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Tuesday, July 31, 2001

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Fostering human and ethical values

RECENTLY THE Government of Andhra Pradesh issued several `Strategy Papers' on various subjects related to the governance of the State. A `Strategy Papers' on Higher Education is also one of them. The Strategy Paper provides information regarding the current position in the field, the goals and targets of the State Government as per the document `Vision 2020', the policies or the strategy which the government proposes to follow and the priority programmes and schemes of the government, in the department.

The Strategy Paper mentions that the goal of the government is to `Usher in a knowledge society' by the year 2020. Encouragement to private initiative in starting and managing junior, degree, and professional colleges is stated as "the main thrust of the Strategy in Higher Education". According to the Strategy Paper, the government would act as a "facilitator for greater participation of private institutions in the field of education". So, the emphasis in the strategy of the government is on private initiative.

Making Higher Education more relevant and purposeful, and imparting to the students, skills and knowledge which are relevant to the job market by introducing more and more technical and professional courses is also highlighted as an objective of the government.

Improvement of academic standards in Higher Education, striving towards excellence, and continuous evaluation of students, teachers and institutions are also mentioned as some of the aims of the government in the field of Higher Education.

The Strategy Papers are a kind of public proclamation of the policies of the government in different fields. These public proclamations are useful not only because they create an awareness among the people on government's policies but also because they provide an opportunity for the public to discuss government's policies. These strategy papers have initiated a general debate in the State on various policies of the government.

The focus in the Strategy Paper on Higher Education is on the importance of knowledge. Advancement in the field of professional and technical knowledge will enable any society to progress in all fields. It is possible for such a society to be in the frontline of all progress. Educated people will appreciate the goal of emergence of a knowledge society. A society with the maximum number of people with knowledge will get maximum benefits.

The Paper deserves appreciation for what it states. But it is unfortunate that there is no mention of fostering of human values or ethical values through Higher Education. Even in an indirect or remote way, human values are not referred to in this Policy Statement of the Government. Has the government forgotten that a society which ignores human values may face catastrophic effects? More important than knowledge is the man who uses the knowledge. If man acts in accordance with certain socially useful values, this knowledge will be useful to society. But if he is self- centred and gives a go by to human values, his knowledge may even result in social destruction. If these thoughts are given a serious consideration, there should be mention of the linkage between knowledge and human values in the government's Strategy Paper.

When the Strategy Paper was discussed in a meeting arranged by the government, non-officials who were invited to the meeting drew the attention of the government officials to the conspicuous absence of human values in the Paper. In response to that, government officials stated that teaching of human values through education is done at the school level, that it is possible to do so to some extent at the intermediate level and that in Higher Education it is not possible to inculcate human values. Does it mean that there is no place for human values in Higher Education and that inculcation of human values is to be limited up to the school level only? If we agree on that point, does it not imply that adults need no ethical values?

To find out whether values are to be limited to the school stage only, let us examine the recommendations of the important education commissions appointed in our country so far. The Radhakrishnan Commission which was appointed in 1948, gave importance to the inculcation of ethical values among students not only in colleges but also in universities. As per the recommendations of that Commission, provision was made for moral instruction in colleges and universities. The Kothari Commission which was appointed in 1965, while declaring that "knowledge with a lack of essential values may be dangerous", emphatically stated "what we would like to emphasise is the need to pay attention to the inculcation of right values in the students at all stages of education".

The answer to the question, is there no place for values in Higher Education, is clearly answered by the Kothari Commission. Without any ambiguity, the Commission declared that at all stages of education, values have to be inculcated.

Apart from the reports of the education commissions, the recent declaration of the UNESCO on Higher Education has also clearly emphasised the need for promotion of values through Higher Education. The International Conference on Higher Education held in 1998 and attended by about 180 countries declared that importance should be given to the dissemination of universally accepted values like freedom, justice and equality. The UNESCO declaration on Higher Education has also focussed attention on involving students in social service activities. The declaration states "Higher Education should reinforce its role of service to society, especially assisting in the elimination of poverty, intolerance, violence, illiteracy, hunger, environmental degradation and disease".

It can be stated that there is near unanimity among educationists and others regarding the need for dissemination of Human Values in Higher Education. But there are divergent views regarding how these values are to be promoted among the students of higher education.

Some advocate the view that values have to be promoted through curriculum. In some universities and colleges, for some years, syllabus was prepared for the teaching of values and according to that, moral instruction classes were conducted. Promotion of the study of humanities and social sciences like literature, history and culture and making all students study some prominent pieces of the humanities and social sciences, it is argued, will provide liberal education at the higher level resulting in the dissemination of noble values. But in this computer age, students are not evincing any interest in humanities and social sciences. Making the study of something related to values compulsory, may not have the desired effect. Sometime ago Indian Heritage and Culture was made compulsory to all degree students. But neither its teaching by the teachers nor its study by the students was taken seriously. Consequently that experiment was also discontinued.

In recent years, young men and women are showing much interest in `Personality development' programmes that help in improving memory power, communication skills, interpersonal relations, planning and working for success. Such programmes if conducted in universities and colleges would benefit both students and society. Even without making such courses compulsory, it is known that students would be interested in the same.

Human values among students in Higher Education can be fostered through personality development programmes. Behavioural skills can be imparted along with professional skills, thus linking values with knowledge.

Values can be promoted through social service programmes also. One criticism of our education system is that it is making the educated more selfish than others. Involving students in programmes like `Janma Bhoomi' will develop social consciousness among students and will also make them service-oriented. Providing opportunities for students to participate in community development programmes will create a link between education and community development and will also promote among the students certain basic values like dignity of labour, concern for others and community living . The Strategy Paper of the government of Andhra Pradesh may mention about the `Janma Bhoomi' and other community development programmes also.

K. SUBRAMANYAM

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