In a general sense, of course, we are all responsible for everything that happens in the world. Nevertheless, we do need some distinction between moral and legal responsibilities. Till the latter half of the 19th century, the state had little to do with primary education.

The community paid the teacher and provided a venue where he could teach. That vernacular arrangement ended when the state took charge of public education. This transfer of responsibility occurred under colonial conditions in India, but that is an incidental detail in the present context. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the state has been fully in charge of the selection of adults who are entitled to enter a classroom and stand in front of young children to teach them. Using a contemporary term, we can say that society has formally outsourced children’s education to the state. Therefore, if something goes seriously wrong inside a school, the state’s apparatus and procedures have to be held legally responsible. My attempt was to establish that while individual teachers are culpable for causing the death of a small boy by beating him, the authorities involved in entitling them to serve as teachers should be brought within the orbit of culpability. Mr. Dutt’s comment seems to miss this point perhaps because he starts by caricaturing my argument in a simplistic two-point summary.

(Prof. Krishna Kumar is professor of education at Delhi University and a former director of NCERT.)

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