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So, what kind of human being do you want your child to be?

Jan 13 2014, 17:11 IST
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The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that the education system as we generally know it has broken. Reuters The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that the education system as we generally know it has broken. Reuters
SummaryEvery child is in fact pure, perfect and free

intriguing topic to try to teach young people about. It really means learning how to “do your duty”. The teacher who does not turn up in the classroom well prepared, is rendering an “injustice” to his or her pupils. The magistrate who does not listen to the evidence before passing judgement is rendering an “injustice”. To live justly ( and every one likes a ‘just’ and ‘honest’ person, especially an employer) is to live well. Corruption is rife in modern society, and the ‘just’ man or woman will not go there.

Finally, there is wisdom. This is where the most radical change in education needs to take place. With the advent of ‘Google-Knowledge’, pretty much every fact can be found at the touch of the ‘search-key’. But who can understand human nature? Who can know whether a person is lying or not? Who can know whether the business risk is worth it or not? This takes wisdom, what I call wise decision-making. Too few schools are helping pupils distinguish between old-fashioned fact-based knowledge and wise discernment, based on principles and intuitive understanding.

Just on two years ago, I was asked to visit northern Iraq to talk to the Kurdish government there about the future of education. I saw for myself that nearly every state sponsored school had a teaching staff directed to getting their pupils to pass academically-driven examinations. The curriculum had no philosophy, no opportunity for quiet reflection on the important issues of life, no values-based subject discussion or dialogue. It was as barren as the surrounding desert.

I would suggest that all countries should look to see whether their curriculums are any better; whether their teachers are equipped to open the emotional centre of the human being, which is essential inmanaging society in the years ahead? The OECD- PISA scores may say something about a country’s educational progress; but it is like measuring the health of a person by just looking at his brain. He has many more centres than that, and they need nourishing too.

The question I always ask parents is: what kind of human being do you want your child to be? And when I spell out the vision of what a human being is capable of – drawing on Plato and Swami Vivekananda as inspirations – they almost always agree. And I suspect the same response in India.

In late January and early February I shall be

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