“Man could not survive if knowledge remains knowledge, but if we transform knowledge into wisdom, he would ascend to great heights of achievement. “-GB Shaw
With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHRs) adoption at the international level in 1948, the right to education was declared a basic human right. This has promoted the idea of universalisation of education- making it accessible to all. It is unlike the ancient times where learning was restricted to the kings, priests and elites. The consequence of classroom penetration has been that the literacy rates across the globe have sky-rocketed. Now, we are at the zenith of knowledge and are seeking to learn more.
Yet, today, the contradiction is that our common and shared destiny seems to be in grim light. Something never anticipated before! We are sitting on a ticking time-bomb called ‘climate change’. Every international survey states that anthropogenic factors have resulted in GHGs (Green House Gases) emission rising off the roofs. The Red List of IUCN (International Union on Conservation of Nature) indicating threatened biodiversity is expanding. The holiest rivers like Ganges in India and Tigris- Euphrates in the Middle East are dead. The health of the people in urban areas like New Delhi, London, New York is deteriorating due to air pollution.
Classrooms, which are revered as the ‘weapon of mass construction’, have actually created ‘weapons of mass destruction’. The hostile nature of relations between nuclear-nations like India- Pakistan, USA- Iran and North Korea, results in compromising human security. Nations face threat to their sovereignty due to security challenges like cross- border terrorism, cyber attacks etc.. Communal/ tribal riots and civil wars are pushing people out of their motherlands signifying the continued dominance of identity over humanity in our minds.
Now, the question arises why do we still face such complications despite mass education? It is because the education systems in nations train people to work in the lower rungs of governance. Thus, the youth does not develop the capacity to question the existing political, economic and social structures. In the earlier- colonised nations, the education systems have been transplanted from their colonisers, without modification to meet their own needs and people’s aspirations. The demographic potential and capability is under-utilised, which could have otherwise led to the nation’s glorious destiny.
Also, education has fallen in the traps of crony capitalists. It has become a lucrative business as the demand for education is rising. Since, their motive is profit thus, money is holding dreams of the less fortunate hostage. It can be drawn parallel with an incident in the Hindu epic of Mahabharata. Guru Dronacharya asked his tribal student Eklavya for his right thumb as his ‘guru dakshina’ (fees of a guru). This was done to ensure that the Prince Arjun remained the best archer. Earlier, caste was the barrier and today, class is the barrier to equitable opportunity in quality education.
An individual can contribute his best towards his family, society and the nation only when he has identified himself, by recognising his interests and talents. Thus, classrooms must serve as a platform that helps a person transform into an inspiring personality. This was exactly what Swami Vivekananda meant when he stated that- “Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man.” Thus, when our perfection is attained, our destiny would be bright.
And who can help an individual reach the level of perfection? Teachers. They are not just curriculum transactors. Rather, they act as role- models to the students and are the nation- builders. The destiny of the nation lies in their hands. The community should honour teachers for nurturing the nation’s future. Also, our understanding of education needs a paradigm-shift. It should move beyond question papers, answer-sheets and degrees to the most important aspect i.e. the holistic personality development of the child.
Just like what Plato stated in his treatise on education – “Not what you do, rather what type of person you become.” When we successfully redefine education and classroom learning, the blind pursuit for money and materialism will be over. Our educated generation would be able to differentiate between the things that have utility, add values to our lives and those that clutter our minds. Our values and principles in life will dictate our social standings rather than the brands we own .
The yardsticks of achievements will be- long-lasting friendships, satisfied relations, happy family and self-acceptance. People will be spiritually healthy as well as free of anxiety and depression. Inevitably, the economics of the nation will change for good. Overall health will improve. Productivity will shoot up, which will be reflected in the GDP. Divorce rates will go down and old -age homes will vanish. Thus, a happier and ethical society will be born, simply shaped our classrooms.
Nelson Mandela said that education is the most powerful weapon to change the world. . To progress towards our destiny of development and glory, a value-based society needs to exist which, can only be shaped in our classrooms. Inclusive learning based on “Those who learn together, learn to live together” belief can break the inter and intra- hierarchical dominations present in our societies. It will also teach us to treat animals with care and humanity will move towards divinity. Intellectual openness as a virtue would be appreciated in our multicultural world, resonating with ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam’.
Education acts as an equaliser. It tackles the feeling of resentment caused because of economic inequality as it provides opportunities. It is a tool of social revolution. It paves the way towards a dignified life for the millions of people globally living below poverty line. It bridges gaps between schools & work through skills- enhancing vocational training. Digital literacy has become an important aspect of modern life which can be provided in classrooms. Thus, destiny of the people will turn around and so will the nation’s.
The current moral crisis and value erosion in our world has brought us in this bleak situation. The planet is warming everyday and we are always at the brink of war. Education is the ray of hope for mankind. Destiny of not only nations but the entire humanity is shaped in our classrooms. We have a choice, and a crucial one at that. What we teach our kids will be reflected in our shared future. So, classroom teaching should blend scientific reasoning with philosophy. Science & technology will modernise us but philosophy will steer us in the right direction.
Wisdom/ ‘vivek’ will develop in our children and they will stay away from what Gandhi called as the ‘seven sins’. Quality education is imperative for generations of positive impact. And equitable opportunity, as opposed to social exclusion and gender discrimination, is equally necessary so that we successfully tread the path towards inclusive growth and sustainable development. Together let’s seal our prosperous and glorious destiny through our classrooms.