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Education for head and heart

Firoz Bakht Ahmed |

Today on Teacher’s Day, a grateful nation pays its ritualistic once-ayear tribute to the teaching community. As usual, there will be a lot of rhetoric including traditional lectures on ideal teachers and some mandatory awards and a dose of nostalgia.

The question is what would a talented teacher carry home in terms of salary every month? Truth is that there are hardly any incentives for a person who joins the teaching profession and that’s why the best brains are not joining this stream. Besides, what is of paramount importance is to follow a model of value-based education.

Opines, Dr Vijay Datta, Principal, Modern School, Delhi, that the teaching system in India seems to be at an awkward crossroads as both the teaching community and the community of the taught in schools and colleges, talk of discontentment and also disenchantment with each other.

Students today feel that the teaching style adopted by their lecturers is outdated. Others lament that besides teaching styles, even the norms and values too have changed. But similar, rather more vehement, is the grouse on the teachers’ part that values were missing in their teachers as well as parents.

The fact is that professional development of teachers is in the hands of bureaucrats and hence opportunities for teachers are severely limited by the system. The Indian model of education not only discourages experimentation in teaching but also undermines the very desire to teach.

Fifty years ago children had ambitions about becoming teachers and serving their nation. Today, a majority of the teachers both in schools and colleges are either those who have opted for the profession owing to the comfortable time calculations, or because they have not been able to cope with the demands of other lucrative competitive careers.

In olden times, society accorded to gurus the status of angel, guide, guardian and mentor. What’s of paramount importance for the teachers today is to introduce ‘value education’. States the Taittarya Upanishad: Matri Devo Bhava; Pitri Devo Bhava; Acharya Devo Bhava (Respect the mother, the father and the teacher). The guru is seen as the preceptor, the acharya and teacher.

All our sacred texts have mentioned how spiritual guides and teachers, sages and saints with the strength of their character, upright morals and strenuous practices, had remained fearless when attacked by men of physical might.
In a treatise on value education, late Anil Wilson, the principal of Delhi’s St Stephen’s College very authentically pointed out at the Modern School Diaspora Initiative lecture that the conflict today is between the obsession with the earning power of learning on the one hand and the seeming irrelevance of pedagogical activity on the other. The natural result is an intellectual and moral vacuum that is increasingly being filled up by populist rhetoric in the one hand and coercion and corruption on the other.

Educational scientists have presented solutions but myopic politicians have unfortunately acted in disregard to the same. The Indian Brain is today recognized as the best in the world; but perhaps the same cannot be said of the Indian Heart. This is because we have not spent as much effort in educating the heart as we have in educating the head.

According to Jennifer Tytler, Director-Principal of JD Tytler School, our efforts at educating the heart have not only suffered due to a lack of understanding and direction but also because most attempts in this direction are hijacked by power brokers who manipulate educational systems.

The need to control people is fundamental to the quest for power. Power brokers have, over the years, instinctively realised that in order to control people they first need to control the educational matrices that determine a people. Dilute education of values and they have control over people.

This is because people with values cannot be ruled over except by the values they hold dear. ‘Networking’ is the watchword, not merit, to undermine the people’s sense of integrity that takes a toll of brilliance introducing pull, not ability. Impetus towards work, improvement, perfection and excellence is killed by setting up standards of achievement available to the most inept. This crisis has divested education of values today.

Sensitising and not dehumanising should be the motto of education that implores the study of literature is important only if it sensitises us to the importance of human feelings and emotions. If we are sensitised to the human condition in context of the material aspects of life, only then will our study of economics be value based.

No study of science will be meaningful unless it sensitises us to the humane aspect in science and all progress. Likewise, the study of history will be rendered futile unless it sensitises us to impel the menacing forces that endanger human life. But what is lamented is the fact that we study these subjects not for their sensitising potential but for minting money.

Besides the status, the earning potential of learning determines the importance and the ‘value’ of a subject in the eyes of a student. Thus, commerce is a much sought after subject today whereas philosophy, or history, or the arts, find few takers. It is obvious that the notion of value in education has shifted from the philosophical and transcendent sense and come to rest in the market place. That’s why criminals are accepted, dictators admired and corrupt power mongers emulated.

The new ‘education order’ separates ‘value’ from ‘education’.

This has resulted in a closing not only of the human mind but more significantly, the closing of the human heart. The intellectual cacophony that surrounds us can only be resolved when we realize that an education that ignores moral and spiritual values cannot qualify as a quality education.

Modern education has largely separated virtue and knowledge and has severed the link between reason and virtue, between the mind and the heart.

An adequate education cannot afford to ignore either the mind or the heart. Together they form the vital links in the chain of civilization.

Thus, education to be truly valuecentered must move away from ‘survival learning’ and move towards ‘generative learning’.

This implies that the aim and purpose of any and all kinds of study is to get to the heart of what it means to be human.

The author is a an educationist and commentator