of  life,  introduction of  general  education course, Home  Science programmes, Institutes of rural higher education, the training of teachers, development of library services, audio-visual education, promotion of Hindi and other national languages, scholarship for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, education and training of the handicapped, special programmes of education of women and girls, development of cultural activities, youth welfare and physical education, reflect the vastness of the range of activities and innovations initiated by the Central Ministry of Education21.

He re-organized the All India Council for Technical Education and saw the establishment of a host of institutions of education and cultural significance including

  • Kharagpur Institute of Higher Technology,
  • the University Grants Commission,
  • the Indian Council for Cultural Relations,
  • Council for Scientific and Industrial Research,
  • Indian Council for Social Sciences Research the India Institute of Science,
  • the National Institute of Basic Education,
  • Central Bureau of Textbook Research,
  • the National Board of Audiovisual Education,
  • the Hindi Shiksha Samiti,
  • the Board of Scientific Terminology for Hindi,
  • Sangeet Natak Academy,
  • Lalit Kala Academy and
  • Sahitya Academy.

16.      Curriculum

Maulana was vividly clear that content and curriculum of education at every level has to be distinctively different from what it used to be in the colonial era and it should address to the objectives of education defined by him and outlined above. He repeatedly  stressed following ideas to alter and enrich the content and scope of curriculum. :-

(1)              At the elementary level, basic education with its emphasis on learning by doing, should form the content ;

(2)              At the secondary stage curriculum should be re-oriented as proposed by the Secondary Education Commission and should be meant for training in diverse skills and aptitudes and  preparation for higher educational pursuits.

(3)              Educational standards needed to be raised at the university stage and curricula broadened and enriched

(4)              Adult literacy and social education programmes should be suitably devised so as to create awareness and productivity

(5)               Women’s education should receive special attention

(6)              The needs of rural areas with emphasis on agriculture and craft should receive attention

(7)              Physical education, recreation and opportunities for games and sports should form part of educational programmes at all levels

(8)              Suitable text books and teaching and learning material be prepared and attention be paid on the needs of the handicapped learners

(9)              Research and evaluation should test the effectiveness and guide the development of curriculum and programmes

(10)         Extensive reforms in examination system to save learners from stress and strain

(11)         The curriculum should encourage independent thinking, a sense of judgment and the process of learning how to learn

(12)         International co-operation specially under the auspicious of UNESCO should be welcomed and harnessed for the reform of the curriculum22.

17.      Teacher and Teacher preparation

As we know, Azad never attended a formal school. He acquired his lifelong learning from elders and his mentors whom he chose for himself. Yet, he understood well the place of teachers in any formal education system and firmly believed that no reforms in education can be effective without empowering them and no policies can be implemented successfully without taking them fully on board.  He had an instinctive reverence for teachers. Humble, lowly paid teachers could easily meet him at his residence. Once he described the role of a teacher in following words : “Ultimately all reforms in education depend upon the  quality of  our  teachers. I have mentioned  to you  the  changes we are seeking to bring about in elementary, secondary and university education. These changes will not give the desired results unless there are efficient and devoted teachers to carry them out. Poor wages and loss of social status have been perhaps the main reasons why there has been a fall in the quality of teachers in recent years. You are aware that some measures have already been taken to remedy this state of affairs. While we shall continue with our efforts for improving the status, service conditions and emoluments of teachers at all levels, I would appeal to them that they must also develop a spirit of real service and dedication in the cause of the nation”.

Besides other distinguished characters, in Azad was also hidden an ideal teacher. People felt, when he talked of certain values and standards, that he not only knew what he was talking about but was preaching what he had practised in his life.  This, asserts Saiyidain, is one of the most essential qualities of a true teacher, in any sense of the word. Hypocrisy  is at a  severe   discount in the teachers domain. Respect must enter into the basic relationship between the teacher and his community of learners  in order to create a receptive frame of mind, and hypocrisy can never co-exist with genuine respect. This accounts for the respect in which Azad was held not only by his friends and admirers but also by his opponents.

18.      From the beginning of accepting the ministerial responsibility, Azad tried to attend to almost all issues in education.  He felt deeply concerned about the quality of education imparted in educational institutions and the contribution that teachers can make in this regard.  He also believed that such a contribution can best be made by those who are systematically groomed as teachers.  At the opening of the Central Institute of Education at Delhi on 19th December, 1947 he thus stressed the need and significance of training of teachers for improving the quality of education.  If we are not able to make arrangement for the primary education of thirty million of our children in the age group six- eleven years all our nation building schemes will, ipso facto, become valueless. The only way out, therefore, is to try to lift millions of these children from the depth of neglect and ignorance immediately.  The quest is how best to solve this problem. The greatest hurdle facing us is lack of trained teachers.  Instead of postponing our schemes for want of trained teachers, we should mobilize 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 number in the shortest possible time. The Central and Provincial Governments while preparing the Five Year Plans, have to keep in view  the recommendations of the  CABE Committee(1944) given  in the post–war educational development Plan for establishment of new teacher training institutes.  Such institutions have already been opened and are still being opened in different parts of the country25. (However, even after this attempt the number of training institutions remained abysmally low and could not provide trained teachers as per requirement.  Due to continued apathy of some state governments the situation continues to be same even today in some parts of the country which has led to large scale appointment of  untrained teachers in schools.  It is hoped that RTE Act will ultimately act as a catalyst in this direction).

Referring to the roe that was charted for CIE, Azad said, ‘while this institute will turn out teachers who will be “Model teachers” for provinces, but over and above this, the institute will be a research centre for solving new educational problems of the country and will be a beacon of light for the teacher training institutes of the country26.

19.      Challenges

          The Constitution of India visualizes a national system of education supported by national policies and appropriate organs of consultation and co-ordination; but by and large the task of implementing policies depends upon the efforts and resources of the States. Maulana Azad’s towering personality and political status helped national planning, but could not ensure the actual implementation of national policies by the States27.

Hopes ran high and efforts were not lacking, but the euphoria of that time came up against stubborn realities. Neither sufficient material resources nor a strong enough political will emerged to surmount those realities. Towards the end of his life, Maulana Azad made a sad confession to a meeting of the Central Advisory Board of Education in 1958;

‘You would all remember that we have faced one difficulty after another since the first day of independence. When I assumed charge of Education in 1947, I immediately saw that there would be no solution of our educational problems without the fullest co-operation of the Centre and Provinces. Education was, no doubt, a provincial subject, but it was my considered opinion that this distinction could be maintained only when our educational targets have been achieved. Until such time, the Central Government, should openly recognize that though education is a provincial subject, it must share the responsibility with the provincial government, if we are to meet the challenge of the time. (I appointed a committee under the chairmanship of the late B.G. Kher, then Chief Minister of Bombay, who prepared a scheme for the introduction of universal elementary  and  free  education  in  sixteen  years provided the centre undertakes to meet at least thirty per cent of the expenses. I regret to say that we have not been able to give effect to this scheme. India is a democracy where the Cabinet has joint responsibility. I am, therefore, equally responsible with my colleagues for our failure in implementing the proposals of the Kher Committee). One of our difficulties has been that some of my colleagues regarded education to be a purely provincial subject and did not, therefore, think it necessary that the Central Government should provide adequate funds for it. Even when the Planning Commission was set up, the situation did not at first change. When the first draft of the First Plan was made, education was almost completely ignored. There seemed to be a general view that we should take up only subjects which would give quick returns. Since they held that education could not do this, education was left out of this first draft28.

            It was for Azad’s charismatic influence that education was later given due place in the Five Year Plan and as a result many developments took place in this field with the support of the Central Government.

            At the time of independence of teacher training institutions were providing trained teaches to schools.  Those included Basic Teacher Training Institutes, training teachers for basic schools, normal schools producing teachers for modern primary schools and teacher training colleges preparing teachers for high schools.  Due to persistent emphasis of Azad a number of these institutions was gradually increasing but the pace of expansion in their number was very slow.  As a result proportion of untrained teachers in schools continued to remain quite high.  For example, the proportion of untrained teachers in primary schools in 1949-50 was 41.4 which came down to 41.2% in 1950-51 and to 38.8% in 1955-56.  Similarly in secondary schools their proportion in 1949-50 i.e. 46.4% which remained almost the same (46.7%) in 1950-51 and came down to 41.5% in 1955-56.  One important reason was fast expansion in enrolments during first plan period sand enhanced demand for opening schools and induction of additional teachers in these schools.   For example in 1950-51 there were 209671 primary schools with 5.38 lakh teachers which rose to 278135 schools with 6.91 lakh teachers.  The number of upper primary/middle schools in 1950-51 was 13596 with 0.86 lakh teachers which went upto 21730 middle schools with 1.51 lakh teachers in 1955-56.  The number of training schools during this period however went up from 782 to 930 and training colleges from 53 to 107 only. Azad wanted to follow a different model of teacher training and their retraining for basic schools which was a model for primary schools during his days.  He wanted the training programme for basic schools should split into two parts, both proceeding simultaneously, one concentrating on quality education which can grow only slowly and the other on those basic skills, like organized community living, craft work etc. on the job training.  In the 1st Five Year Plan he also emphasized that most teachers need retraining for the purposes of educational reorganization in the country, while at the same time expansion in teacher training facilities should receive high priority.  Limited budgetary allocation in the Plan for education in general and for teacher education in particular constrained the implementation of both the proposals to any degree of satisfaction

Though Azad blamed the mechanisms of the state, ‘ the legacy of the governmental procedures’ and ‘the inertia of the machine’, for the lack of accomplishment in educational matters29.  Yet he succeeded in registering notable achievements in almost every domain of education which set the tone and direction of educational development in the country in the days to come.  He observed in his speech in 1958 that the progress which has been achieved in spite of these difficulties can be measured by the fact that when I assumed charge, the Central budget for education was only about Rs. 2 crores and is today considerably more than Rs. 30 crores.  It is not only the financial allocation which has been increased, but there has been expansion in all types of activities.

16 Responses to “Maulana Abul Kalam Azad: Educational Vision & Contribution”

  1. Sachin Kumar

    very nice…..and impressive speech……..

  2. Anonymous

    Too good blog. It helped me for my research. Lots of information are there. Thank you…………………

  3. edumate

    Best site for education.

  4. Tabrez Hussain Research Scholar MANUU Hyderabad

    very Good blog It helped me.My Research topic is : A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF MOULANA AZAD AND DR BR AMBEDKAR , Thank Q Sir for this knowledge full blog

  5. vikas sinha

    nice speech, your speech is very helpful for me.

  6. arun sutradhar

    Valuable and informative article in sweet expression.

  7. Anonymous

    I liked your article. It is wonderful tribute to a non parallel educationist of our country. Thank you for highlighting his pioneering efforts and valuable thoughts in the public domain. can you send me a copy of your article. I am also looking forward to down load a copy published by NUEPA on him as an Educationist. If you can help me in this regard. ManMohan Singh

  8. onks

    thank you for writing this blog… has helped me in my research …..nice work..

  9. Anonymous

    nice…………………..shahid 9910775722

  10. Anonymous

    thanks for providing the important informations about the great educationalist……i need references for my research paper…

  11. B.L. Meena

    plz contact me

  12. arghyajyoti sarkar

    Grttt..thanx a lot for ur kind hlp..

  13. Institution Building

    This is the first visit of me towards your blog and i got amazing informative data from here, it is amazing for me. Faculty Development Program || Institution Building || Educational Leadership

  14. chidatmika

    thank you very much 4 providing me data 4 my speech


    Thanks for providing the important information about the great educationalist…..

  16. Dr Perwaiz Shaharyar (@PerwaizDr)

    Great Speech
    Complete and comprehensive from every point of view. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a legendary personality. He has dreamed about the present day education system and the youth made realised this in Practical. Now, India is looked upon in foreign lands with high respect because of the world class Engineers, Doctors and Management Gurus who are doing their best to contribute and enhance the level of world economy. No doubt, Maulana was such a great great visionary.
    Dr. Perwaiz Shaharyar
    Editor, NCERT, New Delhi

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