Education and Society
Humans are born with an ‘education’ spoon in their mouth. Unlike other living creatures on earth, we are blessed with a special faculty for educating ourselves, by all creative ways and means. Nature is like a mother who remains unbiased in giving all of her children an equal potential for learning and growth in life. Except for some reasons beyond man’s understanding, it is due to the frailties of human nature or character that all children don’t get equal opportunities to fully realize their inborn potential for success. Hence, there has been a gap between the rich and the poor, growing wider, day by day, across the world.
It seems unlikely that the increase in billionaires will be quite in proportion with the decrease in the number of the poor of this planet in the foreseeable future.
We cannot make a true success of anything in life unless we understand how to succeed in line with Nature’s sustainable ways of development; that means we must not only make success possible for one and all but also make sure that peace follows in the wake of prosperity. This could be possible if we use our gift of natural capacity to develop through our career in an egalitarian manner. Peace will never follow prosperity unless we wake up to the fact that we cannot develop in the real sense, by running counter Nature and the natural ways.
Unfortunately, Man is walking a fine line between development and death—uncontrolled development of materialism and premature death of our planet earth. Isn’t it all clearly the result of our headless exploitation of natural resources in the name of development?
We embark upon the journey of our personal growth and development in life with the first step towards gaining education. Our education, that comprises both the formal and the informal, lends itself well to our overall success in life. The formal education of ours has at its heart a conscious and planned process of learning in academic establishments like schools, colleges, and universities; whereas our informal education mainly involves a conscious or subconscious absorbing of knowledge from our dawn-till-dusk experiences of everyday life. It is through education that we get opportunities to tap into the collective wisdom and knowledge of the world. Education not only enables us to understand what has been known since the dawn of human civilization but also inspires us to know what is yet to be known in the whole universe.
Our education finds fulfillment after we have created new knowledge of any kind, pushing back the boundaries of human knowledge, that is to say. But we cannot fulfill ourselves through education if our education doesn’t help us develop in all manner of ways. Education should inspire in us a true spirit for an enquiry into who we are, what is the purpose of our life and what is our individual stake in society. Above all, it must help us advance our understanding of all the institutions of society that we need to interact within the course of living. If our education helps us progress on all fronts of life, only then will it complete us as human beings. This onward march of life of an individual is relative to that of the society that s/he lives in.
An individual cannot go far, growing apart from his society. No one can succeed without the help of others in society. On our way to success, on the one side, we are bound to have the need for society in more ways than one. When we are a success, on the other side, our society also needs us, in an equal measure, for the smooth run of it. Therefore, as the principle of giving and take becomes a necessary condition for the holistic growth of both an individual and his society, we cannot fulfill ourselves through education by ‘going’ and ‘growing’ away from our society.
This symbiotic relationship between an individual and his society gives rise to the values of service and sacrifice in any kind of society on earth. These values are that lay the very foundation of a fair and just society of the world.
The question arises as to what can sustain these values in the frame of a social system.
No doubt, the onus lies on every single institution of the society. But, the institutions of education have more responsibility for ensuring that the social and moral values of life are promoted and preserved on their floors of learning, to the best of their capacity. After all, the seeds of character are sown better in the early impressionable phases of students’ life. A society grows richer in peace and prosperity for its members to be more aware of their own social responsibility. “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to be a man of values,” says Albert Einstein, a great man of science. Only the men of values can bring about harmony between the forms and functions of a society.
All this necessitates the system of education in a society making some provision for students to learn the values in their early stages of life. In the absence of a mechanism for ‘values inculcation’ in the system of education, the students will definitely lack the social and environmental values of life. This will result in their growing up to be ‘unsocial’ or ‘antisocial’ or Eco-unfriendly citizens of the nation. And then it should come as no surprise to see that the society they make will be sharply defined against the economic indiscrimination and prejudices of all kinds. Evidently, such a society will deeply be divided against itself, bringing humanity to its knees.
And then, the most important purpose of education—to unite society by providing equal opportunities for learning and growth for all—will be defeated for sure.
One can see something of the same kind happening in the present Indian society of ours. Our society is highly marked with the growing polarity between the haves and the have-nots. The structure of society seems to be collapsing under the weight of moral degeneration. The root cause of this decadence of our modern society can be traced back to the foundation of the system of education that was laid on the colonial line of social exploitation. The present system of education in India is nothing but the shadow of its former self. It is not in sync with our social lay of the land. There is hardly any specific provision for teaching social values and skills to students in all loci of learning in India. The students are taught the meaning of success in terms of money and money only. The majority of the teachers—except for the few who are really a saving grace of the system—are far and away from the Sewa-Bhav in the spirit of the profession. One wonders if they have got any sense of vocation for teaching at all. Most of the educational institutes are like the factories where young raw minds are ruthlessly turned into money-minting-machines that seem to know next to nothing about society and humanity; even their capability in creativity, innovation, research and the like are way below the average quality in the world.
It is rather strange to see that so-called the educated of today in India want to grow and go away from their own society which is providing them with the very sustenance of life. That makes a fit case of ‘biting the hand that feeds you’—JIS THALI MEIN KHANA USI MEIN CHHED. What could be a more glaring example of this than the fact that we want to get a government job but we don’t want to put our children through government schools? The teachers teaching in government educational institutions must seriously think about it, why so? How indifferent we the educated class of this country has grown to our moral duty of social building! Some of us have already gone corrupted beyond belief. Who cares what will become of our cultural matrix, of land, of society, of the nation and of the overall environment of living?
I think this state of affairs has not yet gone beyond redemption. The problems can be worked out through the concerted efforts by the educationists, teachers and the parents. Therefore, it must become an issue of the first importance for the educationists to provide for teaching the social skills in schools and colleges. The path of the overall development of a nation goes through the gateway of education, which must be a universal right for all, not a privilege for a few. It should be the first concern of education experts or policy-makers to find out ways to make education work for the welfare of society and free it from the dead hands of commercialization.
Education’s main function of a social building must not give way to commercialization at all. Students, in their formative years, must get to know why they should put their social duties before everything else they do for a living in life.
(Here is humbly put forth one such social and educational experiment for the consideration of one and all, especially for those who are connected with the Indian education in one way or other.
शिक्षा क्रांति, a social welfare organization, launched a pilot project स्वच्छताग्रह (एक रुपया दान, शिक्षा उत्थान) in educational institutes of Solan at the micro-level. Under this project, the students of the institute were asked to save one rupee out of their pocket money and donate it as pledge money of planting a tree and looking after it throughout life. The students went overboard, jumping at their chance of doing something for their society and Mother Nature— thanks to the teachers of the institute who promised to contribute rupee 1/- to the cause every day, thereby inspiring in students the spirit to work for society.
The money of donation thus collected from the students was spent on buying the books and magazines of environmental relevance for the institute. Now the students were not only found more interested than earlier in reading the books and magazines bought with their own money of donation, but also could be seen keener on discussing the issues pertaining to society and Nature at large. With the students’ increasing participation in the group reading and writing, ‘the culture of creative communication’ took the roots in the institute.
The students have begun to develop in them the social skills of learning and the critical skill of thinking. The educational experiment has been a roaring success.
Could there be a better practical way of inculcating the social and the 'natural 'values of life in students than this?
Shouldn’t the experiment for the common good of all be conducted in every single educational institute of India? Of course, it must be carried out under the due guidelines of the concerned administrations and teachers of the institute.)