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Visualize the word ‘Education’. What do you see?

A school and a classroom? Teachers and books? Homework? Theories and principles? Subjects, courses, curriculum, extra-curricular, a certificate, a degree?

But, I ask you- shouldn’t education be more than all of the above? I believe, yes, it should be and it can be.

Let’s look at where we are today. We have more educated people in our country than we have ever had. We have more schools than ever, more teachers than ever and more students than ever. We even have more higher education institutes than ever. Isn’t that, in a plain and a simple term, nice?

But, seriously, look at where we are today. Our society has aborted more female fetuses than ever. We have more political/financial scandals, and on a larger scale than ever. We face more petty corruption than ever. We have more filth on our streets and apparently an utter lack of civic sense than ever. It’s obvious that there a loss of sense of community, a rise in selfish motives, and a need of an effective leadership.

Where are our principles and morals? Where are our fundamentals? Where is humanity?

Common sense implies that the more people we educate the better the society will be; for this is what education is eventually supposed to do- empower people with knowledge and wisdom, and thereby with better reasoning and judgment. It is supposed to help people live life with dignity and fulfillment, so they can in turn contribute to the betterment of their community and hence society.

So what is it that’s not working? Are we, as a society, inherently immoral & corrupt? Are we set to make new standards for unethical-inhumane behavior and selfish deeds? Please allow me to assume that we want to improve, and that we want to rise above our present behavior. The question then is- how?

Though I absolutely agree that change is needed at a personal and individual level, I also strongly believe that education can play a significant role in transforming our society into a better place to live. We need to redefine our attitude, and education can act as a catalyst in the process; only if we modify the way we define education.

Perhaps we need to start with the basics and revisit our existing education curriculum. We have a strong base for subjects such as science, mathematics, history, geography, arts and languages but we fail to provide learning in subjects that make the foundation of an individual’s personality and outlook. We don’t “teach” enough to our students soft subjects such as ‘Moral Science’, ‘Civic Sense’, ‘Environmental Awareness’ and ‘Rights & Duties’. We don’t lay much needed emphasis on them in a typical school routine. It’s time we changed that.

We need to supplement our current curriculum with these soft subjects from the very beginning of learning and make them mandatory up till the very end of formal schooling.

‘Moral Science’ teachings should include discussions on our role as responsible humans and citizens and inculcate positive outlook towards other individuals. Emphasis should be laid on the importance of mutual respect and understanding. ‘Civic Sense’ education should provide us with tools that can help us develop a sense of community, and a sense of belonging for the general area we reside in- so we can help keep it clean, hygienic and sanitary. ‘Environmental Awareness’ should teach us the importance of protecting the environment, waste reduction, recycling & reusing. ‘Rights and Duties’ should teach us our rights as humans & as citizens, and our duties such as- all of the above. Study of these subjects can be imparted through students sharing viewpoints and ideas, having discussions, and brainstorming solutions.

Apart from subjects defined above, we need to add in the mix, certain electives that are in addition to main-stream curriculum. This can help students choose subjects of their interest- outside academics- and also provide them with a sense of decision-making and hence responsibility. We need to cultivate independent thinking through projects such as designing/creating solutions for real-world problems. We need to jog their untapped brains and potentials and make them think about the society and their surroundings. In other words, we need to raise ‘awareness’ and develop ‘problem-solving/leadership’ skills through the schooling process.

The list of subjects mentioned here may not be comprehensive, or a rigid framework, but it’s the beginning of a concept that needs to be carefully thought upon – soon.

Millions of students go to various schools every day in our country. They spend a significant amount of time in their classrooms- classrooms that contribute to shaping their thoughts and approach to life. With a few subtle changes I believe we can contribute to modifying our attitude shaping process, help change our behaviors, and in the process improve on our standards of life.

There is no doubt in my mind that an all-encompassing education can act as a strong foundation for a moral-ethical attitude and an understanding society.