In India, we love to celebrate our heroes of the past that have helped craft the country that we can be proud of. Among such heroes, there is a special mention for those who sacrificed their blood, tears, sweat, and flesh for our independence and construction of modern India.
One such luminary is Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first education minister of independent India. His birthday i.e. 11 November is celebrated as the National Education Day as a way to honor his legacy and life’s work towards furthering the cause of national education and access to the same.
The day was first declared in 2008 and over the years has been marked with various educational institutions organizing seminars, talent competitions, processions and awareness campaigns to help the cause of national literacy and all levels of education.
Azad himself was an erudite scholar and laid the foundations of Indian education system. He was one of the premier leaders who realized the potential of press in terms of mobilizing public opinion and feverishly worked for the same through his weekly journal in Urdu called Al-Hilal.
For his peerless commitment for the same, he posthumously bestowed with the highest civilian award of the country in1992, the Bharat Ratna.
He was versed in several languages like Urdu, Persian and Arabic and supported the use of English for imparting higher education (primary education in mother tongue).
He believed in universal access to primary education which is free, robust and welcoming to all irrespective of gender, social status, wealth, faith etc. He wanted to institutionalize compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14, which was realized through the RTE (Right to Education) Act in 2009.
This act enshrined education as a basic and fundamental right in the constitution of the country. Azad was also a huge votary of vocational training and technical education which not only imparts theoretical knowledge but also instill life skills and technical abilities to earn livelihoods and become employable.
He was also a big proponent of modern sciences’ ability to offer solutions of the biggest problems of human society and natural environment. Institutions like the University Grants Commission, IISc, IITs etc. were all realized under his leadership.
Moreover, it was due to his efforts that various incubation centers of arts and literature like Lalit Kala Academy, ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations), Sahitya Academy etc were established.