Until now the purpose of education was to fulfil traditional social arrangements. Society was dominated by individualism, and thus our education system also supported individuals. The process of individual development that starts in childhood finds its completion in the University. Moulded in such a cast, the youth becomes self-serving, selfish, preserver of self even in friendships, utilitarian and arrogant.
Our education does not awaken social consciousness, but its purpose is to use society for individual gain. Society exists to provide an opportunity for self-promotion and accumulation. One who can exploit society to the fullest is considered a successful person. Society is organised in a manner that compels a person to follow this path – there is no other way.
The way societies are organised is however, undergoing a rapid revolution. Communism may not be popular, but the ideal of a society is changing.
Slaved by traditions, countries like India may continue to worry about the other-worldly matters for another ten-twenty years, but the world is moving towards integration. In reality, the atheism of integration, of totality that advances equal opportunity for each person, that does not provide special favour to anyone based on tradition or birth, is much closer to god than any faith.
What can be a greater manifest form of a universal soul than that of totality? Universal brotherhood has been the highest ideal of religion and human civilisation. From ancient times we have been trying to reach such an ideal. We are still as far from this ideal, though, as we were thousand years ago. We either never firmly believed in this great truth, or we thought that this is the last step of the religious practice, and hence unachievable by lesser mortals.
Now, however, a consensus is emerging among thinkers that we will have to create a new paradigm to achieve this ideal. We will have to change the way we rear and educate children. Such a system would foster a spirit of cooperation instead of competition, would evoke a spirit of trust instead of mistrust. People would gather power not to terrorise others, but so that they may help others less powerful.
The education system currently prevalent in the world reaffirms envy, fear, selfishness, stinginess, and fearfulness. Such reaffirmation starts early in childhood.
Affluent parents often overindulge their children and try to promote them ahead of others. Such behaviour makes these children so entitled that they become parasites in society and suck out its blood. From that point of view, our gurukulas were superior to modern schools, because there all children were treated alike. They would promote a sense of community.
Now western thinkers have started realising that the education system that they have embraced for centuries weakens the human character. It strengthens the unsocial instincts, and sows the seeds of separation. The struggles among nations, the evils of capitalism and expansionism that we see today are results of this ill-education. By promoting individualism, it has turned humans into aggressive animals.
One of the biggest revolutions in the field of education is the realisation that the first five to six years of life are extremely crucial in shaping human character. The character formed in these early years does not change easily in later years. Normally, we do not pay much attention to early childhood. Often, due to our ignorance, children learn to speak untruths, make false excuses and steal.
During this period, indolence and other unhealthy habits set in. Even at this age, they become stubborn, selfish and cowards. In fact, some thinkers believe that the first year of life itself shapes the child’s character. It therefore places a huge responsibility on parents to rear children well during this time, when children are still not in school.
It is imperative for parents, before they have children, to become well versed in the principles of child rearing. It is now firmly believed that most children have similar instincts and dispositions; whether these instincts are used well or not determine whether they turn out to be good or bad people.