A child is born with his mind as a blank canvas. He interacts with the environment and learns by trial and error. As he grows up, he starts interacting with parents, who inculcate the basics of communications, i.e. language.
Language thus becomes the first basic that helps a child to interact with society. His environment remains limited to parents, relatives or neighbours. The more he experiences, the more he learns and the better he takes part in the society.
This example of a child makes two things very clear. Firstly, certain learning is inevitable and is an essential part of the process of growing up. Secondly, education, be it formal or informal, in one way or the other, leads one to
participate actively in society. No wonder education has been given an important place by leaders, saints and reformers.
Up till medieval times, education remained exclusive i.e. limited to certain socio-economic groups. In India, the upper Varnas (Dvija) men received education while in Europe, the aristocrats, the nobility and the clergy monopolised education.
The result of these monopolies was a fragmented, isolated and torn social fabric which led to numerous ill-effects on the contemporary society. Social evils such as sati, child marriage and human sacrifice existed which not only did not allow everyone to live freely and explore their full potentials but were also against basic dignity and humanity.
Reformers such as Ishvar Chand Vidyasagar, Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan hence emphasized on education as a way to come out of ignorance and strengthen the socio-religious and political
movements in the country.
Fast forward to 1948, the importance of education is witnessed in the spirit of scientific temper enshrined in the constitution of India. This was later supplemented by the right to education (Article 21A) and the fundamental duty in Article 51A to educate one’s children.
Let us now inquire into how education enables one to participate more actively in society .
EDUCATION – A GATEWAY TO SOCIAL PARTICIPATION –HOW?
Having already discussed the importance of language in social interactions, we can now discuss the other aspects of society which include culture, economy, government, civil society, etc.
From a cultural point of view, education helps one to learn basic etiquettes, greetings, etc to interact with people in a decent and socially accepted manner e.g. ‘Namaste’ in Hindi.
Similarly, education develops skills which help one get employed. Employment not only contributes to personal growth but also to national growth and development. An employed individual gets chance to actively participate in his work environment by giving suggestions, following advice and the money he earns helps him to engage in material life by shopping, travelling, etc. all of which involve active participation with others.
Education helps one to choose the path of research and development and contribute to the society. The example of the great scientist Dr. Abdul Kalam is significant in this regard. The Integrated Missile Development
Programme which forms the basis of our defence and space programme was made possible because of him.
At the political level, education helps one understand how democracy works. It gives the ability to take an active part in politics, creates an environment of debates and discussion, enables people to demand their rights, form political parties and contest and win elections. Political leaders have vast ambits of influence and hence high capacities to actively impact society.
Even if one doesn’t choose to contest elections, a politically aware citizen can form a part of civil society, non-government organisations, media or at the very basic individual level, make an informed and educated decision of whom to vote for the betterment of the country.
As a part of civil society, an educated person has the freedom to participate in whichever social sphere he chooses to contribute. It may be education and awareness, health, employment, journalism or whatever involves and engages one actively at the grass-root level of the society. Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan was an NGO that helped bring the right to information (RTI) act that has transformed the governance for the better in a drastic manner.
At the social level, education brings harmony by enabling one to become more tolerant and accommodating of diverse groups which further integrates the society and increases cooperation and positive competition. For this, moral education is required which enables one to be empathetic and compassionate towards others. Ethical and value education also enables one to harmonize relationships at the workplace. Be it public or private sector, values such as honesty, probity, dutifulness and diligence help in active and meaningful participation in the workplace by constantly bringing out the best possible results.
Digital education recently has become one of the most important ways to interact with people via social media. It helps in freely expressing oneself, creating awareness and building fraternity. Also, it helps in the participation in government and political activities via events such as hack-a-thons etc.
On the other hand, a non-educated person has many hindrances in actively participating in society. First, is the barrier of English. Being a universal language, English helps in interaction with anyone in any part of the world. Two uneducated people from different regions may not be able to communicate without the knowledge of a common language. Similarly, lack of exposure to the world inhibits one to interact with others because of various insecurities and lack confidence. Also, the limited financial strength of the generally unemployed illiterates robs of the opportunities to actively engage in social activities e.g. theatre, music, dance, festivals, tourism, etc. Hence use of education to earn money is one of the most important aspects of social participation.
Even at the political, cultural and social level, uneducated become marginalized and prone to exploitation due to their inability to comprehend the intricacies of politics, governance & security.
IS HINDERING UNIVERSAL EDUCATION?
Given the importance of education in social life, one may ask why hasn’t education become the very basis of the modern world. Why is one-fourth of the Indian population and millions outside still uneducated. The answer lies in poverty, governance deficit, vested interests and votes bank politics. Third world nations such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and many in Africa were poor since they got independent but they still attempted to expand education. However, lack of resources, manpower and various structural problems proved to be a major hindrance in this pursuit. Similarly high population and its ever-growing character has made it more difficult to expand the reach of education. Countries have taken various steps to overcome this issue.
South Africa had added primary as well as higher education as a constitutional right as their racial and colonial past made the realise the need and importance of education.
India added primary education to the Directive Principle of State Policy. Also, schemes such as Sarva Shikha Abhiyaan, Rashtriya uchchtar Shiksha Abhiyan, GIAN, IMPRINT India are some of the efforts towards increasing literacy rates at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
Hence we see that the education is indispensable in making a person socially, politically, technologically, ethically, morally, philanthropically and culturally an active participant in the society. In order to build a world where the “head is held high” and “the mind is without fear,” education can come as an ultimate double-edged sword. Changing the individual as well as society. – By Vyom Bhardwaj