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Facts, Values and Education

In his speech at the Labor Party Conference, 1st October, 1996, Tony Blair said, “Ask me my three main priorities for the government and I tell you: education, education and education”.

What is education? According to the Chamber’s Dictionary, one of the many explanations of education is “Strengthening of the powers of body or mind”, the other is culture.

What, we, laymen understand by education is “knowledge of so many facts”; very often it gives us a massive headache to think of all the facts one has to learn in life to be really considered educated. However, having acquired so much learning, having mastered each and every fact concerning poetry, history, geography, mathematics, science etc, can one be considered educated if one lacks “Knowledge of values”? It, therefore stands to reason to describe education as “Knowledge not of facts, but of values”- according to William Ralph Inge.

Judging by today’s standard of education, it would seem as though educational institutions, educators and all those who claim themselves to be epitomes of learning are less bothered by such things as “values”, it appears that the need of the day is the knowledge of facts, facts and facts. It is not that one is prejudiced or spiteful, but let us take a look around us at the highly qualified children of today, of the 21st century; and be honest with ourselves and answer the plain and simple question-“Do the young elites have any moral values?” surely the answer would be a very sad and disappointing one indeed.

There is no doubt that there is a flaw in the modern world educational system in spite of all the sophisticated methods, technology and means of imparting knowledge. The question then is, who do we blame for this flaw? No one, actually. It’s the system that is changing. If one really studies the way of life at the present day hustle and bustle of chasing bubbles it is a wonder that kids have an education at all.

Like everything else, for example charity, love etc, education too begins at home- in fact, at the mother’s lap. How many mothers of today can really impart any valuable knowledge, teaching or moral education to their children? Most working mothers have to report back to work on the third or the fifth month after childbirth. Children are left to the mercy of the maidservants- not the properly trained governesses. In days gone by, grandparents were there to help with this particular problem; but today even grandparents are too busy to help out.

So, how do we remedy this lack of knowledge of values? There ought to be a remedy of some sort because otherwise the situation might just get out of hand. This unfortunate lack of knowledge of values seems to have a global effect. Shouldn’t all of us be aware of this sad plight? The children are our future. Shall we be blessed or cursed by them when we are gone? As such it would seem appropriate if, in spite of all the busy running around, for parents to spend more time with their children. Something can be worked out if we care enough for the children’s future. In some western countries, Sweden for example, a mother is given leave of absence for five years after childbirth, with pay to boot. This gives the child- parent enough time to establish a strong close relationship and mutual respect. If that kind of thing could be worked out for everyone everywhere, we could hope for a brighter future.

The other meaning to the word education as referred to in the beginning is “culture”. Well, some countries are rich in culture; but as time goes by, the children seem to have forgotten or discarded the beautiful rich culture and value of their ancestors for other people’s cultures which appears to be misshapen and grotesque. It would be of great advantage to us, to our children, their future and the world if they could be loved enough, cared enough to be given or imparted with some rock solid knowledge of values either by the educational institutions or most important of all by the parents. There is no better educator than one’s parents.

Education therefore is a multifaceted phenomenon with “values” as the most important aspect. One cannot but agree with Oscar Wilde, who said, “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.” In the circle of the hearth, one learns from examples.

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