Friday, November 30, 2012

Education for Peace -Professor Dr. Ravindra Kumar

“Peace must first be developed [through education] within an individual. And I believe that love, compassion, and altruism are the fundamental basis for peace. Once these qualities are developed within an individual, he or she is then able to create an atmosphere of peace and harmony. This atmosphere can be expanded and extended from the individual to his family, from the family to the community and eventually to the whole world.”    –The Fourteenth Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso
Education for peace, a theme or topic, which seems although drawing very much attention of one and all on this planet in general and academicians, educationists and intelligentsia in particular in these days of continuously increasing development at all levels and in all walks of life, or in the era of globalization, yet this has, in fact, been important in all the previous ages. It will be equally significant in all times to come as well. How? It is but natural if a question like this emerges in one’s mind. To get an appropriate and befitting reply to this, it is necessary to comprehend the meaning and purpose of education and peace both, and that too separately.
The English word education is derived from the Latin word Educare, which is further originated from Educere, to reveal expression –manifestation as its basic spirit in the root. If one goes further in depth of this spirit, it will become obvious that through this a human being realizes and learns till her/his last breath and acquires knowledge. Moreover, this divulges the inner capability of a human being to guide her/him throughout at different levels in all walks of life. It is, in the words of Socrates “to draw out what are already within” and Plato “the acquisition of virtue by child.”
From the East, India in particular, whether it is Buddhist teachings of ancient times, or views expressed in this regard by Vivekananda, Tagore, Aurobindo and Gandhi, the four great contemporary-modern thinkers, all of them also seem in one way or the other agreeing more or less to the view that education is to bring out what one has within.1
Hence, as a whole, from the meaning, basic spirit and broad purpose of education [Shiksha] viewpoint, both, the Western and the Eastern concepts pertaining to education are not at all different. Rather, both of them are, to a large extent, similar to each-other divulging that it is a lifelong process for an all-round development of one’s personality.
Now peace! The popular English word peace is originated from the Latin word Pax. The use of this word can also be found in other words like Shalom [Hebrew], Aloha [Hawaiian] and Eirene [Greek]. Along with desiring harmony in day-to-day human practices at individual and social levels in particular, the urge for a state free from civil disorder, especially from conflicts and struggles is derived here. In a broad-spectrum a situation free from strain, struggle, quarrel-clash or conflict, in social and economic spheres precisely, is considered as the state of peace. This fact denotes the absence of fight or war between or among the nations and is usually the accepted notion of peace at the international level.
From the Eastern viewpoint –India in particular, the word Shanti, made of Shant and originated from Sanskrit, if is analyzed in broad perspective, divulges categorically a wish for freedom from spiritual sufferings [especially sufferings of the self and mind], physical sufferings [sufferings-pains of the body, illness-diseases etc.], sufferings caused by natural reasons [specially by earthquakes, floods, and attacks or bites of wild animals-fauna or poisonous insects], and the state emerged of conflicts, confrontations, hostilities, fights and wars.
Hence, similarity between the Western and the Eastern, particularly Indian concepts pertaining to peace, can be well perceived. Despite this, peace in the Indian view is categorically and fully an active and dynamic situation to lead to the pathway to development in an atmosphere free from anxieties and stresses. Further, in a state of peace of the Indian view efforts are made for healthy co-existence to extend the welfare of the people. Peace accords morale and enthusiasm to the people and motivates them to move forward. In this regard, the statement of Vinoba Bhave in which he says, “Shanti [peace] means something dynamic, something that develops the force of the individual, which [further] develops the dynamic strength of the people to a degree that they enable to meet any situation”2 stands sound to a large extent.     
As sufferings-pains are inevitable in life; the state of conflicts is unavoidable in society, therefore, efforts have always been made to get rid of sufferings-pains and for resolving disputes and conflicts to create the atmosphere of harmony to lead to peace. It is a continuous process, a lifelong process.     
Now, what we emphatically observe from the above discussion and analysis pertaining to education and peace, both, from their respective word-meanings, purposes and basic spirits in roots viewpoint precisely is that both of them are necessities of life. Both of them are dynamic states on one hand and on the other they undoubtedly emerge as lifelong processes.
Further, it also becomes quite evident that if education is the foremost basis for an all-round development of an individual, or if it is the chief means of developing one’s personality, the state of peace definitely creates an atmosphere, or prepares the ground to move forward smoothly on the pathway to progress. Similarly, if the process of education greatly helps a human being making her or his life purposeful, the state of peace gets her or him free of confusion and fear, and along with this inspires her or him to seek necessary cooperation of others for the purpose. Therefore, we can say with certainty that education and peace are linked to one-another. They supplement each other as both of them eventually contribute to the progress, welfare and well-being of one and all. That is why; I am of the firm opinion that education for peace is not only important or significant, but it is absolutely necessary for each and every human being on this planet.

After grasping well the significance and necessity of peace education in life of one and all, it is also equally important and necessary to think about practical aspect related to the application of peace education, the way or method of imparting it in current perspective or in ongoing process of education. 
For years, I have been of the firm opinion that peace, which has in fact its root in the supreme, eternal and natural human value of Ahimsa [non-violence]3, should be made an essential part of the process of education of the day. Having Ahimsa as the nuclei special courses related to peace education should be included in all syllabi and peace education should be imparted at all levels of studies, from primary to higher level. Not only this, as I have suggested to the community of academicians, educationists and professors gathered recently in Durban, South Africa, especially to discuss methods of developing pedagogy of non-violence education4  that it does not matter if a particular branch of knowledge is the major of one’s study or research; science, commerce or art may be the field of one’s prime learning, but she or he should necessarily study and analyze issues related to inevitable disputes and conflicts as one of the subjects to enable her or him to contribute to create the state of peace or to take the way to peace that is necessary for progress and welfare of one and all. Accepting Ahimsa as a science for existence and development and as an art of living, a compulsory Ahimsa-centred course under an appropriate or suitable name must be introduced particularly with the sole purpose of growing a culture of peace. Essentially, under this scheme, besides imparting knowledge with the purpose of developing the spirit of duty and responsibility that are the basis of morality and ethics, in theoretical perspective, stress should be laid on settling inevitable day-to-day problems, disputes and struggle related to family, community and society in particular on the basis of non-violent peaceful means, whatever maybe befitting in prevailing situation or as per the demand of time as its practical aspect as is essentially done in almost all the branches of sciences, to accord strength to the culture of peace.
This method can also be introduced in educational institutions; for, I have had a very good experience in Spain where during teaching a short-term UNESCO sponsored peace related course5, I observed students nicely settling their disputes themselves with mutual understanding and following a well established guideline6 without involving or approaching professors and managers. Moreover, it is also in my knowledge that this method is adopted in some other institutions, the European University Centre for Peace Studies of Stadtschlaining, Austria in particular. Hence, it is the time to expect from the communities of professor, teachers and educators that they not only ponder over it, but taking it as their individual as well as the collective responsibility, will step forward.
In this regard, I can also venture to suggest a special and compulsory paper precisely at graduate degree level to study the teachings of leading philosophers-thinkers and practitioners of peace as was the provision in many of the universities to study culture related issues. I do not know as the same provision still exists, but I emphasize the need of provision for a compulsory paper to study peace in theory and practice. I also lay stress on the need of this in these days of continuously increasing process of globalization, when the tempo of development is awfully fast on one hand and disputes and conflicts are increasing in numbers at different levels in all walks of life on the other. Once again, I urge the communities of teachers-professors, intellectuals and academicians to realize and comprehend the significance of the issue and come forward to do something concrete as per the expectation.          
Note: This piece is based on extracts of a proposed keynote address by Professor Dr. Ravindra Kumar at a three days national seminar organized on the theme Education for Peace by the Faculty of Education, the University of Bombay, Mumbai [India] on December 5-7, 2012.
1.                   The Buddhist teachings categorically reveal that in knowledge, true education, the first thing is to know oneself. Vivekananda is of the opinion that education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man and Tagore, while describing the scope of education, includes the high head, free knowledge, and truth coming from the depth, tireless striving arms towards perfection within it. Aurobindo while expressing views on the integer education in particular says that it 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. Not only this, he has also been of the firm opinion that 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. Gandhi, the Mahatma points out in this regard, “Real education consists in drawing the best out of yourself.” He while clarifying his viewpoint says further, “By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in child and man –body, mind and spirit.” [Global Peace: August, 2012. Special Issue-2]
2.                   Kumar, Ravindra. 2007. Towards Peace, page …. New Delhi [India]: Gyan Publishing House.
3.                   Realizing the fact that Ahimsa [non-violence], is not momentary; it is a subject of continuous development and practice, and moreover, it is the condition of existence, progress and achieving a goal, making life meaningful-purposeful.     
4. Held in August, 2012 at the Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa. 
5. In 2001 at the International Centre for Peace and Development Studies (IBPD) of the Universitat [University] Jaume I, Costello, Spain under the title, Theory and Practice of Gandhian Non-Violence.
6. Any such guideline can be prepared as per the demand of space and time.