Education Sans Values?:Prem Khatry

Mother Earth has the capacity of producing a host of metals for the use of mankind. Man has to use his mind and brain to find them, bring them to the surface, refine them and use them. Man mines and uses some of the yellow looking metals for various purposes. But only gold is a highly coveted and sought-after yellow metal. Men ranging from a bullion tycoon to a goldsmith or from an established banker to a daughter-in-law or a pickpocket at the lowest rung of the ladder will grin to look at this metal or possess it for a short while. A glittering gold is the commander-in-chief in a large family of many metals. The sum of the logic is: Gold is Gold because it has a value put on its smooth face and its remarkable weight. 

This simile has been given here to prove one point: Education, like gold, has a value attached to it, and the value remains with it as long as other forces such as greed, selfish feelings and conscience do not overpower or negate the process and product.

Nepal has been experiencing phenomenal growth in the sphere of education after the political changes of 1950, 1960 and 1990. These changes mostly put education at the centre of the development aspiration. A cursory survey of the five-year plans designed and implemented during these decades proves this fact.

Foreign aid also played a vital role in promoting education in Nepal. This started right after the political changes of 1950 and continued more intensively in the 1960s and afterwards. Yet the policy, goal, production and use of manpower for development remained mostly mismatched and unheeded. The country now is experiencing this lacuna.

Whither value in education?

The ancient sages and scholars outlined the main objectives of education as a tool to sharpen the personality of an individual. They also saw education as a vehicle to carry the traditional values and sustain culture over time. That is, they emphasised on the formulation of a strong personality who could carry out the duties specified by the four major purusarthas – dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Without formal education obtained from the guru in the gurukula, it was impossible to inculcate values in one's character, and without such values life of the individual would not be smooth.

In those days, the role of the guru was thus vital in the life of an individual. That was a hoary past, and yet the gurus spared no time and effort to impart the best possible education through the gurukula and that was continued by the highly qualified, morally strong and academically sound gurus of the day. Besides the rigorous training in all possible faculties, the gurus lay more emphasis on values. Unfortunately this is what is now in short supply in the contemporary curricula, teaching kit and practices.

Nepal's education has always been through a checkered history. Despite special provisions to promote education and align it with development, the government always lacked a special policy on the need of service to go with education. The absence of a policy to link education with love, respect and service toward nation, has kept a generation well distanced from the need to serve the society and the nation.

With the advent of very expensive private schools as well as higher education, our pupils have been groomed as individuals, not members of the family, community and the society at large. 

Why is it that a young undergraduate attending government/public college doesn’t see any future whereas the one in an expensive private college sees a lot of it in another, more advanced western country? The answer is obvious: there is no way in both the systems to inculcate the most important values that fill the young heart and mind with the need to excel in his/her field and pay back with service to  the society, or at least to their parents or the community.

The family, the community and the society are there to watch these two candidates grow, leave the birth place, and land either in the Gulf, Malaysia, Korea or in the western world. During the process and earlier, mostly private college life is turned into a colourful arena where you can be proud of a host of historic achievements beyond the classroom – facebook and friendship, gang formation and inter-intra institution scuffles, loud, metallic music and picnics, valentines and parties, to name some major ones.

Indifferent parents

Today, parents have quit teaching children morals, and schools have only one agenda – excel and make a name of the institution in terms of percentage if you are in a private school. In the other streams, there is either no focus or if there is, it is to turn the students into die-hard political party cadres. No political party has an agenda to help schools and colleges update their curricula, recruit trained and committed teachers and engage the students in community activities as part of their education. Students are rather instructed to squeeze money and ready their muscle, just in case. Who knows when there will be a need to twist them to overpower the adversary by even burning the library (Tri-Chandra) or a whole complex (Kirtipur)?  Name the typology, you have examples.

Why is it that public schools and colleges have been show places for political parties? Why is it that a teacher is not a leader but a follower? The answer is: when the source is unclean, the water that flows down will be unclean, too. Our universities are now led not by academically sound, senior and committed scholars but by party nominees with strong political backing than a straight academic track record. The CIAA, for example, has demonstrated how weak their administration has become.

In the private stream, there is less partisan politics but more concern to excel only to leave the country as soon as possible. For the other sectors that train young students to work hard, there is also an urgent need to inculcate human virtues and not run after money.

Finally, quality education also means a special lesson on the quality of life. A wayward teaching-learning process, zero attention to the nation and culture, focus-less teaching in government schools and colleges, undue and unhealthy political pressures and influences in the academic fields have been major roadblocks in the field of quality and value-based education. There is an urgent need to internalise the point: Value-based, quality education glitters better than gold, nor will it be stolen or lost.

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