Dhananjay Kumar, Co-founder Manas Mitra
This article is a summary of the talk delivered by Dhananjay Kumar, Co-founder Manas Mitra during 'International Seminar on Sustainable Higher Education: India & Global Perspective' at SSR College of Education Kachhwa, Karnal, Haryana on 17 December 2022.
Education, especially formal education, is probably the most crucial formative process of an individual's life. It moulds the worldview and values of the person, besides providing vocational knowledge and life skills. To understand its significance it is important to have a clear understanding of the contemporary concepts and ideas about education.
Britannica defines ‘Education’ as -the discipline that is concerned with methods of teaching and learning in schools or school-like environments, as opposed to various non-formal and informal means of socialisation.
Wikipedia describes it as -a purposeful activity directed at achieving certain aims, such as transmitting knowledge or fostering skills and character traits.
However, a more holistic view would be to consider education as an ‘enabler’ that should help humans achieve their life's objectives and enable individuals to solve life's problems. It should be the ‘means’ to achieve a better life (the ‘ends’).
Different individuals have different needs and different problems. A meaningful and holistic education must be of good quality and cater to these differences and be useful for all. This brings to the fore questions like -which kind of education would achieve this objective? And, what should be the methods, approach, and essential features of such an education?
Quality Education must ensure that the delivery and reception of knowledge should be such that the knowledge is retained. The individual should be able to remember the essence of what one has learned and not forget it immediately after exams. Further, it should bring about the transformation of individuals. Above all, after attaining quality education, the weight of knowledge should make the individual a humble person. And, such an education should be relevant and readily available for all. Therefore, besides having a good ‘quality’, good education must also be ‘equitable’ and ‘inclusive’.
Equitable Quality Education needs to be available to:
Economically weaker sections: The system should enable quality education to those whose parents cannot afford the complete cost.
Mentally weaker sections: An attempt to produce more and more has contaminated both water and soil leading to the production of such food grains that are laden with harmful chemicals. This has led to unprecedented levels of mental health disorders among toddlers and growing children. Most of these children need a different methodology to receive knowledge. While humans most easily receive knowledge through visual learning methods this is more true in the case of those affected with mental health disorders. Our system needs to be geared heavily. The training of teachers essentially should include how to teach these kids.
Slow learners: Even among neurotypical kids, a few can naturally exhibit their talents in the field of their interest such as in either maths, science, or arts, etc. while others need some effort to discover their talents. A bit of hard work is needed to be invested by both teachers and parents to help individuals discover their talents. Once they cross an initial barrier and discover their field of interest they continue on their own.
High IQ, Low EQ: This is a huge segment wherein persons, despite having all the intelligence needed to perform their technical /core functions, lack people’s skills are not able to deal with people. Their interactions and relationships with others are often dysfunctional. They often appear as rebels and sometimes as quiet introverts. They are often disliked by teachers/ bosses and, as a result, their career paths get stunted.
Aged Persons: Many times the circumstances of life do not give a fair chance to everyone to receive an education at the right age. At other times one might not have studied in the area of his core strengths and interests. Our system needs to enable everyone to discover the best in themselves irrespective of age.
Typically Maths, Science, History, Geography, Engineering, Medical, Commerce, Finance, etc are taught at various stages of life. But, the key question is -What should Equitable quality education typically include? Education needs to be ‘inclusive’ of all teachings that enable persons to achieve the objectives of Life such as:
Job: While it's said that the education system of the modern world is designed to make people employees and not thinkers, leaders, and entrepreneurs. The funny part is that employers still struggle to train their employees and do not find that education has made them fit for the job. This implies that the education system has failed even for the purpose it was specifically designed for.
Money: While the intent of the education system may be to create employees, individuals receive education ultimately to make money. Again employees are often found struggling with salary and career growth and most of the people find themselves struggling at the bare minimum.
Money Management: One thing we struggle most at and need the most is managing expenditure and investment of money.
Communication: One of the most important skills needed in any area of life, even for getting a job, is communication skills. Rather than developing right from the start, a few institutes just try to patch it up at the last stage.
Logical Thinking: While many competitive exams judge the reasoning and logical ability of the person, a certain practice is needed to handle such questions. Rather than candidates going to coaching institutes just before the competitive exam. Why not develop this skill from the beginning?
Not only the objectives of life, but our education should also enable us to solve problems of life. The following aspects especially need to be taken care of:
Work-Life Balance: The biggest problem people face is work-life balance. They often find themselves in disbalance. More than often people do not realise until it is too late.
Health Management: One of the most troubling issues of life is sickness. Taking care of health needs to be part of the curriculum. Rather than learning from WhatsApp why not learn it as part of education?
Mental & Emotional Wellbeing: The mental well-being of persons is severely affected nowadays. Stress and anxiety are at unprecedented levels. Taking care of our mental health needs to be taught continuously and at every stage. One of the prime reasons is unhealthy entertainment.
Spiritual Well Being -the Solution: Medical research indicates that impaired mental health is severely affecting Physical health. Bhagavad Gita's wisdom indicates that poor spiritual health severely affects mental health. Every individual needs to learn the art of maintaining spiritual health.
Whatever has been discussed above has been derived from the knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita. Now, if we wish to know what is knowledge as per the speaker of the Bhagavad Gita, TEXTS 13.8-12 describes the following to be knowledge:
Approaching a bonafide spiritual master
Steadiness and Self-control
Renunciation of the objects of sense gratification
Absence of false ego
The perception of the evil of birth, death, old age, and disease
Non-attachment and evenmindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events
Constant and unalloyed devotion to Me (Krishna, The Supreme Lord)
Preference for solitude
Detachment from the general mass of people
Accepting the importance of self-realization
Philosophical search for the Absolute Truth
The Supreme Lord Krishna further states -“All these I thus declare to be knowledge, and what is contrary to these is ignorance.”
In conclusion, it may be inferred that holistic education is much more than imparting vocational knowledge and skills. It must equip the students with problem-solving capabilities and also prepare them for the struggles of life. But, all of this can be achieved if and only if the teacher is first equipped and trained with this approach.
Therefore, prospective teachers must acquire such skills that enable them to enlighten their students. It would be advisable for them to include the following ideas in their training regimes:
Always be a student: Learning is a continuous process, and the teacher must stay abreast with current trends and new developments in their domain.
Knowledge without action is useless: Merely knowing some facts or possessing information doesn’t solve problems unless the knowledge is transformed into actionable wisdom which is then acted upon.
Students learn from actions not words: Merely lecturing doesn’t help to learn. A teacher must demonstrate by way of example.
Work hard with students: It must be clear to the teacher that the process of education is not beneficial for the students, it is more beneficial for the teacher’s personal growth. So, they must work hard not for the students but for their own sake. In the world full of mental stress and anxiety it is hard work that can silence the mind.
Read the Bhagavad Gita: A teacher needs to have clarity in spiritual matters. A teacher needs to be able to guide the students in not just material problems but also those that are philosophical and spiritual. A self-realised person can be a better teacher with a more holistic approach.
A teacher's real job is to guide the student from the darkness of ignorance into the light of knowledge and wisdom. If a teacher can do this then and only then the true purpose of education can be achieved. And, only such education can be truly Inclusive, Equitable, and Quality education.