Maulana Abul Kalam Azad: A man who laid the foundations of modern education in India

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Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

After the partition of the subcontinent, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad became the first education minister of India. He was the mastermind behind making education accessible to common Indian people during his ministry from 1947 to 1958.

The personal and political life of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad whose original name was Ghulam Muhiyuddin was born in Mecca on 11 November, 1888. His father Muhammad Khairuddin was a Bengali Muslim scholar while his mother Alia Muhammad Khaieuddin was an Arabian. His family moved back to India while he was young and he received his early education at home from his father.

His mother died when he was just 11-year-old. At a very young age, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad married Zuleikha Begum. He got his higher education from Jamia Azhar in Cairo Egypt.

Early life

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a man of many skills. He was a renowned politician, an acclaimed journalist, and a committed freedom fighter and prose writer.

Azad started the publication of Al-Hilal weekly in 1912 and Al-Balagh in 1914 which were banned by the British government. These weeklies highlighted the problems of Indians and criticized the policies of the British government. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad remained a very active politician. He played an active role in all major movements like the quit India movement, Non-Cooperation Movement and Khilafat Movement.

He was the youngest politician to be elected as President of the Indian National Congress in 1923. Again, he remained the president of the congress from 1940 to 1945

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s contribution to Education in India

Much has been written about Azad’s political struggle and vision. But the world knows little about his matchless contribution towards reforming the education system of India. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was committed to building the nation through education. As the first education Minister of India, he focused on educating the rural poor and girls.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad established very significant commissions and institutions after joining the government as an education minister in 1947. In 1948 Azad established University Education Commission. In 1952 he founded the Secondary Education Commission. He inaugurated University Grants Commission and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in 1953.

Azad gave great importance to science and he established (IIS)The Indian Institute of Science and (IIT) Indian institute of technology for the first time. Indian Council for Cultural Relations was also established to strengthen cultural relations between India and other countries. The National Institute of Basic Education was founded to provide advanced training and conduct research.

A National Council for Rural Higher Education was also initiated in 1956. A Central Bureau of Textbook Research and Central Bureau of Educational and Vocational Guidance were established. Library services were provided to the remotest parts of India.

Azad played a vital role in the educational, cultural, and scientific development of modern India. After the partition of the subcontinent, and at a very critical stage of the country he led education and culture sectors like a true visionary. Therefore, he laid the foundation for a future network of scientific and technological institutions in India.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s contribution is honored to this day

Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad died on 22nd February 1958, and was buried within the boundary of Jama Masjid in Urdu Bazar, Delhi. His tomb is a major national monument in India that receives large numbers of visitors every day.

He was awarded the highest civilian honor of India, the Bharat Ratna in 1992. India celebrates the birthday of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad as National Education Day every year on November 11.

Maulana Azad Education Foundation in 1989 on the occasion of his birth centenary to encourage backward segments of the Society towards education. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad National Fellowship, has been established which awards financial assistance to students from minority communities to pursue higher studies such as M. Phil and Ph.D.

A large number of institutions have been named in his honor across India. It’s a long list just to mention a few are Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi, Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology in Bhopal, Maulana Azad National Urdu University in Hyderabad, etc.


(Written by Ijaz Ali, a freelance journalist. He holds a Master Degree in European Studies from Germany and can be reached at [email protected])

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