Students and Social Responsibility

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By Education Today

Posted on April 6, 2022


7 min read

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Students and Social Responsibility

“Every individual has a place to fill in the world and is important in some respect whether he/she chooses to be so or not.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne.

This is often being pointed out that 21st century education is going to be in many ways different from what it used to be in the past. Experts have argued that learners will have to develop an ability to be able to unlearn, relearn and then realign themselves according to needs of the society particularly in a country like India. The idea of students and social responsibility is important to reflect as we have successfully implemented the right to education for over a decade now and created a robust system of education with millions of School level and thousands of higher education institutions.

It is often being argued that  whole teaching learning  process is largely reduced to a process of acquisition of Job skills and though there is so much emphasis on Critical thinking, Creativity, Communication, Information, Technology and Media literacy, the culmination of the entire education spectrum that is realisation of social responsibility is somewhat pushed to background. It is in that light that experts argue that there is a need to re-imagine the educational framework.

Indian civilization often boasts itself of Universities like Nalanda and Takshila and we find out that students used to leave their comfortable places to go to gurukuls to be able to prepare themselves tougher tests in life and to equip themselves to counter the critical challenges of humanity at large. The world looks at India as a youth capital which has the potential to change the course of human history and long standing issues such as poverty and discrimination can be wiped off.

Social responsibility: the Context and need

 If we try to spell out the context of the increasing need for social responsibility,  we may take note of the concerns expressed by Indian academicians from time to time about a generation with muddled imagination. In a chapter taught to BA first year students of Delhi University,  a HR professional laments the fact that  Indian students largely lack the focus and a clear understanding of social responsibility.  The author cites many examples as to how a majority of young students that he has interviewed fail to take their eyes off from their mobile phones even when a serious discussion is in progress. They are not able to tell about the social responsibilities and begin to look skywards if they are asked about how they spend their time with the family  and how they link themselves to the society at large.

In the chapter, the HR professional Dinesh Kumar raises a point about the not the unemployment problem but the unemployability of about 80 to 90% of Indian youth However the points discussed about lack of focus, a Life goal and a desire to earn bottom less money without putting in any labour is a cause of concern for all those who think about are students and their social responsibility. It has to be underlined that there is nothing wrong with the use or reliance of mobile phones or to nurture dreams of earning a secure financial future. What is problematic here a sense of separation from one’s social responsibility

A crystallised understanding of Social Responsibility is completely missing. And a question arises as to when is the best time to understand that.  It is only during the phase of learning, a person can develop a sense of social responsibility. It is through the help of parents, teachers and fellow students that s/he can imbibe a higher sense of one’s life and an ability to link himself or herself to other sections of society. For example, the idea of gender equality, celebration of diversity and making sacrifices for the sake of sacrifice are the lessons which can be learnt only during the student life. Though not impossible, it is very difficult to acquire those in the later phase of life.

This is even more important in the wake of the pace of change accelerating in the 21st century; there is a need to reinforce the idea of social responsibility and the ability to acquire that ability to live for the sake of others. Is it not urgent that we focus even more on “learning to learn” and the ability to continually reinvent oneself for the purpose of society and humanity at large.

This has to begin with an active recognition amongst all educators and stakeholders  that the world is changing. To prepare the next generation for the future, we need to design an education system that caters to the needs of the entire society.

The relationship between students and social responsibility does not seem too distant however if we begin to explore things more closely we find that there are some obvious gaps,

Students and Social responsibility: Facets and Praxis

A stitch in time saves nine. It is through the timely realisation of social responsibility, we may achieve higher social growth.  It is also important as to what we understand about social responsibility.  Sometimes it is being understood as maintaining all norms of social discipline and the idea of living for the sake of others which is how social responsibility has to be interpreted remains largely conveniently misunderstood.

Schools  in particular and all stakeholders  in general  need to identify the role and responsibility In helping the students of modern day generation to overcome the sense of powerlessness Through inculcating a sense of  society And help develop Supreme confidence so that they can rise to the occasion and make a difference to the world.

Spirit of Simplicity, Volunteering and a higher purpose

A spirit of simplicity is important (unless one is employed in the fashion industry) to be able to fully understand and embrace social responsibility. Just like the corona virus,  another deadly virus in the name of poverty is troubling the lives of a great number of Indians.

Spirit of volunteerism is the key. Students may initiate a project on their own or else there are many projects launched by government and NGOs to support different social causes like creating awareness for the importance of education, finding shelter for the homeless, looking after sick people or any other community service project. A healthy young person can donate blood every 3 months and this idea is absorbed right from the school days, it can prove to be a game changer for Indian medical sector and we can save many lives and stop many malpractices.

It is only through the realisation of social responsibility that we can identify a higher purpose for ourselves. In the age of the rise of the individual,  it is easy to overlook what happens around us and be completely oblivious of the larger social situation and needs. Through analysis and understanding,  we can relate to the social scenario and prepare a suitable strategy to fit in the role that suits  most.

A big case for social responsibility can be built up by the recent OXFAM report which has stated that billionaires such as Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, Sunil Mittal, Radhakrishan Damani, Kumar Manglam Birla and Laxmi Mittal and many others working in sectors like coal, oil, telecom, medicines, pharmaceuticals, education, and retails increased their wealth exponentially since March 2020 when India announced world’s biggest COVID-19 lockdown and economy came to standstill. In contrast, stats have shown that 170,000 people lost their jobs every hour in the month of April 2020.

The Way Forward

Students and social responsibility has to be a values-driven framework for the complete development of children through the taught curriculum, co-curricular activity and resource management. The ideas such as collective well-being, Rights, Responsibilities, Intelligent Behaviours, Knowledge and Opportunities have to be internalized in letter and spirit.

Many experts have pointed out that in a country like ours, education is seen more as an instrument of upward social mobility and in that pursuit, and sometime social responsibility appears to be out of contention. Amidst a fierce “above 95 per cent” competition scenario, there is a need to underline social responsibility intervention at the curriculum level.