What is the goal of education? This basic question has different answer for everyone. Even the sociologist and social scientists differ on the precise answers. There is no denying that the majority views education as a tool to enable children or students in developing the skills, knowledge and the expertise to become responsible and contributing members of the society in which they live.
However, in real terms if you ask the parents why they want good education for their children, the answer invariably is, to enable them to get ahead of their peers and be able to earn well for themselves. If you ask the millions of university students, they will answer that their goal is to obtain the degrees for which they have enrolled themselves.
The purpose of education is no longer the lofty goals that many educationists insist on what education should be. Education is no longer a discipline to acquire values that will serve the society and generation of humanity.
The Importance of Character
Character is defined in the dictionaries as the sum total of the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual; it is what makes one different. However, when we mention character we usually mean good character, thereby clearly referring to certain desirable moral qualities and virtues such as truthfulness, honesty, responsibility, compassion etc. Character is what separates the good from bad. No wonder, character building has been ingrained into education from time immemorial.
When we talk of education, we cannot ignore the ancient Indian system of ‘Gurukulas’ and the four stages of human life. It is one of the basic foundation of the Indian philosophy and culture to spend the first quarter of one’s life of twenty-five years as a celibate ascetic student yearning for education and knowledge. The Gurukulas were meant as a place where one not only learnt academics but also the important aspects of life such as community living and caring for others.
Character is the Soul of Education
Imagine a situation where a person has all the knowledge but has no character of his own. Such a person will be a knowledgeable humanoid, a robot. Without character he will lack the soul of a good human being. If he imbibes bad traits of character he will turn into a demon. All the arch-villains in popular mythology were learned persons who lacked good character. This is also true for all the dictators in the world.
Without good characters ingrained in a person, education becomes a bane, a tool for exploiting fellow human beings. The benefits of education which is to liberate the humans from their miseries would be nullified and in fact, the world may become a worse place. This is particularly true if you observe the native tribal groups in any country. Though the lack the liberal education, they are very close and seeped into the good characters of humanity and they live a happy peaceful life.
The Role of Parents and Society
It would be very irresponsible of one to imagine that character building is the sole responsibility of educational institutions. The values of the parents, family and the society play an important role. A student spends his life in the society while interacting with it. The values he observes and is faced with leave an indelible mark on the development of his personality. It would be futile to put the burden of acculturation of the values on formal education. What shapes the character of a person has more to do with the society in which he lives, than to the educational institution which he attends.
Despite so many influences, there is no denying the fact that today the focus on academics is somewhat misplaced. Character is more important as if a person who fails in academics can have another chance at it, however if one fails in his character, the handicap stays and haunts him throughout his life.