“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of education.” Martin Luther King Jr.
We probably all are aware of the anecdotal story about how a university professor came to know of a wise man who was revered by all. He thought of paying him a visit. One day he visited the home where the wise man lived. He expressed his wish to the wise man to learn more from him so that he could gain wisdom in life too. The wise man welcomed him and offered him tea. When the tea pot was served the wise man offered to fill the cup of the professor. He kept on pouring even when the cup was full up to the brim. The tea overflowed and the professor was upset. He questioned the wise man’s intentions of pouring the tea. The wise man replied, “If the cup is already full and I pour it will surely overflow.” What he meant was that if one is to learn something, he has to first come empty without any preconceived notions and then only can he truly learn.
It is obvious that our age-old learning method whether in universities, colleges or schools is falling short to keep with the advances in the 21st Century. Though the new education policy introduced by the government is a welcome step, there is a lot to still consider when we impart education as educators at every level of students’ learning. Here are some of the changes that need to be addressed.
Focus on conceptual learning: Education system in India is focussed on rote learning. The exams are conducted in a manner that encourages this trend. If a student can rote all that is there in the syllabus and reproduce it in her written and viva she is considered to be eligible. Rote learning doesn’t guarantee real understanding. So, our education system should rather focus on seeing whether the student has really understood the concept. I have come across many Electrical Engineering graduates who really can’t distinguish between the Alternate and Direct current and its application for domestic use. Probably these students could write the definitions of the current types in their exam papers but really didn’t understand the concept and the difference in its application. That is what rote learning does.
Interdisciplinary Approach – Our education system has been prejudiced and favoured some subjects like Science, Mathematics etc over others like Languages, Philosophy, Social Sciences etc. This should stop. In his book, ‘Emotional Intelligence’ Daniel Goleman tells how there are 12 Intelligences viz. musical, visual- spatial, linguistic, verbal, logical, kinaesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, existential etc in human beings and a student could be better at any one of them. But sadly our education system considers only intelligent quotient that too which is more focussed on the logic and all our education system really considers this as all in all like the sun in the solar system. Everything else revolves around this. So today we brand a student whose logical abilities are good as ‘clever’ and the others as ‘average’ and thus we really do more harm than good unintentionally to our future generation who could impact their world positively if only we had better way of evaluating
their multiple intelligences. Today it’s a welcome change to see some universities adopting multi-disciplinary approach and offer both major and minor subjects to make the curricula more inclusive.
Exam system – One exam or two can either make a permanent impact on a student’s mind that she is either clever or just an average struggler. I believe that the present exam system that is taken either quarterly, semester – wise or yearly should be abolished. There are better ways to evaluate student’s performance like projects, initiative, conceptual understanding quiz, leadership abilities, development of communication skills, participation in co-curricular and extra – curricular activities etc. We are all aware of the fable by George Reavis ‘Animal School’; the rabbit who is good at running fails in swimming, the eagle who is great at flying remains average in climbing trees. The moral of the story is ‘Let the rabbit run and let the eagle fly.’ The word ‘Education’ comes from the Latin word, ‘Educare’ and it means brining out that which is already present in us. So our education system and exams should be built on ways that stops fitting a person in a certain mould and helps the student be himself or herself and be better at what they are good at.
Education as a means and not an end: Many times the real purpose of education system is lost. I started this article by quoting Martin Luther King Jr. who said education should encourage thinking intensively and not just building intelligence but character too. I believe that our present education system completely blots out the ‘character’ part. D. L. Moody, the great American evangelist, once said, “If a man is stealing nuts and bolts from a railway track, and, in order to change him, you send him to college, at the end of his education, he will steal the whole railway track.” What does this imply? We all know that well educated people take to becoming terrorists or involve in corruption and other illegal activities. That’s the parody of our present education that we need to address too. Many times, people when confronted with subjects like ‘Moral Science’ or ‘Value Education’ take it lightly and dismiss it. They feel it is not practical. That’s a real failure of our present education system. If our education fails to make people more humane than we have lost the real purpose of education. No, the purpose of education is not to get a job, to be rich, to be famous those are all secondary purposes. If we stop focussing on building students’ characters, we will be guilty of what Jesus Christ said, “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Let’s stop putting the cart before the bullocks. Education is a means to build better humans for a better world.
Conclusion: Dronacharaya coached Arjuna to be the best archer. He indeed became one of the best but there was also Eklavya who coached himself without a teacher and became better. What does this tell us? Our education system maybe in the present churning out ‘Arjunas’ that we are proud of but at the same time guilty of leaving out the many ‘Eklavyas’. It’s time we examine ourselves and our education system for a better world!
Corporate Soft Skills Trainer & Professional Speaker, The Edge
Asst. Prof. Sanjay Ghodawat University, Kolhapur