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Ethical Emphasis in Education

Gurdev Singh

Education in common parlance connotes imparting formal instruction in a skill or profession and to develop students mentally and morally. It deals with methods of teaching and learning in a school. Keeping in view the requirements of time, region and cultural development, emphasis on various aspects of education varies.

From time immemorial, wise men and eminent thinkers have been cogitating and suggesting ways for providing good education to the people. There is no dearth of scholarly dissertations available in India and abroad delineating schemes for ideal educational systems. Those who wisely adopt modes better suited to their conditions are able to provide more useful education to their children and those who are ill-equipped and unwilling to keep pace with the times stifle the growth of their young folk.

In India, educators, planners, social activists are unanimous in their opinion that our schooling has not been able to impart the education Indians need. Then there is the gnawing chasm in the type, quality and standard of instruction available to the rich and the poor. I am not inclined to discuss merits and demerits of various methods of education and confining myself to making only one suggestion which can go a long way in improving the quality of our education and that can stand in good stead for the coming generations. The children must grasp the curriculum of their schools and in addition to their courses of studies in various disciplines, they must be made adequately aware of the moral aspects of human conduct. For this, some period of time at school must be utilized to impart instructions concerning religion, divinity and morality.

Culpability for the prevalence of corrupt practices lies with the tenuous moral fibre of the society. Our social salvation is contingent upon unflinching focus on ethical behaviour. The Indian officialdom tends to assume that their posturing is inherently legitimate, not understanding that legitimacy must derive from active popular approval on the part of people. The state holds official control, but in practice is unable to function normally. Winning an election or controlling a territory does not automatically mean that one commands respect and authority. Unless our leadership understands that distortion, the nation will remain in limbo and in crisis. The country’s plummeting moral index should spur the educators to be courageous to arrange adequate moral education in the schools to ensure that outcome is ethically savvy young people who are bold and capable of standing up to chicanery, dishonesty and corruption which are presently corroding the very existence of our social, political and administrative set-up. I feel a little emphasis on religious education will greatly advance our chances of securing better living for the coming generations.

The time is running out. We must not waste more time to recount and repeat the shortcomings in the prevalent educational system. Sincere and sustained endeavours should be launched to stem further degeneration and to provide a heating touch to help the ailing system heal and grow gainfully.

iKAwvµq n jwxeI lwj klwj kbol

Hungry man is unmindful of honour, dishonor or incivil speech. (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Fifth Nanak, p. 316)

The paramount component of school education should provide for imparting such skills as enable the child to earn his livelihood but mere learning of such skills will not equip the child to be a good human being without his imbibing the spiritual and moral aspects of living.

gurmiq suin kCu igAwn n aupijau, psu ijau audru Brau
If one does not avail of teaching to kindle self-realisation, it is sheer filling one's belly like an animal. (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Ninth Nanak, p. 685)

Here I may pertinently reproduce an excerpt from the speech of the Rev David McCaughey, (a former Governor of Victoria and Master of Ormond College, University of Melbourne who has contributed much to public life since his retirement) made at the 7th International Psycho-geriatric Association Congress in Sidney in 1995:

“Eric Hobsbaum, in the central section of his important book Age Of Extremes, which he subtitles ‘a short history of the 20th century’ draws attention to two phenomena relevant for our purpose. The first he calls ‘the death of the peasantry’, saying, ‘the most dramatic and far-reaching social change of the second half of this century……….. and the one which cuts us off forever from the world of the past, is the death of the peasantry. For since the Neo-lithic era most human beings had lived off the land and its livestock or harvested the sea as fishers."

That is no longer the case. Hobsbaum brings forward figures to show how strikingly this is true of the developed countries of Europe and North America, of Latin America – and of Japan, where in 1947, 52.4% of the population were farmers. By 1985, that was reduced to 9%.

Only three regions of the world have remained essentially dominated by their villages and fields: Sub-Sahara Africa, south and continental south East Asia and China. Admittedly they represent half the human race, but even there they are crumbling at the edges.

Globalisation of world’s industrial economy is emptying the land and filling the cities with people.

Hobsbaum’s second phenomenon: ‘Almost as dramatic as the decline and fall of the peasantry and much more unusual was the rise of the occupations which required secondary and higher education, i.e., basic literacy was indeed the aspiration of virtually all governments.'

No doubt it gives a more skilled work force and help economic growth, and no doubt it is desirable. But the purpose of education has to be more than crassly utilitarian. Its aim must be to make young people interested in and compassionate towards the world around; and it must aim to equip them to meet social as well as economic needs.” *

Importance of the ethos in human dealings and education is eloquently enunciated by the Rev. David McCaughey and it reverberates in the utterances of enlightened personages.

Young parents and teachers must act in tandem to ensure that the children attain highest benefits in ethical conduct. Moral education should start at home. Till the child is in his nursery, parents should acquaint him with names of Sikh Gurus and let him rote the Mool Mantra (primal canon). By the time, the child completes his primary course at school, he should be able to recite Jap ji, Shabd Hazare and Ardas. In his middle classes, he should memorize the five banis of the daily Sikh prayers. In the high school, he should study essentials of all important religions and ethical lore of various societies. In this way, by the time a child finishes schooling he will be satisfactorily trained to make gainful appraisal of different religious systems and chart out an ethical code of conduct in human dealings.

I have suggested the above measures for Sikh parents and schools run by the Sikhs. Non-Sikh students in Sikh institutions should be at complete liberty to follow or not to follow the suggestion made by me, though I would like the Sikh children studying in non-Sikh schools to avail of the opportunity to learn the principles of other religions if instructions in this respect are obtainable in non-Sikh schools. Objective of my suggestion is to impart instructions to the children regarding religion, divinity and ethics deriving the best from every religious and ethical system so that they are able to lead a life of integrity, social poise and mental peace. In India’s culturally plural society, education should foster universal values, open mindedness and tolerance. What I am stressing on is the rational development of human beings free from religious fanaticism and superstition, and spiritually well anchored.

In the beginning of the 20th century, Chief Khalsa Diwan brought out a series of literature in Sikh religion, history and folk lore in the format of Dharam Pothis I, II, III and so on. Such literature according to modern needs should be published in abundance.

The prevailing scenario is a searing expose of the jarring extremes of wealth and poverty in India’s school system and the blighting effect on young minds, especially in rural areas. Socially awakened persons, who are the discerning eyes of the society, should come forward to set in remedial endeavours. It is only the feeling and caring few who bring about social improvement.

Kcmubiqlwey drd koeI AzU hY, roqI hY AWK, iks kdr hmdrd swry ijsm kI hoqI hY AWK - iekbwl

(Eye sheds tears if any limb suffers pain, so evident is its measure of sympathetic response to the whole body.)

The egalitarian visionaries, altruistically enthused, thinking and caring persons are perceptive of the gravity of unsatisfactory situation in Indian schools. They must join heads to re- invent, launch and enforce the much needed school education order to save the coming generations from hurtling into an immoral abyss. We should not feel dismayed, rather should marshal practical efforts to salvage the situation. Nor should we wait to muster numbers. Determined few can initiate a movement which might bear immense fruit. Margaret Mead rightly asserted: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Let us make a start. Journey of hundred miles starts with the first step.
May we imbibe the concept enunciated by Bhai Gurdas (in Persian) and be able to infuse it into the younger minds :

dolq AW dyh ik bWSd pwiedwr, suhbq AW dyh ik bwSd gm-guswr
qIniq AW dyh ik bwSd h`k gujwr, ihµmq AW dyh ik swzd jW-inswr

Bless me with such riches as are everlasting,
Provide me such company as alleviates sorrow,
So temper my nature that I stand by the righteous,
Give me courage to offer sacrifice for a noble cause.




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