The quote, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” is misattributed to W.B. Yeats and is said to have originated from a saying of Plutarch that goes like “The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.” However, this doesn’t rob the quote of its profound meaning.
The purpose of education is not to add anything from outside or to dispense degrees that enable a student to earn a living.
Besides these external outcomes, the purpose of education is to instill the spirits of humanity and virtues to young mind so that they can grow up to become not just responsible citizen of the world but also leading lights that illuminates the humanity around them.
Education should not be restricted just to dispense the curriculum in a mechanical fashion but must ignite minds.
What does Filling the Bucket Means?
Modern education is considered very effective if it succeeds in providing the students a degree which fetches them a good job. It has become very much materialistic.
Learning is imparted like in industry on an automated assembly line. The whole idea is to produce students who are armed with a degree and get the best highest paying jobs among other similar institutions.
The success of several institutions is judged by their placement records. However, the flip side of such system of pedagogy is like pouring water into a pail, filling student’s brain with information, not knowledge.
It is like putting in contents into a memory card. This ultimately leads to students losing interest in their studies and making efforts only to gain good marks in the examinations.
Often the over-emphasis on the grading system leads to erosion of values among the students.
The relative grading system makes students fierce competitors among themselves instead of becoming willing associates cooperating with each other to gain knowledge.
At the extremes, it leads to burn-outs in students and some in the premier institutes even commit suicides not being able to cope up with a system devoid of spirits of human values.
What does Lighting a Fire Mean?
Traditional methods of learning have its roots in the earliest endeavors of gaining knowledge and skills for the benefit of the society as a whole.
The same philosophy worked in the ancient Indian Gurukul system.
Here a student spends considerable part of his life and not just learning but experiencing and contributing to the society around himself. It imparted the beliefs and values that would help in maintaining the system we live in while taking it forward.
The education system represented by the teachers must be able to light a fire in the student that should continue lifelong. The love for learning is not just an academic process but a way of life.
While filling the bucket is a quantitative aspect, lighting a fire is qualitative in nature. The former has a limit and finite end, the latter has no limits or boundaries just like knowledge.
Therefore, an education which lights a fire is much more profound and powerful.
System of Education at the Crossroads
The millennial generation and those coming later will be facing the dilemma. With the introduction of vocational studies at every level and the old preference for technological education, there has been no doubt, a giant leap in the field of education as it is practiced today.
However, the danger is that, in this process many other thoughts of education such as liberal and alternative education may bear the brunt.
The same applies to the study of humanities and certain subjects like the languages and Philosophy may not have any takers.
The purpose of education is also to give voice to emotional aspects of life and development of a sensitive personality. The requirement is an all round development of an individual. Not just mental but also development and growth of spiritual thoughts as well.
These developments if not taken up along with the rational development will make for a generation of humanoids who are devoid of any emotional feelings.
In fact, many apprehend that this is exactly what is happening as insensitiveness in the world is increasing while the world itself is becoming a global village.
A world without compassion, gratitude and selfless caring of others, will never serve the purpose of any education.