9th NOVEMBER, 1997
AUDITORIUM HALL, RAJENDRA BHAVAN DEENDAYAL UPADHYAYA MARG,
NEW DELHI-110 002.
Dr. Karan Singhji and friends,
The Convention which is being held today has for its agenda some of the most important issues that confront us all, particularly in India. It would be useful to look upon various themes of the agenda to be focussed on value education.
All of us need to realise that a very difficult period is ahead of us, that arduous efforts will be demanded of us, and unless we bring about an effective system of value education and integral education urgently, we shall be in a state of continuous peril.
If we wish to implement value-education effectively and smoothly, a great help has to be sought from the inter-faith movement, which is the fundamental theme of the Temple of Understanding. Unless there is a meeting point of various faiths, the theme of value education will remain riddled with controversies in respect of those essential aspects of different faiths where exclusivism of each of the faiths is emphasised. A situation must arise in the country and in the world so that every faith understands the truth that lies behind every faith and strives to arrive at some kind of synthesis. It is only when this synthesis is nourished that value-based education will be able to flourish in robust manner.
This synthesis is again closely related to the theme of conflict resolution, and in this area much work needs to be done. At present, even family life faces conflicts of various kinds, and effective methods of conflict resolution need to be evolved. And it will be soen that conflict resolution involves value-based education and value-based education requires a social atmosphere of harmony where conflicts are resolved smoothly and quickly; their relationship is cyclic in character.
There is also no doubt that since education is a sub-system of culture, and since culture is again a sub-system of the totality of social life, value-education cannot be promoted in isolation from the totality of public life. Unless, therefore, public liſe which is at present degenerated not only morally and spiritually, but even in terms of civil life, and in terms of evils of increasing mechanisation, is cleansed, value-education will always be looked upon as something utopian, unrealistic and impracticable.
Again, the cause of value-education can be greatly promoted, if media consent to honour the theme of value education and make a deliberate effort to utilise its services for the promotion of value-based education.
We may now concentrate on our present system of education and consider how, if at all, it can subserve the purposes of value-based education
It is evident that in our present system of education, we are greatly removed from the ideals that are implicd in value-education. In our present system, we are too occupied with the mental development, and that, too, to a narrow aspect of mental development so that only those qualities of the mind are attempted to be developed which are relevant to subject-oriented, book-oriented and examination-oriented system. We stress the powers of memory rather than the powers of understanding; we emphasise the power of knowing facts and hardly attempt to the development of the power of imagination. Our process of education is a pursuit of piecemeal assimilation of information, and holistic vision of things is hardly given any place.
Can we do anything worthwhile in the present system? The first answer to this question is that at least the preliminary things can be done even in the present system, provided that one important condition is fulfilled. If teachers consent to change their attitude, then much can be done, irrespective of the system in which we are obliged to work today. If teachers can change their attitudes towards students, they will make a great effort to observe their students with greater and greater psychological understanding and sympathy. A good teacher can always empathies with the children in the class as a good gardener can empathies with flowers in the garden, whatever their state of development. If teachers can consent to look upon their work as sacred work, a work of priesthood, a work of a trustee, a work in which his or her own soul gets directly related to the inmost souls of the children, if teachers perform their tasks with fresh eyes, fresh vigour, and fresh approach, they can make a great contribution to their children's value-oriented integral development. No system prevents a teacher from utilising the important methods of education such as those of setting an example of high character and providing stimulating atmosphere in the class room for their own students. No system prevents teachers from cultivating powers of expression and powers of explanation; nobody prevents teachers from inventing striking words, striking phrases and striking ideas which can illumine the perceptions and thoughts of the children; nobody prevents teachers from devoting their own utmost time to the preparation of lessons for the children; nobody prevents teachers from establishing right relationships with children so that they can be inspired to put their trust in their teachers and follow their guidance. There are, indeed, counteracting influences at work, at home, in school But still, a good teacher can make a great difference and inspite of limiting conditions in which they are working, they can still achieve something that is of basic importance.
Parents also can contribute n great deal. They, too, can become good teachers; they can learn how to look after children and how they can inspire them to develop right habits, right manners, and right attitudes towards things and people, towards environment, towards their work, towards their books and time-tables, towards their time of play and time of study. Parents can supplement teacher's tasks in many ways; and parents can also create in their homes value-oriented atmosphere. They can so organise the home life that nothing is displayed in children's atmosphere which is injurious to children's value education. They can also learn how to sacrifice their outer pleasures for the sake of the growth of their children.
It is true that the circumstances in which the families run these days, the tasks that are expected of the parents may not be so easy to implement. There is a big factor of Television today in every home and, and nobody has control over it which is influencing our children in a very big way and often in a disastrous way. But, here again, Parents' Associations can play a great role. They can create a movement in the country to combat this menace. They can pressurise the government to change the policy in such a way that at least the official channels are freed from vulgarity, cheap entertainment, and vulgar advertisements which stimulate lower desires and impulses. They can also create public opinion whereby parents choose the channels for children and ensure that good films and right episodes are witnessed by children. When there is a downpour, you cannot stop the rain, but you can certainly have an umbrella to protect the body. In the same way, when there is a downpour of films on TV, good, bad and indifferent, parents can provide umbrella for their children by means of counseling, and by means of setting certain standards in the atmosphere of the home.
The educational administrators also can help a great deal even in the present system of education. Principals, Inspectors, Directors and Policy makers can ensure that funds are allocated for right purposes, that programmes are so designed, both curricular and extra-curricular, that value education and integral education get utmost importance, that atmosphere of the institutions is so designed and developed that in every nook and corner, children find display of beautiful things, inspiring thoughts and ennobling stimulation.
Similarly, students also can play their own role. Students can be taught or they can learn on their own how to discipline themselves; they can be stimulated, both internally and externally, how to utilise immense freedom which is available to them in the present day societal environment. They can think of the art of self-discipline, the art of control, the art of concentration. They can also seek guidance of teachers and others as to how to study, what to study and how to develop their faculties, and how to harmonise and integrate their personality.
Changes in the attitudes of the teachers, parents, educational administrators and students can create a suitable climate in which greater reforms in education can be proposed more effectively and fruitfully. For even if there is a new system of education, and the attitudes remain the same, that new system will either not work at all or will become a kind of ornament which might hurt rather than help.
At the same time, it is for the organisers of education, it is for the leaders of education, ‒ to think about an ideal system of education and create fields of experimentation so that eventually a new system of education can be invented and implemented.
In this connection, perhaps the most important thing that we need for implementing value education in public and private schools, universities and other educational institutions is to underline the programmes of training of teachers.
Making of a teacher differs significantly from making, say, of an advocate or a surgeon. The teacher is more than a mere skilled performer in a branch of his profession. It is true, indeed, that he must have the best of skill in accustoming the pupil to the austere joy of mastering a difficult theme, be it quadratic equation or the equation of E=MC2 or any other similar theme. But in the end, when the frontiers of knowledge change, the importance and even the validity of what is learnt may not survive. What survives is the discipline of learning and the values acquired in the process. Whatever be the topic teacher teaches, the ultimate values of his professional endeavour bear on the habits of living and thinking and feeling, ‒ the art of life ‒ on what the pupil comes to love and care for. Thus the teacher fashions the life of the pupil ‒ which is the single theme of all of education. Skills in teaching are, no doubt, important, but they do not take the teacher far. An otherwise unashamedly desolate teacher may teach effectively, he also influences lives of the pupils no less, but sadly. Therefore, a teacher must not only be efficient, but he or she should also be a good person. The most effective weapon of a teacher is the silent power of example; it matters in the end and always. It is, therefore, necessary that teacher education should aim not merely at cultivation of skills but in making a personality of high character and noble vision. This consideration brings to teacher education very different purpose and responsibility which are not equally relevant to other professions.
It is for this reason that both pre-service and in-service programmes of teacher education need to be re-oriented in such a way that they provide orientation towards value education.
It is unfortunate that we have still not developed a model programme of value education. This is one of the most urgent needs in order to make implementation of value education practicable and expeditious. The model programme of value education should be so flexibly framed that it can be varied according to the needs of teachers and students or according to special situations that may obtain at any given point of time. There should, therefore, be what may be called a core programme. This core programme should have an intellectual dimension, an ethical dimension and an aesthetic dimension. These three dimensions should again be related to an over-arching or all-comprehensive umbrella of spiritual education. A very important part of this programme should be devoted to the theme of science and values, considering that the modern civilisation is undergoing an unprecedented crisis because science and values have been divorced from each other. And they need to be brought together in a happy harmony iſ we are to deal with the crisis effectively and fruitfully. The programme should also have practical aspects which may involve exercises of volition, exercises of aspiration and exercises of introspection. There should also be opportunities where students can participate in works of community service or situations where courage and heroism can be developed. It is not sufficiently realised how much physical culture can contribute to the practice of values. An ideal sports person develops more easily the qualities of courage, hardihood, energetic action, initiative, steadiness of will, rapid decision and action, perception of what is to be done in an emergency and dexterity in doing it. An ideal sports person embodies the true sporting spirit, which includes good humour and tolerance and consideration for a right attitude and friendliness to competitors and rivals, self-control and scrupulous observance of the laws of the games, fair play and avoidance of the use of foul means, equal acceptance of victory or defeat without bad humour, and loyal acceptance of the decisions of the appointed judge, umpire or referee. Above all, an ideal sports person develops the habit of discipline, obedience, order, team spirit and cooperation. While speaking of these qualities that physical culture can contribute, Sri Aurobindo has written:
"If these could be made more common not only in the life of the individual but in the national life and in the international where the present day the opposite tendencies have become too rampant, existence in this troubled world of ours would be smoother and might open to a greater chance of concord and amity of which it stands very much in need. The nation which possesses them in the highest degree is likely to be strongest for victory, success and greatness, but also for the contribution it can make towards the bringing about the unity and more harmonious order towards which we look as our hope for humanity's future."
While preparing the proposed programme, we should lay a stress on the right type of teaching-learning material. Here, the importance of stories, plays and passages of literature need to be underlined. These selections should possess qualities of chiselled expressions and refined tastes. Even examples of poetic excellence need to be included. They will help us in emphasising that just as there is beauty and harmony of physical forms, even so there is beauty in harmony of thoughts and words and rhythms.
The value education is directly related to integral education. In integral education, every domain gets related to its own proper value system. In the domain of physical education, the values that are promoted are those of health, grace and beauty. In the domain of vital education, the values that are promoted are those of harmony and friendliness, of courage and heroism, of endurance and perseverance. In the domain of mental development, the values that are pursued are those of utmost impartiality, dispassionate search of the truth, of calm and silence, and of the widest possible synthesis. The values pertaining to the aesthetic development would be those of beauty and creative joy. The integrating psychic and spiritual development emphasises the value of intimate sympathy for all, mutuality, ever-increasing wideness, process of self-exceeding and attainment of oneness.
Let us also note that integral education admits integrality of life, and invites life itself to be the teacher of the life of the pupil. As life works through atmosphere and environment created by activities of interrelationship of individuals and things, ‒ therefore, integral education aims at creating the right atmosphere and the right environment which are so skillfully organised that outer instruction plays a minor role and personal example of the teacher and nearness of the teacher to the soul of the student play a major role.
It is in this context that a great effort needs to be made to change the atmosphere of schools and universities. This is a very difficult task, and this calls for a powerful public opinion. It is for this reason that the Convention that has been convened here today can contribute significantly. May I request Dr. Karan Singh ji and his colleagues to hold Conventions of this kind in different parts of the country so that they can create new vibrations in the country.