Objectives of Education and Promotion of Excellence
Pursuit of excellence depends on three factors. First of all, it depends upon the cultivation of will among all to work on their own limitations and to surpass them; secondly, it depends upon progressive understanding of the principles underlying the process of self-exceeding; and thirdly, it depends upon clearer perception and commitment to the higher goals of individual and collective welfare. And, if we look at the educational history of thought and practice, we shall find that glorious periods of education have been marked by the participation of people in combining these three factors. In our own time, after a long period of slumber of indifference, people are awakening, and educationists are being invited to provide the needed inputs of thought and guidelines in order to bring about major changes in the educational situation and in the educational system so that children of today receive the best possible help to shape themselves and equip themselves with qualities, talents and capacities that are required to meet the difficult transition towards the ideals that humanity must pursue both for its survival and for its fulfilment.
At the international level, UNESCO has given to the world two extremely important reports, which have provided powerful stimulus to the determination of goals of education and strategies that should be adopted to usher in at the threshold of the next millennium a new design of education that would foster learning society, life-long education and mobilisation of resources at the service of primacy of education. "Learning to Be", — under the chairmanship of Edgar Faure, — the first report brought out by UNESCO in 1972, stands out as an excellent formulation of a
call to humanity to the truth that entire life should be looked upon as a process of learning and that the fulfilment that humanity is seeking can flower only if human beings strive to develop complete personality, the core of which lies in the light that can enable them to grow in their true being. The twenty-one elements of strategies of innovations and search for alternatives articulated by this Report underline not only the practicability of the new model of education, but also stimulate courage and heroism among all partners of education. We have now in 1996, the second Report under the chairmanship of Jacques Delors to UNESCO for the XXIst entury; it is another milestone that invites us to a journey into the depths of learning, the inspiration for which surges out from the treasure that lies concealed within ourselves. "Learning: The Treasure Within" gives us, in effect, a refined analysis of learning to be. Jacques Delors' Report does not overpass Edgar Faure's Report, but it provides enrichment and emphasises the theme of new tasks for UNESCO, and in consequence, for Member States. These are also the new tasks that we, the people of the world, need to undertake to ensure that the young people whose future is entrusted to us as parents and teachers, grow up in knowledge, in courage, in caring for each other and in the abilities to work hard and to work meaningfully in the service of genuine culture of human unity and universal peace.
A striking contribution of the Report of Jacques Delors is its statement of the four pillars of education, namely, learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be. These four pillars of education have been expounded so as to elucidate a broad and encompassing view of learning that would go beyond an instrumental view of education and emphasise "the development of the complete person, in short, learning to be."
These four pillars of education, if understood properly and implemented boldly, can promote excellence at all levels of education. Analysis of these four pillars that has been presented is
understandably not exhaustive but only indicative. We are, therefore, free to analyse them in the light of our own needs and in the light of our own cultural heritage. We may even rearrange the position of these pillars in their interrelationships. We may even venture to suggest that learning to be is the roof rather than a pillar, and that this roof stands on pillars of learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and, we may add, learning to venture.
Let us analyse these four pillars and that roof so that we may gain a fresh review of the process of learning and derive from that review the required lessons for excellence in education. There are, we might say, four elements in each of us, even though all of them are at different levels of development and different levels of interrelationship or integration. In terms of Indian psychology, we have the concept of fourfold personality, — personality of knowledge, personality of heroism, personality of harmonisation and personality devoted to works and service. It is when these four personalities reach the level of a progressive equilibrium, a progressive combination and progressive synthesis that we begin to experience what can be called self-possession and self-being. One-sided personality, even when developed greatly, leaves a chasm and, therefore, a potentiality of conflict, restlessness and sense of the lack of being. It is when knowledge rises to heights of wisdom and when wisdom inspires heroism and bursts into love that harmonises and produces tireless labour to work productively and artistically that our true being begins to bloom in fullness and we become free from egoistic limitations and become a harmonious wave of a universal ocean that is our true being. To be is to be integrally and to be at the top of our abilities. In other words, to be is to be excellently and perfectly.
It has been rightly pointed out by Jacques Delors' Report that learning to learn is a preface or an antechamber of four pillars of education. And it is rightly pointed out that science of learning to learn is the science that teaches how to concentrate. We are reminded of Swami Vivekananda's remark that once the secrets of concentration are learnt, we have the key to the entire field of knowledge and the entire field of self-possession and sellf-realisation.
In the Indian heritage, the power of concentration was discovered long ago, and the process of meditation is to be found even in the earliest hymns of the Veda. It would, therefore, be salutary to welcome the modern emphasis on learning to learn and to encourage amongst students and teachers the powers of concentration. Unfortunately, in our system of education where great loads of books are imposed upon students, every educational activity tends to be conducted under stress of hurry and anxiety, — which are the enemies of right process of concentration. The right process of concentration avoids two extreme vices, — the vice of slow and lethargic tamas or inertia and the vice of feverish and anxious haste, — the characteristic of what we call rajas. It is by the development of the state ofsattwa, equilibrium and harmony and of light, that we can create in the child's psychology the right condition of concentration. Cheerful calm, joyous and patient work and the urge to do every task as perfectly as possible, —these require to be fostered in the atmosphere of our schools and among our teachers and students.
Learning to learn also implies what may be called learning by practising. In fact, concentration and conduct of practising go very well together. We believe quite wrongly that the end of learning is to arrive at mere thinking and theorising. As a matter of fact, the real utility of thinking is not to achieve the power of abstraction, which is inevitable in the process of thought, but in arriving at the power of observation, detachment, impartiality and self-consciousness which can stand above the processes of thought and realise the being as the source and master of becoming. Process of thought, should, therefore, be encouraged and capacities to reflect and to ratiocinate through words, symbols and abstraction but we should also encourage self-awareness. This is best promoted when the learning process joins abstraction with concreteness and joins theory with practice. In our inadequate system of education, very little scope is allowed to practise what is learnt, and to internalise articles of knowledge that are presented as objects external to our being.
In other words, education must start with concreteness and even though the flight may lead us to abstraction, it must end in
concreteness of experience and enrichment in internalisarion. This is a truth that is especially relevant to what we call value-oriented education. It is easy to talk of virtues but the real virtues are those which go deep behind the outer surface and become embedded in the very heart and spirit, in the internal being. And this is impossible without the art of learning by practising.
Let us now come to the four pillars of education.
As far as learning to know is concerned, the first question is to get a more precise idea of what we mean by knowledge. It is widely acknowledged that there is distinction between information and knowledge. For information consists of any article that is presented to our awareness and which is grasped as such, while knowledge implies awareness of facts in their interrelationship, their context, their significance and their meaning as also intellectual and critical reflections thereon. In our Indian tradition, the word knowledge is applied to a state that lies beyond the intellectual activity of the mind; knowledge then means a luminous growth into the higher state of being by the outshining of the light of the integral Reality. Knowledge is the light by which we grow into our true being, — not the knowledge by which we increase our information and our intellectual riches. The Indian tradition admits that there are different kinds of knowledge — scientific, psychological, philosophical, ethical, aesthetic, worldly and practical. It is emphasised that these forms of knowledge also help us to grow, but only in the becoming, not in the being. It is further underlined that these forms of knowledge, too, can be used as aids to real knowledge but the real knowledge is that which is a secret to the mind, of which mind only gets reflections but which lives in the Spirit. This real knowledge is also what is called wisdom, although the connotation of wisdom includes the higher fruits not only of learning to know but also learning to venture, learning to harmonise and learning to do.
Again, in India, we have pedagogy by means of which learning to know can gradually be transformed into learning to develop
intellectual knowledge so as to mature into wisdom. This peday needs to be brought into the forefront and applied in our dealings with students, with subjects of studies and with the methods of teaching and learning. It is only when this task is undertaken that we shall be entitled to claim that we have begun to impart to our system of education what can be called its true national character.
Logically, learning to know is immediately connected with learning to venture, which I should like to distinguish explicitly as the second pillar of education. In the Delors' Report, this pillar is implicitly admitted, but it has not been brought out with a special and distinct emphasis, which it deserves. For, basically, all education is an adventure. This is seen very clearly in children's activities of learning. Even to be able to stand up firmly implies an adventure on the part of the child; for there is an exposure to hazard and risk. In fact, all education is a plunge into the unknown; all education implies the development of the power to stand up and to face difficulties and obstacles. Education is incomplete if it does not provide to the learner the capacity to battle with difficulties in order to overcome them, the courage to protect the right and eliminate injustice and causes of conflict. Learning to venture aims at heroism that is prepared to endure with equal fortitude honour and dishonour, success and failure, happiness and suffering.
We speak today of management studies, but the real art of management stems from learning to venture, since it is due to that process of learning that one becomes capable of enterprise, of the art of organization, of building systems of control and governance. We speak of the need to build the defences of peace in the hearts and minds of men and women. But the building of peace defences will depend upon the spirit of courage and heroism.
Logically, again, learning to live together and learning to live with others should be reckoned as the third pillar of education. As the Delors' Report points out, this type of learning is one of the major issues in education today, and this implies, at one level, gradual discovery of others, and, on another level of experience,
of shared purposes. This type of learning enables one to discover the spirit of mutuality and solidarity. In the Indian heritage, it is recognised that the real road to progress lies through sacrifice and that sacrifice involves a continuous chain of mutuality. Everything depends upon the other and, as we understand in the context of psychological balance, nothing in economy of Nature of which human being too, is a product, is without use or meaning. It is by mutuality that the whole world lives and survives, and it is only by learning to live together that we can contribute rightly to the living and survival of ourselves and others. The ideal of shreyas, which is so greatly emphasised in Indian culture, is rooted in the principle of togetherness, which can be sustained only when we learn the art of exchange, the art of harmonisation and the art of mutual interdependence.
In this context, it may be useful to know that there is one domain of education, which is largely neglected in India, in particular, which can be a great help in building and sustaining this important pillar. This is the domain of physical education, where even the most elementary exercise like drill demonstrates the necessity of co-ordinated and mutual action of all the participants. Sports encourage greatly what we call team spirit and a number of sports can never be won without disciplined manifestation of the dependence of each player upon the other. If, for nothing else, physical education should be encouraged and developed for fostering learning to live together.
The fourth pillar of education is, of course, learning to do. This is the fourth and the last pillar but, therefore, not least important. In the ultimate analysis, world is nothing but the world of work and, however much one may have wisdom or courage or mutuality, all this will have no meaning if it is not translated into productivity and creativity. To learn to produce and to create — and thereby to sustain the rhythms of world-activity should be perceived as an indispensable element of the learning process. No one can really be productive and creative if one does not learn and master what can be called the technology of work, and every technology of work implies refinement of skill and application of skill not only with care but with detailed care.
There are personalities that tend to neglect details and they feel superior that they care only for generalities and leave details to others to work out. In terms of personality, this should be regarded as a serious lacuna. Learning to do implies learning to do thoroughly and to work out the given work in all its details. Learning to do teaches us discipline, punctuality, co-ordination of every element with the other and a living sense that no detail is forgotten or omitted before presentation of the assigned work.
Learning to do also implies an enlightened sense of service. We are here in the world not only to contemplate and become heroic and help each other but, fundamentally and essentially to serve each other. In India, we have the concept of dasanudasa, servant of servants. Learning to do really implies: learning to become an obedient instrument through which the higher goals prescribed by wisdom can be actualised. And in our pedagogy, we must underline the need to develop in the totality of personality the true modesty and humility so that the coming generations are imbued with the sense of service and the sense that we are all part of an army of labourers working out together some great design that the higher knowledge and wisdom perceives and proposes.
We may now come to what I have called the roof of education. Learning to be is a process of learning that permeates every other process of learning and overarches them in a pervasive and climactic manner. For to be is to be integrally; it is the goal and fulfilment of every other process of learning. Learning to concentrate and learning by practising find their ultimate raison d'être in learning to be. The process of knowledge should lead to self-discovery, self-possession and the fullness of experience of being that is free from narrow limitations of egoism and from barriers to ever-expanding progression. Learning to venture brings out the capacities of our inmost self to work on the limits to transcend them in higher and higher realms of excellence; and it is in the heights of excellence that our being is experienced in its true fulfilling glory. Learning to live together results in the discovery
of the self and its true equations with others until we arrive at an experience where, in the words of Ishopanishad, the Self is found in others and others in the Self and all as an expression of the Self. This again is the top experience that we arrive at when our being is integral and where the barriers between oneself and the others are broken down in ever-increasing mutuality, interdependence and underlying oneness. Learning to do brings out from our being its productive and creative energies and we discover ourselves in a state of a servant that obeys the master-motive of .universal welfare. This also brings out a fulfilling revelation of our true being.
In the process of learning to be, we are constantly required to integrate harmoniously the demands of knowledge, of heroism, of mutuality and of works of service. And this harmonisation is no mechanical process but an organic process that respects each individual's rhythms of development which, in Indian psychology, are called rhythms ofswabhava and swadharma. In this process, individualised learning and variations arising from each one's special needs of growth and of the integration of the different aspects of personality are indispensable. Integral being is being of unity and this unity can be arrived at only if individual rhythms of growth are respected and if different parts of the being are gradually woven together under the stress of the needs of each aspect of the being expressing themselves spontaneously.
Learning to be is learning to be wise. Wisdom is the fruit of maturity and maturity can be measured in terms of accurate dis crimination between the apparent and the real. To be wise is to dwell in Reality, to be wise is to remain ever-young with courage and heroism with ever-developing adventure of the conquest of the right and justice; to be wise is to be an ever-helpful friend whose hands of co-operation are always extended in harmony and self-giving compassion; to be wise is to be indispensable instruments whose labour and creativity flow tirelessly in effortless obedience to the cause of the good of all and of the richness of existence.
Learning to be is fulfilled when it can generate in the world personalities that are integral and wise.
The above analysis brings out in specific terms various qualities that need to be developed through the educational process, and it is the enrichment of these qualities that can impart excellence in education. It is obvious that our present system of education is too rigid and too narrow to allow teachers and students to build the real home of education consisting of the four pillars and the roof of which we have spoken here. Nonetheless, much of what may seem to be Utopian here can still be accomplished if teachers can be filled with a new inspiration and if they do not allow rigidities of the present system to come between them and their students. For, in the ultimate analysis, what can overcome obstacles in the path of progress is the living relationship between the good teacher and the good pupil.