Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Shaping youth for tomorrow.
Rajesh Gill

EDUCATION is the backbone of any society, since it performs the vital functions of informing, socializing and civilizing the young minds that are gradually getting into the spaces, both private and public, where significant decisions are going to be made. In other words, it is this youth, the target group of any education system in a society, which shall be giving a shape to the future social system, including the economic, political and cultural. But as a matter of fact, the educational system comprising schools, colleges, universities and other technical institutions happens to be just one segment of the broader system that educates the young minds. The other segments include family, neighbourhood, media, market, religion, polity and so on. It is generally assumed that the spaces where our youth are imparted education are only in classrooms, with teachers at the steering, lading the process.

A few decades ago, these spaces no doubt comprised the most important segment out of all the others, the family and neighbourhood coming next, since the youth had little exposure to either market or media. Their interface with religion and polity was by and large mediated through the family. One the other hand, today’s young brigade has a direct, uninterrupted and continuous interface with market, media and polity, while the family and the school have been pushed to the background. Both education and market/media have youth as the most important target group but with a subtle difference.
So far as our country is concerned, it is liable to universalize education which is a national goal and for that the numbers matter the most. Having woked on school enrolment figures, the global pressures through quality control measures have forced India to enhance its enrolment ratio in higher education. This endeavour is being pursued by the country increasing the number of higher educational institutions all over the country, resulting into higher enrolment.
Going back to the issue, while the stakeholders in educational institutions, teachers being most pertinent, have no personal interest in educating the students, beyond completing (or not) the syllabi in the privacy of classrooms, the stakeholders in market and media successfully and aggressively reach out to the target youth. The inputs as well as incentives in both the ventures therefore are quite varied, differently motivated and ignited. The results are bound to be different too. Education in this sense thus is lackluster, frivolous, dispensable and uninteresting. What these institutions in fact are imparting is not education but mere information, without any context, value frame or relevance. Under these circumstances, the zeal with which the stakeholders in the corporate sector work, with commercial stakes lying high, has no match with their counterparts in the educational sector.
The consequence is a complete trivialization of education not only in its content but even its essentiality. If education is just information, one can have it through online programmes or open schools/universities, as per one’s own convenience. In fact, going to a particular school or college or university has primarily become a matte of status symbol. With a huge premium placed on the brands, that too the international ones, thanks to globalisation, one opts for a school or university, mainly for the tag that it carries. In such a system, one can very well understand the plight of a school or college situated in a remote rural area, attended by all those (including teachers as well) not having access to the better ones. How can one expect them to deliver quality education, when they too are restlessly waiting for an opportunity to move to the core, in an earnestness to join the bandwagon?
The most important question is, does education really imply dissemination of information only? What about the live experience of having a teacher in flesh and blood, who does not just pass on information but is ideally supposed to guide and direct the students not only towards their goals but even the means they should adopt. Has the teaching community completely surrendered before the market and media choosing the most convenient option? This is the reason why a teacher has lost the glory s/he had been enjoying through the ages. In order to actually educate the highly exposed, intelligent and difficult students, teachers have to be ahead of them in knowledge(not in information), communication, interpersonal skills and self-confidence. In the name of democracy and individualism, it has been foolish for teachers, especially in higher educational institutions, to throw away the authority that naturally goes with their profession. Yes, a teacher is supposed to be the greatest friend of his/her students, most trustworthy of all, but does that mean only gossiping, smoking and drinking with them, with a non-interfering attitude at a time when they need an advice? Respecting others’ privacy in no way implies a lack of empathy and concern, especially when the other (student in this case) desperately needs it. Even a robot can impart information, but only a human teacher is competent enough to contextualize the knowledge and deliver it to the young minds in an absolutely objective manner. (Ab)using the classroom for poisoning the young minds with a particular political ideology is no less than a  crime, for which not only the teachers but the whole society has to pay a huge price. Therefore, in the process of education, both means and ends are equally important. Not only what is being taught, but how it is taught makes all the difference.
It is imperative thus that education is not any kind of business; it is no business in fact. It is the most significant segment of a society, which makes or breaks the future of a society. With the commercialization taking the front seat through both the media and market, it is all the more important that the education system is revitalized, with the most competent(in knowledge and wisdom)  minds being entrusted in educating the young boys and girls just not towards making more and more money but developing critical abilities to shape a future society that is actually civilized. And for that, we certainly cannot afford to trivialize education!

 The write is Chairperson, Department of Sociology and Women’s Studies, Punjab University, Chandigarh (India)

Source: The Tribune, Jalandhar Tuesday February 21, 2012.

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