Indian culture has always placed great emphasis on values and morals in education. From a young age, we are taught how to give respect and to speak honestly. Most of our schools have moral education sessions or classes where values are taught through stories or folk tales, especially to younger children. We have fables that always end with morals and tales passed on from one generation to the next which talk about such values that one must never forget. These have gone a long way in shaping the ethos and spirit of our culture and character. Alongside formal education in school, imbibing values have also been considered important in the past.
However, with the advancements of science and technology and greater emphasis being put on what is written down in the textbooks and equations, we see a natural decline in the importance given to value education. Parents are around their children less since they have to work long days at the office and kids often grow up in front of the TV without much human interaction. They usually are given what they ask for and situations of conflict are not common. At school, they are asked to excel in the subjects and make scoring high their ultimate goal. Such an enormous weightage is given to marks that students will go to any lengths to gain approval by scoring well, even if it means breaking the rules. With the rise of the notions of western secularism and morality itself coming to be considered a construct, moral science as it was once called is often deemed unnecessary. This, however, is terribly unhelpful and detrimental to our progress as a human race precisely because man has become more intelligent but also willing to use his intelligence to hurt others. We need to ask whether it isn’t a direct result of devaluing morals that we have an alarming increase in the number of social atrocities, murders, rapes, even discriminations we thought we would not need to fight anymore. Why is it that even with greater progress than any other time in history being made in all fields that we still find ourselves fighting for equality and we keep designing weapons potent enough to destroy the planet?
Knowledge is useful and essential. But imparting only technical and scientific knowledge leads to that very knowledge being used to destroy others. In an age when we have become increasingly intolerant of others who might disagree with us even if it is a trivial matter, a culture that prioritizes one’s own self over all others, knowledge is often weaponized. It itself becomes political and is used as a method of exclusion. As C.S. Lewis succinctly put it, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” Has value education always been able to solve all our cultural problems? Of course not. But it did inculcate certain morals and work ethics at a young age that consciously or otherwise underlined our motivations and actions. Teaching it in school as a subject has never been the only solution. But ensuring that the student is always guided to think better, to be empathetic, and to exercise compassion goes a long way, even if it is conveyed as a prep talk at the end of a mathematics class and if they see it in action. Only education that takes values with it alongside can make our society better in all aspects and lead to students wanting to effect a change for the better in the lives of their communities.