Why education is boring and dull! It needn’t be!
We, Indians are accustomed to reading English books written by the Brits, right? That is our legacy!
This is not a book review. This page is an outcome of reading an old book that remains a classic and that too in the field of education. C.E.M. Joad is famous, perhaps only next to Bertrand Russell, in the rank of popularize of very heavy topics and of course he is a master of the exquisite English prose style. Education is an old topic and as Joad himself says; writing on education is often “boring” and “dull”! But then education is so much talked about though, as Joad again says that people, the common ones, also don’t care much for education!
Here, Joad writing at the time of the World War II in 1941 or so, quotes Aristotle who says: The object of education is to cause us to like and to dislike what we ought to! It is for readers to make out what it means! Now, education “is the distasteful subject”. In UK, there are too many pamphlets, books and surveys and opinions on what constitutes education. As I suspected Joad is also an old-fashioned Conservative, he takes the British history and class system and its attendant inequities and inequalities as almost God-given! By this we mean that England has historic names, the famed public Schools, Oxford and Cambridge and as such not much change in education ideals are needed.
Today in India, why, even in the whole world, including Britain, the education outlook and its myriad functions have changed beyond imagination. The Internet had changed it all. Now, for the higher ends of high quality education, the international student community looks for other destinations. May be, UK may be the last, if at all.
Now, there are certain other aspects of life and also education in England that might attract Indian imagination.
In chapter 2 on the purposes of education, he says that education doesn’t really promote a democratic society, as we all imagine. He also goes into some critical observations, (that is new to me at any rate) that the BBC (in my time in England in the late 1950s) used to have a celebrated programme called the Brains Trust with high-powered intellectuals debating on all and sundry issues. Here Joad tells that already in his time the so-called freedom of thought, free expressions were curtailed by several subtle ways, when it comes to religion and politics! This is surprising for me at any rate. And also, surprisingly again, that education and free press didn’t promote a more civilized and well-behaved citizenry!
This too seems to be very familiar to us today, though not many seem to debate this point. Already the mass media both print and TV channels do produce third rate stuff, right! And would education growth, education spread as we also see in India lead to a responsible citizenry? It looks doubtful again. See in some states, more so in the well-advanced state like TN, the political corruption and political criminality touched rock-bottom levels! Other bad social consequences, liquor shops run by government and also liquor manufacture run by those who run the parties and government too!
There are also other social evils like Goondaism and much violence and the rise of crime. Now, more such news even in states run by the new generation politician donning saffron robes! So, education needs to be debated in some critical depth. One more aspect Joad discusses is the role of Public Schools in British education. The Public schools are supposed to produce leaders of society and polity! This claim too needs some finer criticism. Recently, the President of India, the humble Pranab Mukherjee visited through famed Lawrence Public School, in the Nilgiris. He also extolled the role of such a historic school, he came for the 159th anniversary.
Of course the Rashtrapati made a good speech lasting barely seven minutes, barely there was not much time to dwell on such a topic like education and what Indian needs today as its national education goals. But one thing is sure. India needs a literary society, education has to reach all. But then there would be hierarchies and classes and so too certain safeguards and certain quality, to India to compete in the modern world.
So too education has to be a pursuit for some elite class too. We need to ask the very same questions Joad asks like the education for a Capitalist society and the world, education for a Socialist society and equal world opportunities. We too need education as inspired by Greek and Roman classical ideals, as well as education for the girl child, women and gender parity in education and jobs.
We live in a knowledge economy. IT revolution has changed our education, learning and work styles. We can now work from home; work from any part of the world and so life has become to a large extent easy and pleasant.
That is the gain of modern education, modern civilization and modern lifestyles. There is a need and there is so much to think creatively and live purposeful lives more abundantly than what we possible in the last generaiton, right?