The bitter truth of today’s education system that we all know is that it’s broken. Parents know it, most teachers know it. The only one seems to be lagging behind in knowing these facts are the politicians. It is time they correspond to it.
In today’s scenario seven out of the 10 jobs have not yet been invented for the students who are studying in school in India and the UK . So what is the point in drilling them purely on academic matters? What are their needs going to be, not only just surviving, but moving forward and making the difference to the world that most of them want to do?
Notably our sages, especially from India, have always had the answer. We are now learning what it means to practice. Some of us are trying to make the education we offer reflect a new reality. Schooling needs to be at least as much about building good character as it does about achieving high academic progress.
Swami Vivekananda has always been one of my heroes. His vision that in the heart of every pupil is a “divine being” awaiting release and fulfilment, it is extraordinarily reflected in the Platonic philosophical vision that beauty and goodness is innate in all. Every child is in fact bright, perfect and free. A real education must release this potential excellence.
As a Headmaster for 10 years, I sought to build an educational environment where the virtues of courage, temperance, justice and wisdom could find real meaning in the lives of young people. And now, as Principal of ASIS, which represents 12 of Britain’s top Boarding Schools (www.angloschools.co.uk) I am trying to do the same here. That is why ASIS schools are giving scholarships up to 7 Crores and invite children from India to join our schools.
Courage reflects itself in the ability to speak the truth and to say what you think, courageously. Those who learn to speak (preferably without note) will naturally lead and those who cannot will follow.
Temperance is an ancient concept. Swami Vivekananda talked about it as ‘measure’ or moderation. I would like to take this as a learning how to overcome selfishness; how to care for those around you and to provide real service. “Take care of the service and the profits will look after themselves,” is an old business proverb, and one those youngsters setting out in the world need to hear.
Justice is an alluring topic to teach young people about. It really means learning how to “do your duty”. A teacher, who does not turn up in the classroom well prepared, is rendering an “injustice” to his or her pupils. The magistrate who does not listen to the evidence before passing judgement is rendering an “injustice” too. To live justly is to live well. Corruption is rampant in modern society, and a ‘just’ man or woman will not go in that direction.
Finally, there is wisdom. This is where the most profound change in education needs to take place. With the onset of ‘Google-Knowledge’, pretty much every fact can be found at the touch of the ‘search-key’. But who can understand human nature? Who knows whether a person is lying or not? Who knows whether the business risk is worth it or not? It takes wisdom, what I call wise decision-making. Only few schools are helping their pupils to differentiate between old-fashioned fact-based knowledge and wise discernment, based on principles and intuitive understanding.
Just two years ago, I was asked to visit northern Iraq to talk to the Kurdish government about the future of education. There I saw nearly every state sponsored school had teaching staffs that was directed to in getting their pupils to pass academically-driven examinations. The curriculum had no philosophy, no opportunity or reflection on the important issues of life, no values-based subject discussion or dialogue. It was as barren as the surrounding desert.
I would suggest that all countries should look whether their curriculums are any better; whether their teachers are equipped to open the emotional centre of the human being, which is essential in managing society in the years ahead? The OECD- PISA scores may say something about a country’s educational progress; but it is like measuring the health of a person by just looking at his brain. He has many more centres and they need nourishing too.
The question I always ask parents is: what kind of human being do you want your child to become? And when I spell out the vision of what a human being is capable of (drawing Plato and Swami Vivekananda as inspirations) they almost agreed. And I expect the same response in India.
In late January and early February I shall be offering an eight centre Lecture Tour, discussing a new vision for education. Honestly, I am drawing on the concept of the Dalai Lama, who once spoke in a meeting I attended:
“What the world needs is an education in warm-heartedness!”
“Yes,” I inwardly declared. “But what does it mean?”
I have been working on a model and shall be presenting it to audiences during my lecture tour. It is both innovative and traditional. I hope it will reverberate in people’s hearts when they hear it; if it does, it stands the chance of working.