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In most of his addresses, Pranab Mukherjee, the former President of India, always expressed concern about the ‘value’ crisis in society and talked about ‘resetting the moral compass’ of the nation. Pranab babu is a serious scholar and when someone like him talks about something, it is time for all of us to sit up and listen and do some soul-searching. Yes, it is time for introspection and find out what has gone wrong and why. The answer may perhaps lie in education. It may be recalled that it was in the month of January 1906 that the idea of the Banaras Hindu University was crystalised at a meeting of Sanatan Dharma Mahasabha at Allahabad presided by Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya of Govardhan Math after Malviyaji’s idea of Hindu University was mooted at Varanasi in 1904.
The interesting thing to note is Malviyaji’s idea of education which offers cues for present-day problems. Malviyaji’s view was that education should not only create technocrats and bureaucrats but also men and women of integrity and values. He was of the firm belief that without values, education could not be effective. This is what he had to say in proposing the scheme for the BHU in 1905: “Mere industrial advancement cannot ensure happiness and prosperity to any people; nor can it raise them in the scale of nations. Formation of character is even more important for the well-being of the individual and of the community than cultivation of intellect.
Hence, the proposed university has placed formation of character in youth as one of its principal objectives. It will seek not merely to turn out men as engineers, scientists, doctors, merchants, theologists, but also as men of high character, probity and honour. It will be a nursery of good citizens instead of only a mint for hallmarking a certain standard of knowledge.” This is the crux of the issue. Education needs to reorient itself towards developing good citizens rather than professionals with a nose for commerce only. Malviyaji was guided by the excellence of our past educational traditions as embodied in the Takshashila and the Nalanda, together with the achievements of modern Western schools of learning like Oxford, Cambridge, and the Sorbonne. India was a world leader once upon a time and known for its value-driven society.
It was this India that was described as sone ki chidiya (golden bird). Whatever that meant can be open to interpretation but the fact remains that famous Indologist, AL Basham, wrote a full volume on A Wonder that was India. Things appear to have changed over the ages and India is getting known more for the wrong reasons. Something is certainly amiss. If India is to find its pristine glory, the preeminence of values and ethics need to be reestablished. There is need to realise that it is time we reemphasised values and ethics to meet the challenges of the present century. Education has to undergo a paradigm shift and move from teachers’ driven model to learner-centric approach so that it illuminates the minds of the students rather than only filling them with information. Let every educational institution rededicate itself to do what an educational system should be doing — showing the right path to society. In the end, we may remember what Robert Browning had said: “Progress is the law of life, man is not man yet.”
The writer is a Professor of Management at IIT (ISM), Dhanbad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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