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MODERN EDUCATION: THE MALADY AND THE REMEDY

Recently, there was a Conference of Vice Chancellors held in Prashanti Nilayam. This issue carries a detailed report on that. Relating to that, I would like to presently muse on where education has drifted today where India is concerned. By the way, I should mention that this Conference was a part of the year-long, Golden Jubilee Celebration of the University Grants Commission. This particular Conference was to deal with the question of values, and what better place to hold it than Prashanti Nilayam?

EDUCATION NOWLet me start by comparing today's situation in education with that which was obtained in 1947, at the time of Independence. If we do that, we sure find many pluses. The budget for education has increased enormously, the number of schools and colleges has grown phenomenally, so has enrolment, and funding for research which, while it could be better, is not to be sneered at. In fact, it is all these facts put together that has enabled the country to make good progress in Science and Technology, as compared to many other developing countries that won freedom around the same time. Nevertheless, the overall score is somewhat disappointing because today's students are not quite what they should be. No doubt they are very intelligent, they are quick on the uptake, they can solve problems in a jiffy, and many of them are even whiz kids. But all of this does not add up to what this country needs at the present time, and needs badly I might add.

What has gone wrong? Well, I believe that the root cause of the problem is the large- scale abandoning of EDUCATION THENvalues by schools and colleges. They are no longer bothered about character-development which really ought to be their priority number one. Instead, most of them are busy trying to make money, try to be one up over other schools and in teaching ruthless competition to students. In other words, values that have been cherished so dearly and which have held this Society for thousands of years have been jettisoned altogether in a few short decades.

I recall what it was like barely sixty years ago. Children were given a good moral upbringing at home, there was morality in the school and in college, and in the work place too. There was, so to say, a general moral ambience. As a result, when young people came together, they brought with them their individual moral armour, toughened at home and in school. Thus young people had no difficulty in adhering to the moral path. Today, all that has more or else disappeared, thanks to two major factors. Firstly, parents have no time for their children while teachers couldn't care less about character development. Secondly there is the pernicious effect of the Media, fuelled by money power. The net result is that large numbers of even good people have begun to think that Sathya and Dharma will not work anymore. Is this really true? Let us examine.

Let us ask first: "What really is expected of an educated person?" People may say: "Such a person would be good at solving problems and in delivering the goods." I would say not enough. To me the foremost duty of an educated person is to serve as a Conscience-keeper of Society. And one cannot be a Conscience-keeper, unless one follows one's Conscience. All of which means that the prime goal of education must be to develop character.

You do not have to take my word for it. Just go back to the Mahabharatha and examine what the great Bhishma, Dronacharya and Kripacharya did at a crucial moment. They all remained silent when they ought to have spoken strongly. They totally failed in their role as Conscience-keepers. Of what use then was their so-called Knowledge?

Today's a very large number of the so-called intellectuals have abdicated their moral responsibility and are remaining silent about all kinds of moral delinquency concerning which they ought to raise a strong protest. In fact, many of them are even deluded by the views promoted by the influential people in association with the media.

Let me at this point recall an incident that occurred many years ago. It was the month of March, and Swami was in Brindavan. I was teaching there at that time. One evening after Bhajans, during the usual Trayee Session, Swami got the ball rolling with His usual question: Emi Samacharam, or what news? One elder said, "Swami, this morning an exciting thing happened. A Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle [PSLV] rocket was successfully launched from Sriharkota Launch Station". Swami said, "Is that so? What will this rocket do?" The elder replied, "Swami, the PSLV has placed in orbit a remote sensing satellite. This satellite can remotely monitor forest fires, urbanisation, deforestation, etc." The gentleman rattled off a long list but Swami did not seem impressed. After a while He asked, "Has not Science already made a lot of progress?" "Yes Swami." "In that case, why not harness the fruits of these developments first for the benefit of mankind, before spending more money on research?"

HOOKED TO THE TELEVISIONThat really is the point, and it is far from trivial. Just to underscore it, let me draw attention to what has happened to TV in this country. When it was first introduced in the seventies, it was stated that TV would be used mostly for educational purposes and moderately for entertainment. TV is a very powerful medium and if it had been harnessed for education, it could have done wonders. Instead, very quickly it was taken over for money making, almost with no holds barred. And the results are there for all to see. In fact, Swami refers to TV as Televisham; visham means poison! The indictment is indeed strong.

So, what are we to do? Luckily, there is an answer and, needless to say it is from Swami Himself. The answer came way back in 1968 when Baba was in Bombay. During that trip He was invited to the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, a Cultural University in that city. Assembled there were a group of scholars and intellectuals, and one of them asked: "Should India go nuclear or not?" This, by the way, was six yeas before India tested a nuclear device. Swami in reply first drew attention to the Pandavas. He said that while Bhima was mighty and Arjuna a skilled archer, both of them bowed before their elder brother Dharmja. That was because Dharmaja always adhered to Dharma. Baba continued, "In today's world, America is like Arjuna while Russia is like Bhima. India must be like Dharmaja. In practical terms, India must try to enhance its Moral Power rather than its military might." Interestingly, this is precisely what Swami Vivekananda dreamt of earlier - he too wanted India to be the Moral Leader of the world.

The message is loud and clear - we must do everything we can to return to a moral way of life. This is a must because as Gandhi reminded us so often, there is a Moral Law governing the Universe. We cannot but bow to it.

There is no need to feel diffident about returning to a moral way of life. All that is necessary is to have confidence in Moral Power. This is the Power of God and there is no power in the Universe that can come anywhere near it; but this we must firmly believe in. If parents and teachers believe in this, then what seems impossible can be achieved.

There is no need to imagine that returning to a moral way of life means backing away from modernity. This is a totally mistaken assumption. One has merely to take a good look at Swami's School and Colleges, which, by the way the visiting Vice Chancellors all did. These educational institutions founded by Bhagavan Baba have all successfully blended education with educare, thus offering the right mix of education that would help in making a living and education that is for life. Aspects of that were highlighted in the previous issue. Please go back and take a second look. My musings are about the Indian scene but I am sure that aspects of what I have said apply to all countries. Do you agree? Do write and let us know. As always, we can be reached at: [email protected]

Jai Sai Ram.
G.Venkataraman

 
 

Volume 01: PDS / 07 Date : DEC 01 2003