The session on Value Education on day 2 of Difficult Dialogues saw panelists discussing the role of value education in our lives, the need for teaching this subject in schools, and how relevant Gandhian values are today, reports NT BUZZ
With this year’s theme of Difficult Dialogues being centred on education, one of the topics up for discussion is the role of value education in our lives. And this was the focus of the debate at session 3 of the forum which featured professor, Cultural Policy Studies, The American University of Paris Yudhisther Raj Isar; programme director, Dempo Vishwa Gramshala, Victoria Chowgule; professor, Hindi Department, University of Delhi, Apoorvanand Jha, and Vice Chancellor, Goa University, Varun Sahni. The session was moderated by dean, Faculty of Education, Goa University and principal of GVM’s Dr Dada Vaidya College of Education, Ponda, Allan Abreo.
Sahni opened the discussion by stating that when it comes to values, the more universal they are the better. “Value education is ultimately about doing the right thing, identifying the right path even though there may be other easier options available. If this is taught to kids at a young age when the human brain is still developing it will become second nature to them,” he stated.
Chowgule however argued that there was a fundamental flaw in the concept of universal values. “I believe that when we are talking about values, they have to be very localised because when we take it to a national level we run the risk of those values being manipulated for political gains. At the same time however, if values come from a local level we have to understand that these are filtered through so many localised systems that it is a slippery slope,” she said. Values, she further stated, come from the heart, spirit and soul.
Isar on the other hand agreed on the concept of universal values pointing out that when he worked with UNESCO, the organisation was propagating at all levels of society, ethical positions that were arrived at through the process of negotiation. He did however state that these were not necessarily completely universal as there was a dominance of a certain mindset from certain parts of the world.
Another point which he highlighted was in reference to a 1995 report by the International Commission on Education titled ‘Learning to be’. “The main message from this was that we need to be able to learn throughout our life. This in itself is a value which we need to inculcate. Thus the traditional sequence of being educated first and then working is no longer valid,” he said. Thus, the focus should be not just on learning but on learning to do, he said.
He also stressed on the need to learn to live together, to develop a stance with people of other cultures and have an appreciation of interdependence. “It is the fundamental duty of anyone educating today to commit to pluralism,” he said.
Putting across his thoughts, Jha stated that there has always been a tension between tradition and modernity. “Some people think that education which is imparted in schools and colleges has to do with modernity whereas values come from traditions and so education is looked at with a great deal of suspicion from communities. They want to send their kids to schools but are scared that schools and colleges will eliminate their traditional values,” he said.
Jha further pointed out on how girls are not sent to school when they are menstruating and also brought to light the examples of the Sabarimala temple where women were not allowed to enter as it was considered against their value system. He also made a mention of how nationalism has been imposed in schools and colleges where they have to set up a bravery wall or invite generals to give speeches to students on this theme. “In such a situation, you have to look at the Gandhian value of disobedience,” he said.
And while some may argue that values should be caught and not taught, Sahni disagrees. “Some people are born as gifted mathematicians or singers. Does that mean that we can’t train people to be mathematicians or musicians?” he asked.
Adding to this, Isar said that while he too believes that values can be taught, this cannot be in a top-down manner of delivering a single message but has to be through the process of dialogue.
Delving further into Gandhi’s value of justice, Jha further pointed out how Gandhi fought for secularism and for the minorities despite the opposition he faced, including attacks on his life. “You can’t just teach values, you have to fight for them too,” he said.
Sahni for his part reminded the audience about the republican values especially on fraternity which focuses on the dignity of the individual. “The state has no part to play in fraternity. It is about how we treat each other. And it is extremely disappointing that the reality is different from what is. There is a gulf between what we propose to be and what we have become today and I think we need to begin asking ourselves how we can bridge this gap,” he said.
(The Navhind Times is the media partner.)