Archive for August, 2012

आंतरिक लोकतंत्र है इलाज

Posted on August 15, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

आंतरिक लोकतंत्र है इलाज

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Investing in democracy

Posted on August 15, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Investing in democracy

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The enemy within

Posted on August 15, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The enemy within

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Regulation of internet

Posted on August 15, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Regulation of internet

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निर्वाचन और शासन की चुनौतियां

Posted on August 15, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

निर्वाचन और शासन की चुनौतियां

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Education is not just about jobs

Posted on August 4, 2012. Filed under: Education |

The Indian Express, June 27, 2006

Education is not just about jobs

Jagdeep S. Chhokar

Discussing the purpose of education would be unnecessary in normal times, because it would be obvious to everyone. But today’s times are far from normal and we, therefore, have to remind ourselves of the purpose of education, especially when it relates to the training of professionals who go on to build the future.

Embedded in education is a value system, the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, good and bad. In a way, it is also about making judgments. An ‘educated’ person, one with general knowledge and powers of reasoning and judgment, would be expected to make reasoned and therefore logical judgments. He would be able to understand what is good for him and also what is good for the society and nation. Helping individuals develop into good citizens is, and should be, one of the prime purposes of education.

The extent to which our education system, at all levels, contributes to the development of good citizens may be a matter of individual opinion, but I think we have a really long way to go in developing informed, responsible, and active citizens. This seems evident from the fact that a very large proportion of people normally considered educated and informed do not seem to be aware of the fact that being a citizen also involves some responsibilities. While there is fairly widespread awareness of the existence of fundamental rights, not too many of us seem to be aware of fundamental duties enjoined upon the citizen in the Constitution.

One of the major reasons for losing sight of what may well be the most basic purpose of education is that education has come to be considered, almost exclusively, as a means of getting a good job. What seems to be overlooked in the process is that everyone is a citizen first and only then a professional. This brings us to the difference between education and training. The Random House Dictionary describes the difference between the two as follows: ‘Education’ is the development of the special and general abilities of the mind (learning to know); a liberal education. ‘Training’ is practical education (learning to do) or practice, generally under supervision, in some art, trade, or profession; training in art, teacher training.

Our education system seems to focus almost exclusively on the so-called ‘training view’ of education. And an outcome of the narrow view of education as training, is the inability and unwillingness of people coming out of educational institutions, even from the so-called institutions of higher learning, to get involved in the processes of society at large. This manifests itself in several ways — like inappropriate business practices and inappropriate behaviour in politics and administration.

An argument is often made that in a developing economy such as ours with a very large population and high levels of poverty and unemployment, getting jobs is the first priority, and that people can learn about the so-called good citizenship through their experiences in life. Teachers often express their helplessness when it comes to inculcating values of good citizenship in students, given the strong countervailing social forces. I believe everyone involved in imparting education (and we must remember that education comes not only from teachers but from a variety of sources) has a responsibility to encourage students to question the existing value system if its militates against the social good.

If our students cannot exercise discerning judgment in matters of basic citizenship, are we justified in assuming or hoping that they will be able to exercise sound judgment in their professional decisions? This becomes salient when we think about the effectiveness of education which is the “act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, and of developing powers of reasoning and judgment”.

It is difficult to be a good citizen without being a good human being. Education therefore also needs to focus on inculcating good human values among the students, in addition to preparing them for jobs. The neglect or reduction in the importance given to humanities and social sciences — under the influence of the argument that more and more students prefer the so-called ‘professional courses’ — is also a big concern. Inputs focussed on helping and encouraging students to become good human beings and effective citizens are needed at all levels of education, as these are the most fundamental purposes of education.

Those of us in the profession of education can ignore this only at great peril to society. And some of the recent developments in society, including an almost obsessive focus on the so-called ‘higher education’ with an almost total neglect of basic education, do not augur well for the country. Of course, we can always follow Mark Twain, who once said: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

The writer is a professor at the IIM, Ahmedabad

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Education for citizenship

Posted on August 4, 2012. Filed under: Education, Politics |

Education for Citizenship

Jagdeep S. Chhokar

Published in The Times of India, March 17, 2006.

It is good to see the Director of NCERT raising some fundamental issues about education for public debate rather than justifying or explaining the actions taken by his organization (Learn to live, Live to learn, Times of India, March 8, 2006), as such functionaries usually do. Krishna Kumar writes about the philosophical failure in education by not recognizing “education (as) an experience (and by) missing out its core components (which) are understanding and values”. According to him, we fail to take long term view by treating education as “an opportunity to proceed further in life with a chance to increase … income.” Krishna Kumar places this flawed view of education and the unfortunate lack of values in the context of widespread female infanticide.

It is indeed often forgotten, and India is no exception, that the purpose of education is primarily to help participants become better human beings and effective citizens. Making people into good engineers, doctors, accountants, managers, lawyers, etc. is, at least in the long term, a secondary objective of education. As someone involved in so-called higher education, and in management, for several years in India and outside, this focus on the secondary objective with almost total disregard of the primary objective of education all over the world has always been for me a disquieting experience. The kind of education which is now attempted to be imparted starting at earlier and earlier stages and continuing into what is often referred to as higher education can at best be called vocational or professional education because it prepares the participants to become proficient in their chosen vocations or professions. The loser in this entire activity is what should appropriately be called basic education. The result therefore is that the trained human power that we have is good at doing its vocational and professional work but lacks basic human qualities. The myriad social tensions and issues that we face today are an inevitable consequence of this.

Another basic fact which is often forgotten is that while we revel in blaming everyone else such as the politicians, bureaucrats, exploitative business persons, unscrupulous civil society activists, for all the ills of the society and the nation, we very easily overlook the fact that all the so-called villains are citizens first and everything else afterwards. Therefore they are primarily ineffective or irresponsible citizens before they can become either bureaucrats, or politicians or anything else.

In my work on electoral and political reforms as a civil society activist I continue to be struck by the large proportion of people from all walks of life, including the so-called intelligentia and college students, who seem to be blissfully ignorant of the fact that being a citizen also entails some responsibilities. While most people I come across seem to be quite aware and knowledgeable about fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitution, few seem to be aware of the fundamental duties of citizens listed in Article 51(a) inserted by the 42nd amendment with the effect from January 3, 1977. Of course fundamental rights differ from fundamental duties in as much as the fundamental rights are judicially enforceable, fundamental duties are part of the Directive Principles of State Policy and, therefore, are only recommendatory and not legally enforceable.

A large proportion of citizens being acutely conscious of their fundamental rights and demanding their enforcement by the state, while being either ignorant, innocent, or oblivious of their duties as citizens, is one of the major ills of Indian society. The civics and social studies curricula at various levels of education do not seem to have been effective in delivering the appropriate level of citizen education. There is therefore an urgent need to devise mechanisms to ensure that all citizens, not only school or college students, become conscious of their responsibilities as citizens. That an active citizenry is an essential condition for democracy to succeed, was captured very well by Felix Frankfurter, who was appointed a judge of the US Supreme Court in 1939. He said,

“Democracy involves hardship – the hardship of the unceasing responsibility of every citizen. Where the entire people do not take a continuous and considered part in public life, there can be no democracy in any meaningful sense of the term. Democracy is always a beckoning goal, not a safe harbour. For freedom is an unremitting endeavour, never a final achievement. That is why no office in the land is more important than that of being a citizen.”

Developing a nationwide initiative for education for citizenship is therefore a national imperative in case we want to ensure that democracy continues and succeeds in India.

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