Laying of the Foundation Speech

Speech by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Delivered at the Laying of the
Foundation of the Department of Education
(Central Institute of Education) by
Sri Jawahar Lal Nehru
(April 18, 1949)

Immediately after I assumed charge of the Ministry of Education in January, 1947, I looked into the development projects which had been accepted in principle, but not carried out in practice. Of these, one of the most outstanding was the scheme for a Central College of Training for Teachers. The Central Advisory Board of Education had, in 1944, recommended the establishment of two training colleges  - one for men and the other for women, each providing for an intake of 200 students  for the service of the Centrally Administered Areas and the smaller provinces of states. On grounds of economy, the Government of India modified that recommendation and decided to establish one college for both men and women, with a capacity of 300. Provision was, accordingly,made in the budget of 1946-47 for the establishment of the College.

When I took  office, I was, therefore, surprised to find that the whole programme had been held up on the ground of shortage of building materials.  I was aware of the difficulties in   securing steel and cement and other equipment and I could understand  the  delay in the implementation of the building programme. I could not, however, understand why this led to a postponement of the entire scheme. Even if buildings were lacking, the Institute could have been started in temporary structures or hired  houses but here, as in so many  other cases, programmes of educational development were held up on the ground of lack of accommodation. This undue  stress upon buildings has always seemed to me to be an instance of confusing ends with means. Buildings are only a means  of which the end is  education, and yet it seemed to me that many of our educational planners were so engrossed with building projects, and that they could not conceive of carrying on educational work in their absence. I , therefore, decided, forthwith that the institution must be started immediately, with whatever accommodation was readily available.

The period was an exceedingly difficult one and all the attention of the Government was  concentrated first on the  disturbances in the Punjab and, later, on the impending division of our country.  Even then, a  small  house was secured in the Delhi University  area in July, 1947. I realised  that  this was not adequate for our needs and the work of  the  institute, even on the smallest  scale,  could be carried out only by the additional accommodation provided in tents. In spite of our anxiety to get the institute working, a further period of delay was enforced by the division of the country and the extension of disturbances to Delhi itself, and for several months,  all normal activities had to be totally suspended. As soon,as the situation was brought under control, on the 19th of December, 1947, the Central Institute of Education was formally opened by Lady Mountbatten and it started to work in one hired building and several tents.

It is hardly necessary for me to relate, at length, the importance of an institute of this kind. With literacy figures so low as only 15 percent, the paramount importance of expanding the facilities of education is obvious. The acceptance of democracy as the pattern of our State has, if anything, added to the urgency of the problem. It is also self-evident that the first step towards expanding the facilities of education is to provide for an increase in the number of trained teachers. Equally necessary is an institution to assess the results of educational methods followed till now and devise improvements, demanded in the changing circumstances of today.

It will be noticed that the institution, which was started in December 1947, was the Central Institute of Education and not the training colleges which had originally been planned in 1944 and 1945. This meant not merely a change in nomenclature, but a considerable expansion in the purpose and functions of the institution. I felt that changes were necessary in two directions. First, it should not be merely a college for training teachers but, also, an institution for research in the fields of education. Secondly, its services should not be restricted to the Centrally Administered Areas, but should extend to the whole of India.

The Central Institute will, therefore, both train teachers for higher and secondary schools and also carry on research on the problems of basic and secondary education. The stage at which a child should be introduced to a craft as distinct from activity, the relative emphasis on craft and academic subjects and their correlation, the production of a new type of school literature to bring out the social function of all human activity, the degree of abstraction possible in the earlier stages of education, the stage at which there may be some bifurcation between academic subjects and crafts, the grouping of children according to aptitude, taste and ability, the place of art in the school curriculum - these are only a few of the many problems which arise out of a new conception of basic education and require constant and careful study in a research institution.

There are also problems relating to adult education which demand fresh and careful scrutiny. It is a commonplace that the methods which are suitable for children cannot, without modification, be applied to adults. No doubt, a good deal of work in this connection has been done in other countries of the world, but each country has its own peculiar problems arising out of its social and economic background and its political history. We will have to devise the quickest methods of liquidating adult illiteracy. Equally important is the maintenance of continued service of literature to prevent relapse into illiteracy. Thus, alone, can we provide adult literates with the knowledge to discharge their functions as citizens of a democratic state.

I could go on referring to many other problems which require immediate attention, if we are to make our education truly creative. The system of examinations is itself being studied all over the world. The problem of textbooks, which will provide a truly human outlook on world affairs, is also engaging the attention of many countries. The aim and purpose of secondary education also require a re-examination. It is my hope that the Central Institute of Education will be our laboratory for examining all these important questions under controlled conditions and offering suggestions as to the best methods for their solution.

I have already stated that we did not allow the lack of buildings to delay the starting of the institution and I am glad that, in spite of these difficulties, the institution had made good progress. Nevertheless, I felt that now that the Institute has started to work, we must provide suitable buildings for it as soon as possible. When the plans were made in 1945, the estimated expenditure for buildings was Rs. 18 Iakh, but the sharp rise in the cost of construction is bound to lead to an increase in expenditure. I am, however, glad that, notwithstanding the difficulties, we are today in a position to take in hand the building programme of the Institute and I hope that it will, in the near future, have all the buildings it needs.

A library of over 5,000 books has been built up at a cost of approximately forty thousand rupees. We are hoping that when completed, the Institute Library will be comparable with similar research libraries elsewhere. I am also hoping that we shall, in the course of the next year or so, attach to the Institute a Psychological Section to carry out experiments in aptitude tests, selection methods, vocational guidance and other services.

We are conscious that only a beginning has been made and all that we propose and hope to accomplish is still in the realm of the future. Foundations truly laid are, however, a guarantee of future success, and no one, Mr. Prime Minister, is more aware than yourself of the need of imaginative planning and bold execution in order to achieve our objects. It is for this reason that we requested you to lay the foundation of this Institute, so that this new institution may, from its very inception, be inspired by that broad humanism and width of culture which have distinguished your actions in public and private life. I have, Mr. Prime Minister, great pleasure in requesting you to lay the foundation stone of this Institute.