Increased Youth Engagement and Educational Productivity – by Ainesh Dey


Education is a passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those, who prepare for it today”, as proclaimed by eminent civil rights activist, Malcolm X, bears a deeper intellectual connotation. It brings out the very holistic foundation of education as an instrument of social awareness and development,  with a subtle mention of its contemporary beneficiaries, “the Youth”. Yes, it is the young people who through their rational interpretation of core educational principles, harness the progressive socio-political development of the world. 

The recent phenomenon of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent shift to the digital mode of learning, have accentuated the need for increased efforts towards larger educational accessibility, quality and affordability, central to the role of global development in complete coherence with the recently initiated in the “Education for All” under the broader purview of the “Millennium  Development Goals”, laid out by the United Nations, thereby demanding more nuanced responsibility of the young blood in spearheading a meaningful atmosphere of social inclusion , cohesion and stability.

The  Pretext of the Education System and the Origin of Youth led Initiatives 

A fundamental source of tension in the contemporary paradigm of the   education system stems from the fact that, historically, education systems have served two primary purposes. Firstly, they have sought to impart knowledge and skills in the larger pursuit of shared concepts of identity and citizenship, generally referred to as the “Human Development “, role of education. However, with the rapid passage of time and the advent of globalisation, the parameter of quantitative assessment of educational ability, has become much more pronounced, especially given the Indian context. This could be encapsulated in the “Sorting”, function by renowned Indian economist Kartik Muralidharan, as provided the pedestal for profound youth activism, premised upon the claim that, “whilst society tries to identify and “sort” it’s most talented pool of students and matches them into leadership roles, the very credible foundation of learning takes a back seat, owing to the discriminatory chord it strikes, with regards to the general scenario.

Several youth run think tanks and multi advocacy mechanisms, such as the Centre of Youth Advocacy and Networking(CYAN), California and the MultiplY-Ed are avidly working towards bringing about transparency and prospective accountability in education through extensive training programmes for enhancing the skills of both teachers and students, in the larger context of the 21st Century paradigm.

The larger  employment of evidence  and research for better policy choices , coupled with cost effectiveness and constructive youth governance, have been reflected in the modus operandi of Indian organizations like the Youth Educational Federation of India and most notably the Youth Alliance of India(YIA)  and the Youth India Foundation(YIF)  which provide a holistic  exposure to a socio-political education to broaden the intellectual landscape of the youth of India, thereby playing a significant role in the overall leverage of the demographic dividend of the country, with active encouragement of Indian NGOs like the  “ Child Rights and You ( CRY) and the “ Samman Foundation”.

Expanding the landscape of solutions: Exploration of multifarious viable alternatives

While ample time and energy have been invested by the youth in the prospective development of such initiatives on a wider scale, the picture is not as rosy as it seems. Numerous critics and seasoned youth activists, from India and across the world  have put across profound academic concerns and highlighted the imperative need for a more extensive. Premising their claims on multiple sources, most notably the 2017 UNICEF report, that emphasized the need for consideration of factors like the glaring and persistent gender gap in education, lack of educational participation and laxity in alignment of curricula through national development policies, they have  demanded a wider engagement of the youth, by broadening the philanthropic purview of their roles, thereby bringing about educational symphony, that caters to all.

Invoking the critical understanding of education in both formal and non formal sectors, as laid out by the World Education Forum in 2007, through equitable access to expanded learning and life skill programmes  at both secondary and higher secondary levels  could be considered an alternative by the youth, through creation of human resources to accentuate infrastructural faculties and larger adult and student  employment in the age bracket of 18-24, to foster a general sense of scholastic empowerment.

In the Indian context, the term “education”, has been confronted with a narrow orientation, as manifest in a recent article I wrote for the Times of India, entitled “The Educational System and it’s Pitfalls”,  delving into how the existing framework of education constricts the periphery of lateral thought, thereby stifling natural human instincts. This, coupled with widespread flow of negative outcomes of technology mostly social media has to be curtailed by none other than its highest consumers, popularly referred to as “Gen Z”, especially in the wake of instances of misinformation and “fake news”. Through extensive youth awareness  campaigns together with the responsible role of the media, such impediments , could be done away with.

Conclusion: The Way Forward 

It can never be denied that, the reason behind contemporary education gaining dynamic roots across different  parts of the world, mostly Asian countries, is largely due to the tireless endeavours of the young assets, who strive relentlessly to carve out a world order, guided by a fundamental distinction between “mere literacy levels”, and “wider connotation of education”, in the larger pursuit of excellence.

However, there has to be wider consensus among the people in general who should support and encourage these initiatives, rather than emphasizing the narrative of age and experience, to fulfill not only Goal 4 of the UN SDGs, but further the core values preached by education.

  1. What the Economy Needs Now :-  Reforming the Indian School System (15th February,2019) :- Page 131 
  1. :-  Youth and Education (Page 2) :- 
  1. The Educational System and it’s Pitfalls:- ( 10th Oct, 2022), by Ainesh Dey
  1. Youth activism and education across contexts: towards a framework of critical engagements:- Dec 17, 2020 by Andrew Peterson, Mark Evans, Marta  Fülöpc and  Dina Kiwan
Ainesh Dey

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