Updated: Apr 6
[Tina Olyai, Director, Little Angels High School Gwalior]
The most paramount of all fundamental rights is the right to education. This is the cornerstone of all other rights owing to the simple fact that man is the supreme talisman of God and his inherent God-given excellence cannot be unravelled without education.
Baha'u'llah, the Prophet Founder of Baha'i Faith, has said: “Man is the supreme Talisman... Lack of proper education hath, however, deprived him of that which he doth inherently possess....” and further He has said, “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value...Education alone can cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom..”
Education leads to true knowledge and true station of mankind.
All religions have emphasized the need for education. The first word that was revealed to Prophet Mohammad was “Iqra” which means “read” and after that, the entire Quran flowed from God (Allah). In 'Hadith' it is said: “A father can give no better gift to his child than education”. Stressing on the lifelong significance of education, the Bible says: “Train up a child in the way he should go; so even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6).
In the Hindu scriptures, there are plenteous counsels about the use of education for spiritual moral transformation of the child. For example, the 'Isha Upanishad' clearly states that the deliverance of human soul depends on knowledge and action: “He who knows both knowledge and action, overcomes death”.
Buddha declares the supremacy of mind over all other things and proclaims that our thoughts make or break us: “The mind is everything. ...What you think you become.” Such exhortations are numerous in sacred texts of the world. To sum up, all divine Teachers of the world have prescribed that education and knowledge can alone lift mankind to the summits of his glory and perfection. Education is fundamental to the development of individuals and helps them realize their full capacity.
EDUCATION FOR PEACE
The United Nations observes the International Day of Peace every year on 21st September. In several statements, UNO has emphasized two keywords: the “Right of Peoples to Peace” and “Education for Peace”.
Everyone is entitled to live in a peaceful society enjoying their human rights and education plays a major role in defining it. Without defining ‘true education’ the peace of mankind cannot be secured. Confucius said, “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”
The United Nations has urged countries to invest in the education of their children and youth. In particular, governments were directed to provide the type of education that fosters tolerance, encourages diversity and allows children to become global citizens. The United Nations stated that education does not only contribute to the attainment of lasting international peace, but also with regard to the well-being of humanity as a whole. Put in the words of the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon:
“Education can’t simply be about basic literacy and numeracy, and that it needs to inculcate respect and teach the skills that will foster peace and justice in societies”.
MORAL EDUCATION – FRAMEWORK FOR CREATING EXCELLENT CITIZENS
Training of moral values and good conduct are far more important than book learning. “A child that is cleanly, agreeable, of good character, well-behaved, even though he be ignorant, is preferable to a child that is rude, unwashed, ill-natured, and yet becoming deeply versed in all the science and arts”. This single statement underlines the fact that it is not just material education that leads to human excellence but it is moral-spiritual education.
Keeping this approach in mind, humanity can be likened to a mine rich in gems, with innate virtues and great potentialities. This capacity can only be realized through education. The role of adults and educators is not as providers of knowledge, but as facilitators in a lifelong process of learning which should be largely self-directed.
Thus, while the pursuit of academic knowledge is important, a greater emphasis should be placed on the development of virtues of character.
PUTTING EDUCATION FIRST
Unfortunately, we are living in a world where the value of education is not given its due consideration. Nations all over the world still continue to invest far more on warfare than they do on education. Even in a world where human rights instruments demand education for every child, numerous children go without an education, particularly in situations where they are required to contribute to the family income.
Even in countries where most children are fortunate enough to have access to basic education, the value of education is determined according to the economic payoffs of a future career, a lesser emphasis is placed on the pursuit of knowledge and the love for learning.
While the material aspects of education, such as jobs and employment opportunities, need not be overlooked, it should be considered that education is of three kinds: material, human and spiritual. Material education is concerned with the progress and development of the body, through gathering its sustenance, its material comfort and ease; human education signifies civilization and progress: that is to say, government, administration, charitable work, trade, art and handicrafts, science, great inventions and discoveries. Divine education is that of the Kingdom of God: it consists of acquiring divine perfections, and this is true education.
UNIVERSAL EDUCATION FOR EXCELLENCE
To create an excellent world, it is inevitable that all the denizens of the earth are versed in both material and spiritual education because one of the purposes of education is to assist mankind in acquiring material and spiritual progress. Progress in one area is not sufficient because both are complementary.
For this effect, universal education must be promoted. Universal education is meant to end ignorance and barriers of separation among mankind caused by lack of education. It is vital not just to the development of individuals, but of humanity as a whole. The primary, the most urgent requirement is the promotion of education. It is inconceivable that any nation should achieve prosperity and success unless this paramount, this fundamental concern is carried forward.
ROLE OF PARENTS
Before a child goes to school, he or she spends a significant and impregnable period of his life at home. Thus, the family plays a great role in providing early education. The role of mothers is especially more significant as the ‘first teachers’ of their child. Parents should strive to give children the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge. Let them share in every new, rare and wondrous craft and art. Bring them up to work and strive, and accustom them to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great importance, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind.
While equal education should be provided to boys and girls if means are limited, the education of girls should be given preference because girls will one day become mothers. In a nutshell, the future of humanity, it's perfection and excellence is closely connected to the way in which we educate our children, especially in the initial family set-up. It will serve as the foundation of the unfolding of a new civilization.
The importance of education as a vital tool to affect the excellence of mankind cannot be overestimated. However, we need to develop a holistic attitude towards education because education is not simply imparting knowledge of books on various science and arts, technology and lifestyles. Though it is true that “Books are our best friend”, only books cannot give us what our life wants from us. We have to take a step to implement it in our life. An educated person knows what is right and what is wrong. It improves our life standard, personality and mindset. To this end, some of the roles of education are as follows:
EDUCATION HELPS IN CONFIDENCE BUILDING
As already quoted above, Confucius said, “Education breeds confidence”. Confidence is a quality of being self-assured on the basis of knowledge of something. If our children are not confident, they cannot succeed in any venture, they will not be able to take initiatives for individual or social change and, as a result, there will be no advancement.
EDUCATION TELLS US WHAT IS RIGHT OR WRONG
The quality of life greatly depends on our choices. A right choice can make while a bad choice can wreck. However, differentiating the right from the wrong is not simply a material choice, this is rather a moral choice.
Here comes the role of right spiritual education so that the students are enabled to take right and ethical decisions in life which does not only change their individual lives but also transforms the life of the whole mankind.
Many of the problems in our current world are due to prejudices of various kinds – racial, national, linguistic, gender-based and colour-based prejudices to name a few.
True education, as the Hindu Vedic verses propound, is the one which “liberates”, which makes our outlooks broader breaking the narrow walls. A truly educated person—especially the one who has received sound moral-spiritual education knows that “The earth is one country and all mankind its citizens ."
As reflected in the Vedic verse “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”. When free from prejudices, we can work for a world characterized by unity and peace, a world where the well-being of all its people is assured. Only an unprejudiced mind can do independent thinking which is crucial to finding the truth in everything and, as the Bible says: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).
EDUCATION IMPARTS PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS
Identifying the problems and solving them leads to a better life both in the case of an individual and society as a whole. The world we are living in is beset by numerous problems. Poverty, unemployment, war and strife, lack of equal opportunities for girls and women, evil social practices, superstitions, terrorism, climate change, depletion of natural resources and environmental degradation and, above all, moral decadence of the people at large are only tip of the iceberg of these countless problems which are hampering the growth of our human society. As our main focus has since been on material education only, we have not been able to eradicate most of these problems but when the holistic approach to education will be applied, we will understand that many of these problems have roots in our erroneous spiritual-moral behaviour. True education will enable people to apply their problem-solving skills for creating excellent individual lives and a better human society.
EDUCATION HELPS IN BREAKING BARRIERS
Frank, open, considerate and sympathetic sharing of thoughts is vital to create a united world. To achieve this end, education helps by moulding thoughtful and learned individuals who are keen on exchanging ideas for improvement in individual and social lives. Education does not only shape our thought-patterns but also helps in using the tool of language to understand other cultures and civilizations, open the forums of dialogues with them, and learn from each other. For example, an educated person in India can easily identify the common and unifying elements in European, Russian, Arabic and African cultures. On the other hand, an uneducated person will continue to live in myths and will be deprived of knowing the ‘facts’ which contribute to better understanding, better communication and, thereby, better co-living.
EDUCATION PROVIDES OPPORTUNITIES
An educated person has a wide spectrum available to him or her for sustaining in a vast world, for serving mankind and developing his or her inherent capacities thereby. Tapping on these available opportunities also helps in financial progress, employability and poverty-alleviation measures, thus leading to a life characterized by excellence in all avenues. With education comes knowledge, power, safety, security, and peace.
A study by UNESCO found that income around the world would be 23 per cent higher per capita in countries with education for all. If poverty were reduced, crime rates will also be decreased.
EDUCATION HELPS IN IMPROVING EMPATHY & TOLERANCE
The Human Rights conventions declare: “Education must prepare a child for responsible life and effective participation in a free society in a spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes and friendships among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin”. Therefore with quality education, a child can learn the quality of empathy and understanding towards those who are different from them. And they may be more accepting of others and less likely to solve problems with violence. In a classroom set-up, students learn to respect their teachers and their peers who are from varied backgrounds. The quality of life increases in an educated society where there’s a respect for each and every life.
QUALITY EDUCATION YIELDING ALL-AROUND EXCELLENCE
True education can lead to excellence -this idea led me to establish my own school Little Angels School in Gwalior back in 1990. Little Angels School, now evolved into Little Angels High School, is a CBSE affiliated school. Since the inception, we did strive to be a different school where education leads to the overall excellence of children, not only in academic terms by also in moral-spiritual terms. Moral and spiritual elements have ever since played a pivotal role in this school and the efficacy of this moral-spiritual programme of LAHS Gwalior has intensified parallel with its growth over time. As of now, the school has 4 branches in the city of Gwalior catering to the academic need of over 6000 children who hail from the most dignified families of the city. The moral-spiritual paradigm which started in 1990 with sporadic and less organised initiatives has now shifted into a full-fledged, regular and systematic activity under the surveillance of well-trained children moral class teachers and JYEP (Junior Youth Empowerment Program) animators.
In addition, regular devotions have become quite phenomenal with the school offering an opportunity to 350 teachers and auxiliary staff members to read and meditate on the meanings and implications of the sacred text and implement them in their daily life.
Moral classes for children continue to attract an ever-swelling number of children to its fold in all the 4 branches of Little Angels School. The children attending these classes learn to chant prayers, learn about virtues and value education and do service projects appropriate to their age-groups. They are also involved in cooperative games and a wide range of art & craft activities, all designed to help them in imbibing the core values. They are taught that spiritual qualities or virtues such as trustworthiness, joyfulness, kindliness etc. are the signs of God within us. We teach the children that our essence is spiritual and that it needs to be nurtured, fostered and educated just like our bodies and minds do.
In addition to systematic moral classes for children, LAHS has a dedicated JYEP (Junior Youth Empowerment Program) with well-trained animators. Currently, we have 25 JYSEP groups with 1100 junior youths attending them ranging from Grade VI to VIII (age-groups 11 to 14).
Cooperative games, recitation and chanting of prayers and, above all, service projects facilitated to awaken the latent divine qualities of the youngsters further add to the lustre of these spiritual endeavours. The junior youth also pro-actively take part in charitable and service activities, such as visiting the local orphanage, blind home, and centres for differently-abled children.
Since children follow the example of their teachers, we also started Devotional Meetings for Teachers at all the four branches of our school which have now become a regular phenomenon.
Every week, our teachers chant Baha’i Prayers, Hidden Words, Readings from the Geeta, the Bible, the Quran and Guru Granth Sahib. They share their experiences, feelings and understandings about the divine verses and bring to account how these devotional meetings have not only unravelled to them the profound meaning enshrined in them but have also brought them closer to the truth that the Source of all religions is the One True God.
To wipe out the traces of the detrimental habit of backbiting we declared our school to be a ‘No-Backbiting Zone’. Teachers are encouraged to come out only with healthy suggestion and praise one another and not come up with any complaint. On every matter, we promote ‘consultation’ rather than entertaining grievances.
In conclusion, education leads to human excellence is a proven fact. However, education is not static, it must keep changing its paradigm to keep pace with the needs of the time. The creation of man has a divine purpose and that purpose is that each one of us must contribute to the advancement of human society. In order that each child grows as a responsible citizen to extend his contribution to this ever-advancing process, education must address the challenges we face in our time. We are living in a materially prosperous human society where the advancement of science and technology has already added much to our comfort and physical well-being. Despite this, no considerate people will deny that we are also living, simultaneously, in one of the most turbulent periods of human history. Despite the wide expansion of schools, colleges, universities and various centres of learning, there seems no peace, unity and stability in the world. Strife and dissension, hatred and division, conflict and selfish attitudes have led to destructive patterns. In this situation, how can we say that education leads to excellence?
Therefore, the word education itself needs to be defined in today’s context and reshaped in a manner that it includes both material and spiritual excellence of mankind. And last but not the least, when we define education in the context of today, it should be kept in mind that the function of Teachers as the role models for children must also be considered because education without example will always be incomplete.