Updated: Aug 5
“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a cleverer devil.”- C.S. Lewis
Consider the following situation – a teenage boy and a tiger in a zoo. The boy is taking snapshots of the tiger when suddenly he falls into the tiger’s enclosure. The tiger approaches and fiercely pounce upon him. The poor boy shouts for help. But guess what, instead of helping him, other visitors are busy taking videos of the whole incident – just to add it to their social accounts and garner likes and comments. They didn’t even bother to call the zoo authorities for help. Ultimately the boy succumbs to his injuries. Smartphones seem to make us dumber by the day. What a pity!
This situation is neither fiction nor about the misuse of smartphones, but a real incident and is among many similar ones that happen every day. They are glaring examples of the declining moral standards of our society. One of the most important factors that are responsible for this situation is the inefficacy of our present educational system. As we spend a considerable time of our lives in educational institutions, they have a huge impact on the values we develop and manifest in our lives.
What is the real purpose of education? Is it to churn out countless young minds that are ‘literate’ but self-centered, self-obsessed individuals who could trample upon anyone to satisfy their greed? Or is it to ‘educate’ them, bringing them to a higher level of understanding of society and fellow humans?
Today education has turned more commercial in nature where the degree one attains is the most important and actual learning, including values, has taken a backseat. In these times of globalization, this has benefitted only a few while making life for others worse than ever. The extent of moral degradation in present times is evident from the fact that only 300 people possess half of the world’s wealth and economic inequality has risen to an unprecedented scale in the last few decades.
A lack of moral values has a negative effect on all, but the youth is more vulnerable to it. Youth is a period of paradoxes. Youth is a period of a duel between the mind and the body and a conflict of emotions. If not controlled properly, these may lead them astray as they also have easy access to the internet and electronic gadgets. News of youngsters involved in illegal activities is quite common these days.
Also, values inculcated in students at initial stages can prepare them to tackle confidently problems like suicidal tendencies, inferiority complex, useless comparison as well as cut-throat competition which are rampant among students today.
The problems with our education system had been well identified by Swami Vivekananda a century ago. According to him, the modern education system equips a student with materialistic knowledge only and lays no stress on teaching values. What good does this education hold if it can’t make us sensitive to the persistent problems in our society? Everywhere we can witness wars, poverty, corruption, and perennial misery.
But he also acknowledged that technical education is important to the modern world. So he proposed an education system that is a harmonious amalgamation of western materialistic education and eastern spiritual education. This system, he believed would help us to create a youth that has high character and strength of mind and also help them to stand on their own feet. But alas! We have failed miserably to convert his vision into reality even after a century.
Another aspect of modern education that has to be understood that has resulted in its failure is the teacher–student relationship which has become more professional in nature due to the commercialized nature of education. Many teachers nowadays think that their responsibilities toward the students end in the class and they should not bother themselves with what they do beyond it. A teacher is a parent away from home for a student and thus has a vital role in shaping a student’s overall mindset. Regular and constructive communication between them may have a lifelong effect on the students and they evolve into better humans when they walk out of the institution.
Youth is the most potent force behind the economic and social development of any nation. And values are the force that drives the youth to work towards a just, equal, and prosperous society. The educational institutions along with the teachers and parents have a crucial role in giving them the right direction. Modern-day education suffers from many vices in spite of a few virtues. So formulation of a totally new education policy is the need of the hour. Well-directed youth can do great for the whole of humanity. As swami Vivekananda rightly pointed out the power of youth when he said, “Give me a few men and women who are pure and selfless and I shall shake the world.”