Home > Curriculm and pedagogy > Learning To Be- The Essence of Education


By G. Balasubramanian

“The only thing being worse than blind is to have sight, but no vision” SAID HELEN KELLER.

It is important all of us to question ourselves – what is our vision in life? Where does it take us? In a highly competitive and consumerist world, most of us have neither time to consider a vision nor live by it. Our education system is also so articulated to feed the delights and delicacies of this consumerist society that it doesn’t allow for any serious introspection about our existence and growth in this universe. We largely try to seek pleasure, comfort, convenience and controls rather than a conviction to live the life the way we intend to.

In early days, the Indian education focused on developing learners on being “Sthithapragna” – one who was positioned in one’s own consciousness. The Gurukula addressed in developing the individual’s mind to seek its own horizon rather than mass culturing of the minds to a singular purpose. The objective of education was to “liberate the mind” rather than “train the mind”. This helped every individual to be one’s ownself, celebrate the beauty and insights of one’s own vision and purpose of life in whatever way one chose.

The most articulated models of schools of the modern era focused on the industrial model of “Mass production” to generate a set of people who rose to a defined ‘benchmark’ and who could cross a pre-defined set of barriers. “Acculturation” of minds to follow a sequence of thoughts and thereby develop a coded living style came as recognition of one’s growth. “Becoming” became the message of education resting aside the beauty of the “Being”. Possibly this effort fitted in the paradigm: “it is easy to stand in the crowd, but it needs courage to stand alone.”

UNESCO, while considering the suggestions for the direction of education worldwide, recommended through Delors Report 1996, four pillars of Learning – Learning to Know; Learning to Do; Learning to Get Together; and, Learning to Be”. The objective of Learning to Be was to create a positive sense of the self, developing the personality and the inner profile, foster the body, spirit and the mind, enabling the individual being non- judgemental. In this process, the individual was expected to assume personal responsibility for one’s own self and interaction with the immediate and extended universe. While ‘becoming’ is a natural process of selection of the human mind, thanks to educational inputs of the modern days, it has focused excessively on ‘Becoming’ thus negating the pursuit of ‘Being’ The royal battle between “Being” and “Becoming” is legendary.

From time immemorial, the curiosity to be different, the urge to be the other or another, seeking to experience what one is not, projecting oneself in the shadow of a presumed model, the pride of challenging the other that we are equal to them in what they are – are all detailed in the history of the humankind and the stories built around them. The desire of a young child to play the game of the mother and father, the desire of a school going primary child to play the role of a teacher, the urge of an adolescent to play a hero or heroine with a similar style and fashion, the subordinate official imitating the boss are all but the outcome of the psychological revelations for “becoming” sooner or later. This conflict puts an extreme pressure on an individual to demolish the reality of the self or play with it, weave a fabrication of an attire over the self which is difficult to fit in; and behave in a manner which is not the real. To make the human mind understand the ridiculousness of such an exercise in which the entire life is lost in a battle, with latent energies being wasted on creating a myth, is indeed a very difficult. This difficulty arises largely due to a poor self-esteem and an admission of a sense of self-defeat before the other. Some of the manifestations of such defeatist syndromes arising consequent to an exercise in ‘becoming’ are:

  • I am not good enough
  • I am not looking good
  • I am not competent
  • I cannot do this
  • I am not a good learner.
  • And many more. All these are resultant of a comparative exercise with which one engages in the social milieu. This destroys inner peace, systematically puts one in the shells of negativism and finally the individual resigns to one’s fate, making the self a non-performer in any field of activity.

    1. Self-acceptance is the base for “Learning to Be”

    “Learning to Be” starts with self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is not resignation to fate or a withdrawal from growing, non-participation in an energetic and entrepreneurial world, but it is indeed born out of identification, recognition, appreciation and acceptance of the latent potentialities. It is an exercise in proving the magnificence of the self, which is unique, performing and expressive. Self-acceptance is a reward that one gives the self, for what it is and what is its worth. This forms the first stepping stone for moving towards a world of optimism. Self-acceptance is indeed the celebration of our existence. “To find the good life, you have to become yourself” says Dr. Bill Jackson.

    2. “Learning to Be” is an investment on the self

    Learning to Be is an assurance one gives to the self to be non-competitive, thereby non-aggressive. This self-assurance is indeed an investment to growth and to be researching on the self continuously for progression, performance, growth and leadership. The non-competitive state is a very healthy state of mind that eliminates the myth of being the other, a state of mental health that facilitates an atmosphere for peace and maximized performance. It is state of dynamic equilibrium of the mind where it is dispassionately engaged in its own growth.

    3. “Learning to Be” is an instrument to self-discovery

    “Learning to Be” provokes the urge to discover the self. The process of self-discovery is exciting, adventurous, thrilling, educative and emancipative. It is indeed entrepreneurial in nature and helps one to analyse the known behavioural patterns and bring about paradigm shifts for change whenever and wherever needed. It helps to unravel the latent inner potentialities and facilitates them to surface and breathe the air of creativity.” Learning to Be’ helps in progressive unlearning and re-earning to keep the self-current, relevant and meaningful. It acknowledges change as vital to the relevance of Being. "you cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one" says H.D. Thoreau.

    4. Learning to Be helps in positive engagement with life

    Learning to Be helps in rejection of negativities in the environment and stay selectively positive, strong, thereby conserving energy. It helps in staying focused in the path of pursuit of excellence. It is common knowledge that anyone who has an urge to ‘become’ evaluates several models before his personal engagement with any specific model and in that process lets his focus and energy dissipate by investing them on suspicious models for growth. Zig Zager says “People say motivation doesn’t lost. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

    Over the years, one recognizes the loss of time, energy and interests in irrelevant pursuits. “Learning to Be’ helps to set right priorities for the celebration of the ‘self’ by continuously meditating on the well-being of the self. It must be clarified at this stage that the ‘celebration of the self’ is not a selfish attitude, but dissolving the self in the betterment of the universe around.

    5. Learning to Be is self-leadership

    Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is True Power.” Says Lao-Tzu. Learning to Be is an introductory exercise to Leadership. It understands that one cannot lead others unless he or she leads the self. Training the self in such kind of a leadership calls for focus, control, organized behaviour, discipline and a dispassionate engagement with the immediate environment. Once the individual has learnt the art and science of self-leadership, the path to progress automatically gets revealed to the individual. He doesn’t count on followership as a leader, but the followers count upon him as a self-less leader. In this process the mind stays in equilibrium state, being unaffected by the stress and trauma of the environment, and possibly stays at peace maximizing its productivity to an all-time high.

    6. Learning to Be relieves the trauma of ageing

    Learning to be helps one to be always his or her natural self, thereby reliving several stages of life like childhood experiences. The true nature of the individual stands revealed and doesn’t seek any cosmetic polishing for exhibition to the world. The emotions are neither suppressed nor accelerated or aggravated. Being present as the natural self, lets the metabolism function in its normal course and a kind of presumed ‘sickliness’ arising due to ‘becoming’ needs is moderated. This helps in overcoming the trauma of aging as one could stay put with groups and peers of any age group. “The aging process is more traumatic for those who think they can control the passage of time.” Says Paulo Coelho.

    7. Learning to Be facilitates being in a non-dual state

    A large number of people suffer due to compulsive needs of exhibiting ‘dual personalities’ or ‘multiple personalities’ This is a psychologically conflicting behaviour. This is an outcome of the struggle to cope with the process of ‘Becoming’ by trying to impose multiple fashions of existence on the true self. The state of being is a non-dual state which acknowledges both the simplicity and the truth of one’s own design in this cosmic exuberance. One doesn’t have to make an extra effort to be in this normal state of existence, but has to take care that this normalcy of the self is not corrupted by external sources. “Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you should always have been.” Says David Bowe.

    “Learning to Be” has to be the nucleus of all educational designs and constructs to usher in a peaceful state of co-existence.

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