Education would be necessary for the fullness of life and cultivation of personality even if people did not have the over-all problem of earning a livelihood.
But many students neither know nor care whether, and how far, the education they are receiving is enriching their mind or deepening their personality.
This article is an attempt to break through the crust of their indifference and, possibly, cynicism and make them active participants in the process of their education. It is addressed to the readers.
I would like to take you into confidence and place all my cards on the table. My effort is to make you realize that you are living in a new kind of world where the old landmarks and means of physical and intellectual locomotion have almost vanished, where old comfortable grooves have become irrelevant, where slackness, laziness, slipshod work and inefficiency will not pay, where properties of the world stage have been, and are being, so radically reshuffled that we need not merely a new compass but a new heart and a new mind to take our bearings and find our way.
If we are to be equipped to play our part worthily in this new set-up we will have to reorient our educational policy and pattern in the light of new National Education Policy 2020. We will have to clarify the relationship of learning to life and the relationship of all the studies and disciplines to one another.
We will have to break down the walls which divide the curricular subjects from one another and illumine whatever we learn from light drawn from different quarters. We will have to remember constantly that, while each subject has its specific boundaries and its own special methods of approach, they are all focused on the different phases of the same panorama of human life.
The “multidisciplinary education courses are designed to give all students a fuller view of life than they can possibly get by devoting themselves exclusively to their own special subjects and it is hoped that, through these courses, students may learn something of the significant contributions that modern Biology, Freud’s theory of the Unconscious, the Scientific method or the creative inspiration that expresses itself in Art and Philosophy, Literature and Music, have made to man’s growing heritage of large areas of which they may well have remained ignorant.
But, while they gain this valuable knowledge about fields not directly their own but vitally related to their life as citizens of today’s world, there is a danger that they may dimly see too many trees and miss the wood altogether! In that case, multidisciplinary education would fail to achieve its real objective which is to provide illumination and not stack the memory with half assimilated facts and theories and ideas.
Hence, there would appear to be some need for a fresh document which attempts, however modestly, to give the students a bird’s eye view of their total domain, intellectual and practical, and enable them to find their bearings in it.
This document has been gifted to us by the Honorable Prime Minister of India Sh Narendra Modi in the form of new National Education Policy 2020. Through the study of reading materials on natural and social sciences, humanities and art, you will certainly acquire a great deal of useful information and understanding in these fields and fill up the lacuna in your knowledge.
But it is important for you to realize that there is a focusing point for all this knowledge, which draws the threads together and gives it a unity and a purpose.
That point is life—individual and social and an educated man is a person who learns to see life steadily and see it whole, who can appreciate the light that falls on it from different angles and quarters-from science, philosophy, psychology, religion, technology , art, etc.-and can thus understand it in its depth and fullness.
It is not, however, merely an understanding of the pattern of the modern world that is required but a cultivation of the qualities and capacities that are needed for leading an efficient and decent life in it.
If a new world has come and is continuously coming into being, we should be prepared to confront it with a new mind which can intelligently unravel its complexities and a new heart which can respond to its emergent forces.
As someone has rightly said, you cannot function in an atomic age with cow-dung as the source of energy. The cow dung may be a good thing in its place but, if you burn it, you cannot generate enough energy to run an atomic reactor! While most persons would be quite willing to concede the soundness of this example, they cannot as readily realize that a mind, which is insensitive to the new urges of the age and is content with out-moded or reactionary ideas and attitudes, is not only a silly but a dangerous anachronisms.
Similarly, a heart - by which I mean man’s emotional reactions and his appreciation of values which is parochial in its sympathies in any sense caste or creed or race or geography - is out of place in a world in which science and technology have abolished distances and made the whole world kin, binding it together irretrievably, for weal or woe.
The supreme object of education is to equip you with this new intellectual and emotional apparatus for finding your way, and directing your behavior in this bewildering world. It cannot obviously be done by reading this or any other particular book, which can at best only help you to realize that there are significant issues at stake and possibly quicken your sensitiveness to these issues.
It is the function of multidisciplinary education’ as a whole to present all its readings and courses in such a way that you may be able to appreciate their relationship with, and significance for, life and its basic purpose, practical, intellectual and moral.
Nay, it is the function of the whole of education the University curricula and courses, its social life and activities, its methods and techniques of work, the personal influence of its staff-to contribute to the training of the students’ mind and personality in this challenging context.
Once this is sincerely understood, the teachers and students alike will refuse to act on the assumption that the purpose of the several years that they spend together in a college is either to give them a ‘good time’ or to enable them to pass the final examination so as to find some post or another.
And, thereafter, they are free to go about the world with uneducated minds, with uncouth personalities and without civilized manners and values, perpetuating narrow and outworn patterns of thought and behavior! Above all, it is for the students themselves to take an active share in their own education.
It has long been known to observant keepers of horses that one can take them to water but cannot make them drink! It has, however, taken the presumably more intelligent psychologists and teachers much longer to realize that the same rule applies to the humans.
If interest is not kindled and curiosity is not awakened, if students are not actively concerned about their own intellectual and moral welfare, the elaborate educational paraphernalia provided in our institutions is not likely to be of much use.
It is for the teachers and the students alike to strive and create the right atmosphere of study and learning. But particularly for the students with whom I am specially concerned here.
You should learn to read widely and intelligently, to cultivate an interest in books and in things of the mind in general, to let your minds roam not only over your special subjects but other fields of study and human experience.
Let them, through contact with great minds and great literature, contemporary as well as classic, develop in their own minds a love for truth, goodness, beauty and justice so that, reversing Gresham’s Law, the good money will drive out counterfeit coins and, to some extent at any rate, whatever is shoddy and cheap and inconsistent with human dignity will arouse only aversion in them.
Dr Showkat Rashid Wani, Senior 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.