Education for life, Not for living

Education plays a very vital role in the development of a civil society. Educational institutes and curriculum as well as mode of instruction have followed the same path of evolution as our society has over the years. In the beginning, most of the society particularly the western world was more conservative and segregated. There was a clear distinction between elites and commoners. In those societies, education was essentially reserved only for the elite few who came from Aristocratic families. In India, only Brahmins were sent to school to learn the scriptures so they could advise the kings on the moral issues. These Brahmins were well versed in Upanishads and Vedas which were written in Sanskrit, a language of elite. Brahmins controlled religion and education both and what better way to rule commoner than to deny education and religion to them. British rationed education for masses for the fear of having a well informed and educated society that will question British on their occupation of India.
Similar trend was prevalent in Western world also .In America, African Americans were never allowed to learn to read or write so they will never demand equal rights and remain in their hopeless situation. Education was derived mostly from religion and churches, and they decided what needed to be taught. It was not until the movement of “Enlightenment” in 18th century that people started realizing the value of education for masses. This was the Age of Reason and the society was ready for a reform in every aspect of life. Political and social reformist asked for justice and equality for all. The writers and thinkers of the time developed a rational and empirical enquiry which emphasized the application of knowledge for benefit of all. This viewpoint conflicted with the thinking of religion. This reform movement gave rise to common school movement in United States, a brainchild of Horace Mann. Common schools were public school, free and compulsory for children between ages of six and fourteen. All children were taught same curriculum.
This noble experiment of universal education has been the cornerstone of our Democracy. Providing literacy to masses is only 150-200 hundred years old and is even less in some of the colonial countries. Plato in his book “Republic” advanced the idea of education for all children not just the gifted. He wrote that an educator should not be an agent paddling material for study or winning argument or mere promoter of a career. Knowledge is of higher order of awareness as it is attained only by reasoning and observation of physical world or scientific concepts. Gandhi’s thoughts on education were that education should not be literacy only but must enable students to solve the problems of life. Education should train students for self-reliance and make them independent thinkers. Role of education is to find out how to cultivate the intellect not just pass some exams and become qualified in certain ways. As the society is changing, the role of education is changing as well because education always tries to meet the needs of the contemporary society. In modern times, education has become a quick route to success, a means to an end. Higher the education, more money one makes and society values such person very highly. Thus in our modern society, education has become an instrument to exploit market place. But truly education is not just for utility purpose only; it helps build a cultured thinking society. So should schools prepare us only for the workforce or teach a wholesome lesson of life? Premise of mass education is good for the construction of a civic minded, well informed and a moral and ethical society. Education is supposed to provide human kind with humanity, character and strength. A persons worth should never be measured in how many degrees one has or how much money one makes but by the service one provides to the society. This thinking of self-worth measured by such artificial means separates powerful and dominant culture from the weaker segment of the society. This is one reason why some (women, blacks and Indians in British India) were prevented from participation in educational experience for fear that they will become equal to the ruling class. Education was once considered means to attain dominance in society and it is happening even now in this democratic society and will keep on happening. Call it a desire to be the dominant culture by elite few or discrimination in society.
So coming to this question of should one get education only for making a comfortable living or aspire for much more. I believe that we should look at education as means to uplift our mind and souls to a height when we do not think in terms of our superiority of career but strength of our mind and willingness to work towards common goal of making world a better place with equal rights for all. This will come from humility and desire to grow everyday by acquiring knowledge not information. Education is life-long process and life teaches us new lesson every-day. We learn not only in school but also from a man on the street, our elders and even younger. A newborn teaches us lesson in patience. All one has to do to open oneself to all new experience and ideas and learn something every-day. Learning is a dynamic process and one should never stop learning because if you do, then you stop growing intellectually and spiritually. One must aspire for education for life, not just for living.

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