Education is the most powerful weapon. We can use to it change the world. Your degree is just a piece of paper; your education is seen in your behavior, attitude and character. No matter how educated, talented, connected or rich you believe you are, how you treat people ultimately tells all.
Now more than ever, educators shouldn’t teach just content, they must also teach morals, ethics and cultivate empathy and mindfulness in every student. Character education fosters the development of moral and ethical citizens by teaching them good values. Educators have special roles to play in creating kind, compassionate citizens with a strong moral compass.
There are many things that can get a man to the top, but there is just only one thing that keeps him there - character. Many companies hire employees for their character and then train them on the job. They do this with the idea that you can teach skill, but cannot change a person’s character.
You can never get through your degrees and certificates what you should get through character. I have come to realize in life that until we give the right character its place in our life, we will always end up bankrupt regardless of how buoyant we are in every other area of life.
Amid high marks in board exams and the thriving business of coaching centers, does anybody bother about right learning and meaningful education? Or is that as a combined — parents and teachers — we have taken it for granted that there is nothing in education except the ritualization of examinations, the neurotic obsession with the quantification of learning experience, and the myth that success is defined by the instrumental reasoning of techno-economic power? Look around, see the pictures of the ‘toppers’ as brand ambassadors of all sorts of coaching centers, and the attractive ads of the ever-expanding coaching shops offering courses in engineering and medical, and alluring the potential students through the narratives of placement and salary packages.
And look at the book shops, and see how cheap guide books with all sorts of success mantras and short-cuts have succeeded in replacing the sort of literature that opens the windows of consciousness, enriches one’s understanding of the world, or activates human sensitivity and critical faculty of mind. Imagine the destiny of a student who has been told by his highly ambitious parents that nothing matters more in life than the urge to be a topper, the strategic power to crack the NEET entrance test, and the internalization of the competitive spirit to run faster, defeat others and go ahead. Imagine the state of awareness of a young student who has been directed by coaching centre ‘pundits’ that there is nothing in physics, chemistry, math and biology except what is needed to succeed in the entrance exams . Or imagine what it means to grow up when one hardly ever gets an opportunity to hear the inner voice, understand one’s unique aptitudes, and is almost compelled to follow the beaten track to success. This is like killing human possibilities; this is alienation; and this is to promote non-reflexive crowd behavior.
In an overpopulated country like ours, we live amid dreadful structural constraints. While the shortage of resources and opportunities, and resultant fear of unemployment disturbs us, the sharp socio-economic inequality makes many of us think that skill learning is the only capital one can acquire for upward social mobility. It is, therefore, not astonishing that English-medium schools with memorial names are everywhere, contractors/politicians invest heavily in the mushrooming of engineering/medical /BEd colleges, and parraypora — the up-town in Srinagar known for all ‘branded’ coaching centers — begins to symbolize the dream of the rural as well as the urban aspiring class.
And middle class parents see it as a status symbol if their children with engineering/medical degrees manage to migrate to the foreign lands. In a way, this is the sociology of the dominant ‘common sense’ that characterizes the rampant educational practice in India. However, amid this market-driven utility, there is something deep and permanent we are missing. And if we do not take care of it, we will finally cause severe intellectual, spiritual and politico-ethical damage to our society. This requires a realization that meaningful education is not just confined skill learning or technical efficiency; nor can the worth of right education be measured through the utilitarian scale of success. It is likewise important to realize that our children are not simply ‘resources’ to be trained by coaching centers and colleges of engineering/medical , and utilized by the corporate empire. Our children are endowed with possibilities; they are not born only to memorize the facts of history and civics, solve chemistry numerical and differential equations, and ‘prove’ before a highly tyrannical/judgmental society that they are ‘intelligent’ and ‘meritorious’. Let us begin to accept it.
Our children, far from being exam warriors, are potentially rovers, seekers, explorers; they are born with the eyes to see, the brain to cognize and conceptualize, the heart to feel and experience, and the hands and legs to do things. And meaningful education is basically the process of inner flowering; it is a quest for the integral development of the faculties of reason and love, and creative labor and intellectual reasoning. Education is the festivity of awareness. Education is sensitivity to life and the world. Education is not rote learning; nor is it confined to the sanctioned curriculum. It is immeasurable. It is the curiosity of science, the wonder of philosophy, the creativity of poetry, the skill of an artisan, or the reasoning of a arithmetician. And merit or intelligence is not a measurable product; instead, it is a quality of being; it is the ability to live meaningfully, distinguish creative fulfillment from the external markers of ‘success’, and transform the ordinary — say, repairing a bike, nursing one’s old grandma, or watching a dull sunset — into the extraordinary.
Dr Showkat Rashid Wani is Coordinator Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.