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From an educator's eye

Schools and higher educational institutions must prepare individuals to respond to the needs of a global, multicultural society
01:00 AM Jan 15, 2024 IST | FAROOQ WASIL
from an educator s eye
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An Old World is collapsing

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And the New World is rising

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We have better eyes for the collapse

Then for the rise”

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With the advent of the new millennium mankind is on the threshold of a major transition. The foundations of which have been laid by the amazing advances in science and technology. Modern world is shaped by forces of capitalism and communication technologies which respect no frontiers. They’re unleashing unpredictable processes of development in diversified areas which are beyond the realm of human imagination. Despite obvious constraints these forces are undoubtedly promoting globalisation of life and ideas. The global communication network has in a way circumscribed all of us on this earth into global town or city, where we share each other’s joys and agonies. Radio waves respect no frontiers and from an altitude of 30 or 40,000-kilometres national boundaries become singularly inconspicuous.

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The question therefore is not whether globalisation is good or bad, rather how far are we prepared first to accept and then to cope with the logic of modern history. The changes that we are witnessing on almost daily basis in the field of communication science, medicine and technology are irreversible. So it’s imperative that we mobilise all available resources and look forward to the infinite possibilities that are ahead.

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Contemporary society is becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent. Culture and civilizations are mingling and embracing each other. It’s the perception of one earth one world and one people that have been generating a new climate of a common interest and survival. Every effort has to be made to break our limited horizons and embrace the possibilities that lie ahead.

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At the same time, one perceives the presence of dual forces in today’s world. While the process of globalisation is apparent and reflected in every rhythm of life, such as in music, industry, trade, commerce, environment and education, one cannot overlook ethnic conflicts, fundamentalism, linguistic, cast and racial identity. Perhaps the time is ripe for us to shake off our diffidence and plunge boldly into the future, our feet firmly rooted in the cultural landscape and our mind reaching into the infinite possibilities that lie ahead. This after all is what education is all about.

With the multinationals making inroads into developing economies of the third world, with economies dictating to all walks of life, be at politics or foreign policy of nations, global trade and Commerce bringing into contact with each other the peoples of the world. A homogeneous global cultural mix is a distinct possibility in the long run during the 21st century, this is made possible by technology, revolutionising every sphere of human life and has become a compelling accelerator and intensifier of cross cultural currents on a global scale.

My belief is that schools and higher educational institutions in every country must prepare that critical mass of individuals to respond to the needs of a multicultural society. No doubt our educational institutions must continually ensure that our students graduate with the skills, the understanding and the knowledge required to pursue the disciplines and the careers of their choice, prepared to apprehend the complexity of intellectual arguments and other points of view, that they graduate ready to generate new intellectual synthesis.

To address the needs of the society and the world at large students must be more than well trained, analytically astute in their disciplines and broadly educated. They must possess an ethical intelligence responsive to our times. Ethical intelligence is not imposing our own values, the ethical intelligence we seek must involve in part a vertical shift of consciousness from unexamined assumptions about what is right and what’s wrong to consciously chosen set of values; values in terms of which the ethical thinker then sets priorities for himself and society, values to which he remains committed while he grapples with his own needs, values that he’s prepared to articulate in ways that persuade others of their moral force. For plato this very shift in consciousness from unexamined assumptions to consciously chosen values is essential to the apprehension of universal forms. For Martin Luther King it is at the core of how America’s conscience can be raised. For Confucius its fundamental to the cultivation of JUNDZ  the individual who has attained ethical wisdom and then acts as a compelling model for others ethical growth.

Our educational institutions must ensure that this vertical shift to consciously chosen values is a central event in the lives of every student. But because this ethical achievement normally remains confined within a single monocultural or nationally bound cross-cultural tradition, it cannot in itself adequately prepare students for taking ethical responsibility in a multicultural world. For this critical responsibility a horizontal move is required; one that neither Plato nor Confucius saw, the need to make a move through which students must look beyond their own cultural worlds to recognise both the continuities that separate their enthers from those of others and make for a richer world.

For students to recognise these continuities it’s for them to recognise that they cannot discount someone from another gender, race, culture, class as of a lesser human being than themselves. These continuities are often shrouded in cultural differences, difficult to perceive when discomfort or differences keeps us at a distance, and hard to apprehend when a stereotype targeted at a particular behaviour or attitude generalises to denigrate the person or the culture as a whole. We have an obligation to find ways to ensure that our students recognise these continuities and internalise the expectations that they will be there.

When students enter the perspectives of other cultural worlds they may begin as well to appreciate how permissively the narratives of other cultures capture the significance, the nuances, the ambiguities and the multidimensional complexities of the human world in which they live. And as a consequence, they may begin to appreciate why the occidental world accords attention only to theoretical argument and proof while the oriental world accords attention to less theoretical modes of expression. And this will open new dimensions of understanding, new sensibilities and new possibilities; and at times they will validate ways of thinking and interacting that students themselves may have found intuitively compelling but discounted as being of lesser worth or utility because they were taught that such ways of thinking and interacting are not privileged by their own cultural worlds. These assumptions will not be easy to shake because all cultures make use of them to provide their members with a sense of who they are and what’s normal for them to think and feel. Yet it’s only through a shaking of these assumptions that students will internalise the reality that there is something of a genuine value to themselves that lies beyond their own cultural world its only through this understanding we can develop trust and friendship among people we believe are fundamentally equal. Our students will require an exposure to world problems so varied that it will develop in them a lifelong commitment for responding to them, experiences in moving beyond single dimensional approaches to complex value conflicts to envision and create a balance with perspectives that accommodate competing claims, they will require practise implementing those balanced perspectives through the trade-offs, uncertainties and complexities that they are bound to confront on the way.

We have to prepare our students to balance a long-term commitment to the health of the environment, creating a happy and just world against the immediate benefit of a more comfortable and flexible lifestyle, greed and exploitation. We have to prepare our students to balance the principle of freedom of speech against the destructive impact that speech hostile to race, religion, culture can make on one’s ability to participate fully in community and intellectual life. Finally we must remember that intellectual quality is timeless and a function of its time.

Dr. Farooq wasil, a published author, and an educationist, currently CAO of Vasal education group and Founding Director of Thinksite Services Private Limited. He has over four decades of experience in the field of Education Management—setting up, operating and managing Schools.

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