There is a lot of ‘buzz’ around education these days. The policy space has seen a lot of activity in the last decade or so. The Right to Education Act, the New Education Policy and so on are testimony to the fact that education is being discussed at length. Simultaneously, there is a proliferation of private organisations, be it schools, civil society organisations or for-profit ventures, all foraying into school education. In this context, it becomes essential that we raise and discuss some fundamental questions around this theme.
One of the recurrent themes in discussions around this subject is the idea of ‘child-centric’ learning & education. More and more people and organisations have been focusing on the need to make teaching and learning more ‘child-centric’. If this term were to be broadly understood as reducing stress, providing emotional safety and creating learning processes that involve the child to the greater degree, nobody would argue or refute the need for such education. There are myriad theories about how this end could be achieved while still ensuring the effectiveness of education – that is, to make sure that children indeed learn. We shall not go into these methods and theories here.
Most of the questions & ideas mentioned above describe the means of education. However, there is a need to also step back and ask a more fundamental question – on the goals of education. In other words, what should school education aim to achieve? For anybody to decide if a method is effective or not, one must first ask what aims the method aspires to achieve. The word education is derived from the Latin ‘educatio’, which means something close to ‘breeding, bringing up, rearing’. When seen in this manner, the question then naturally arises – bringing up to be what? What kind of people do we want to develop through the process of education?
India is a democratic country, with an avowed allegiance to values enshrined in the Constitution. Therefore, one could perhaps take for granted that one of the fundamental aims of education in our country must be to create citizens capable of actively participating in a democratic society. This immediately means and perhaps assumes that the citizens have the ability to think, discern and make intelligent choices.
This then becomes an important social aim of education. While making such choices, we may want individuals to have a sense of coherence and consistency, which then points towards what could be an individual / personal aim of education. Along with this, it is no doubt essential to equip citizens with the necessary wherewithal to be productive, and improve the quality of their lives through economic activity. This latter, could perhaps be called an economic aim of education.
One of our present challenges seems to be the undue focus given to the economic aims of education, with scant regard or discourse around the individual and social aims of education. There is a danger that this results in highly individualistic people with scant regard for anything beyond economic well-being, leave alone social good. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop a comprehensive, coherent, contextual and importantly, accessible articulation of the aims of education. This could be an important first steps in improving the quality of education in our country.