Education is expected to play an important role in the economic and political
development of rural areas. Formal education, as it is today, is highly urban oriented, so
that it does not adequately perform its economic and political functions in rural areas. The
situation may be tackled by the introduction of non-formal education. Our national policy
on education should be flexible enough to take care of the special educational needs of
rural areas. Social workers can play an important role in the massive programme of rural
education for development.
Dr. Jacob Aikara is Lecturer in the Unit for Research in the Sociology of Education,
Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Deonar. Bombay 400 088.
Today education is seen to be an One commentator points out that whereas
important agent of development both in sheer achievement of literacy is clearly a
urban and in rural areas. The Education prerequisite to the evolution of any modern
Commission (1964-66) considers education society, a nation of Ph.D.'s is not a neces-
as the main instrument of change. If sary precondition. The question is not
change on a grand scale is to be achieved, whether education is essential to develop-
it says, "without violent revolution (and ment but rather what kinds, at what levels,
even for that it would be necessary) there in what quantities, how organized, and how
is one instrument, and one instrument administered" (Sanders, 1977:107). The im-
only, that can be used: EDUCATION. portant issue in education for development
Other agencies may help, and can indeed is not so much the need of education for"
sometimes have a more apparent impact. development, as the kind of education re-
But the national system of education is the quired for development. Till recently edu-
only instrument that can reach all the cation has been a privilege of the urbanities.
people. It is not, however, a magic wand Curricula and syllabi were prepared by the
to wave wishes into existence. It is a diffi-
urbanites who designed educational pro-
cult instrument, whose effective use re-
grammes as though life should adjust to
quires strength of will dedicated work and class room, instead of the reverse. During
sacrifice. But it is a sure and tried instru-
the British regime, education was for the
ment, which has served other countries well urbanites and also by the urbanites. After
in their struggle for development. It can, independence India has been consciously
given the will and the skill, do so for trying to expand education beyond the
India" (Ministry of Education, 1971:8). limits of the city. Thus rural education
In stressing the importance of education for has become a concept and a target. Today
development, however, it must be added rural education is expected to play an im-
that the kind and manner of education portant role in rural development. The role
depending upon the situation are also im-
of education in the economic and political
portant, if education were to produce the development — the two important aspects
desired results. "Those who argue the im-
of development -- of rural India has to be
portance of heavy investment of resources viewed in the context of the predominantly
in education by a developing country — agricultural economy of rural India and
changing from a rural to an urban society democratic politics of the country. The
— do so by analogy from modern societies. fact that our formal education is urban
Yet, this needs to be done with caution. based and urban oriented calls for the

need for orienting education to be func-
come available to a large number of rura-
tional to the ruralites and introducing edu-
lites. Consequently, the number of ruralites
cational programmes that are relevant and who seek education is much larger than
suited to the needs and interests of the what the urban society needs and can
ruralites. In this national effort to pro-
absorb. Naturally, the economic function
vide suitable education to the rural popula-
of education can no more be thought of
tion social workers can play an important merely in terms of manpower production
for urban occupations. Today the need to
orient rural education to be in the service
Education and Economic and Political
of rural economy also, is recognized.
Formal education, because of its tradi-
tional preoccupation with manpower pro-
Traditionally the relationship between duction for urban occupations (mostly
education and economy was conceived of white collar jobs), has had an urban bias.
in terms of manpower production. In other Education may have to be divorced of this
words, with regard to economic develop-
urban bias and modified in order to be of
ment education was considered to be an use in the rural situation. India being a
agent of training for occupations that re-
predominantly rural country and rural eco-
quired certain special knowledge and skills. nomy being agricultural, economic deve-
In this respect the educational function of lopment of rural India will have to be
manpower production was something that thought of in terms of agricultural deve-
was concerned with the urban society. It lopment. Even the few non-agricultural
was applicable to rural society in so far occupations that have been emerging in"
as ruralites were prepared for urban occu-
the rural areas have to be rural based rather
pations. This would result in the migration than urban oriented. Therefore, if we were
of ruralites to cities. The implication of this to think of manpower production for the
approach to the economic function of edu-
non-agricultural occupations of rural India
cation is that training for agricultural occu-
agricultural bias cannot be escaped. One of
pation in rural areas is simple and can be the reasons for the shortage of manpower
acquired through the process of socializa-
for non-agricultural occupations in rural
tion at home outside the system of formal areas (doctors, engineers, teachers, and
education. That is, the child interacting with those belonging to the executive cadre) is
the elders and participating in agricultural that our education for manpower produc-
pursuits acquires the minimum knowledge tion has been urban oriented. The result
and experience of agricultural occupation has been that qualified professionals are
by the time it attains adulthood. Thus reluctant to serve the rural community. Our
formal education has had little economic urban oriented education has instilled in
function in rural areas, or at least it has the ruralites a disdain for rural occupations.
not been designed to serve the agricultural "Whoever gets educated today, irrespective
economy of rural areas. At a time when of his social and cultural traditions and the
rural education was confined to a few privi-
economic circumstances of his family and
leged individuals who migrated to cities community, acquires invariably the upper
both for education and for occupational class prejudices and postures as well, the
placement, this rural-economy-neglected edu-
most outstanding of w h i c h . . . is a strict
cation was never questioned. With the ex-
aversion to and disdain for manual work.
pansion to rural areas education has be-
He leaves agriculture altogether, because

cultivation, or in fact any kind of manual the luxury of being designed only to cater
work in the rural context, is considered to the 'urban' needs of the insignificant
totally incompatible with education. The minority.
result is that the spread of literacy among
If rural education were to be functional
the peasant classes helps to improve neither to rural economy, it should equip the rura-
the techniques of cultivation nor agricul-
lites with the knowledge necessary to suc-
tural production --- the two most pressing cessfully pursue their agricultural pursuits.
problems today in the agrarian field. Instead Education can perform this function in
of being utilized to improve agriculture, various respects. It can bring home to the
education is looked upon as an avenue of rural man the gains of technology in so
escape from it" (Nair, 1961:149). True, far as they are useful for him. It can enrich
our urban areas do require some of the the rural man with the knowledge of the
ruralites as qualified and skilled manpower rural environment he is working in. It can
for the various urban occupations. But they train the rural man to pursue his occupa-
are to be considered as exceptional since tion scientifically, i.e. training to fertilize
their number is insignificant compared to his field and rotate his crops, to utilize,
the vast majority who have to live in. and operate and repair tools and machines, and
serve, the rural community. Education should to have organized agricultural operations.
not be designed for the exceptional only. It can give him knowledge about how his
What the rural areas require is education products are sold, how they are utilized
designed for the ruralites, whether it be for and what facilities are offered by the gov-
improving the rural economy, or for pro-
ernment and other agencies in order to
ducing professional manpower for rural help the rural man. Education geared to
areas. There are educationists who do not operate in this way would be more useful
favour any rural biased education for the to the rural man, more functional to rural
rural people. They argue that the rural economy and more relevant to our predomi-
parents in general who send their children nantly rural country.
to school want them to have an educa-
Political development in rural India may
tion that will enable them to go in for be considered as the progress towards poli-
urban based white collar jobs. Any effort tical consciousness among the ruralites and
to "ruralize" education, in their view, will their political participation. Unlike know-
meet with failure (Griffiths. 1968:16 20). ledge of, and training for, rural occupations,
It is a fact that most of the rural children knowledge of the new democratic political
who pursue education do not wish to go system and internalization of the new poli-
back to the farm from the school. However, tical roles are not easily acquired by rura-
it must be noted that at present only a lites through socialization. Ruralites in India
small minority of ruralites go for formal have been used to caste and community
education and seek urban jobs thereafter. identities and to simple acceptance rather
The vast majority of the rural population is than decision making in matters of politics.
to live and work within the rural areas. In the democratic political system, they are
If education were rural biased, probably to act under broad national identities in-
many more ruralites would have made use stead of narrow identities; instead of the
of it. The exceptional rural individuals who caste/community loyalty, they are to have
are potential migrants to cities, of course, allegiance to political parties based on ideo-
would like to have an urban biased edu-
logies. Instead of acceptance and appro-
cation. But rural education cannot afford val of leaders and rulers, they are to choose

their leaders and rulers.
care of the educational needs of the drop-
If, even after three decades of demo-
out children and illiterate and uneducated
cratic politics, we find that democratic adults. Third, formal education remains
values have not been internalized by urban oriented. Thus, rural areas face the
the ruralites, it is an indication of poor situation wherein socialization is insuffici-
political socialization. We cannot expect ent, and formal education is inefficient, to
socialization to successfully inculcate all meet their educational needs. A solution that
the new elements of political system in could be offered to tackle the situation is
the ruralites. Education will have to play non-formal education. It is believed that
an important role in the political socializa-
non-formal education will be able to take
tion of ruralites for adequate political parti-
care of many of the drawbacks of formal
cipation. The urbanites may be in a position education in rural areas. The advantage of
to internalize through socialization much of non-formal education is its flexibility vis-
the basic knowledge required for political a-vis the rigidity of forma! education with
participation. As a consequence of it, formal respect to the learner, teacher, content and
education in India today, as it is urban manner of teaching/learning. It has
based, presupposes among the ruralites its own eligibility requirements for learners,
certain basic knowledge regarding the poli-
qualification/experience requirements for
tical system. This is too presumptuous. In teachers, content and method of education
villages which are not thrust open by poli-
according to the needs of particular learners
tical activities and propaganda, education and situations. In other words non-formal
will have to do a great deal in socializing education is flexible enough to suit the
the ruralites to be responsible and active learners and their situations.
citizens. The content of education should
The main tasks of non-formal education
be such that the rural children will get in rural areas are concerned with the
the minimum knowledge about the nation learners to be covered and the content to
and its history, about Indian democracy be taught. As far as the learners are con-
and its operation. New ideologies, new cerned non-formal education is to cater to
knowledge and new patterns of political those who are not covered by formal edu-
behaviour have to be inculcated in a form cation, viz. the out-of-school ruralites. There
understandable to the ruralites through are two categories of them: adults and
channels other than socializaion.
children. The vast majority of the rural
adults in India are illiterate and unedu-
Non-Formal Education
cated One of the reasons why children
themselves are reluctant to go to school or
In view of the fact that education in drop out from schools in rural areas is
rural areas has certain important economic that rural adults in general are uneducated.
and political functions, it may be asked Educational problem of the adults cannot
what form of education will be able to be dealt with in the regular schools. Adults
perform these functions. Formal education, will not be prepared to sit along with
as it is today, suffers from certain draw children in schools. Nor will they be inte-
backs in this respect. First, a large number rested in the lessons that are designed for
of rural children who enter the formal children. Adult education has to be different
system of education drop out without com-
from regular school education both in
pleting even primary education. Second, form and in content. The non-school-going
formal education has no provision to take children have either' dropped out from

school or never entered school, because they Those who may have wanted formal educa-
themselves were not interested in. or avail-
tion for their children were (and are) un-
able for, studies. Formal education is not able to allow them enough free time to go
likely to help them, because the dropouts to school — there is too much work for
may not be psychologically disposed to re-
them to do. If they could be spared for a
enter schools and because the never entrants while, it was thought that going to school
may not be available (probably for socio would probably only give them ideas to
economic reasons) for schooling. With the make them dissatisfied with farm life"
content and form of education suited to (Unesco, 1970: 2), Unless rural education
their situations, i e. through non-formal is vocation-oriented, i.e. made useful in
education, it may be possible to give these terms of the occupational life of the rural
children some education that is useful to man, the ruralites are not likely to get
attracted to education. Family-operated
Regarding the content, non-formal educa farms in rural areas involve high labour
tion aims at making it relevant to the input, even unskilled which makes it possi-
learners and their socio-economic and poli-
ble for boys and girls to be productively
tical environment. Formal education is employed at a relatively young age. Thus
structured around literacy and numeracy, i e. rural children are likely to prefer produc-
the learning of the three 'R's. One of the tive employment to education that is not
reasons why formal education does not job oriented. Purely academic education is
attract the ruralites in large numbers is its likely to render the ruralites unemployed.
academic content. The average rural man In some cases the ruralites who receive edu-
would like to have an education that is cation migrate to urban areas and either-
geared to rural vocation. Rural people are succeed in getting some job or swell the
practical and are not inclined to devote number of the unemployed. In non-formal
themselves to arm chair speculation and education it is possible to have the voca-
purely academic pursuits. They are con-
tional bias in the place of academic bias.
stantly in touch with nature and physical
The emphasis in non-formal education is
environment. They look forward to make on what is called functional literacy, i.e.
use of their knowledge in their day to day knowledge necessary for an individual to
life and work. Rural education, therefore. function successfully in his socio-economic
should be useful and helpful to the rural and political environment. It may or may
man in his occupation. Sometimes ruralites not include literacy and numeracy. For
are scared of education because they imagine instance, in the case of non-school-going
that education will make their children unfit children non-formal education may have
for rural practical life ''People in rural programmes of literacy and numeracy to-
areas everywhere who have not had the gether with other contents. In the case of
opportunity to go to school themselves have rural adults, however, non-formal education
been traditionally suspicious of "book geared to 'technical literacy' and political
learning". The farm children helped their socialization may be more relevant. With
parents, for generation-upon-generation. the introduction of modern farming today
They learned supposedly all they needed the rural man. for instance, should know
to know from working in natural sur-
about the optimum dose of fertilizers and
roundings, and in so doing probably learn
pesticides, about maintenance and repair of
ed more about life than city children who farm equipment, etc. Regarding political
were "wasting time" with paper and pencils. socialization, he should have the minimum

knowledge to participate in the democracy latter more rural oriented.
of our nation. In other words, rural edu-
cation must enable a ruralite to function Policy on Rural Education
more efficiently in his rural occupation and
in his role as a citizen.
The goal of rural education may be con-
In view of the fact that majority of the sidered as to provide qualitatively relevant
rural adults are illiterate and most of the and quantitatively adequate education to
rural children of school going age are out the ruralites. In order to achieve this goal
of school, non-formal education is expected should education in rural areas have dif-
to play an important role in rural educa-
ferent purposes and orientation from those
tion for many more years to come. How-
which are conceived for pupils of other
ever, one should not have the impression areas? Should the institutional structures
that non-formal education is a substitute be different for rural areas? During the colo-
to altogether replace formal education in nial period rural education in a sense had
rural areas. Formal education should always an inferior status. What education was
be there for those who are available for it. available in rural areas, was primary school
It is through formal education that the education confined to the study of the
potential migrants to urban areas can catch three 'R's. Further education always in-
up with the urbanites. Formal education also volved migration to cities. Today there has
develops the intellectual and psychological been tremendous development bringing some
potentialities of the individual. It should be, of the urban aspects of education into the
therefore, encouraged for those who are rural areas. The question may be asked if
available for it. However, efforts must be rural education should follow the urban
made to make formal education more rele-
pattern. Should we have a distinct educa-
vant and useful to rural man. Any drastic tional policy for rural education? The trend
change in the urban based academic aspect after independence has been towards having
of rural formal education is likely to have a unified national system of education. Na-
strong resentment from the part of the tionalist spirit together with the problem of
privileged few ruralites who have had the integration in the post-independence period
benefit of urban oriented education; the has been a stimulating factor in favour of
potential migrants to urban areas too may be a unified system. It is true that for a country
adversely affected by such a step. At the so vast and diverse some general principles
same time if formal education in rural may be necessary. Secondly, any special
areas functions in the urban way. it falls policy on rural education is likely to be
short of being functional to the average opposed by the rural elite as discrimina-
rural man. Possibly some programme of tion against the ruralites. But the fact that
non-formal education, that would serve as urban oriented education has not been
supplementary to formal education, could successful in the rural areas calls for special
be introduced in rural schools in order to educational programmes for the ruralites
make it more functional in the socio-
as those of non-formal education, within the
economic environment of ruralites. Thus, general national policy. Equality of educa-
there is the need for both formal and non-
tional opportunity is not ensured by
formal education in our rural areas — non-
merely making education equally accessible
formal taking care of the out-of-school rura-
to both the ruralites and the urbanites. If
lites and functioning as supplementary to education is not suited to the needs and
formal education in order to make the environment of the pupils, it can only

create barriers to their educational achieve-
Work experience/socially useful productive
ment instead of realizing educational work is an important programme that
opportunity. The national policy on aims at dispelling this bias by getting the
education, therefore, should take into students involved in work that is useful
account the characteristics and needs of to the local community and also by
the rural areas. The programme of making instilling in them an appreciation for
school education available to all, especially manual work. The programme of voca-
to those in rural areas within a reasonably tionalization of the higher secondary (the
short distance should continue. At the +2 stage in the 10+2+3 pattern of
same time there should be a concerted education) is another scheme that is likely
effort to make use of non-formal educa-
to make rural education more relevant and
tional programmes for the greater benefit functional to the rural man. Vocationali-
of the ruralites. Although we need not zation at the higher secondary has the
have a separate policy for rural education, objective of equipping the school leaver
the national policy should be flexible in the with the necessary knowledge and skill to
case of rural education so that education enter the world of work either through
can be functional to the rural man.
employment or through self-employment; in
Some of the educational programmes its scheme vocations are to be selected on
recommended for school education are the basis of relevance to the needs of the
likely to make our formal education in immediate social environment and to the
rural areas less urban biased. They include potentialities and interests of the individual.
work experience (recommended by the The emphasis on selecting vocations that
Education Commission 1964-66) or
are socially relevant makes vocationalization
socially useful productive work (recom-
in rural areas rural based. The National
mended by the Review Committee on the Review Committee on Higher Secondary
Curriculum for the Ten-Year School, Education with Special Reference to Voca-
1977) and vocationalization of the higher tionalization (1978) in its report is all for
secondary. The idea of work experience rural vocationalization. It has strongly
is that students while engaged in academic recommended the establishment of all the
pursuit may not lose touch with what is new higher secondary schools in rural
practical; on the contrary, they should areas and a number of agricultural
develop themselves into practical people vocational courses for the ruralites. If the
and foster an attitude of respect for work programmes of work experience/socially
especially manual labour. Socially useful useful productive work and agricultural
productive work (while it maintains the vocationalization at the higher secondary
basic objective of work experience, viz. to are accepted as special rural schemes in
inculcate in the students the dignity of our educational policy, rural education is
work and to make them practical) improves likely to be more functional to the rural
on work experience, in that it wants the man and to contribute better to the rural
work introduced in the schools to be and national development.
useful to the community. The urban bias of
Another matter of policy is regarding
correlating education of any level and kind higher and specialized professional
to white collar jobs has been dysfunctional education. At present institutions of higher
to rural development in the sense that education, especially professional educa-
education and the educated have remained tion are concentrated in urban areas. Only
alienated from agricultural occupation. the rural rich who can afford migrating

to urban centres are able to have such of non-formal education. Motivation is an
education. It is a luxury for the rural poor. important factor in rural education.
Secondly, higher and professional educa-
Large scale drop out and failure to enrol
tion being urban based, there is a scarcity in school are to a great extent due to lack
of professionals in rural areas Even the of motivation. Most of the children of
professionals from rural areas themselves school going age in rural areas are first
shun rural placement. In view of these generation potential learners and they
facts should we not have a few institutions lack any educational background within the
of higher and professional education in family. It is necessary that both the parents
rural areas? Such rural centres of higher and be persuaded to send their children to
professional education will be beneficial to school and the children be encouraged to
the rural population. In view of the go to school. The uneducated parents and
paucity of professionals in rural areas one their children by themselves may not be
could think of professional training in able to understand the purpose of educa-
rural centres of higher education with a tion and what they can gain from it. It
rural bias and possibly with some bond for may be required to enlarge their vision
rural service. An individual should be beyond what is here and now and is
prepared to accept the curtailment of immediately useful to them. This is some-
freedom to that extent for the greater good thing that the social worker can do. To
of the community.
create a positive and (not merely indiffe-
rent) attitude to education among the rural
Social Worker and Rural Education
children and adults is a great step
towards progress in rural education.
Ever since independence there has been Another category of persons who require
a concerted effort to extend educational motivation and encouragement is the rural
opportunity to all, especially to those in teachers. Here too the social worker can
rural areas. But rural education in India play his role. Retention of children in
has been facing various problems. Failure school depends also on the teachers. The
to enrol at all and large scale drop out are rural teachers must be made to understand
the major problems of rural education in fully the importance of their role in rural
India. There is no use blaming those education. They should be convinced that
involved in the planning and implementa-
they as teachers are involved in the per-
tion of education for the failures All sonality development of the children and
those who are involved and interested in in the rural and national development.
rural education — policy makers and They should be made to appreciate their
executives, social scientists and social wor-
profession and perform their role in the
kers, and the public —- should work in best interest of the children and the nation.
cooperation for the success of education in There is a tendency among the teachers in
rural areas.
rural areas to get alienated from the local
What can the social worker do in rural community and to seek transfer to urban
education? Broadly his role in rural educa-
areas. They should, on the contrary, be
tion may be conceived of as triple: sympathetic to, and ready to serve, the rural
motivating the ruralites, acting as media-
community. One of the tasks, the social
tors between ruralites on the one hand worker can do in rural education is to create
and makers and executives of educational social consciousness that is favourable to
policies on the other, and being champions education, among those involved in rural

education — children, parents and teachers. involved in the rural people and their edu-
Secondly, the social worker can act as cational development. If the social worker
mediator between the ruralites and those succeeds in rightly assessing the educa-
who design and implement educational tional needs of the ruralites and in influ-
programmes Under the Constitutional pre-
encing those who plan and execute the
scription of compulsory education for educational programmes, rural education
children upto 14 years, the value of equa-
would be more relevant to the ruralites.
lity of opportunity, and the ideology of
A third possible role of the social worker
rural development we have been vigorously in rural education is in non-formal edu-
trying to expand education to the ruralites. cation. Non formal education for rural
But we have not yet made any significant areas is conceived of as a mechanism to
headway in this direction It is not because take care of some of the deficiencies of
there have not been policies and pro-
formal education. The characteristic feature
grammes or enough financial investment. of non-formal education is its flexibility to
Probably there has not been a fit between suit the needs of the learners. It is adapt-
the policies/programmes and the rural situ-
ing education to the learner. It means that
ation. Policies framed on the basis of arm framing and conducting a programme of
chair speculation or on the basis of feed-
non-formal education is a highly imagi-
back from urban situation are likely to native and ingenious task. It presupposes
meet with failure in rural areas. To be a thorough knowledge about the needs of
effective in rural areas, education should be the learners and their environment, and
relevant to the ruralites. It is necessary their interest and availability for educa-
that the rural situation be studied and tion. It also involves an examination of the
feedback obtained from already imple-
points of failure of formal education in
mented educational programmes in rural the particular situation. The social worker,
areas, before any new policy is framed or
any fresh programme is launched. This is who is interested in the rural educational
an instance where the social worker can development can study these things and
play a mediating role. The social worker, help in the planning and introduction of
who is in a position to know the people, non-formal educational programmes. Today
their needs and their attitudes, and who is there is widespread recognition of the need
aware of the successes and failures of edu-
to have increased programmes of non-
cational programmes already introduced can formal education in rural areas. The social
advise the policy framers and planners of worker's assistance in designing and launch-
education on how education can be planned ing such programmes will be a valuable
and made available to the ruralites. It de-
contribution he can make to rural deve-
mands of the social worker to be deeply lopment.
Griffiths, V. L. :
The Problems of Rural Education, Paris: Unesco: Interna-
tional Institute for Educational Planning.
Ministry of Education:
Education and National Development: Report of the Education
Commission 1964-66, New Delhi: National Council of Educa-
tional Research and Training.

Nair Kusum
Blossoms in the Dust, London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd.
Sanders, Irwin T.
Rural Society, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood
Bulletin of the Unesco Regional Office for Education in Asia,
Vol. V, No. 1.