If you could host a dinner party and invite any four people, either living or dead, whom would you invite and what would the five of you discuss together?
If I could host a dinner party and invite any four people, either living or dead, I would invite the following four personalities: Writer and Philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, Monk Swami Vivekanand, Professor Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.
The topic for dinner will be Reforms in the Indian Education System. The history of education in India is very rich and old. Institutions of higher learning and universities such as Nalanda and Takshashila that flourished in India well before the Common Era are among the oldest universities of the world. India is a land of many inventions and discoveries. However this leading edge has now diminished from the Indian education system. Even though the government has made huge progress in making education available to its population, the quality of education and the institutes is still a major concern. Modern education revolves around rote learning (learning by memorizing) and needs a serious overhaul.
My first guest, Jiddu Krishnamurti, believed that through proper education the student will not only develop the right skills and knowledge but also make himself a worthwhile human being. He believed that a school is a place where one learns about the totality, the wholeness of life – and that it is a place where both the teacher and the taught explore not only the outer world (the world of knowledge) but also their own thinking and behaviour. His schools continue to operate under the auspices of the Krishnamurti Foundations in India and various parts of the world. I am fortunate to have been part of the same for my high school education.
Swami Vivekanand was a spiritual genius of commanding intellect and power and a man with prodigious memory. In 1893, during his first visit to United States, he was introduced by a Harvard University Professor to the chairman of Parliament of Religion in Chicago as: “Here is a man who is more learned than all of our learned professors put together”. Vivekanand believed that real education is not just information but is something which is life and character making. He refused to accept anything without rational proof and demanded convincing arguments for every proposition.
Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was a firm believer in education and one of the most well known diplomats. He scholar and teacher, he has also been the President of India. As a tribute to this great teacher and as a reflection of his love for and attachment to the teaching profession, his birthday is observed as Teachers’ day in India.
My fourth guest for the dinner party, Dr. Manmohan Singh, is a great thinker and a scholar and is also known to have opened the Indian economy to the world. He currently holds the most powerful post in the country. His government has been involved in significant measures to improve education and fight literacy.
The dinner party conversation will revolve around the first three prodigies’ views on improving the quality of education in schools. Mr. Krishnamurti is sure to convince others that the schools should not just aim for competitive study but for the complete development of the individual by giving him the freedom to inquire into knowledge and beyond – into oneself. Swami Vivekanand could best suggest what the school’s curriculum should be – for he did not believe in learning by rote (memorization). Since Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was a great teacher himself, he, would suggest ways in which more people could be inducted into the teaching profession. This would help reduce the teacher student ratio and improve the education quality. I am sure that my fourth guest, Dr. Manmohan Singh, will be happy to present concerns and limitations that his government is facing with education policies. He would take great interest in the views of the three education reformists and implement their suggestions for reforms in education.