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By G. Balasubramanian

When I read in the newspaper that a Research scholar of a premium educational institution of the country, had played a prank of covid-19 on a group of bus passengers as ‘fun’, I was first surprised and subsequently felt unhappy over the incident. Though she could have analysed a large amount of data to find a meaning out of it, possibly failed to analyse the human emotions and the impact it would make on a group of people who were travelling in that bus with purposes of their own, carrying with them a bag load of emotions inside their mind and heart. Quite possibly, some of them would have become anxious, a few nervous and others stressed to different levels. Quite possibly, a few of them could have been senior citizens with ailments and a few sufferings from health concerns. The individual who played the fun did not even imagine of any impact it would make on them or how it could have impacted their emotional health. The individual failed to understand that her freedom both ‘physical and intellectual’ ends at the tip of her nose. The law doesn’t provide any freedom to play with the comfort, freedom and emotions of others, especially in a public place. Though the individual tendered an apology, the incident was reflective of lack of wisdom and maturity of the individual, whatever be the background of her intellectual achievement. Such incidents are not far and few. People trying to alert airports, railway stations and other places to achieve some of their personal ends have played with the lives of others.

The information that a few students of the reputed Indian Institute of Technology were celebrating the closure of the institute in view of large-scale pandemic impact of Covid-19 by shouting ‘Jai Corona’ “hail corona’ and dancing in joy did indeed reflect them in very poor light. One of them claimed that ‘they were not afraid of Corona-19, but were afraid of the impending examinations” One cannot simply say ‘after all their young people’ and ‘were immature’ and ‘it was momentous emotional expression’ – but none of these statements could be accepted, given the gravity of the situation worldwide. As students of a reputed institution known for its high calibre of learners, they should have exhibited better control of themselves, better modesty and sensitivity.

Neither the institution, nor the faculty could be charged for any of these events, but it does reflect on the collective responsibility of a society in generating a set of people who lack compassion, who lack empathy, who lack sensitivity to their fellow beings. I am not trying to escalate a small incident to a larger level, but ‘the sample’ is sufficient to show ‘the proof of the pudding.’ Education, in its attempt to develop intellectual robots is not addressing to developing the emotional health of the learners. Whether, we admit or not, the fact is on the floor.

The extensive focus of the fundamentals of education on materialistic development, its intense alignment with consumerism, its rat-race for empowering competition, its focus on setting the individual superior to the society are some of the challenges modern education system faces. The focus on certification of information as ‘brands of education’ have reset the social dimensions, thereby the collective mind of the society appears to be yielding to the dominant one. “Personal gains” in terms of monetary compensations, its value in terms of the quantum of such growth seems to be defining individuals and their quality as against their ‘social consciousness’ and the interpretation of wealth. “In search of money, we lose the wealth” says Dalai Lama. The several manifestations of wealth are being ignored just for the possession of money and its purchasable products.

“Vidhya dhadhathi Vinayam, Vinayadhyathi Pathratham” – Education begets humility; humility empowers to build the character- are valued more on a text than in practice. “Not the consciousness of Man determines their Being, but their social being determines their consciousness” says Karl Marx. Defining the role of education, John Dewey, the noted educational philosopher says, “Education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that adjustment of the individual activity on the basis of social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction.”

How do we deal with the social mind that sets the priority of the social consciousness over the individual’s intellect and achievements? There is a need for social re-engineering. Possibly Corona-19 is an eye opener to the world, wherein it is neutralising people far and wide, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, the genius and the idiot – putting them on the same platform. “The fear of death is only the consciousness of unresolved conflicts of life” said Leo Tolstoy.

The world needs to realise conflicts don’t help; the world needs to realize that love, compassion and co-existence is the only way to a peaceful living. “The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness to our awareness.” Education has to address to this core issue, be it a primary school or the highest ivory tower of educational excellence.

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