Friday, 29 May 2015

Education Department; Really!

How many ZEOs or CEOs spend time in schools?
We do have an information processing cum literacy department but not any education department.
I argue that we need to change the name of the department from education to literacy department as long as we don’t prove that it is also educating. Once we had it, at least something approximating it. Now we don’t. I think the following explains my point.
     There have been numerous critiques of current educational system and various proposals to redress the increasingly appreciated problems at moral and spiritual plane inherent in it.
     Suggestions from certain well known commissions constituted for analyzing and development of educational policy; suggestions for bringing in the moral and spiritual element in education that had traditionally been the bedrock of Indian educational system and that constitutes vital element of our cultural heritage have not been implemented, or perhaps could not be implemented due to current fashionable paradigm that makes no reference to transcendence as it is wedded to pragmatist instrumentalist view of rationality and human vacation.
     Immense problems in socialization could also be attributed to faulty education. Such diverse problems as delinquency, drug addiction, suicides, failure and trivialization of relationships, disrespect for teachers and elders and increased susceptibility to corruption are all attributable, partly to background worldview taken for granted in modern educational system. Capitalist co-opting of modern education as seen in increased privatization and dependence on requirements of industry – the phenomenal rise of MBA is only one instance – means decreasing tolerance and space for traditional view of knowledge, ethics and human vacation as self-other relationship has been redefined in terms that sharply contradict with everything for which traditional cultures – with their arts, religions, philosophies and symbols – stand.
     Modern systems of education cater to everything but not the most important dimensions of man – his soul and his spirit. 
     There is hardly any scope for teaching wisdom in a worldview that is bereft of it or finds little use for it for Homo economicus.  Modern civilization has given rise to the fragmentary  man.
     The knowledge that constitutes the raison d’etre of man is absent in its curriculum.  Metaphysics is the science that is most important in this connection.  In fact all traditional civilizations have prioritized metaphysics (Ad-Deen, Tradition or Sophia perennis as the science that needs foremost consideration in educational curricula).  In fact Greek and all great educationists of ancient and medieval eras have defined education in these terms.  Modern concept of education that produces workers or wage laborers and increasingly specialized professionals who know more and more about less and less while missing the one thing needful that is the basic aim of education is something like an aberration or monstrosity from traditional point of view. And our educational policy has not so far taken note of this aberration! We need super-specilizations but we also need to be good humans. Good careers and good humans shouldn’t be incompatible. We rarely find this combination now. Professionals and highly literate sections aren’t less corrupt or mean or alienated or obsessed with big houses, lavish wazwaans, newer cars.
     Seen from our point of view contemporary education is bereft of higher principles that philosophy and ethics catered to. There is little concern with the knowledge per se but with only to what material use it can be put.  An average student here doesn’t know anything of philosophy and thus of the knowledge of general principles of all disciplines, of the knowledge that synthesizes discordant and heterogeneous bits of information in a certain coherent framework. 
     He may get 100% marks but never know what it means to think, to be creative, to be transformed by education.  Students may know much mathematics but not the philosophy of mathematics or why of mathematics and its connection with beauty and our deeper drives.  In fact even the definition of mathematics isn’t known to most of them (ask your students, even PG students).  We know much about individual sciences, physical and biological but are mostly ignorant of methodology and philosophy of science and relation of science to other pursuits. Our knowledge of social sciences presents still more depressing scenario. The fact that humanities or social sciences in our universities and colleges don’t have great reputation is partly because of lack of exposure to philosophy or absence of philosophical orientation. 
     What constitutes civilization and culture? How many students could even define these terms or distinguish between them?  We are appallingly ignorant of history. It is no wonder that we are increasingly alienated from our historical or traditional roots, our cultural and spiritual heritage.  Very few of students know how to approach such vital questions as God, meaning of life and suffering, difference between theology and metaphysics or sacred sciences. And that explains interminable debates and confusion on issues such as shirk, on atheism, on orthodox formulations and currency of sectarian and fundamentalist debates. What is the difference between faith and belief?  Students are abysmally ignorant of their own religion and its philosophy and its history, not to speak of our crass ignorance of other religious and mystical traditions. 
     Students are not being taught all this.  Educational curricula are to be blamed first of all. Why can’t good education in schools clear basic concepts that concern our whole being or psycho-spiritual development? Why can’t we revive the old idea of fusing madrassas and schools giving secular education? Why should our children need to go to darsgah after or before schools? We have had one institution in our history giving both “secular” and “religious” educations. Let heads of madrassas think.
     The same remarks could be made on student’s knowledge of aesthetics.  Of fine arts they have only very vague notions.  Their knowledge of painting, sculpture, architecture and music is next to nothing.  Education supposed to contribute to development of the whole personality including its cognitive (knowing), conative (willing)  and affective (feeling) dimensions, is simply lacking. No wonder we have fragmented ill adjusted people who are literates only. Character that education is supposed to cultivate and perfect is simply not the priority.
     Thus our education department has three fold task: to critically appraise instead of simply import or adopt International and National Curricular Frameworks, link education to our Heritage or Tradition that helps shape identity, and prevent enormous wastage and leakages by fixing the target of skill oriented and vocational education that takes equal care of drop outs as well. There are no cases of failure in good education system. The idea of policed examination, gazette or result or marks sheet is simply revolting and against human dignity.  We have reasons to expect something will be done as we are seeing  that a beginning seems to have been made towards rethink.
     Our education ministry has inherited a directionless, visionless, highly bureaucratized, more administration and contractor centric than academic centric system of education. Will it muster the will to think out of box, push for certain direly needed reforms while plan for long term radical changes and reorientation of the Department?
     I am smelling fresh winds of change. Especially in Bandipore, I see positive change coming up and wonder how much can be done by really concerned and dedicated local administration provided it doesn’t get tired too soon and relax its vigil. I wish every District Development Commissioner or Assistant Development Commissioner spend one day in a week in schools to sensitize and help better monitoring of the situation. How many ZEOs or CEOs spend time in schools? Let there be orders for their mandatory presence and monitoring lesson plans teachers are taught during Bed courses to follow while delivering lectures.
     Our Education Minister has an uphill task. He will find great support in well meaning teaching community (there are great souls, great teachers but the system has so far been against their blooming and not letting hem deliver). Will he succeed in at least initiating serious introspection amongst all stakeholders and give us an education department in place of information processing cum literacy department is to be seen. We have reasons, seeing the current tremors, not to be cynical but need to be watchful and respectfully critical lest the huge industry of mediocrity, chalta hae culture succeeds in maintaining status quo.

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