Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Education: Meaning, Purpose, Problems and Expectations -Dr. Ravindra Kumar

Those who educate children well are more to be honoured than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those arts of living well.Aristotle _________________________________________________________________________________
Education is the foremost among the five basic needs of human beings –bread, clothing, shelter, education [itself] and medical aid. Besides being an essential condition of continuity of existence, it can be the only means of man’s development, achievement and attaining the goal.
In his primitive stage on the earth it was due to man’s self-realization based education that he learnt about Ahimsa –an eternal value permanently present in his nature1, and through its constant development he kept pace towards securing existence and making progress. Even today progress is possible only through multifaceted lifelong education process; making this process conducive in prevailing situations of space and time.
Hence, education plays a vital role in man’s life. Recognizing its importance in life Kautilya –a great scholar, statesman and professor of politics and economics at the Takshila University, one of the oldest known universities in the world in ancient times, declares it to be the best friend and says further:
“An educated person is respected everywhere and education beats the beauty and the youth.”2
Undoubtedly, it is more important in making man’s life meaningful and worthy in comparison to any other available means and it is, to reiterate, indispensable for the complete development of man. In the absence of education the state of human life could be equated to that of an animal. 
The following Shloka from the Chanakyaniti, while signifying the importance and inevitability of education in man’s life and even declaring those parents to be the greatest enemy of children who do not arrange for their proper education, categorically, divulges the consequences to be faced by them in the absence of education:   
“Mata Shatru Pita Vairi Yen Balo Na Pathitah,
Na Shobhate Sabha Madhye Hans Madhye Vako Yatha3
[Meaning thereby: The parent who does not facilitate and guide their child for studies is like the greatest enemy of the child. The presence of an uneducated person in the company of educated people is like a goose in the company of swans.]
Undoubtedly, in the absence of education a man is not a human being in the real sense; he is merely of the name and there is no place for him among those who are educated. An ordinary one, who never gets opportunity of attending a school and is deprived completely from the formal education, may be found saying: there is no future without education.
Not only this, words like uncivilized, impractical and directionless are used about those uneducated. An uneducated is declared a body without a soul. Vishnugupta Chanakya has described:
The life of an uneducated man is as useless as the tail of a dog which neither covers its rear end, nor protects it from the bites of insects.”4
Further, in this regard, from the academic world scholars-thinkers of repute have, along with declaring life to be meaningless of those uneducated, mentioned about floating universal order in the absence of proper and capable education process. Hence, to say, if there is no education process or if life is deprived of it, the universal order will not only squeak, but its conduction will also be difficult. In the context of importance and role of education in man’s life nothing more is required to mention, but to accept necessarily that human life can become efficient, meaningful and worthy only on the basis and strength of education.
Education: Meaning and Purpose
Education, the word currently used in English, is, in fact, derived from the Latin word Educare, which is further originated from Educere5 and in its basic spirit, which is at the root of it, this is the manifestation or expression. If one goes further in depth of this spirit, it will become apparent that it reveals the inner capability of man that guides him continuously throughout at various levels in all walks of life.
Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher has categorically said that education is to draw out what are already within6 while Plato –his chief disciple, states that it is the acquisition of virtue by child.  
Similarly, from the East, India in particular, the Buddhist teachings reveal, in knowledge –true education, the first thing is to know oneself; further, or secondly, to realize the part of us that is pure, wise, full of truth, peaceful, and perfect.
Vivekananda –one of the greatest contemporary Indian thinkers mentions that education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man.7 Tagore while describing the scope of education includes the high head, free knowledge, truth coming from the depth, tireless striving stretching arms towards perfection…within it.        
Aurobindo has talked about the integral education, which must help flourish the very best in a human being –the unique and exquisite, something, which every individual is born to offer to the world. Further, he has pointed out, education is meant to bring out the best in man, to develop his potentialities to the maximum, to integrate him with himself –his surroundings, his society, his country and humanity to make him the complete man –the integrated man.
Further, Gandhi –the Mahatma points out in this regard:
Real education consists in drawing the best out of yourself.” and By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in child and man–body mind and spirit. Literacy is not the end of education not even the beginning. It is one of the means whereby man and women can be educated. Literacy in itself is no education.”8
It, as Kishorelal Mashruwala –an eminent Gandhian scholars, has mentioned, “…works for all-round growth of man right from the beginning till end. Its ultimate aim is to turn human knowledge into his ability.”9  
Hence, in brief, from the word-meaning, purpose and basic spirit at its  root, the whole process, which along with leaving impact upon the mind, character and physical strength, plays a vital role in human development, is education. Not only this, it accords continuity to intellect, knowledge and values; it leads one to proceed towards the goal. Further, education [Shiksha] is, from the Vedic viewpoint, one of the six Vedangas.10 Clarity of understanding and systematic method or the orders, which are inevitable and the most important for the all-round development of one’s personality, are within its scope.
Hence, the educational process is fully dedicated to continuity and dynamism. It is for growth or accumulation. It is the means to lead a human being on the pathway to prosperity in prevailing circumstances on the basis of knowledge and accomplishments. For, the statement of Gautama Buddha in which he has said that learning – education, is the endless pursuit of knowledge; one should never be satisfied with the teachings of a single master, but to constantly be on a quest for ever greater knowledge, is contextual and worth mentioning.
Thus, categorically, from word-meaning and broad purpose of education viewpoint both –the Western and Indian concepts are not so different. Rather, both of them are to a large extent similar to each-another.
Dimensions in Education Process: Refinement According to the Demand of Time and Space   
Education, which is, undoubtedly, a process to lead and guide a man well and continuously on the pathway to development, further makes the prevailing situations of time and space conducive. Categorically, making circumstances constantly favourable, giving continuity to man’s progress and taking him to the goal is the purpose of education. For this, education process takes dimensions incessantly –one after the other. Without this, it can neither become fruitful nor meaningful.
Without receding from its basic spirit and also without compromising to its purpose, education is, thus, always a subject of refinements as per the demand of prevailing situations, time and space.11 It is, to repeat, refinement that is inevitable and necessary in education, and it can be known as dimension in the process.
The education system that prevailed in the West, particularly during the time of Socrates and Plato –the two great Greek philosophers, despite being identical from the meaning and purpose viewpoint in theoretical perspective, was not the same in practice in the times of Aristotle or other thinkers of later periods.
Socrates –the teacher of Plato has himself emerged as the core character in Plato’s writings, thinking and philosophy. Therefore, whatever Plato has mentioned that is taken in familiar terms with Socrates. Plato has written extensively on education. His thoughts pertaining to education are still the part of syllabus at different levels of studies including graduation and post-graduation levels, in both East and the West. It is categorically because his views on education, despite being relevant in circumstances of his own time and own land may have importance more or less, in one way or the other, in current perspective all over the world. They however, in his own time, remained relevant even with being grounded in his vision of the ideal Republic, wherein the individual could serve the best by being subordinated to a just society. Plato saw the development of an individual in a just society and therefore focused on education particularly its plan accordingly. In this regard Plato advocated for the rise of the child as a ward of the state, with great care as responsibility being taken to differentiate children suitable to the various backgrounds, the highest receiving the most education, so that he could act as the guardians of the city and care for the less able. Moreover, in his plan education had to be holistic, including facts, skills, physical discipline, music and art, which could be considered as the highest form of endeavour.
After Plato, we could review Aristotle, his own student, giving a new dimension to education in theoretical perspective in particular by stressing that education must not serve any mean or vocational activity as these activities are the functions of slaves. Further he is found advising about those who are to rule in times to come that the subject material must train them in the use of reason. They must learn obedience and responsibility before they come to rule. For this, he stressed on the curriculum of the Academy12 to impart the four type of education –basics, related to natural science, physical and humanities.13 Not only this, for developing a sound moral aspect of personality Aristotle focused on character-building right from the childhood. For this, he even stressed on censorship of that aspects of education, which could, despite being quite important, obstruct his way to character-building.                
This process pertaining to dimensions could not be confined to Greek philosophers –Plato and Aristotle in particular. Rather, it prevailed throughout the West. Thinkers, philosopher, scholars and educationists from the West accorded new dimensions to the field of education from time-to-time through their ideas, suggestions and works. A good account of their contribution is well before us to observe and analyze even in current perspective.           
Likewise, in the East, India in particular, the education systems existed in the Vedic and later Vedic eras,14 prior to Gautama Buddha and Tirthankara Mahavira and during the lifetime of Shakyamuni and Vardhamana themselves15 were different to one-another.
In the later Vedic era in particular the system of education despite being confined to some particular sections of society seemed to be well-planned and based on sound guru-shishya tradition in which a student while living in his teacher’s house as Brahmachari with simple living and high thinking was expected to study the Vedas –grammar, mathematics, mineralogy, logic, morality-ethics, sciences in general and Brahmanvidya, along with knowledge of Atman and self-realization in particular.
During the time of Tirthankara Mahavira and Siddhartha Gautama education system seemed to be receiving a new dimension in which besides maintaining the pre-established, to a great extent, monks, from the Buddhist fold in particular, congregated in monasteries and providing itinerant teaching for common men. Moreover, the elders amongst the monks were found teaching the disciplines in the monasteries and conducting discourses on doctrine, spiritual exercises and advanced philosophical ideas. The Nalanda Mahavihara in Bihar and other known monasteries were the centres of learning –secular arts, sciences and theology in particular. 
Later in all the times from Chanakya16 to the Gupta17 or later to the medieval period18 and from Colonial India –particularly in the time of the English control over the Indian Subcontinent19 to the time of Mahatma Gandhi20, education, in spite of being the same in theoretical perspective and dedicated more or less to the development of man according to its basic spirit was different in practice. 
In the time of Chanakya –the Mauryan Empire in India in particular [325-185 BC], world renowned universities like Takshila, Vikramashila and Nalanda were flourishing; education was according to its basic spirit imparted liberally to an extent among women and common people by Jainism and Buddhism in particular.
In the Gupta period, which is known as the golden era of Indian history –Hinduism in particular, education received another and unprecedented dimension. The Guptas founded and patronized many institutions of higher learning, research and study. The standard of universities was so high that due to it India became a centre for learning. Students and scholars from across the world came to study in the University of Nalanda –a centre offering a variety of courses, Takshila –for study and research in medicine, Vallabi –for religious studies, law and medicine, Ujjain –for learning astronomy, Ajanta –for art, architecture and painting, and Sarnath to study and research in Buddhism.
In the medieval period, and also up to early modern time, under the Muslim rule in particular, emphasis on urban education could categorically be observed. Along with promotion in urban education and establishment of several libraries and literary organizations, foundation of primary schools for learning, reading, writing, particularly religious prayers and secondary schools for teaching advanced language skills, exegesis, prophetic traditions, law [religious] and related subjects could be seen. So many schools affiliated to mosques/shrines were open to the poor, but were gender segregated and accessible only to the boys. Muslim girls from higher families used to study at home.
In Colonial India, under the English Rule in particular, education got another dimension. Its fundamental structure was changed. Thomas Babington Macaulay, as known to us, introduced English education in India through his famous minute of February 1835, which he in fact successfully implemented the ideas put forward by William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, Governor General of India between 1833 and 1835. The main purpose of this was to prepare a particular class of elite to strengthen the Rule. But on the other hand the system of education under the British Rule received unprecedented development. Not only new universities and colleges were opened, but the scope of the system with more facilities got unique extension. The standard of education improved, expended to towns and approached even those who were less privileged.    
In the Gandhian era, most of the first half of the Twentieth Century AD in which along with Mahatma Gandhi himself, other great scholars-thinkers and educationists like Tagore and Aurobindo could be listed, education process with great ideas and endeavours turned to get a new dimension. Great and unprecedented efforts to make education process the basis of self-reliance in regional-national circumstances were initiated. Many panels were formed to analyze the prevailing situation and requirements as per demand of time. Moreover, institutions were established for imparting education accordingly at primary, secondary and higher levels. In it besides self-sufficiency of man, stress was laid on making high moral values, humanity and universal unity the part of the process. Through this all-round development of personality was expected. Especially, Tagore, Aurobindo and Gandhi laid great stress on making endeavours for this, account of which is well before us to observe and analyze.                          
Hence, each time in history, education got a new and different dimension. As per the requirements it obtained refinement in prevailing situations of time and space, to become more or less welfaristic. The people whose names have been particularly mentioned above played the vital role in making the system of education conducive in prevailing situations of their own respective times. That is why; their names are mentioned even today in course of discussion on issues related to education.
Problems-Difficulties and Expectations
Further, education as a process can never come to a situation of the status quo or the perpetuity. Dimensions, one after the other, are necessary in this process. Getting situations conducive to pave the way for the welfare as per the demand of time and space is the aim of this process. Not only this, making resources, whatever available, the means of development through the use of intellect, capability and actions and thus achieving the best can be the very expectation from this process. Hence, we can mention again, words like dimensions and refinement are necessarily associated with this. It will remain so in future as well. In the absence of it, or without it, education-process can never proceed further in a fine manner. Outcome can never be welfaristic.
Along with this, it is necessary to clarify that by the first half of the Twentieth Century AD despite getting dimensions one after the other from time-to-time through the ages, the process of education remained more or less confined to some particular sections of societies. Remaining restricted it was available in one way or the other to those who were resourceful –prosperous socially and politically. Not only this, common people were not within its domain in those eras. It was not all welfaristic from the viewpoint of providing equal opportunities in particular. It does not matter how great dimensions it got in the long human history, but reality is this that in practice it remained isolated to a large extent.       
It was in fact particularly since the second half of the Twentieth Century that the huge waves started rising for political freedom of people all over the world. The mass awakening to a large extent paved the way more or less for people’s participation in one way or the other especially in social and political spheres. Resultantly, situations started changing rapidly. The demand of time also changed unprecedentedly.
Despite the constant refinements and so many dimensions in education process much more has still to be done to achieve the real object, to make education all-welfaristic. Education is, to repeat, an endless process. To struggle with problems and to come out of obstacles on the way is unavoidable; rather, it is the essential part of this process. That is why; it continues. Further, to repeat, much more is to be done. So many dimensions are to be added in this process in the prevailing situations of space, and as per the demand of time.                     
In the entire human history now is the time when not only equality and freedom are indispensable for each and everyone on this planet, but, along with this, ascertaining equal opportunity for all to develop is also necessary so that all-round development of personality can be possible. For this, only a sound education process can pave the way. In this course a fourfold education process, which accords equal opportunity to one and all to acquire knowledge on the one hand and making them adept of bringing coordination at all levels –individual life to universal level on the other can be capable to achieve the purpose. In brief, we can say with certainty that only a fourfold education system can be capable of all-round development of personality, which is the basic spirit at the root of word education and that is the sole aim of education process.  
The fourfold education, which can pave the way for the all-round development of personality, or can be the only sound and capable basis of achieving a goal in life, in fact, comprises of the following four aspects:
1-General education that is imparted at different levels according to prescribed syllabi and which ends with the earning of a degree –graduate, postgraduate, a doctoral or postdoctoral;
2-Physical education –exercises to make the body and mind healthy and to fill them with agility, dynamism and constructiveness;
3-Moral education –to lead one to the righteousness and develop the sense of duty and responsibility on the one hand and to safeguard those values on the other, which ascertain the identity of a human being and are also essential for the proper conduction of the system –from individual life to the universal; and
4-Technical or practical education –to make one self-sufficient while being imparted along with the general education, which can, in fact, play a vital role in making education process meaningful and to lead one to achieve the real objective according to its meaning and also the spirit at its root.        
Education, despite being a process of all-round development of man by bringing out from his own inside, has never remained free from problems. During the course of moving forward this has faced many difficulties always. In the present, education process faces them and it will be so in times to come. This is the inevitability. For, as per the demand of time efforts have been made in this regard. Effective and worthy efforts have always been tried to make the system momentous and welfaristic. On the other hand, if education process has not brought fruits as per the expectations, it is definitely due to lack of sincere, effective and appropriate efforts. This equally applies to the present and will be so in future.
In this regard it is the reasonability of all those associated with education system, particularly the community of teachers that occupies the most respectable place in society all over the world to come forward to make the process conducive, meaningful and welfaristic as per the demand of time and space so that it becomes capable to all-round development of man and thus passes its acid test. It is the expectation that they will while becoming dutiful remove hurdles from the way and will do their best to get the process of education free of difficulties and problems, and makes it clear and valued as per the spirit at its root.                  
In this context going forward in some details I will first of all once again like to repeat that education imparted according to prescribed syllabi at different levels –from primary to higher, ends generally with the earning of a degree by a student. For this, a student spends approximately 20-22 years of her/his life. Thousands and millions in number earn degrees at graduate-postgraduate and doctoral-postdoctoral levels all over the world. But, irony is this that even after earning a doctoral degree they generally lack self-sufficiency. They stray from self-reliance and it is, but natural. The education they get according to the prescribed syllabi lacks the spirit remains at the root of education. It is not in consonance of the real word-meaning and the aim of education. It is not for bringing out what is there inside of man and to pave the way for his all-round development on its basis. Those who play a vital role in preparing syllabi do they really care for this? Whether they stress on how to bring out from inside and to make it the sound basis of all-round development of personality in prevailing situations of space and time while preparing syllabi?
In not a single country of the world, I am of the firm opinion, responsible ones for the job do not care for the spirit at the root of word-meaning and purpose of education while setting up their respective syllabi, which are the most important instrument structuring the courses. Syllabi may seem prepared well and beautifully and may also seem laying stress on knowledge at different levels, but in reality there is no emphasis on bringing out from inside and on the all-round development of personality on the basis of it.
In this regard, technical education, placed as the fourth in the fourfold education plan, must be connected with general education to be imparted according to prescribed syllabi right from the primary level. Identifying the chief attribute from many of the attributes, which each and every child naturally possesses, the process of his education should be started accordingly from the basic or primary level. This is, in fact, that technical education in which he can get proficiency easily. Becoming capable on the strength of the chief attribute that he already possesses, he can make his way trouble-free in this context. In other words, by illuminating out what he has inside through proficiency, sincerity, dedication and efforts, he can continuously step forward to achieve a goal and will not depend on anyone even in the matter of employment. Thus, what is expected that will be achieved from education. Along with this, education in itself will prove to be true and meaningful.   
It is a challenging task. Who will identify the chief attribute of a child in these days of constantly increasing competition for gains? I am asked about it by teachers-professor when I talk or speak on this subject. They accept the truth, but doubt about its success. However, I again lay stress on it and firmly say that if education has to become effective and meaningful, and to be the basis of all-round development of personality simultaneously, this is inevitable and necessary. Otherwise, education process will remain filled with darkness; it will not bring fruits as per the expectations. Shortcuts, momentary gains and unnecessary competitions, which have no place in this process, and are not welfaristic at all, will remain compelling. This has to be understood and realized by those who think about it and by accepting challenges desire to do something concrete in this regard –to make education meaningful and real.                   
Further, in the all-round development of personality the importance of physical and moral education is not the least. The fourfold education essentially includes these two –moral and physical exercises, and in the absence of these two, education can never convey its meaning and fulfill its purpose.
The physical education is important for the growth of body and mind, both. It is physical education, which brings discipline in life and plays an important role in the creation of constructive approach. It is this that leads man towards self-sufficiency and purity. Therefore, can repeat again, physical education is necessary and inevitable for the development of personality.
It does not matter if the one is sound enough mentally; it also does not matter if due to sound mind the physical growth of a person is not given much importance in this era of unprecedented progress of science and technology, but it has to be realized that physical exercises are always necessary for maintaining the prosperity of mind. Not only this, it is also essential for blooming, controlling and ensuring steadiness of mind, getting it free from tensions and making it peaceful. It is of the utmost importance for balancing the body and mind. It may have many dimensions at different levels –from general exercises to extraordinary ones, and Yogic exercises are its best and furthering steps, which play the significant role in different forms in the development of one’s personality. The great Indian concept and tradition pertaining to Yoga21 can also be observed and viewed in this very perspective.       
Similarly, moral education is necessary for making one’s deeds welfaristic. It is inevitable to fill the one with the sense of duties and responsibilities. Apart from remaining within the scope of inevitable law of change, morality is not merely a principle. Rather, morality plays the vital role in conducting the system –from individual life to the universal level. Its significance can be understood just from the spirit of responsibility that originates from morality itself. Therefore, education, which is expected developing personality, is without morality worth nothing. It is also for the reason that education, which lack the spirit of duty and responsibility is not the real one.
In conclusion, it can be said with certainty that along with general and technical knowledge, physical exercises and moral education are indispensable of fourfold education system that can, in fact, be capable of all-round development of personality, or in other words for leading the one to her/his goal. None of them can be neglected on the one hand and importance of anyone cannot be minimized on the other.  It is to be understood and on its basis only we should proceed further.                                                                                                                                              
1. I am of the firm opinion that Ahimsa [non-violence], besides being the eternal and permanent value, is a natural value also; it has remained present in man’s nature from the time of his emergence, or the birth. Further, it is an essential condition of existence, development and reaching the goal in life. If it was not so, what to say of development or the goal, the human race would extinct long ago.  
5. As is known the word education is the noun of the verb educate coming from the English, it originated from the Latin term educare, meaning thereby bring up, or rear and linked further to educere which means to lead forth or bring out. 
6. Global Peace, 11/3 [To quote Socrates himself, “I cannot teach anybody anything; I can only make them think.”]
7. As above. 
8. Harijan: July 31, 1937
9. Kumar, Ravindra. 1999. Essays on Gandhian and Peace, page 2. Meerut [India]: Krishna Publications.
10.  The six auxiliary disciplines traditionally associated with the study and understanding of the Vedas –Shiksha, Kalpa –ritual, Vyakarna –grammar, Nirukta –etymology, Chandas –meter and  jyotisha –astronomy.
11. Not only in theoretical context, but, simultaneously, from practical viewpoint in different forms.   
12. It was in 335 BC when Aristotle after his return to Athens, established his own school or academy known as the Lyceum.
13. In the scheme of Aristotle’s four types of education, basics include reading, writing and mathematics, not for purposes of trade, but as a preparation for the intellectual abstractions of higher mathematics; natural sciences include astronomy, biology, physiology, zoology, chemistry and physics in particular; physical education includes the training of the body –for the physical well-being of every citizen; and humanities include rhetoric, grammar, poetry, politics and philosophy as they are important subjects for life.
14. Approximately 1200-600 BC
15. Approximately 600-450 BC 
16. 370-283 BC
17. Approximately 320 to 550 AD
18. Approximately 5-15 Centuries AD
19. Between 1858 and 1947
20. Up to 1948
21. Which takes mind, body and spirit to be one and inseparable from one-another; the Yoga philosophy simultaneously stresses on Yogic practices for moral, ethical and character building of man to lead him to achieve the goal in life.   


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