We often use the terms ‘education’ and ‘literacy’ synonymously. It is probably because education, today, is mostly about reading textbooks and writing exams. We hope it will launch our careers and help us earn a living. Today, we may have hordes of educated people amongst us. But is education turning us into accountable adults?
Interestingly, history shows us that even an illiterate person can be learned and wise; Emperor Akbar and Hindi poet Kabir are a case in point. While Akbar was a fine judge of character and endowed with a strategic mind, Kabir was a mystic and a saint who inspired both Hindus and Muslims through his ideologies.
Evidently, education is so much more than being literate or earning a degree. The real goal of education is, after all, to make us think critically, reason logically, and thereby help improve society. This International Literacy Day, Soulveda salutes educators and philosophers who envisioned a well-rounded education system for holistic development of individuals:
Well-known Greek philosopher Socrates believed that new knowledge stems from prior knowledge. And the more we think about an existing knowledge, the more we end up questioning it. Often, one question raises several questions, thereby broadening our perspective. Based on this rationale, he devised a pedagogy called the ‘Socratic circle’.
This learning method uses dialogue amongst peers to delve into an existing problem. Students are divided into two groups–inner circle and outer circle. Students in the inner circle are made to examine an issue or topic and ask open-ended questions. This facilitates stimulating dialogues, creating a conducive environment for all participants to share their perspectives on the topic. The outer circle students simply observe and then provide feedback to their peers in the inner circle.
Given the brilliance of open dialogue, this methodology is still employed in modern day education. It is particularly apt for problems that have no single solution or a ‘right answer’, and require examination from various perspectives.
Johann Pestalozzi, a Swiss education reformer, believed that the goal of education is not merely to impart knowledge, but to ideally help a person unearth their latent potential. This, he believed, is possible by finding a balance between the intellectual (head), physical (hands), and spiritual (heart) aspects of our lives. Striking a balance amongst the three would help a person connect with their true nature and become ‘whole’. To strike this internal balance, he advocated inclusion of fine arts and physical exercises in the curriculum.