When we ask, “What is education?” it is not a mere credential to add to our curriculum vitae. Its value goes much beyond this purpose. While talking to someone regarding education and pursuit of academics, the person very beautifully said that the job which a teacher does is not like any other profession. Teachers mould and give shape and form to a human being through the instrument of education. Here, the role of a teacher and education becomes very crucial.
Education, I believe, is the central pillar of the society. It encompasses not only the ability to read and write and to acquire a few degrees in life but also the moral tangent, the spiritual bit which a person learns and internalises through everyday life. In this sense, education cannot be and should not be separated in terms of formal and informal learning. Otherwise, the real purpose of education will remain unfulfilled. The ability to realise one’s potential and to look at the world from one’s own perspective is what education endows to an individual and society.
But modern education system seems to be operating in an empty context. When noted educationist Krishna Kumar argues that an elite school functions devoid of its social milieu, he basically points out the homogenous setting where students belonging to only one section are being admitted (Kumar,1992). As a result, these students hardly become aware and sensitive to the realities of the world. While he brings forth this indifference with regard to elite and common schools, what I have realised is that such indifference has been a result of the present education scenario in the country. The textbooks that we read, the pedagogical method that the teachers are being trained to adopt and the hyper-competitive environment that the system endorses have been instrumental in giving fine instructions and training young minds to become most eligible for the market.
But what about their critical and creative mind? Does that even count when we set our educational agendas and goals? Well, there are vivid differences with regard to different schools like urban and rural schools, private and government schools. But one thing which is common in every kind of school is the syllabus that they follow with respect to the affiliated board. This ‘syllabus’ is a dangerous word because it burdens the mind of both the teacher and the student. In the quest of completing the syllabus, we have forgotten to use the word ‘why’ because either there is not ample time to explain or perhaps no answer to it.
Education becomes wholesome and productive when it ignites the mind and makes it inquisitive, generates curiosity and creates an environment where students can freely and without any inhibition engage in putting up questions, discuss on matters and express their views. But unfortunately, the formal education that generally students pursue hardly provides such an environment. In fact, increasingly, the necessity of developing this kind of space within formal institutions have dwindled. All thanks to the mindless rat race that has put a veil on our cognitive as well as emotional potent.
We test the success of any educational institution by the number of students securing skyrocketing percentages but what about others who do not fall into this category? The purpose of education has been reduced to a manufacturing machine producing the ‘finest’ products and discarding the perceived coarse goods. Recently the class 10 and 12 boards results were declared and along with that, from all the sources, including both print and electronic media, much praise and appreciation flowed for the ‘successful’ students.
Here, I would like to point that though as a society it is our duty to appreciate the hard work put in by the younger generation. However, at the same time failing to gauge upon the fact that the pass percentage has been low compared to the previous years is a matter to ponder on.
We as a society have certainly progressed both materially and mentally. In both cases, the advancement in education has played a pivotal role. By advancement, I mean both its reach and content. This is commendable for a society like ours which has undergone a myriad of trials and tribulations of each passing time. Yet, the quintessential need to question the educational values suggests that there is an increasing hollowness in the marked progress which we claim to have achieved after 70 years of independence.
This hollowness has come because, in this Mcdonaldised world where everything is sought and delivered instantaneously, even our system of education could not get away from its sway (Ritzer,1993). As I have already mentioned, formal education has become synonymous to result in delivery. In this process, the time has been structured in such a way that starting from school there is hardly any moment to reflect upon one’s course of action.
Just think about 7-8 continuous classes of 35 to 40 minutes each with a voluminous amount of class and homework and the additional pressure to appear and score well in a number of exams. Nowadays, even activities such as co-curricular or extra curricular which are supposed to give a break from the daily routine and rejuvenate the child’s creative mind carry grades and hence are strictly evaluated. The same pattern is followed in colleges and universities. Only a few of the elements change. Here, the quest to grab a ‘decent’ job begins and thus a journey is set forth to be the most suitable for the market.
This is where we completely lose ourselves as human beings with emotions, different interests and capabilities. It is very ironical that in this supposed post modern, liberal era our minds are not independent. As human beings, we will always have certain entrenched values and world views which we acquire in the process of socialization. They need not be right from a broader perspective. However, a really educated person will have the courage to question their own values and attempt to change them if they understand that they are detrimental and unconducive for the larger whole.
The ability to perceive the reality and engage with ones’ own understanding of it with the consciousness that at every moment there are influences and manipulations is what education does. It enlightens our senses and frees us from what Immanuel Kant argues as ‘self-incurred minority’(Kant,1784). Kant argues that a minority is an inability to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another. This minority is self-incurred when its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in a lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another (Kant,1784). Unless and until we do not understand and envisage education in these lines, it will be really hard to say that we are educated.