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Understanding Education in the Changing World

Education embodies a far greater purpose than mere financial success.
12:00 AM Feb 05, 2024 IST | Guest Contributor
understanding education in the changing world
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“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats

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In a society fixated on immediate gains and financial accomplishments, the intrinsic value of education often wanes in the shadows. An emerging trend seems to centre on financial stability, eclipsing the transformative force that education wields in shaping intellect and character. Yet, as someone who has ascended the academic ladder to attain a PhD, I stand amidst the echoes within educational institutions, advocating a perspective transcending the mere pursuit of monetary gain.

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Education surpasses ensuring a comfortable lifestyle; it catalyses progress, nurtures personal growth, and illuminates our interconnected world’s complexities. However, in modern discourse, the allure of quick financial success frequently overshadows education’s profound significance, particularly the depth a degree imparts. In this discourse, I challenge the notion that a degree merely secures financial stability. With many personal experiences and a deep interdisciplinary understanding, I ardently advocate for a broader perspective that extends beyond financial gains. This perspective should ignite intellectual curiosity, foster empathy, and empower individuals to navigate our diverse world’s complexities.

Education embodies a far greater purpose than mere financial success. It is instrumental in personal growth, honing critical thinking, and nurturing societal contributions. Its value transcends knowledge acquisition; it encompasses character development, nurturing innate curiosity, and refining critical thinking, inquiry, and innovation. In my academic journey, I have witnessed the transformative power of education. It extends beyond knowledge acquisition, shaping our outlook, moulding principles, and empowering us to navigate life’s intricacies with understanding and wisdom. Education delves into the depths of ethics and morality, far beyond the scope of acquiring livelihood. It involves active exploration of diverse perspectives, challenging assumptions, and nurturing moral awareness. These instances surpass material gains, underscoring education’s intangible yet priceless aspects: a broader perspective, a compassionate mindset, and a commitment to effecting meaningful societal change. These encounters, far from rare, epitomise education’s capacity to transcend monetary value and enrich our core existence.

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Exploring the Power of Education to Foster Transformation

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The trajectory of one’s educational journey extends beyond qualifications and career pursuits. Take the journey that countless students made across various educational environments. These people embark on a journey that goes beyond earning degrees; education has a profoundly transformative impact on their perception and understanding of the world.

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Consider the narrative of a generation in Kashmir, once esteemed for their reverence towards higher education, now witnessing a decline in enthusiasm for advanced degrees. The dwindling admissions at Kashmir University signify more than mere statistics; they mirror a societal shift where education is increasingly viewed as a means for immediate employment rather than fostering comprehensive growth. Across the region, discussions resonate with phrases like “Seitha poduth, vanih kar lagi job” (You have studied enough; when will you get a job), encapsulating a prevalent tale that reduces education to a pathway to economic security. This narrative echoes not just within families but is echoed even among those traversing higher education’s corridors including my friends and sometimes even me.

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However, the true value of education transcends the realms of work or monetary benefits. Its potency lies in shaping and expanding our understanding, empowering us to become catalysts for transformative change. One can observe the profound transformation in a student’s mindset as they navigate academia, transcending passive learning to reassess their understanding of intricate social dynamics actively. The philosophies of luminaries such as Plato, Aristotle and many other view education as a potent force for nurturing wisdom and moral discernment. Their ideologies revolved around fostering virtues, nurturing individuals who weren’t solely knowledgeable but also morally upright, and making invaluable contributions to their communities.

Delving into education’s depths reveals its prowess as a force surpassing mere job security. It is instrumental in advancing society, shaping values, kindling curiosity, and nurturing critical thinking—a beacon illuminating a deeper comprehension of the world.

Redefining the Purpose of Education

The state of education teeters precariously on the brink of becoming excessively commercialised. It’s imperative to rescue it from this precarious path and redefine its true purpose. Education should be revered as an invaluable pursuit transcending mere financial considerations instead of being commodified. Education should be celebrated for its intrinsic value, fostering comprehensive personal development. It exceeds acquiring degrees or pursuing high-paying careers; it cultivates qualities that enrich individuals beyond financial parameters.

At the core of education lies the nurturing of wisdom, ethics, and rationality. It’s about nurturing minds capable of unravelling life’s intricacies, not merely regurgitating information but critically examining, amalgamating, and applying knowledge in varied contexts. This facet of education extends far beyond job markets and economic benefits, laying the foundation for a society characterised by intellectual depth and moral conscientiousness.

Reflect on the virtues upheld by diverse philosophical ideologies throughout history. The importance of prioritising reason and wisdom over transient pleasures or accolades, evident in Plato’s teachings, underscores the need to nurture these attributes within educational systems. Aristotle, too, emphasised education’s significance in cultivating sound judgement, moral virtues, and character development, shaping individuals’ ethical compass. By acknowledging education’s value beyond its pragmatic applications, individuals gain more than mere knowledge. They acquire essential skills to navigate the intricate challenges of ethics, morality, and intellectual pursuits. It’s a profound endeavour to mould individuals capable of making a meaningful impact on their communities and the world.

The intrinsic value of education faces jeopardy due to its commercialisation. When education is solely fixated on financial gains, its true essence diminishes, overshadowing its potential to foster curiosity, compassion, and integrity. To safeguard its integrity, it is imperative for us to redefine education’s purpose collectively, emphasising its pivotal role in nurturing holistic personal development—a reservoir of knowledge, values, and critical thinking that transcends mere financial gains.

Viksit Bharat and Education

Viksit Bharat@2047 envisions a future for India that aims to elevate it to the status of a developed nation by its 100th year of independence. However, of a trend like this is concerning - a slow decline in students’ trust in the value of higher education. Many individuals are now choosing different paths to secure employment, such as competitive job exams, creating content on social media, and exploring various avenues. They see these alternatives as more practical options compared to pursuing traditional higher education. There is nothing wrong in trying different avenues for earning, but what bothers is the mindset.

This change in perspective highlights a widespread doubt regarding the effectiveness of traditional education systems and government in guaranteeing promising career opportunities. There is growing scepticism regarding the potential career prospects offered by higher education. During a candid discussion with a friend who is pursuing a PhD, an insightful revelation comes to light. He shares that his family, once highly regarded in their community for valuing education, now endures mockery for prioritising studies over immediate employment. This transformation highlights a change in societal values, where education is undervalued in favour of immediate financial gains.

The government can play a crucial role in rebuilding trust in higher education and recognising it as a means to achieve greater financial security. The intersection of cultivating a meaningful life and attaining job opportunities requires recognition and intentional coordination within educational policies. It is crucial to revamp current policies to emphasise that education is not only for personal development, but also for ensuring a stable and sustainable livelihood.

Revaluating policies involves adjusting the education system to address both short-term financial opportunities and the long-term advantages of education. This requires a comprehensive approach, considering both immediate job prospects and the broader influence of education on society, as previously discussed. Understanding the importance of quality education is essential for achieving Viksit Bharat’s goals as well. When education is thorough and intentional, it has the power to influence every aspect of society, fostering a shared mindset that aligns with society’s desired future.

The government’s dedication to this cause is crucial. Without dedicated effort, truly grasping the essence of life and the development of society may prove difficult to attain. Therefore, it is crucial for the government as well as to people to prioritise education’s transformative potential, leading India towards the fulfilment of its vision for progress.

By Zahoor Ahmad Mir

Zahoor Ahmad Mir, PhD Scholar from Jamia Millia Islamia University and guest lecturer Dr. B. R Ambedkar University Delhi.

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