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Education For Social Transformation


Education is so far the best agent of social transformation. Greeks and Romans who were pioneers in the field of education understood it as formation of the whole person. For the Greeks education meant the development of “aner-agothos”, i.e., the promotion of what is beautiful and good in the human person. The former stands for the development of physical qualities and the latter for the moral values. So the Greeks promoted games and athletics. For the Romans it was the formation of “Homo-politicus”. The senators who advised the Roman emperors were to be well formed and they were generally senior people. They were to be men of character and were known for their wisdom and knowledge.
Christian concept of education is based on Christian anthropology and Christian humanism. Man is both body and soul and he is created in the image of God, God is our Father and all human beings are brothers and sisters to each other. Hence education consists in the integral development of the whole person. It gives importance to the formation of his spiritual and human values. A person must be prepared to live his life both here on earth and in the life to come after death.
Modern concept of education stresses the integral formation of the person. However, popular understanding of education is limited to acquiring knowledge and to prepare a person to meet the consumerist demands of the present culture, i.e., prepare one to obtain a job or a trade that will bring one enough money to squander. Degrees have become a fashion but without much intellectual knowledge. Building up of a person of character and moral values is sidelined.
If we understand education only as acquiring information, then our concept is very static. It must move from the level of information to personal and social awareness. Only when I am aware of what is happening within me and my society I can evaluate it as good or bad. The good that is in society must be promoted and the bad element must be eradicated. This means that I must reflect on what is happening around me. True education helps me to reflect, analyse and evaluate. This is what we call critical consciousness.
Education must lead to critical consciousness. Transformation comes from self-reflection and self-criticism. Any society that is not critical of its conduct, behaviour, customs and traditions cannot make progress. Our educational system should provide us this opportunity and possibility. Does our educational system promote critical consciousness? If not, our society will remain static and unchanged.
A careful analysis of our educational system shows that there is hardly any space for reflection, discussion and assimilation of what we learn. The very teacher-student relationship in our educational situation reveals that our system has fundamentally a narrative character. This involves a narrating person (the teaching person) and the listening students. The content of our teaching, whether values or information regarding a reality, tends to be narrated and becomes lifeless. Teacher is all worried about finishing the subject (the syllabus) to be taught. Education thus becomes syllabus oriented and it suffers from a narration sickness.
The main task of the teacher is to 'fill' the students with the contents of his narration which is detached from reality and any significance. Words are emptied of their concreteness and become hollow and students very often have to memorize them without personalizing them. Narration (with the teacher as dictating the subject matter) leads the students to memorize mechanically the narrated content. It turns them into 'containers', into receptacles to be filled by the teacher. The more completely he fills the receptacles, the better a teacher he is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are.
Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. What the teacher communicates the students patiently receive, memorize and repeat.  This is the 'banking' concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filling and storing the deposits. This type of education does not promote creativity or transformation. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry men pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other (Paulo Freire).
For education to bring in transformation, it must allow the student to discuss the subject matter and its relevance on oneself and one’s society. It should help him to be a social being, sensitive to the needs of his brothers and sisters. The more the students develop critical consciousness, the more they become transformers of their society and world. Transformation comes through people’s intervention in society. Only when the education I receive helps me to be critically aware and conscious of my world around me, can I intervene rightly for its change. I can not approach life mechanically with my memorized, deposited knowledge. It must be activated, stimulated to think and to act creatively. Education therefore involves reflection and action. This alone can bring about a transformation in society. This calls for change in our educational system and in ourselves.

What is happening in our society?
Globalization has given way to change of traditional values and culture. Earlier our value system was centred around God, cult and community, (authority and mystery); other values like art, science, and economy were at the service of the above mentioned core values of a society. But now economy, individual, laws and rationality have become principal values of modern culture; and God, cult and community are at the service of finance and economy. Everything is in function of the individual and economy. Rationality replaces mystery, and laws authority. However, in the post-modern context rationality tends to end up in sentimentality and finance and economy in emptiness and uncertainty. “I am what I think” (cogito ergo sum) is being replaced by “I am what I feel”. My feelings are important and opinions dominate over rational arguments. Multinationals while selling Coca cola, are not merely selling a product but also an ideology, a mentality. If we are not critically conscious, we can easily and blindly be carried away by ephemeral values of life. “Slim and sleek is attractive and beautiful” is presented by the companies and we are nervously buying products which are advertised to make ourselves such models. Criteria for beauty are set by the advertising agencies who want to sell their products.
Violence as a means of social transformation has proved a failure. Violence breeds further violence and there is no end to it. But we must oppose the oppressor. That is the only way to do good both to the oppressed and the oppressor. It is not by destroying the rich but by empowering the poor that we usher in change. Our ideology then, is the ideology of the Our Father which demands a basic equality of His sons and daughters. It is not by violence but by being ready to suffer violence that we can make the shift from the status quo in our society. Peace is not the absence of war nor is Peace is the product of "law and order" sustained by the might of police and army. It is the result of creating an ambience where the basic necessities of all are met so that they can be human, and where there is sharing and brotherhood and love.
Freedom is an essential aspect in education to critical consciousness. Our society should promote freedom to choose, think, decide and express views independently. We are being controlled in every way, everywhere: from the choice of religion to exercising our fundamental right to vote. We live in a democratic society but our votes are cast by others, our lives controlled by people who lack moral codes and conduct
. A society that suffers from the bankruptcy of diversity of opinions, plurality of views and freedom of expressions will stagnate. We either stagnate and perish or change and grow. Responsibility grows only in freedom. Our education must lead to critical consciousness, freedom of thinking and expression that will challenge unjust structures, hypocrisy of religions, non performing governments, oppressive organizations, grafters, extortionists, scamsters, money launderers and fratricidal agents of our own societies.