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End of education

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In our world of breakneck capitalist development, education is increasingly taking on the character of vocational training. It is, therefore, in a desirable employment that education ends. For most of us, I’m sure, the utilitarian garb that education has come to sport is seductive enough. It may even seem absurd to think of education as an intellectual training; a training that furnishes one with a cultural and political sensibility. According to many, the singular drawback of the state universities is that they do not produce people who appease the demands of the job-market.

The idea that humanities are useless also stems from the conceptualization that the aim of education is the creation of employees. The idea that educational institutions ought to be places that endow students with professional skills is reductive and – I would even argue – damaging. Education institutions ought not to be factories where minds are formed and made subservient to the dictates of the capitalist machinery. The destiny of man should not be reduced to the lineaments of his profession. The end of education should be the creation of a cultured and critical human being who is politically responsible.

Alas, such reasoning as mine could be casually dismissed by some as lofty, naïve and idealistic. However, I suppose that it is clear to any student of history that it is human naivety and idealism that often prompt social change. Be that as it may, I’ve always felt that the education system – especially primary and secondary education – should do its level best to encourage critical questioning on the part of the students. However, anybody who has been to school would, no doubt, tell you that what often happens is the opposite of this. Government schools are often manned by the dregs from the state universities whose incompetence transforms into insecurity and pedagogical tyranny. Anyhow forgive me for hazarding this unfair and insulting generalization. There are, of course, a handful of school teachers who still encourage challenging students and help them realize their potential. The attempts of such teachers should be recognized and appreciated.

It is, of course, politically expedient to conserve schools as sites of indoctrination. After all, how difficult would governance become if schools start producing people who question? In schools, more often than not, critical reasoning is crushed and those who reproduce the knowledge imparted to them by the system are rewarded. The kind of obedience that the teachers expect of students is akin to the political obedience that the government demands of the citizens. In the grown up world, the politicians become the teachers of the public, and the latter with herd-like subservience is expected to obey the dictates of the former. It is for this reason that the education should espouse the objective of creating politically responsible citizens. In a democracy, citizens are expected to participate in the governance of a country. If anybody doubts the importance of education in creating a politically responsible public she or he can read Aristotle and Plato. The failure of democracy in Sri Lankan is due in large measure to the political lethargy and the disgraceful gullibility of the masses who are satisfied with the crumbs from the political high tables.

Although there are no private universities in Sri Lankan – at least not yet – there are many places which are abbreviated to appellations such as CIMA, NIBM, SLIIT where one could obtain a degree without much ado. One should not fallaciously assume that these are educational establishments. They are merely apparatuses that provide one with professional qualifications. As a result, there is an emerging class of moneyed “Yuppie Young Urban Smart Phone Totting Professionals” whose chief preoccupation in life is earning money and spending it. An education that only stresses vocational training fails to create individuals who are socially and politically responsible. The utterly politically unconscious and philistine minded young generation – that is being taken for a ride by consumerism – could hardly be expected to vote responsibly. The superficial and banal middle-class existence of the new emerging corporate class highlights the necessity of overhauling the education system with a view to create individuals with a political and cultural sensibility. It is only if the citizens in a democracy act responsibly and remain astute in their collective political judgment that democracy could be expected to succeed.

One’s employment is only one aspect of his social life. Today, we have an education system which is limited to the production of employees at no little social and political cost. If the end of education is an employment, that would be the end of education for professional training is only one aspect of education and perhaps it is not even the most important one. However, in a country which is going through unbridled capitalist development, on the one hand, and which is becoming increasingly autocratic on the other, it is only expedient to create through education an uncritical, gullible and politically disinterested public. This has now become the end of education and by that virtue The End of education.

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