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Book 1 | Education & Individual

FounderEducation & Individual

By Mohammad Usman Kath

Education has acquired tremendous importance in the last two decades in the emergent countries of Asia and Africa. It is obviously given a high priority in the development programmes for bridging the gap, in the quickest possible manner, between the sluggish past and the present fast moving scientific age.

This awakening is reflected in our day-to-day life in the efforts that we make in providing the best possible education to our children. Such awareness is found both in rural and urban areas, though there are varying conceptions of education in these two sections of our society. Popularising literacy in villages is something entirely different from being “educated” in a big city like Karachi. There is so much talk in the air about education that one is almost confused by the connotations of the word “education”. There are “public” schools and “private” schools, Madrassahs and Madame Montessori schools, English medium schools and Urdu medium schools. Then, we hear about religious education, old education and modern education. In fact the word education has acquired so many implications that more importance is given to the prefixes than to the actual process of education.

 

Pakistan at present is standing at a cross road in her march towards development and progress. We are gradually overcoming the initial teething problems and have gathered the required tempo of development activities. Whether we shall be able to continue this march, would largely depend on how we educate the new generation, which is going to replace the present old guards. Among the factors, which constitute the healthy growth and progress of society, the most important is education. The meaning and aims of education should, therefore, receive our thorough consideration and correct understanding. Before we really go into the discussion of these fundamentals, (full details of which cannot be covered in this article) let first of all take up our present actual approaches to educational problems and the ways with which we tackle them.

Generally, the parents think of education in terms of “sending a child to school”, when he or she is about six years old. Most mothers particularly those belonging to wage-earning group, send their children to school in order to get a few hours’ quiet and rest. They think that school is a sort of juvenile custody where children, specially the naughty ones, could be detained for a few hours and learn some useful things as well. Among the well-to-do families, the selection of a school is made on the basis of hear-say and following the examples of those who command higher recognition in the strata of society. It is a sort of blind following of the ways of some better-placed families. We quite often find up-coming and prosperous parents trying to secure admission in some convent school or in an expensive public school with the avowed purpose of giving the best education to their children and also to be socially gratified that their children are studying along with other children of high society. This approach to education is primarily an attempt on the part of parents to acquire a status symbol in the society they move in. Once the child is admitted in a desired school, it is considered an end in itself, as if the sole objective of education is to get the child admitted in some school. Conscientious parental concern apart, parents hardly care to keep a watch on the child’s progress in the school. The child passes his early impressionable years in an atmosphere of parental indifference. Thereafter when he reaches the age of about 16, the parents show some interest and think of either putting him in their own business or service or in a college to qualify for a better job.

These considerations may not be wholly undesirable, but to think of education only in terms of acquiring techniques for a particular job is to completely misinterpret its aim. In a way this approach to education could be termed a commercial, which has become rather characteristic of our city life. That is way we find almost all of us grossly involved in business or service alone, so much so that our outlook even in the matters of health, home and happiness tend to be commercial. But commercial outlook can only be stretched in the sphere of human development at the cost of mental, moral and spiritual deterioration.

Education has been defined as the process of unfolding and development of inherent abilities of an individual. It does not mean merely to make one read and write, which can be called imparting of useful instructions. Education is a much deeper and significant process which may be divided into three stages: (a) early education upto about six years (b) the period of childhood and adolescence and (c) adulthood and period of specialization.

Wise parents realize that the education of a child starts from the day he is born. In fact the first six years are so important that the handling of a child during this period can leave indelible marks on the type of man or woman it will eventually grow into. The parents’ behaviour, treatment and surrounding atmosphere will have a far-reaching impact on his or her personality. Modern psychological discoveries have proved that the character is determined by early education to a much greater extent than was thought of by the most enthusiastic educationists of former generations. In other words, parents, home and society are the most important teachers in the process of education. They may help a child grow into a dynamic individual or just turn into, what an eminent Pakistani intellectual calls, “a grave of what once upon a time was a life full of promise”. In our society, this early and extremely significant period of education is miserably neglected and the children either pass six or seven years of their life as if they were the limbs of Satan requiring minimum of affectionate concern but maximum of crude control, or in some cases they grow up in an atmosphere of extravagance and indulgence on the part of the parents.

 

Founder

The second stage of education, i.e. from sixth year onwards to adolescence, is important from a viewpoint of academic learning and acquiring basic knowledge of various subjects. During these years, the growing child should know something of great literature, world history, arts, science and architecture so that his imagination is ignited and developed. Moreover, in these years the foundation for a correct approach to religion and culture should be laid with a view to make the child identify as well as adapt himself to his faith and cultural heritage. It is the age when the body and mind both grow with a fast tempo. He is no longer merely a child, and consciously mixes with others, learns rudiments of human relations, picks up virtues or vices, depending on the sort of atmosphere given to him and persons he moves with. The school, which plays an important role, should have capable personnel and adequate facilities. Dingy, congested and poorly staffed so-called schools produce more of a literate delinquent than a well-developed person out of a child. It is here that the parent can show a genuine concern before sending a child to the school.

The third phase of education starts when the boy or girl has acquired basic knowledge of various subjects and is mature enough to enter the threshold of adulthood, ready to understand and execute the responsibilities that go with it. He has to specialize in certain well-selected subjects in a college or university, which should be undertaken and seriously pursued only after a thorough consideration of one’s mental aptitude and future assignments. It is no use acquiring degrees or diplomas just for passing a few carefree years and qualifying for this or that job. In an ideal system of education university should be regarded as the summit of acquiring specialized knowledge and skills, which would command the highest respect in the society.

Together with imparting knowledge, the aim should be to arouse receptivity to knowledge, discovery of self, aptitude for acquiring skills and an alert curiosity about general propositions than only about particular facts. What is needed is a greater degree of emphasis on developing those mental possessions, which can turn a child into an intelligent and imaginative man or woman. Great importance is given to proper development of character in the entire process of education. In fact, some educationists consider ideal character to be the ultimate aim of education. A leading philosopher has suggested four characteristics of an ideal character – vitality, courage, sensitiveness and intelligence.

Vitality implies liveliness and zest for life – the mental vigour that goes with an active and purposeful life. Courage is to be understood more in the sense of mental courage – the courage to hold on to one’s convictions and capability to sustain opposition. Sensitiveness enables one to react emotionally to certain things and ideas, which are desirable for the development of one’s personality. For example, aesthetic sensitiveness drives one to look for and appreciate works of arts. Intelligence can be described as a sum total of faculties of mind, which enable us to comprehend propositions and phenomena in their various implications. Cultivation of intelligence aims at producing rational and scientific attitude so that our decisions and beliefs are not based on bias and prejudices.

Lord Bertrand Russel briefly describes the aims of education in these words: “Education should have two objects: first, to give definite knowledge – reading and writing, language and mathematics and so on: secondly, to create those mental habits which will enable people to acquire knowledge and form sound judgments for themselves”.

The correct approach to education follows from the correct approach to individual – he or she should be considered right from the birth as a potentially dynamic personality who deserves love, understanding and respect. A quotation from the inspiring words of a French genius Antoine De Saint Exupery when he saw an ordinary peasant child will be found illuminating: “This is a life full of beautiful promise, Little princes in legends are not different from this. Protected, sheltered, cultivated what could not this child become?”

 

 

 

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