Where the mind is without fear – The Times of India Blog

From an early age, we have been taught that education is probably the only path to achieving success and happiness in life. And yet, so many of us, in spite of the education we have been blessed with, get swayed away by the volatility of life, volatility that has heightened significantly in the current times. This might lead us to wonder has education lived up to its promise? Or has it lost its intrinsic purpose and vision in the wake of modern-day societies and countries? It probably has.

Fundamentally, education needs to be reimagined. Had we heeded Tagores words- Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high while designing curricula and imparting education, this might not have been required. The purpose of education is three-fold: sharing information, building skillsets, and instilling wisdom. Wisdom is critical to be able to better understand the art of living and be at peace with ourselves and the world. Truth be told, our education system, as exposed by the rapid pace of change in the 21st century, and more recently by the pandemic, has obsessively focused on the first two aspects only. And consequently, it has failed our students to be future-ready. Our schools and colleges have rarely taught us how to respond gracefully to a colleagues chiding remarks, double down when things get hard, manage our thoughts, emotions or our worst fears or to keep our heads high in the face of uncertainty. In our race for survival and higher economic status, wisdom remained in the timeless teachings of our past seers only.

The tragedy of Indian education lies in our inability to capitalise on our over 5,000 years old Gurukul system of learning, where students lived in the Gurus residence, learning and working together as a community. This system included all essential elements for nurturing educated and responsible beings. Learning was seen as a lifelong process where life was the most important teacher, and the Guru the leading light. The curriculum inspired students to develop a sense of discretion and self-restraint, build their personality and intellectual prowess, imbibe personal virtues and social awareness, and more.

Some parts of this deep educational philosophy have remained embedded in our 21st-century system, but sadly, only some. The gaps in our education have now manifested into real-world problems, and the raging pandemic and the subsequent disappearance of brick-and-mortar learning has only complicated matters. What then is a balanced and nuanced path towards reclaiming the old order of cultivating informed, skilled and conscious individuals? How can modern society move from developing agile workers to agile humans? Is there still a way to tap into our ancient wisdom and our cultural heritage against the current wave of complexities and unhappiness? The answer is yes and three things need to be done.

First, the student-teacher relationship needs to be deepened again, where teachers are fully responsible for students growth and well-being and teach emotional intelligence as an integral component of the school curriculum, much like the Delhi governments newly minted Happiness class. Further, we need to draw talent and compensate teachers in a manner that, at least substantially, competes with the rewards of a mainstream career. Teachers have always been revered in our society and we should revere them even more.

Second, the learning horizon needs to be expanded beyond teachers, parents, authors and managers to include friends, peers, strangers, community, and life events, for we have always learnt from others and limiting who or what we learn from limits our potential to learn.

Finally, our education system needs to transform the mindset of our students from limited learning through our growing years only, to a mindset for lifelong learning where we all become students for life.

There are many more things that need to be done. However, even if these three changes can be incorporated into our current education framework, we can expect to live up to Tagores words again Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action, Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Views expressed above are the author's own.


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Where the mind is without fear - The Times of India Blog

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