Seven Deadly Sins of our Educational System

Gandhi, during his life, shared the following seven deadly sins which can cripple the soul of an individual, community and society.

  • Wealth without Work
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Knowledge without Character
  • Politics without Principle
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Worship without Sacrifice

While going through this, I also realized that if individuals and people in the society keep committing these sins, it will eventually lead to distortion of everything.

I have been associated in the field of Education, Learning and Social Development for almost a decade now. During Deadly Sinsthis time, I experienced a number of insights and experiences of how majority of modern education systems work, both for profit and non-profit sectors. I strongly realized that education is now a commodity which is available for sale. Education, since its very inception, has been seen, offered and accepted as a moral institution, however, sincere efforts and commitment is required to re-claim its status. I have also realized that there is a huge difference between an ‘educated’ person and a ‘literate’ one. Most of what is being sold in the name of education, is not ‘education’, it’s mostly the promotion of literacy. Literacy is referred to the ability to read, write and perform mathematical tasks. Majority of projects and movements being implemented by NGOs are focused on promoting literacy not “education”.

I, along with my few friends pondered upon the deadly sins shared by Gandhi and looked at how our current educational systems are also committing sins contributing to a degradation of societal morals. These opinions were further strengthened after going through reflections by thinkers and intellectuals including Dr. Muhammad Iqbal (poet of the East), Rabindra Nath Tagore, John Dewey and His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan.

  1. Knowledge without Wisdom 

One of the key goals associated rather chanted by many educational systems and institutions is the notion of knowledge provision. Knowledge by itself is the experience which is personalized and used for living. I believe most of the education and learning which happen in the institutions, merely focus on transferring and passing on information. They do not facilitate learners to go beyond consumption of information, neither do they facilitate them to create and use this information. Applied knowledge leads to wisdom and helps a person to understand him or herself better.  Knowledge or information without action is futile. The very nature of educational institution is to force the learner to memorize information. They are not provided with an opportunity of reflecting on the relevancy and usefulness of this information for them to understand life, surroundings, oneself and then contributing towards a better quality of life for self and others.

2.     Profit without Morality

If we critically observe the educational systems and institutions, majority of individuals working in the institution, focus on numbers and amount. Beginning right from the teacher / faculty to the higher management is engaged in improving numbers and thinking how they could improve their monetary earning. Improving earning for a better quality of life is not a bad thing, but not thinking about the customer or client and their level of satisfaction is a turn off.  Having worked in various systems, I realized that students who are not being able to pay are labeled “fee defaulters” and are made to sit out of the classrooms or sent back to home until the fee has not been paid. In majority of the cases, best facilities including well-furnished offices, clean drinking water (mineral water), air-conditioned environment is provided to the officials, and at the same time students are left in suffering

3.     Teaching without Compassion

Any effective learning process and institution should have the capacity to understand the people as human beings having thoughts, emotions and feelings. Most of the teaching and learning process is void of compassion and care. Students are considered to be robots or disciples following instructions and policies. In the name of discipline various inconsiderate practices are followed and observed. For e.g. closure of school gate at a specific time; if a student comes late even due to a genuine reason(s) he is not allowed to enter the school. Mostly, due to large classroom sizes, teachers are not ready or try to understand the social, economic, psychological and emotional aspects of a child.  Course or textbook completion is the sole agenda of teaching. Cut throat competition is promoted as a key to success.

4.     Competition without Respect

Majority of children are collaborative by nature. The current research on brain and neuroscience as well as past researches on human capacity clearly indicates that children are endowed with many talents, abilities and skills. However, there are very few or little opportunities provided to them to explore their talents. In fact, their talents are not acknowledged and respected, while students with good IQ are praised for intelligence and competitiveness. Frankly, those are considered competitive who are good at reading, writing and Arithmetic.  Other talents and abilities are only utilized for showcasing events. Students are constantly being compared to each other and compelled to follow those who are “smart” or “intelligent”. Those who are “competitive” are provided extra support and encouragement to become more “competitive” and the learners who are struggling are usually left behind. The merit is mostly demeaned over competition.

5.     Learning without Reflection

An intelligent, conscientious and aware person is the one who always observes and reflects on the surroundings and learning experiences. A student learns way better if provided opportunities to reflect on whatever he/she has acquired during the learning process and how it helps him or her in life. Since the emphasis of most of the educational systems and institutions is on enabling students to get good grades and percentages, the very spirit of reflection is missing. The barge of passing exams and semesters with colorful grades rob not only innate abilities of students but tune their minds to focus only on passing exams. Activities and events pertain to learning by doing, creative expressions, all are geared towards topics having very less relevance to life and living. Similarly, one may find very rare teachers who are reflective and put vigor into reflecting about structuring a dynamic learning process and implementing it. William Deresiewicz rightly said “The True Purpose of Education is to make Minds, not Careers…”

6.     Curriculum without Relevance

Life and nature itself are great teachers. They provide ample opportunities of learning and living. Although majority of schools claim that they are preparing students for future but the curriculum and syllabi which they offer has nothing to do with future. In fact, there is high risk aversion involved in the institution to change, modify or revamp the curricula and to make it life and future based. Much of the time is wasted on just presenting the information to the students rather helping them create new knowledge. Certainly there are creative writing opportunities provided in schools, but again for the sake of holding an activity. Students are equipped with excellent ideas and technological tools through which they can create new knowledge, but skills to create that knowledge are never included in the instruction paradigm. The world has become totally different from what it was 50 years ago, it is changing each day, but educational institutions are still focusing on the past and the knowledge created in the past. Similarly, new careers and vocations have emerged and are continuously emerging, but the curricula are unable to address those and integrate those into mainstream learning programs. Quoting John Dewey, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

7.     Service Without Conscience

Seems harsh, but the provision of “Education” is portrayed as a service but without acknowledging and structuring an environment based on the principles of service provision.  I remember my own old days at school where I used to recite the famous poem of Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, “Lab pe aatii hai Duaa bana ke Tamanna Meri” (A prayer appears on my lips as desire). Like me, many students along with their teachers chant this every day in the assembly along with National Anthem, but the very essence of the message in Iqbal’s poetry is missing from the institutional practices and ethos.

Let me conclude this piece of writing by sharing the verse of this remarkable poem with a pray and wish that our educational systems ignite this light into the minds, hearts and souls of the learning community and re-claim the moral stance of the educational institution itself.

A prayer appear on my lips as desire
(My life should emulate a candle, oh God) A candle burns itself to provide light to others
(Lift the worldly darkness due to my efforts)
(Every place should be enlightened by my light)
(My life should decorate my homeland  similar to)
( Similar to, a flower decorating a garden)
(Dear God, emulate my life like an insect)
(I should fall in Love with the candle of knowledge)
(My work should be to support the poor)
(Those in pain and the feeble ones I should love)
(My God save me from doing bad things)
(Please guide me, to the right path) – Ameen

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