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By: Muneeb Afzal

Since the dawn of human civilization, education has remained as one of the crucial aspects of human life. If we stretch our memories across the boundaries of time and space and try to find whether education at any point of time in history has been irrelevant or insignificant, I am sure the answer will be a big NO. Almost two and half millenniums before, Socrates sacrificed his life for the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. His commitment to knowledge at any cost reflects the importance he attached to it. From this it is clear that the significance of education transcends the barriers of space and time.

The importance of education cannot be circumscribed to a particular thing. Its role and importance in our lives is manifold. We pursue education as a means to increase our prospects of employment. We are motivated towards education as it assures a social prestige and recognition as well. Education also enhances our confidence and independence in our life. It makes us capable and enables us to take independent decisions in our life. But is education merely a means to an end or is it something valuable in itself? Is it appropriate to pursue education for economic well being and social recognition only?

The essence of education lies in transforming the individual. In other words, the primary focus of education is to make an individual a person of character, a person of principles and a person committed to human values. By birth we have no conception of the notions of good and bad, right and wrong and virtue and vice, it is education which gives us an insight into such things. Education shares an intimate and inseparable relationship with morality and ethical values. There is a code of do’s and do not’s which education sets for an individual. The aim here is to inculcate the values of sympathy, empathy, love, respect etc in an individual. These values enable an individual to abandon the extreme version of self interest and become other-oriented so as to contribute certain good things to the society as a whole. An empathetic attitude towards the poor and other marginalized sections of the society is an inalienable part of education. Education gives us shape as human beings. How can we distinguish ourselves from animals if we are devoid of moral and ethical values?

The moral development of an individual has an immense social significance as well. The positive social attributes can be found only in an individual who has a sense of right and wrong and good and bad. The establishment of a good society becomes impossible in the absence of moral and ethical individuals. Socrates once said that there is only one good, knowledge, and only one evil, ignorance. This reflects his emphasis on education and its role in the development of a better society. The development of a good civic sense is the natural outcome of moral education.

Here the role of a teacher becomes pivotal and decisive. Abraham Lincoln said that the philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. Teachers have the responsibility of imparting moral education to the students. Information based and examination oriented education are important but not adequate. Exposing young students to moral values is highly needed. Education based on values acquaints a student of his responsibilities towards himself, his family members and towards society as well. At the end we care about those things which we think are important and what we think is important is determined by what we are taught.

Transforming the society by transforming an individual is and must be the foremost objective of education. Our society confronts a number of serious diseases like dowry, casteism and many others as well. These social evils are disadvantageous to society in general and the marginalized and poor in particular. The eradication of these evils is a prerequisite for realizing the dream of establishing a just and egalitarian society. Education is the only weapon of change. Education must stimulate our conscience to act for the cause of our society. We must remember that we defeat the very purpose of education if we confine its scope to the economic gains and social recognition only.

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