Role of education in 21st century
Long, long ago, Newton had said that he was ‘like a child, who is picking pebbles at sea-shore while the great ocean of knowledge lies before me’. Since then, knowledge has grown enormously at a much faster speed than human ability to cope with it.
Technological advancements of twentieth century, especially during post 1970’s due to revolution in the field of information technology, have changed the whole scenario. Entering into world of knowledge is like going into a dense forest. Only way out is to develop clarity of thought/mind, as to what one wants to know and make sincere efforts to pursue relevant knowledge in that specific area.
Also it is equally important to upgrade knowledge continuously. As Alvin Toffler, renowned writer has said, “The illiterate of twenty-first century will not be those who can not read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
Purpose of education
Unfortunately, meaning and purpose of literacy and education is misunderstood. Literacy does not merely mean the knowledge of three ‘R’s, nor does it mean only academic or theoretical studies/knowledge leading to award of degrees. Increasing knowledge-base through available information is also not the purpose of learning. Bookish-knowledge and award of degrees through formal education without effective training-systems neither serve any purpose nor lead the people to get employed gainfully.
As Khalil Gibran has said – knowledge, the object of knowledge and application of the knowledge – all the three are equally important for motivating to take a wise action. A little knowledge that acts is worth more than much knowledge that is inactive. One, whose knowledge is confined to books, can not use his wealth of knowledge, whenever required.
The scope of education – The scope of education is much broader. It is a continuous process. It means complete up-bringing of the individual starting from the childhood till end. In its wider sense, literacy and education embraces within itself reading, observation, thought and its application in real life situations. Within its jurisdiction, also comes formation of habits, manners, character, attitude and aptitude along with imparting knowledge. Learning at each and every stage of life increases knowledge-base, understanding and attitudes of a person.
A well-planned and sound system of education inspires human beings to control their senses, mind and intellect, so that they could be adjusted better in real life’s environment. It guides people to achieve their goals within time and cost parameters and to channelize their efforts towards desired direction. In short, a sound education system imparts knowledge, shapes attitudes, cultivates skills and builds work habits of the people.
Distinction between action, forbidden action, and in-action – Knowledge has been considered essential for the purpose of giving activities, their due meaning and value. According to Hindu philosophy even a wise man may get puzzled without knowledge about do’s and don’ts. It is only after the acquisition of knowledge, that a person understands the real nature of work and could distinguish correctly between action, forbidden action and in-action.
India and its Education system
High regard for knowledge- India has always given importance to and showed a high regards for knowledge, wisdom, virtues, characters and will power. According to Indian philosophy, ‘Wealth of knowledge is supreme among all forms of wealth’. (Vidya dhanam sarvadhana pradhanam). Therefore, knowledge is the greatest thing to be sought after. A human being is human because he has the organic capacity to think and seek knowledge.
More importance to knowledge than wealth – Unlike India, in Western countries, more importance is being given to creation of wealth. Wealth is the ultimate aim of the people, yardstick of success and a status symbol. Traditional India was not so materialistic. Its systems had separated pursuit and achievement in knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts, wealth or power-politics. According to Indian philosophy, when a person runs blindly after money and forgets about the real purpose of knowledge, both wealth and knowledge vanishes from their lives. The only judicious way to generate wealth and gain power goes via the path of true knowledge.
Knowledge as the base of ranking – Earlier the greatness of a person, institution or a nation was judged on the basis of the degree of righteousness and justice. Greatness of a nation was judged with which its administration governed lives of the common men or their character. It was not on the basis of the size of a state, its military power or its treasury/bank-balance. Similarly, in the society, a person or a caste was ranked on the basis of knowledge, discipline and moral standards, and not on the basis of material success, muscle or money power or of having controlling power over the destiny of common man.
Respect for knowledgeable persons – In ancient India, apart from Brahmins, others were also paid respect by the society for their learning, character, spirituality and ability to guide general masses. The system was quite liberal in this matter. It gracefully accepted the right and opportunity to get to the top from the humblest origin and earn the respect of the whole society. For example, Vashishtha, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame was the son of a fish-woman (belonging to Mahr community – Dalit according to present standards and to which Dr Ambedkar, the messiah of Dalits belonged). Balmiki, an untouchable according to present standards, the original author of Ramayana, is highly respected all over India. None of them were not ashamed of their origin. They still hold a very high position in general public minds.
Close connection between Knowledge and hard work -For acquiring knowledge, training mind in a scientific manner and concentrating energies of mind, one has to struggle, work hard, make sincere efforts and face many challenges in life. Now-a-days, courage to struggle or work hard is missing except in a few students, who still keep the fire of seeking knowledge burning all the time. Without hard-work, search for knowledge remains incomplete and superficial.
In ancient India sages (Rishi-Munies) had worked day and night to acquire true knowledge. The love for knowledge inspired many students to walk from different parts of the country to centers of learning at that time like Taxila or Nalanda. A powerful Emperor, like Ashoka the great, thought it his duty, to bow before the monks “as a mark of my deep respect for their learning, wisdom and sacrifice. What matters in life, are not a person’s status or position, but his virtues and wisdom. Only when you have raised yourself up from ignorance, can you recognize the greatness of a few in a sea of humanity.”
For creating modern civilization, sincere knowledge seekers in Western world also did not care for inconveniences or challenges. They had sacrificed their time (for about two centuries), energies and comforts in search of knowledge. Then only they could develop great modern scientific knowledge, technique and wealth.
Education in modern India
Sixty four years after independence and self-rule, literacy-rate has gone up to 74% from 65%. For males it has risen to 82% from 75%, for females to 65% from 54%. In absolute number, the figure is alarming. No nation can afford to have a large number of its population to remain illiterate, ignorant and unskilled.
That all is not well in education system in India – has been noted by distinguished academicians, policy-makers, political leaders, other eminent persons, commissions and committees. Now and then, they have pointed out its failures in one area or another. It has always been felt that Modern education has become increasingly unrelated to national needs and aspirations, insufficient, wasteful and dysfunctional.
In addition to what constraints that have already been existing in the education system, many more external and internal problems, paradoxes and constraints have cropped up. Some defects in modern education based on colonised British Grammer School type education, were pointed out by Gandhiji like –
- It is based upon foreign culture to the almost entire exclusion of the indigenous culture.
- It ignores the culture of heart and hand and confines itself simply to head
- Real education is impossible through foreign medium.
External Constraints – Externally, socio-economic and political pressures have violated its identity and autonomy. Some changes have taken place in the recent past in the character, role and inter-relationship of these main constituent of the national elites – the political executive, the legislators, the businessmen, the media persons, the organized workers, the surplus farmers and the bureaucrats. It brought into the forefront some undesirable social changes and political turmoil. It has affected adversely the whole atmosphere in the field of education as well.
Population explosion has put a heavy pressure on present education system and its available infrastructure. Narrow loyalties, sectional interests and sub-cultures like – favoritism, nepotism and corruption have fast become an accepted way of life. Result is that communal, regional and caste conflicts and unhealthy competition between different powerful lobbies are increasing every day to have their exclusive hold on scarce resources available in the field of education or for power and pelf.
Few persons and groups, who have the power in their hands, control almost every walk of national life and are working to deny justice to common men. The reflection of all these social evils is found in the educational system as well.
Internal Constraints – Internally the system has been fractured along the lines of discipline deteriorating standard of education in general and student sub-culture. Slowly but steadily, the education system lost its capacity to equip the younger generation with relevant knowledge and skills for enabling them to get gainfully employed and to perform their jobs with a sense of responsibility. It has failed to produce much-needed dynamism in youth as well. Now people have started questioning the legitimacy of a modern education system itself.
Disintegrate society – Instead of being an instrument of social integration, education system divides people into two groups – ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. There is government or government aided schools that give education to poor masses. It is economical, but do not maintain good standard. On the other hand there are private schools, which caters mainly the needs of ‘Haves’, because it is very costly.
Deteriorating standards - After independence, India is facing a rapid deterioration in standards of education. In the past, though education was thinly spread, it had maintained some standard. Now in an attempt to do quantitative expansion of education, quality of education suffered a lot. The examination and evaluation system tests only a narrow range of skills, especially those of memory. Standard of general education has deteriorated considerably and suffers from grave errors. In addition to it, there is lot of interference and control of the government at every stage of the educational process.
Unfit for original work – Education system in advanced countries makes student a lively, inquisitive and original thinking person. There, it has been able to develop certain special qualities like regards for laws of the nation, awareness, contempt for hypocrisy, sympathy for underdog and courage to resist cruelty or misuse of power and authority. An educated youth in India generally fails to display genuine social conscience.
Store-house of information – Importance of information in knowledge, which provides the basis of all the thinking, cannot be denied. However, present education system at all stages of education, from preliminary through secondary right up-to the college stage makes mind a store-house of information/knowledge and discourages original thinking. It lays emphasis on giving students ready-made knowledge, systematically and neatly organized in the form of lessons, units and text book.
English medium - English medium puts extra strain upon the nerves of students and makes them crammers, imitators and unfit for original work and thought. Masses remains deprived. System is producing mostly the youth, who are unable to express clearly in any language, including their own and lack woefully the competence and confidence to assume responsibilities.
Higher secondary, the weakest link in Indian education system – Higher secondaryeducation is considered to be insufficient and a weakest link in Indian education system. It needs sincere efforts to improve the Academic standards, curricula and methods of teaching at higher secondary level. In western countries the standard of higher secondary education is sufficiently high to ensure recruits of higher intellectual attainment to join various jobs at this stage.
Degree-oriented: The whole system of education and employment is degree oriented. Degree is the master-key to a nice and respectable career giving status, authority and final reprieve from manual work. Such a narrow mind-set has put tremendous pressure on higher education system. A large number of new substandard and superfluous institutions are being created every day to meet the demand. Government also encourages mass entry into universities and colleges. Rush in institutions are of such students as well, who want degree as a passport and are not interested in studies. Such students seize every opportunity to spoil the academic atmosphere and breed indiscipline.
Indiscipline- There is a growing unrest in the student community. Youth of the day want to be absolutely free from all compulsions. For them, discipline and observance of rules are supposed to be unnecessary and irrational. They have no respect for rules/discipline/morality or for elders, teachers or authority. Their interests lie in all that is sensuous, in material gains and in enjoying pleasures in life. Indiscipline in student’s world leads to chaos and violence. It makes people slaves of their weaknesses.
Employability - One of the major aims of education is to make youth employable. At present it is difficult to find out and recruit well qualified persons for various jobs in government, public or private sectors. At pre-employment stage, education needs to be comprehensive in scope and sound in nature for making youth acceptable in job-market. It needs to be supplemented by rigorous foundation training telling the fundamentals of their specific jobs and inculcating in them relevant knowledge and skills, otherwise effectiveness, efficiency and quality of work gets a setback. At present, all the basics about their jobs are told to employees after their join work-force, which requires a much more massive effort in order to make employees do their jobs well.
Unrealistic Manpower Assessment – Assessment of manpower requirement for economic growth is not done rationally according to national needs. After Independence, the need for technical people was felt and in recent past for management experts. The Government created large number of professional institutions in these areas without assessing the needs of the nation. It resulted in educated unemployment. A large number of scientists, doctors, engineer’s technicians and management graduates have to go abroad in search of suitable jobs.
Therefore, for streamlining the performance of people at work after employment, most essential and fundamental requirement is that the character and scope of pre-employment educational system should be redesigned in such a way, that it could continuously provide men and women of vitality, vigor, initiative and imagination with intellectual accomplishments, qualifications and soundness of character needed in different disciplines and at different levels at job market.
Where the fault lies? – For all these lacunas, students blame teachers, teachers blame students. Both together try to blame educationists. They, in turn, attack social system. The present system of education can not be changed or improved overnight. It needs concentrated efforts of all – students, teachers and the society. Then only a larger base of skilled and trained manpower could be created.
Rational thinking needs to be done about the real problems and the role of education in modern life after understanding its basics, fundamentals and aims correctly.
The requirement of a university degree as a Passport for starting nice and respectable career (white collard jobs) has made a mockery of higher education. Such an attitude has by-passed the need to “educate all”, resulted in negligence of primary and higher secondary education and in over-crowding the institutions of learning. The stress on quantitative increase has subverted all the attempts to improve the quality of teaching and learning. It has led to continuous fall in the academic standards and students’ discipline, regional imbalances in the growth of educational institutions and politics in the temples of learning.
In the present times of neck to neck competition, one should continuously upgrade knowledge. It is the best way to create a larger base of skilled and trained manpower. Education should instill in students problem-solving attitude and develop the courage to meet the challenges of real life bravely. Instead of offering excuses or blaming others for one’s failures and dissatisfaction, it should inculcate in students the spirit to face the difficult situations in life and make efforts to change their destiny themselves. Education must teach people always try to have control over ones life’s situations and to stand up on his own feet rather than depending on others for moving forward. Success in life depends on developing capacity and courage to take right decisions at right time.
Only sound system of education and training can provide a lasting solution for various problems, people are facing today. It can lead the youth towards rational, positive and creative thinking. It would make youth capable to make right decision at right time, plan rationally about their career that would suit to their attitude and aptitude and to shoulder their responsibilities properly. It would enable them to act judiciously and promptly, give them courage to avoid out-dated traditions and dogmatic ways of doing things, courage to face realities and challenges.
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