It goes without saying that education is indispensable for the prosperity of a nation and is critical for its mental, social, cultural, moral, economic and political development. The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines education as a “discipline that is concerned with methods of teaching and learning in schools or school-like environments as opposed to various nonformal and informal means of socialization.” If we view the term ‘education’ beyond its conventional meaning, it actually forms the very essence of all what we do. Though it is considered a way to reach one’s own personal goal, it is much more than the mere acquirement of knowledge and the memorization of facts. It is the process by which the knowledge, personality, actions and attitudes of a person are formed and adapted to the standards set by the society.
Conventionally, education is considered a means to earn a livelihood. The higher the degree, the greater the chances for an individual to get a decent job and a good salary. This, in turn, helps an individual in earning a good living and also develops a sense of independence in the individual that boosts his or her self-esteem. It also contributes in decreasing unemployment that is a major hindrance in the development of any country.
Though this first aspect of education is usually considered the most essential, other aspects are equally important too and are needed to bring about an overall advancement of society. A highly-educated man with a weak moral character becomes a bête noire to the society. Educational institutions through their rules of reward and punishment inculcate in the students moral values which help them differentiate right from wrong, good from evil. The textbooks teach lessons on humanity, honesty, justice, fair play, discipline and equality. This leads to the development of a society that is civilized and cultured.
The basic purpose of education is to impart knowledge to an individual, but it actually goes beyond that. Through educations, the individuals not only learn from textbooks but also acquire interpersonal skills through socialization with the teachers and the fellow students. The influence of school is second only to that of the home. Here, emphasis is, basically, on moulding and refining the behaviours of the pupils. It is here that the individuals learn the true meanings of discipline, patience, competition, success and failure, resolution of conflicts, patriotism, unity, friendship and cooperation. Educational institutions are supposed to compensate for homes, and to unify ethnically and racially different groups. Thus education also helps garner national cohesion.
Education also plays a vital role in the cognitive development of the individuals. It makes individuals think, reflect, observe, imagine, judge and question. Besides this, it also broadens visions and opens up the minds. Human mind is vulnerable to myths, prejudices, jealousy and hatred. Education enables an individual to differentiate between a myth and a fact and discern the truth from the false. It removes the baseless beliefs, irrational prejudices and unwanted hatred from the minds.
The growth and development of a society is directly dependent on education. All the scientific developments from computers to other sophisticated gadgets would have been still a dream, had it not been for education. Similarly, cures for erstwhile incurable diseases, travelling to space and information of life on other planets find their roots in education. Moreover, it’s the educated people of a society who become engineers, doctors, teachers, scientists and bureaucrats and pave the way for its development.
Education empowers the individuals and makes them good citizens. An educated person is well aware of his rights as a citizen. So, he is in a position to protest against, or support the actions of, the government. Education also creates awareness as regards the need to vote for the right people in elections because this is vital for the greater good of a country. Not only this, educated person knows how to contribute towards the well being of a society, even if it is only following the traffic rules and keeping the roads clean.
It is worth pondering as to whether in the contemporary world education is effectively fulfilling its purpose. Yes, we do know that the earth is round and two plus two is four, but education is much more than simply reading and solving mathematical problems. No person has the right to be called educated if he or she does not make a positive contribution to the progress of his or her society. Nowadays, even the most educated people fail to think rationally and logically. Their minds are plagued with prejudices and hatred. They wish to explore life on other planets but cannot tolerate a person living next to them. They talk about scientific advancements but only use those against fellow humans. Sadly, such is the state of affairs and it goes on to show that there is something fundamentally wrong in our understanding of the purpose of education.
Education lays the foundation for the prosperity of a nation. It is very important to understand that the aim of education should not be to prepare an individual for a particular job but it should bring about an overall development of an individual. Education is not only transferring knowledge rather it has a very broad canvas and should cover areas such as humanity, morality, nationalism and religion. By completely understanding the powers of education and how it can mould a society, the policymakers will be at a better position to address the challenges faced by the society. Unless we step forward to address the shortcomings in the educational systems, our institutions will continue producing ‘educated’ but narrow-minded, prejudiced, irrational and bigoted people.