Did India’s HRD minister err by implying she had educational qualifications she did not? The answer has to be yes. Does this mean that the minister is not qualified to hold the portfolio? To my mind, the answer is no. While her moral stature may have diminished, the lack of a formal institutionalised education does not make her any less qualified to hold the post. With a caveat, though: Education and Human Resources Development are distinct requirements and need different approaches.
Education is about scholarship whereas HRD is about providing opportunities for citizens to use their potential for their progress.
Education is about character-building whereas HRD is oriented towards nation-building by using the available human resources appropriately.
The goal of education is cultivation of knowledge – jnana. The goal of HRD is creation of livelihoods – artha.
The Education portfolio requires a person with a strong rooting in academics: someone who can understand the nitty gritty of formulation of programmes and courses of study, creation of syllabus, delineating curriculum and also someone who can envision the development of existing and new institutions of education to give a fillip to the mental and moral capabilities of our citizens.
The HRD portfolio requires a person who can think creatively: someone who is open to novel ideas, who can chart new paths, open up livelihood opportunities for our citizens in various sectors of the economy, a trailblazer of sorts who can be the bridge between academies of art, science, and commerce, and business & industry of all hues.
In material terms, while it would be the role of an Education Minister to ensure the ‘products’ of the institutions of education are wholesome, it would be the responsibility of the HRD minister to create demand for and ensure there is ample ‘market’ for the ‘products’. The relationship between the two ministries should be symbiotic and mutually beneficial – not a parasitic one such as exists at present, with HRD having subsumed Education.
Till around the early 1970s or so we had a ministry of education. There is an urgent need to revive this ministry. Education is too important and complex for it to be expended in the manner it has.