Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was an eminent Indian scholar. He became the first Minister of Education, of independent India. Commonly referred as ‘Maulana Azad’, Maulana means ‘learned man and he adopted Azad as his ‘pen name’. A visionary of education in India, his birthday is celebrated as ‘National Education Day’ (11th November).
He joined as Education Minister in January 1947. During his eleven years of as Education Minister, he formulated the educational policy thus shaping the Indian economy. He began by setting a detailed enquiry into the existing educational structure by setting up of committees like University Education Commission(1948), Kher Committee for Elementary Education(1948) and Secondary Education Commission(1952-53). Following which, he established educational institutions which led to further acceleration of the education system in India. Post partition also he contributed significantly towards education. He felt education was the ‘problem of problems for Asia’ and the only way to attain international peace is by educating the people across the globe. His main emphasis was on ‘Social Education’ and consequently health education and economic improvement through visual and performing arts. In his view right education was more important than development of agriculture, trade, industry etc. During his regime, Azad tried to reconstruct the educational system in accordance to the needs and challenges of national life.
Azad democratized education in order to break the hierarchy of Indian society. Firstly, he attempted to remove illiteracy through universalization of elementary education, emphasizing adult education with equal emphasis on female education and sound primary education throughout the country. Secondly, he tried to equalise education and made sure education was not based on class or caste divides. Moreover, he introduced the three language formula where state language or Hindi would be the medium of instruction and English will be the second important language.
According to Azad, education is the birthright of every citizen. Under Maulana’s regime, national planning in field of education was carried out on a broader scale. A wide range of activities were introduced by the Ministry of education such as the promotion of Gandhian teachings, introduction of general education course, home science programmes, institutes of rural higher education, promotion of Hindi and other regional languages, scholarship for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, education and training of the handicapped, training of teachers, special programmes for education of females, audio-visual education, physical education, etc. Azad was the man behind the establishment of Kharagpur Institute of technology and University Grants commission. Maulana altered the content and curriculum of education in such a way that it was distinctively different from that under British Raj. Azad well understood the importance of teachers, therefore he placed a lot of importance on training teachers.
As an Education Minister, Azad’s contribution was tremendous. During his eleven years of service, he tried to attend almost all issues in education. It was only under Azad’s regime that education was given its due place in the Five Year Plans. His constant efforts towards education set the education sector on the path of development.