Volume 7 - Issue 08
August 2009
Other Articles

 BETWEEN YOU AND US

Modern Educational Mayhem and the Way Out

 

If there is one common critical challenge for most parents in this world, which worries them constantly and goads them into making life-altering changes in their lives, it concerns their children’s education. Ridiculous though it may seem, it is a fact that even before the child has opened his/her eyes to the world, many parents have already lost enough sleep pondering over the best possible schooling options for their child. 

Recently, Canada’s national daily, Globe and Mail carried an article on the state of panic regarding kindergarten education among educated urban parents in the Indian capital New Delhi.  The headline said it all – “Fierce competition for top spots in India’s peewee Ivy League”. The article went on to say “As New Delhi’s population explodes, parents are doing anything to get their children into one of the city’s elite nursery schools – a task that’s tougher than getting into Harvard.”  It also points out that “Private-school fees can be hefty (100,000 rupees, or $2,500 a year), but parents from every income group are willing to take on huge loans if they can secure a precious seat.”

 

Why is it that good and free education which according to the UN Declaration of Human Rights is the fundamental right of every citizen of the world, has today become a casualty? Is this truly not at the root of many evils that torment our current society repeatedly? Why is it that knowledge which was always considered sacred by ancient civilizations such as India, the teacher being venerated as a form of God, is today just another commodity which has to be bought and not reverentially received? Hasn’t something seriously gone wrong in the last few decades? Definitely yes! And the answer probably is the pernicious paradigm shift in the philosophy and procedure of the modern system of learning. Education today is no longer a noble and altruistic experience that has to be conscientiously proffered and courteously absorbed; sadly, it has become an enterprise.

India Inc. and other major economies of the world today hail the advent of a new breed of business leaders - the ‘edupreneurs’.

The mission of these edupreneurs is straightforward and simple - to maximize their monetary returns by making the most of this ‘huge market’ of desperate buyers of much-needed education. In fact, many businessmen whose area of operation for decades was totally unrelated to any aspect of education, learning or human resource growth et al have now jumped into this ‘promising emerging business opportunity’ and are soon poised to join the other ‘education czars’ (some of whom in India own assets worth 600, 500 or 800 crores!).

US $42 billions is the size of this new market in India alone and this is expected to climb to US $64 billion (some say $80 billion) in another four years, according to a study conducted by a leading Indian Business Magazine. And half of this pie consists of K-12 (Kindergarten to class 12) education which comes to Rs. 2,01,600 crore, and this too is growing fast to double in a decade.

Enrollments in K-12 are expected to touch 351 million by 2018; at an average charge of Rs. 1.15 lakh per seat, this translates into an alluring Rs. 3,91,000 crore! No wonder, it is not just entrepreneurs but also private equity and venture capitalists who are zealously eyeing ‘education companies’; US $300 million has already been sunk by them into this sector and this number probably could have been several times more but for government regulatory hurdles which does not legally permit ‘profit’ in this sector. These edupreneurs too do not even inadvertently utter this ‘P’ word but have a convenient substitute - ‘surplus’(!).  Slice or dice any which way, the edupreneurs have come of age as the product they sell is a huge money spinner.

What happens when a student who is reduced to a mere ‘customer’ goes through such a mercenary system of learning? He hits back at the earliest opportunity to recover the huge investments made to acquire the degree.  No surprise then that we find professionals demanding high salaries, entrepreneurs seeking to make a fast buck through the shortest possible route - no matter what - and young doctors almost fleecing their patients, without a second thought. Society, they feel, was heartless to them earlier and now it their turn to get back. Their ruthlessness is well justified, they reason. 

And so, this vicious cycle continues with the result that presently we have reached a point where most of these educational establishments have only ‘growth and prosperity’ as their aim and have no qualms of being a commercial organization; and in the process the original purpose of imparting quality and sacred learning that most institutions originally had is completely lost. If we analyze carefully, this is in fact the reason why a plethora of pathetic ills plague our society today, be it terrorism to teenage suicides, gang-fights to drug abuse, youth depression to poverty.  Exorbitant education has to be avenged for by hook or crook.

The students of The Sri Sathya Sai institution never ‘buy’ their education; they are instead gifted this sacred knowledge with great love and care, and the pupils too receive it humbly. The motto of this holy seat of learning is ‘Speak the Truth – Follow Righteousness’ and this is exactly what each alumnus or alumna of this university strives to do once he or she is back in society.

Many may say, “Well, this could be true to some extent, but that is the way the world is now. Changing this entire set up in society is next to impossible. Altruism is good for platform speeches but the reality is starkly the opposite.” Basically, many sections of society do realize that we are living with a cancer but feel helpless, while the worst part is that there are others who are either not aware or do not even acknowledge that we do have a truly deadly cancer.

Long ago, a British visionary named Malcolm Muggeridge, who used to be a teacher of English in Kuchi, before the partition of India and Pakistan, returned to England only to find himself utterly disgusted with the prevailing educational system there.  He noted, “A society like ours, dedicated to the pursuit of happiness, which means in practice, the pursuit of pleasure, money, eroticism, success etc., with violence for kicks, is to me very repellent! It is my considered view that the way of life of the Western man today, is the most horrible and degraded that ever existed on earth. Education, the great mumbo-jumbo and fraud of the age, purports to equip us to live and is prescribed as a Universal remedy for everything – from juvenile delinquency to premature senility. For the most part, it only serves to enlarge stupidity, inflate conceit, enhanced credulity, and put those subjected to it at the mercy of brain washers in printing presses, radio and television at their disposal.”

Things don’t seem that much different today even in India. So much for the problem, but is there a solution? If there is, will it be practical and effective, and more importantly, enduring?

 

And the answer is there is no problem in this world that does not have a way out. However, if the solution has to be permanent, it also has to be based on something that is unchanging and eternal. In other words, the source of the solution lies not in the fickle and intelligent mind but in the heart that is steady and sacred. A shining practical illustration of this is the Sri Sathya Sai University, established by Bhagavan Baba more than a quarter century ago in a remote corner of the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. The students of this institution never ‘buy’ their education; they are instead gifted this sacred knowledge with great love and care, and the pupils too receive it humbly. The motto of this holy seat of learning is ‘Speak the Truth – Follow Righteousness’ and this is exactly what each alumnus or alumna of this university strives to do once he or she is back in society. But does it really work? You can find out for yourself from our collection of real-life accounts in the section “Harnessing the Heart” from H2H archives. And to get a glimpse of how these students imbibe this lofty education not only from their teachers and professors, but also directly from their Divine Chancellor Himself, please read our article “Scintillating Moments with Sweet Sai, Part-2” in the Swami and Me section of this issue.

Well, the Sri Sathya Sai University may have three campuses, but this is just one of the thousands of educational establishments in this country; what difference can it really make? This is no doubt a valid argument but what one fails to observe is that this University does not proclaim to be the answer to all the evils of the world, instead it demonstrates to the entire human society what is truly possible if one were determined enough to chart a new dimension in modern education, where character development of the students is more important than their career prospects, and the only currency exchanged during this entire learning tenure is selfless love.

What is more heartening is how, drawing inspiration from this enlightened educational philosophy, a plethora of Sai schools and colleges have sprouted up in India and all corners of the globe. And their number as well as their impact is only increasing every passing day. There is the British Institute of Sathya Sai Education in UK which has done tremendous work in sensitizing young minds about the timeless values of Love, Truth and Non-violence. You will find a peek of this in our Feature article “My Invaluable Experience with Sai EHV” which is a conversation with the director of this aforementioned institute, Mrs. Carol Alderman.  

The big story in this issue, however, is about the Institute of Sathya Sai Educare located in Chromepet, Chennai in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Offering completely free education of international standard for nearly three decades now, this school has achieved something which even the most prestigious institutes do not even dare to contemplate upon. Ms. Sai Meera, the Principal of this school who is actually an alumna of the school, says, “This school believes in offering real education that involves the student, and does not merely thrust information. Real education flows from the heart and is termed as 'Educare'”.

This institute like all other Sai inspired institutions relies not on money, men or material, but in the immeasurable power of pure Love that is encased in every individual’s heart, for that alone can provide permanent peace to society. Only when selfless Love rules the hearts of the majority of our civilization, can we appreciate and live by the ‘indefinable moral law that governs this universe’ as Mahatma Gandhi put it. And when this happens, we will definitely find ourselves in a society that offers us more good and inspiring news than the current headlines that highlight gaudy and debilitating stories.

Let us make morality the mark of our lives, individually and collectively, and live lives worthy of our education – one that is for life, not merely for earning a living.

Loving regards,
Heart2Heart Team

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