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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 42, New Delhi, October 10, 2015

True Education

Saturday 10 October 2015

by D.K. Panigrahi

Education means the acquisition of knowledge overcoming our own ignorance. Knowledge is the information, understanding and skills that we gain through education or experience. It is the state of knowing about a particular fact or situation. Knowledge is acquired in two ways: idea to object or object to idea. Education imparts knowledge. Education means the process of teaching and learning, the theory and practice of teaching and training in a particular subject. It gives intellectual or moral instruction to the taught. Education gives knowledge and abilities, development of character and mental powers. But as yet we have achieved ‘formal’, certifi-cates’, and degree holders’ education; but not “true education”.

Our present education is filled with Western ideals—the myth of modern science and techno-logy. Our ancient scientists and philosophers are being gradually neglected. To fight the hegemony of the West, we need a new kind of education. In this context, the meaning of “true education” has to be explored. Perhaps true education enables one to experience the world in a unique way: it creates wisdom: a humane orientation towards nature, towards labour, towards fellow beings. It visualises a different kind of society, polity and economy. The history of post-independence India is full of betrayals. We need to educate ourselves in order to bear freedom and truth.

A lot of reading, introspection, observation and insights are required for providing something new in the stream of knowledge. True education really means life experiences which should not be confined to formal education and specific training only. Above all, education means not to be a calculus, but how to calculate the real-life situations. The basic purpose of education remains the development of the human personality.

True education brings about consciousness. Consciousness brings about revolution. Revolution brings about change. Change is the law of nature. Law is the code of conduct. Thus, education without consciousness has no meaning. Education is a lifelong process. We learn as long as we live. We live to learn but we must learn to live. The traditional wisdom of India never separated learning from living. Have we, therefore, while acquiring learning, steeped our personalities in humanism with acquisition of knowledge with consciousness while people are suffering from poverty, hunger and destitution? Have we developed techniques for the moral fibre to protect ourselves from obscurantism, superstition, prejudice and irrationality? Have we inculcated the values of compassion which lie at the root of the concept of “true education”—education with conscious-ness, to which we all should pay at least lip-service? Those who have gone through the portals of a higher degree belong to a highly privileged category. Therefore, their obligations to society are tremendous. The debt which they have to repay to society keeps on mounting as knowledge keeps on expanding. They, besides developing their own personalities, must serve as catalysts of social change, and to achieve the defined goals of the society in the real spirit of action and the actual sense of true education which is education with consciousness.

Swami Vivekananda warned us long ago: “No amount of politics would be of any avail, until the masses in India are once more well educated, well fed and well cared for.” For that need-oriented quality education is now desirable for all-round development of the nation. Therefore, educational standards should emphasise on quality, not numbers. Certificates of education are limited only to examinations. There is no yardstick for the examination pattern. More so, marking systems vary from institution to institution. The examination is not the balance of knowledge. The examination pattern in our country is not uniform. Education is in the concurrent list of our Constitution. There is growing disparity between the state-sponsored educational institutions and private educational institutions. Growing privatisation of education and commercialisation of education has converted education into an industry without its welfare objectives—an immediate production-orientation which is accessible to very few corrupt people.

In our national perception, education is essentially for all. This is fundamental to our all-round development, material and spiritual. But in practice it is available to a very few. Corrupt people can afford to enter the field of education due to the present-day commercia-lisation of education and certainly they will laugh at this concept of true education. Corruption tends to get entrenched in society owing to the absence of “true education”, “public consciousness”, and lack of “sensitivity”. Public consciousness means involvement of groups of people in society on public issues which affect the majority of the population. The public today are practically silent over public issues. Everything is possible in society by adopting corrupt practices. Everyone is corrupt, but the degrees of corruption are different. Corruption means moral laxity. Everybody has some moral laxity, but this is not acceptable when it goes against the society at large: its very existence.

Lack of true education and self-control leads to corruption. Corruption is the result of lack of consciousness and conscience, lust for money, power and position and materialistic gains with degeneration of moral values. Corrupt tendencies turn into corrupt practices and habits owing to the prevailing ills of society—unequal distri-bution of land, labour and capital. Unequal adjustment of economy and society and the free-market economic competition, inhuman ways of making money, maximisation of profits, the urge to possess assets by unfair means, mainte-nance of the status quo, craze for power to dominate over the powerless and the masses. These are all due to lack of true education.

Corruption is a virus affecting each and every aspect of human life. Thus, there are economic corruption, political corruption, social corruption, and mental corruption, spiritual and moral corruption. Economic corruption means the tradition and practice to use corrupt methods to make money, assets and wealth and to advance one’s prosperity. Political corruption means the use of the discretionary and arbitrary powers of the political elites over the non-elites, and the masses. Social corruption means a low level of social discipline and degeneration of moral values and moral laxity and hatred towards fellow beings. Mental corruption means inability to cleanse one’s mind and lack of love, sacrifice to serve the people and developing the negative attitude of life. Spiritual corruption means lack of sincerity of the guru towards his disciple, but his tendency to look into what his disciple is giving and how much money he is receiving. Thus, moral laxity of human beings leads to corruption and it grows due to lack of true education.

In order to acquire true education and to curb corruption, there is a need for sound and healthy living. For that purpose, incorporation of the age-old Vedic system of values of life in the human character is required for a corruption-free society. These values are achar (conduct), vichar (thought process), ahar (diet and nutrition) and vyavahar (interpersonal dealings). True education—education with consciousness, conscience, and sensitivity—will make a man conscious of the public issues and give an opportunity to root out every trace of nepotism, love of power, profiteering and black-marketeering. It is a fact that this is very difficult to achieve, but it is not impossible. It depends upon the strong will of the people, the leader and the rulers of the society to remain vigilant on public and social issues.

Societal interests should get precedence over the individual vested interests. People should not think that they cannot change the system if it is corrupt, but it is better to change themselves to siut the corrupt system and practices. Rather, they must try to achieve true education—education with consciousness and sensitivity to curb corruption.


1. Panigrahi, D.K., paper on “New Education Policy and Challenges for the 21st Century” presented to the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi, 1986.

2. Panigrahi, D.K., “Pathology of Corruption”. Main-stream, Vol. XL, No. 51, December 7, 2002, pp. 20 and 30.

3. Panigrahi, D. K., “Anatomy of Corruption”, Mainstream, Vol. XLI, No. 21, May 10, 2003, pp. 30-31.

4. Panigrahi, D. K., “Chains of Corruption”, Mainstream, Vol. XLI, No. 49, November 22, 2003, pp. 30-31.

5. Panigrahi, D. K., “Education for the forthcoming era”. The Sadhana Quarterly Newsletter of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Puri, Vol. II, August, 2006, p. 6.

Dr Panigrahi, a free-lance writer, was a Research Associate, International Management Institute (IMI), New Delhi

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