Social changes and Education

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By Education Today

Posted on April 6, 2022


5 min read

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The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how important a robust
healthcare system is to protect Indians from disease. Hopefully, moving forward

Indians will not be satisfied with anything but the best healthcare in the world. A

similar approach should also be taken with education, an area that rivals healthcare
in its ability to dramatically impact lives and livelihoods. India has an exceedingly
young population who will find it difficult finding employment in a jobs market that is
increasingly becoming more skills focused. Education can enable Indians to earn
better livelihoods that give their life purpose and can uplift entire communities. A
good education system will also be vital in ensuring that the Indian workforce can

adapt to the 21st century, and help India achieve its ambitions of becoming a global

All for one and one for all

The relationship between education and income is long established, but the benefits
of an accessible and high quality education system transcends beyond the economic
upliftment of individuals. A good education can equip people with critical thinking and
leadership skills necessary to work effectively as well to innovate any industries they
join. Over time, this leads to the upliftment of communities as more people reap the
benefits of the better and more secure employment that results from education
(especially higher education). Many of these people also make it a point to return to
their homes and help improve their communities at the grassroots level, driving
upward mobility.

However, it should be noted that there are many challenges with educating such a
large, diverse and multi-lingual population. The necessary reforms to uplift Indians in
the manner required are unlikely to be achieved overnight, at least not at scale. One
way to help Indians until this is achieved is through vocational or skill-based training
that supplements regular curriculums. This can equip young adults with the
necessary skills to become employment-ready. This enables them to contribute to
their families’ livelihood while also being in professional environments with the
possibility of promotions.

This is not to say that the sole focus of education should be to make students
employment-ready. There is a need for balanced curriculums that use instructional
and experiential activities to enrich student’s understanding of themselves, their
communities and the world outside. Specific attention must be paid to the
humanities, art and culture. The importance of these subjects was demonstrated by
an evidence review by the Arts Council, England that showed that there are
innumerable benefits to including the arts in curriculums. These include, but are not
limited to, better educational outcomes, increased propensity to vote and better
mental health.

One of the focus of curriculum should be to inculcate principles of fraternity and
shared humanity so that students are primed to become positive contributors to
society. With this kind of holistic upbringing, students are more likely to be agents of
change looking to address social gaps and improve social cohesion.

Setting the example for a better future

There is often a narrative that education can cure major problems in society like
racism and bigotry, but this is somewhat of an oversimplification. Over a century ago,
the famed sociologist Emile Durkheim argued that education is more likely to reflect
society than transform it. This is not to discount the transformative power of
education but merely highlight the complex relationship between education and
society. Many of the problems affecting education, like inequality and accessibility,
are rooted in problems affecting society at large.

A more apt description would be to say that education provides an opportunity to set
an example of what a democratic society could be. Democratic governance is
guided by a search for consensus and predicated on the respect of individual rights.
The success of this project requires that these core tenets become a mantra and
lifestyle for citizens, and education plays a vital role in ensuring this.
The great educator Maxine Greene argued that teachers should not be didactic
figures passing down absolute truths. They should instead be supportive guides who
enable students to understand the world by actively listening to their concerns,
feelings and thoughts. This enables teachers to not only provide relatable metaphors
to better educate students on different subjects, but also provide a space for student
empowerment. A student who has a space for their voice to be heard (which they
may not have outside of the classroom) is more likely to have self-belief and take
risks. And every additional voice offers new perspectives and adds to cultural
diversity, in other words making the classroom a microcosm of a perfect democracy.

The path to a life with dignity

A perfect democracy is also one that respects and upholds human rights. The
primary concerns of most discriminated minorities ultimately boil down to a request
for a life with dignity. And a key aspect of a life with dignity, as recognised by the
Supreme Court, is the right to a livelihood. But with automation and climate change,
the 21st century is likely to see a massive upheaval in the job market that will benefit
people with higher education or vocational skills at the cost of others.

Those who do not have the skills to adapt to the new job market will be left jobless,
which is a recipe for disaster. Studies have shown that there is a link between
radicalisation and unemployment. The disaffection of unemployed youth makes them
ripe pickings for a narrative that empowers them by giving them purpose and an
enemy to fight. A robust and modern education system, along with a concerted push
from the government to create new job opportunities (in new areas like renewable
energy), will be vital in ensuring that Indian youth are set down a peaceful and
constructive path.

It is just as impossible to overstate the importance of education as it is to list the
benefits it offers to society. One thing that is possible is that we give it the pride of
place it deserves. If there is one learning to take from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is
that we need to take a long hard look at which services are indeed “essential” and
prioritise them accordingly


 Mrs Kumari Shibulal Chairperson,           The Shibulal Family Philanthropic   Initiatives