Learning to live together

The gunning down of a young teenager by his peers last week has raised a host of questions in everyone's mind, disturbing questions to say the least, but questions that need to be addressed as they concern the well being and future of our children.

One should not make the mistake of treating this as an isolated incident and try to find a convenient scapegoat: a careless parent or a careless school. And one should not compound the mistake by imputing this disturbing act to vague reasons such as violent Internet games or new money . This incident is endemic to what we have allowed ourselves to become and thus each one of us is responsible for the four bullets that were fired by tender hands on that fateful Tuesday. What happened that day is a reflection of what our society has mutated to in the recent past.

In our rush to acquire a new identity defined by malls and powerful cars, by overt luxury and opulence we have destroyed the very fabric of our society. In our haste to embrace alien ways, we simply sacrificed the values that held us together for thousands of years.

One of the many solutions proffered while discussing the Gurgaon killing was the importance of widening the scope of education ands making it more meaningful. A glance at today's education pattern in Delhi, India's capital city is sufficient to make us aware of the fact that something is terribly wrong. In the past few years one has seen on the one hand the degradation of the state run school system where children in class IV or V can barely recognise their alphabets, while at the other hand there has been a mushrooming of luxury schools that look more like five star resorts than places of learning. Even education that should be a level playing field today reflects a divided and fractured society.

My mind goes back to the very beginning of pwhy when we set out to define education in a broad sense and adopted the Four Pillars of Education of the UNESCO Delors Commission. Learning for Jacques Delors did not stop at knowledge but extended well beyond: learning to know, to do, to be and to live together. I must confess that somewhere down the way we too forgot the importance of this multi-pronged approach.

Learning to live together has to become an integral part of our education system where children are taught to respect each other and celebrate differences and learning to live with others can only happen when schools look like schools and not like dilapidated structures or luxurious edifices, almost as if they were replicating the lives of the children they teach. Children are far more resilient than we want to believe and can adapt to almost anything. Schools should be a place where children learn to cope with life in all its manifestations and hence reflect a middle path approach.

One has to take a serious and honest look at education as it stands today and take the needed measures to reform it drastically. Only then will true healing begin