Education is the most formidable tool that humanity has ever wrought. It is a matter of immense importance. To begin with, it facilitates quality learning to people throughout their life. It inculcates knowledge, skill, beliefs, values and habits. It improves the standard of life, and raises the social and economic status of individuals. For the most part, education makes the world a better place.
However, education can also be used as a weapon. To poison minds and divide people against each other, to inculcate the belief that some are superior to others and bring about intolerance and bigotry. Education gives us an opportunity to shape the minds of billions of young souls and we must prevent that opportunity from being misused.
EDUCATION AND INEQUALITY
In India, education is the constitutional right of every citizen. So, people of any age group, religion, caste, creed and region are free to receive education. However, the standard of education differs when it comes to marginalized communities.
In some areas of India, it is socially and culturally unacceptable to allow a girl to attend school and attain education past a certain age. There is an outdated notion that women must have a certain place in a family and society, and cannot branch out from that path. The lack of education is what causes these mindsets to develop and they, in turn, prevent others from receiving an education – therefore creating a vicious cycle. Though the disparity between literacy rates is slowly decreasing, we still have a long way to go, to achieve gender equality.
Another example of an impasse is the link between poverty and education. Most people living in poverty do not have the means to afford education for their children. To them, earning money to support the family is a priority. Hence, their children are deprived of an education, which limits their opportunities in life and detains them at an economic and societal level.
For other marginalized communities such as Dalits, education was legally forbidden for many years. They were considered ‘lower-caste’ and hence unworthy of receiving an education. Though they are now allowed to attend schools and avail reservations, the mindset lives on. They are in danger, and face discrimination at almost every turn including places of education. Mere children are being exposed to hatred and bigotry, in a sacred place that is meant for growth and development. This is an issue that must be addressed.
CRITICISM OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM
The current Indian Education System prioritizes rote-learning above all else. And to adapt to it, the students and parents involved often prioritize marks and rank over actual learning. Be it the syllabus or the state-run exams, the emphasis is on memorizing every part of the textbook and regurgitating it onto paper. Valuable life skills such as information on how to file your taxes, or how to decide who to cast your vote for, or how to invest in the stock market aren’t taught, and the syllabus is largely unrelatable.
Moreover, the amount of pressure put on the students to perform well, finish assignments and keep up with extracurriculars is terrifying. The toxic work culture that's developed at such a fundamental level has lead to a staggering amount of students that tie their self-worth to an academic label or their productivity.
Education allows us to look back at our history, and understand our ancestors, their lives, and what they went through. But when that education is censored to hide the truth or pit one group against another, it becomes dangerous. What was previously a source of social cohesion and national unity turns to an ugly form of erasure and xenophobia.
At the end of the day, an educated person need not be compassionate or kind, but at least the awareness is present – that people are suffering and the world is changing. To do something about it, is a personal choice.
Education helps in unraveling the mystery of nature. It can change the world: for better, or for worse. Like any other weapon, we must wield it with caution.