In the process of studying the discourse related to education, I find myself asking questions about the current practices existing in our educational system and the policies that are underway to produce catastrophic results for a country like India which constitutes 17 per cent of the population of the world. We also occupy a significant geographical area by the virtue of being seventh largest country in the world which is why I feel more scared to say that things are eventually going to be more catastrophic for the world at large and not only for India.
The fear that haunts me today is that the emerging trends in the educational system and the fast pacing changes in the environment external, yet highly related, to the educational system is deviating us from ‘understanding’ the goals that the education is supposed to realize, let alone achieve them. Though a teacher is expected to be optimistic in his/her approach because it helps him/her perform his/her work effectively or find alternative ways of doing his/her work, even when the support system which strengthens the process of education is missing, but when I look at the events happening around us, I am surrounded by the clouds of hopelessness and despair. But anyway, I am going to be a teacher, therefore I have to have a positive outlook as I cannot afford to breed such insecurities even before embarking on the journey of becoming a teacher in the days to come.
I cite an example to explain reasons of my fear and despair. Last night, my friend took me to theatre to watch a movie. It was very late at night when we stepped out of the theatre. Since we were feeling hungry, we decided to go to a sector in Noida which houses many call-centers of different multi-national corporations. Since these call-centers are open 24*7, one can find food stalls open all through the night even when all the other parts of Noida are doomed into the silence of midnight air. Just when I was enjoying the paranthas with my friend, I couldn’t resist listening to the conversations which a group of young people was having. I was sure that they worked in the office nearby as they were addressing a senior as Sir and were, at times, discussing things related to office. The conversation was not about formal & official things but about the people working in that office and the informal incidents happening in the office. They were speaking fluently in English, using abusive and slang words after every second or two. The matters being discussed were personal and not related to issues of national importance. One of them got a phone call and was told that his friend who had taken his car on a drive had accidentally bumped it somewhere and one of the headlights got damaged. He banged his phone on the table and started telling his friends about what she had done and said “I am sure, she will be raped someday”. He abused her loudly for around 50 times in nearly 10 minutes. All the other friends also joined in and added exponentially to his rants. What bothered me was that it was the car which had supreme importance not that girl, not even her dignity and safety and not even the values which are supreme. For those so called English speaking ‘educated people’, it was a commodity that had the supreme importance.
I started thinking about those 15 years of education, considering that he must be a graduate and must have studied according to 10+2+3 pattern. Were those 15 years so futile that they could not help this person develop a feeling of love and respect for each other? Or were those years so fruitless that a commodity was important than the girl be raped? Couldn’t those 15 years of education help this young man put forth his anger in a respectful and dignified manner? What is, then, the purpose of education if it is to fall flat on its face at such moments?
I was reminded of the words said by Dr. Madhu Prasad of Zakir Hussain College who mentioned D.S. Kothari’s views on education while chairing a session on ‘Liberal assault on Education Policy’ in Jamia Millia Islamia, where she said that the whole approach to education was to ‘educate’ the people of India, not how do we feed the global markets with people who can speak English. She said that we have, sort of, skipped from colonial to neo-liberal regime without doing much in between. This neo-liberal regime is saying to us, “Today you have to play the role of the back-end operator of American and European capitalism, again, by fulfilling the needs of their markets”. She mentioned that yesterday we were the “coolies” of our colonial masters, now we have turned into “cyber coolies”. I could find a great relevance of those words in the incident that I had just witnessed.
This incident drove me back to the fundamental questions of education: What is the purpose of education? Why do we have such a huge system of education? What are schools and colleges meant for? And where are we heading to with this kind of education? Isn’t it the time that we revisit the fundamentals and try bringing about the changes in our system of education? Also, if such a system already exists, then why are we witnessing such incidents in the day-to-day life?
Due to my lack of knowledge added with the constraint of time to undertake research right now, I find myself unable to provide well-proved answers to these questions. But there is one thing I am sure of concerning this issue. So, I decided to go back and look at certain points mentioned in the two most cited documents on education, that is, Kothari Commission and National Curriculum Framework 2005.
Kothari Commission takes two distinct components into account, namely, science and spirituality. The commission has been much criticized for focusing so heavily on science and for considering ‘science and technology’ as the only path to become modern but the component of spirituality still stands unquestioned. The values enveloped in spirituality are rather unquestionable too. Even Education Commission which relied so heavily on science could not do away with spiritual values and at various occasions, it had to subtly inoculate the components of values in order to let the seed of science and technology germinate.
In the Position Paper on Aims of Education (NCF,2005), we find a more explicit mention of values. We can see that the focus is more on the genuine human happiness and not much on modernization in these lines, “We need, therefore, to create the possibility of profound questioning of our social structures and show in various ways the deep connection between human discontent and a life devoid of virtues”. One special mention that requires attention is the following excerpt from the position paper,”……if value education must be a part of the education system, values and virtues must be integral to the whole process of education. Value education cannot be imparted as a separate bit of education, the whole of education has to be value education”.
In view of the points mentioned above, one thing is quite evident that one of the important purposes of education is to impart ‘values’- either with science and technology or without it- to bring about harmony, human welfare and true happiness. The component of values is pervasive in nearly all the policies. Values, I believe, are the most powerful thing in the world. We find people leaving their jobs, family or friends if they find things that go against their values. When these values inhale morality, they can let the person sacrifice his/her own life for the sake of them. Once values occupy a proper place in one’s mind and heart, they become immovable despite whatever may be happening external to that person, but these values need a proper time to be understood, re-understood, to be differentiated from one another, to be accepted or rejected and to be felt at home with.
In this context, it was the task of our education system to infuse values in the students through its schools and teachers so that the students acquire and strengthen them and become firm in their belief and not succumb to the pressure in the external environment. This would help them to live and lead a life based on happiness and virtues. It was the task of the schools and the teachers to provide a space to the students to question the structure, policies, rules, norms and traditions so that no politics in terms of religion, belief or ideology could blindfold them and make them run after unnecessary things. Schools are a form of miniature society but they had to be different from society in the sense that the very same social patterns that existed in the community/society could be brought to school and put under the scanner. Schools were supposed to influence the society much more than the society could influence the schools.
To our astonishment, just the opposite is happening today. It is the society which is affecting the schools to a far greater extent. There are n number of variables that affect the education system and each variable has many other variables that may directly or indirectly affect the education system. For example, if we try to look at political willingness towards education, we will find many writings by different people condemning various aspects which show government’s apathy towards education which may be in the form of bringing loans in place of grants, 70:30 funding formula, paving way for foreign universities, public-private partnership, outsourcing the task of curriculum development to foreign private companies etc.
There are two main ideas that I have found common in all the problems: One, that all the variables directly or indirectly affect the value system much before the value system could take a concrete shape in the life of an individual. The life of a student is surrounded by so many insecurities that he/she is not even able to form a strong value system properly. For example, if the child receives education in a private school and college, he/she has a pressure to give back return on investment to his/her parents. Eventually, what matters for him/her is money and, at times, he/she has to undermine values to achieve that return on investment. The same may happen in case of loans in place of grants. The fuel to this fire is the emergence of capitalist markets which affect the value system even before children start going to school. Media starts implicitly teaching different types of values much before the school starts providing the space for students to understand and question such values.
This leads this discussion to the second and concluding point, which is, that the education system is working very slowly in relation to its fast changing external environment, Capitalism has turned the world upside down but our education system is still walking at a leisurely pace. We don’t walk fast and then we say that we need to take the help of private players as they know how to walk faster than us. We need to bring about a change in our attitudes that our system is competent enough to succeed if we start taking the fast pacing and dynamic external environment into consideration and prepare a ‘lesson plan’ for it, so that our values become so strong that no boy wishes that the girl be raped if that girl accidentally bumps his car somewhere. After all, we have the responsibility of educating 17% population of the world which is definitely a colossal figure and certainly makes a great impact not only on us, but on the world at large.