Democracy gives importance to equality of opportunity. It encourages vertical mobility and recognizes man as an individual thus defining man on the basis of the collective identity.
Education plays very important role in making democracy more meaningful and relevant. Education offers common knowledge to all the citizens of the country making them aware about their rights and duties.
Equal access to education offers equal chance to every individual to compete with other individuals to have access over highly valued occupations, skills and services in society accelerating the process of mobility.
Education also helps citizens to develop common virtues important for integrative role in the social life.
The history of the education reveals that it has always been monopoly of the dominant class in societies. Weber in his study found that how their monopoly over education has led to consolidation of their predomination in the status structure and class structure of the society. The concept of mass education came in prominence in American society subsequently spread to France and Britain.
Margaret Archer in her study of cross-cultural comparison of mass education system finds that American war of independence led to growth of equality in American society. The melting pot culture of America demanded that all immigrant population should abandon their cultural values to go for universal educational training to excel in world of enterprise, trade and commerce therefore education became a matter of community management. Community mobilized funds to run the schools and recruit the teachers. It became mandatory to all members of the community to send their children for basic educational programme therefore communities participation led to a total change in mass education system in America.
In France mass education got momentum only after French Revolution. In pre-revolution period education was greatly elitist and was controlled by Church. Emergent leadership during revolution period demanded mass education provision and the separation between church and schools. As a result only during 1930s through different movements Church separation from the schools became complete in French society.
In case of Britain in post industrial revolution period public opinion was divided in relation to the type of schools that Britain should set up. Elites supported missionary education for the masses.Labour class demanded government sponsorship to open up schools in slums and sub-urban areas. Multiple school system made appearance in Britain. Though the curriculum in schools was greatly adjusted to meet the demands of industry, the classical converts gave importance on value-education, spoken English, articulation drawing aristocrats in these kinds of school programme
Middle classes went for public schools and rationalized individualism, competition and gratification of self-interest. State sponsored schools running in peripheries got membership from lower class that considered themselves beneficiaries and preferred to go for submission and loyality.As a result different schools produced different classes. Political leadership emerged from the first school, technocrats and bureaucrats and entrepreneurs from the second and semiskilled and skilled labours form the third .This explains that how expansion of mass education in Britain failed to break down the traditional class hierarchy.
In case of India at the time of independence the total literacy rate was as low as 12%.The 1951 census indicates that it increased to 15.99%.This figure indicated that mass education was unknown to Indian society and it was monopolized by upper castes and classes who used to get various government positions and perpetuate their domination. Indian educational system was greatly cultural focused and not linked to the Indian economy which was agricultural in nature.
Gandhian system of education known as moral education gave importance on character-building, humanism than offering scope to improve their economic position by utilizing skills. To give education a new thrust, Kothari Commission in its report of 1964 suggested that mass education should be left open to community participation. As a result village communities took initiative in opening the schools and for that infrastructure, teachers' recruitment was determined by community. Subsequently these schools after running for period of five years got grant-in-aid from the state .Therefore through active community participation Kothari Commission intended to give mass education a dynamic thrust.
p> New Education Policy of 1986 spoke about expansion of non formal education to rural and tribal areas. This policy also emphasized the active involvement of the NGOs, PRI to advise the parents to send their children to school. Subsequently in 1988 National Literacy Mission came into prominence and 1991 saw sharp decline in drop-out rate in schools and increase in formal literacy rate was realized.
During 1999 Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan started and state govt together with Central govt and NGOs tried to give boost to mass education. To generate funds for the purpose, Rashtriya Siksha Kosh was established in 2002.
It can be advocated that success of mass education is greatly instrumental for promotion of equality in social life as it generates a kind of consciousness in the masses spelling out their duties, obligations, responsibilities both in relation to work and society. The role of government is very significant for the success of mass education program as it has both the resources and ability to take up the work on huge scale.