Sunday, September 11, 2011

The facets of Education


Education today has undergone a tremendous change in its meaning.  “Education should be exercise; it has become massage” said Martin H Fischer. From being a divine and a noble act of passing the acquired knowledge from the knower to the seeker, to a commercial behemoth where in it is bartered for money, education today is viewed from a different stand point. Today’s educational system is far more complex to be simplified to transmission of knowledge from the knower to the seeker. The complexity can be attributed basically to these 2 reasons:
1. The knower doesn’t know in entirety of what knowledge he possesses.
2. The seeker doesn’t know what exactly to seek from the half-baked knower
It seems to have been entangled into an inseparable knot. Over the years this knot has become more difficult to untie and thereby churning out innumerable theories to untie the knot. What the so called educationists have done is to propose theories of reform and thereby aggrandizing the face value of education.
Let me make my stand clear at this juncture. My intention is not to present the eye sores of education or the educational sector but I intend to showcase what we have done and what needs to be done and how. Let us define Education first before we dig deep. Like many other terms, education can also take varied definitions in the heterogeneous mindset of the people. My premise will be- ‘Education is imparting the skills of life to the seeker based on his/her mental preparedness’. It always helps when you start with history to analyze something. Education over the years has had a varied history. It was inculcated into civilized mankind’s lifestyle as a process to transfer knowledge. The earliest gurukulas bear testimony to this. A student would come to the teacher, and beg to be enlightened. The teacher would then judge the competency of the student on various fronts and then impart his knowledge to him. Ideally, knowledge just doesn’t mean a lump of information. It also includes the guidance to utilize the lump of information in a pragmatic manner. Our ancestors knew of it very precisely. This laid the foundation for a glorious past of India’s educational history. The discovery of the number 0, planetary system and the invention of various medical techniques like anesthesia came from a strong valued educational system of our country. The earliest universities of Nalanda and Takshashila stand evidence to the strong, matured educational system in the country.
Education: The Oriental and Occidental view
Unlike us, the west woke up late and started wondering what happened around? The civilizations of Greece, Rome, Peru are known to have an educational system in place but arguably India’s past was more vibrant than theirs. Like the hare and the tortoise story, we ran and took a nap down the history lane which unfortunately turned into deep sleep. And the west, which by now had realized its mistake, was racing ahead. That is why Swami Vivekananda called upon the countrymen, “Arise, Awake, and Stop not till the goal is reached”. History along with many other things gifted complacency to Indians. This made us ignorant and helpless when a dozen foreign attacks took place on our soil, when the wealth of our nation was looted and when we were deprived of all basic necessities of a civilized world. On the other hand the western nations were in a race to be the super power of the world. This made them go into unknown, previously unheard and “unconventional” dimensions in search of newer things. In the process, they stumbled upon many things that we today classify under technology. The invention of newer technology was the biggest boon to the civilized world. Of course they had struggled for it.  Adopting unconventional ways to search was the key. For example, in India we always thought the metal copper was for utensils. While we researched about the medicinal attributes of copper, there was a scientist sitting in America who was experimenting with transferring energy through it. Our complacent mindset had killed the innovation in us!
The Times Now
Let’s come to the recent times. With the abundance of information in various fields, the words ‘knowledge’ and ‘knowledgeable’ have reduced to clich├ęs. Today, we equate information with knowledge. My phone possesses more information than my brain, is today a fact. Does that mean my phone is more knowledgeable than me? With the invention of technology we have stuffed information in non-living things and haven’t bothered to equip ourselves in the process. Swami Vivekananda says, “We need man making education”. That is what it all boils down to. A man educated in the best schools of the world goes on to become a dreaded terrorist amidst hapless direction. As an anti-dote we have equal amount of false, forged, plagiarized information available to man that can lead him into a totally wrong path. A good educational institute should be the fore runner in warding off these doubts from the students minds. For this to happen, we need a very skilled, committed work force of teachers. Gone are the days of gurukulas and rishis. The knowledge, we today acquire isn’t divine nor we do a characteristic tapas for it. It is a stereo typed process for bread winning. Like I said, in a free and fair world there are many different ways to look at it. But given the scenario and the odds for us in a country like India, we have to soon decide on which side of the fence we have to be in to sustain?
 “Teach a person to fish, you have fed him for a life-time”, says a Japanese quote. We believe in a competitive world, it’s just not teaching a person to fish but it’s about teaching a person to fish in the right areas.
PS: The post was originally written for Pinnacle academy. You can visit www.pinnacleacademy.in for details. Its a training organisation, I am closely associated with.