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On Questioning…

Dr Partha Sarathi Dasgupta (b. November 17, 1942), the Indian-British Economist, has expressed serious concern over the transition of the Education System in Britain over the years.

Recalling his student days in the 1970s, the Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Cambridge has said that he and his classmates used to ask questions freely to their teachers. And now, researchers face trouble for publishing unpleasant opinion. Nearly 200 professors of various reputed universities recently shared their experiences of being harassed inside campuses. They have faced death threats, physical abuse, and threat of discontinuation of research works. Even the University Authorities have not been able to stop this anarchy by taking necessary actions!

Dr Dasgupta

According to Dr Dasgupta, it is also a fact that the student-researcher community has become somewhat reluctant to accept other views. At the same time, the incompetence of the University Authorities to accommodate everyone undermines the strength of the Education System. For long, the intellectuals have pierced the Authoritarian State with criticism. Now, criticism has poisoned the environment of University campuses! Unfortunately, both teachers and students have lost their Freedom of Expression in Educational Institutions.

Although the Educational Institutions have various Departments, the basic lesson they teach each and every student is the habit of asking questions, as new ideas will not be born, if one cannot verify what is happening. Often, it becomes crucial to break the Tradition, and constant discussion on any particular issue can only help the society do so. Sir Karl Raimund Popper (July 28, 1902 – September 17, 1994), an Austrian-British Philosopher, Academic and Social Commentator, identified Refutation as a prerequisite for research.

Sir Karl Popper

Interestingly, the Right to Ask Questions is an inalienable part of the original concept of University. The first established university in Europe is the University of Bologna which was founded in 1088. In a Declaration, the University of Bologna introduced the term Academic Freedom as the kernel of its culture in the 12th Century. As per the Bologna Declaration, the path of research could never be blocked in the interest of Education. Nowadays, those, who are creating troubles for researchers by branding them anti-progressive, are actually blocking the normal pace of education. They are the ones who are against Progress, as well as Social Progress, through Education!

University of Bologna

There is a real cause for concern in the behaviour of those teachers and students. Such an intolerant mentality seems to be a reflection of the image of the State, which often interferes in the Education System. In recent times, several universities have cancelled seminars and discussions on different important issues in India due to objections from some teachers and students, initiating that a consensus be reached in order to prevent discussions on Backward Issues under the guise of homogeneous thought process! As expected, such moves have triggered a fresh crisis.

Any sort of orthodoxy is an obstacle for the Education System. It is condemnable if any programme is cancelled due to the demand of the student organisation close to the Ruling Party. The impact of the injustice is also different because of the support of the State Power in this case. It is also condemnable if ordinary students show such a rigid attitude. It is important to ensure an open and free environment in educational institutions in order to encourage Liberal Thought. It is also important to allow students and researchers to ask questions, otherwise no one could challenge the Tradition, and the Real Education would disappear.

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