There is so much talk of integrating value education into the school curriculum and syllabus. I have been attending a few meetings (actually initiated and organized by the Government) in the recent past and giving a few talks at different places too. There are many questions that arise at these meetings – Is value education the responsibility of the school system? Is it the responsibility of parents and the family to do it? At what stage of schooling should it be introduced? Should it be at the primary stage or at the high school stage or at the College/University level? Most meetings and discussions have always ended inconclusively and left me with more questions than answers.
Having lived in rural India for more than two decades and amongst both the literate and the illiterate segments of society, I am inclined to believe that it is the so called ‘literate’ group that seems to be so bereft of values and are the ones who are ‘intellectually dishonest’. What does the school system do to make a person lose their values along the way? Is there something that we are not doing or we should be doing consciously to change this? Most people today who are creating social and other conflicts are people who are literate, well read and motivated and guided by so called intelligentsia. When this the case, I feel that we need to focus on not just proactive interventions in the education system but also look at ‘enlightened withdrawal’ – stopping to do things which are actually contributing to the loss of values and morals in society.
Values are both ‘personal’ and ‘societal’. My own experience in our schools has taught me that it is best to inculcate personal values at the primary school level and societal values at a high school/college level. With nearly 50% of the Indian population being less than 20 years, we need to focus on building the values of these youth if we need to build a value based Indian society for the future. While it is a fact that the previous generations of post independent India have failed us, we need to make sure that we and the future generations do not fail our country. Swami Vivekananda always spoke of the innate goodness of man and building a society based on this innate goodness. We at SVYM also believe that this is the way forward. The paradigm should be to start with the premise that every man is potentially divine. The challenge is to ensure that we are constantly able to manifest this ‘divinity’ in our everyday actions.
Today’s youth are also a generation which is living in demanding and exciting times. They are today bombarded with information from all sides; they have enormous opportunities for both self and societal change; the confidence levels that they exhibit are seen to be believed. Handling them and working with them is indeed a challenge. The common mistake that the older generation tends to do is to brand our young without taking the time and trouble to understand them and their perspectives. Just because we cannot relate to the young today cannot in anyway make them inferior or us superior. What we need to do is learn the language and the art of communicating with our young and ensuring that they have enough role models to imitate. After all, values are taught only by living them.