DOES ANYONE CARE?


Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam.

We are sure you must have noticed that week after week, we keep hammering away on issues related to values. And values though latent in us, have to be patiently coaxed out, at home, in the school and in the work place. Some who have responded to our weekly specials seem to feel that we are simply repeating the same thing over and over again. Very true and we make no apologies about it. And to drive home the point how important values and good education are, this week we present extensive quotes from two recent newspaper articles by eminent citizens of India . The first quote is from Kuldip Nayar, a veteran journalist of great distinction. Writing in the Deccan Chronicle as recently as March this year, Mr. Nayar lamented about the declining standards of the Indian Parliament. Here is how Mr. Nayar begins his piece.

Is anyone worried about Parliament, wonders Somnath Chatterjee, the Lok Sabha Speaker. What torments him most is how negatively the parliament system is seen. The public, he believes, considers Parliament sessions a waste of time and the members’ emoluments a drain on the exchequer. He recalls with remorse the observation a young girl made. She said that she would never join politics because it lacked honesty and integrity. “Those words sear me all the time,” says Chatterjee, while recalling the visit of youth delegation that included the girl.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Nayar blames the media for contributing heavily to the decline in standards. While a majority of the Members of Parliament diligently do their homework and prepare for the debate , these days the media chooses to ignore these toilers, focussing instead on a small majority that has made a habit of raising a rumpus day after day, almost paralysing the proceedings. This is what Mr. Nayar has to say:

The media has come to believe that people do not want to read anything that makes them think. Today, the print media is suffering from a mad disease, which has played havoc with our newspapers. It is the “tabloid syndrome”. You open any paper in the morning, and the pages are full of pictures of young models and actors in various stages of dishabille. There are pages and pages on these models, super models, actors and designers – people you have not even heard names of – garnished with “information” on what they love to eat, what kind of dress they like best, what they do when they relax, what they think of love and sex, and such trivia. The special city pages of the paper look like a cross between a cheap fashion journal and a purple film magazine, full of gossip and crude colour pictures.

A newspaper is not a dustbin for dumping drivel, film gossip and crime. It must have news. It must have information. It must educate the public about events with background information and editorial comments. One of the reasons why the press has deteriorated is people who run the newspapers in our country now think that a newspaper is just like any other commodity. It should be neatly packaged, because then the idea of “nice packaging” means filling the papers with semi-nude colour pictures of models and trash.

This shallow, unthinking attitude is reflected even in the news stories and articles that are printed in the papers. Reporters do not always cross-check the information they get. They often write one-sided version of events about people who do not matter – about absolute non-entities. Often, good stories are not followed up properly. Even factual information given in a newspaper is at times incorrect.

May years ago, Parliament was the biggest news. Both Houses were covered extensively with a weekly roundup of the highlights of the proceedings in Parliament. Now the press does not devote more than a column on the subject. Television networks hardly pay any attention. The media is more star-oriented, whether he or she is in Parliament or on the screen. One television network shows practically nothing except what actors do while shooting.

Many who feel that we are constantly using the media as the whipping boy may please note what a journalist of repute has to say about the media of which he himself is a part. The decline of values, standards and quality is no accident; in a sense, it is all connected with the decline of education itself. It is in this context that the remarks of Prof. J. S. Rajput [former Chairman of the National Committee for Teacher Education and is also the former Director of NCERT] become relevant. He too wrote recently in the Deccan Chronicle, and he was commenting on the hype that India with its huge population of young people is likely to become a major economic player. It could, agrees Prof. Rajput, but only if we pay proper attention to various aspects of education. Here is a sample of the issues that worry him.

Most experts in their discourse talk about greater Indian participation in the global labour force in the future. The “demographic” advantage that India has and will continue to have can help the countries that are facing a shortage of labour. New opportunities are opening up for the young of India to fill the void being created in ageing societies.

This informed discourse, with all its data, facts and figures, invariably shifts to Indian education. It refers to thousands of Indian IT and ICT experts who have practically “taken over” the Silicon Valley and brought glory to India , and a good life as well as a better working condition for themselves. Many of them are keen to assist India in many ways. However, at the other extreme, there are more than ten million children who have never been to school. Even the official figures of non-enrolment and dropouts present no encouraging picture. It is estimated that only around 7 percent in the age group 18 to 24 are able to access higher education. Vocational-technical training is accessible only to around 5 percent in formal institutional situations.

A resurgent India can ill afford to neglect the levels of learner attainments in schools, the lack of training in vocational and technical skills, decline in quality at the level of higher education, inadequacy of institutions of higher education in numbers and also in dynamism. Half of the Indian population is below 24 years of age. There are around 120 million young persons in India in the age group 17 to 22. Only 7 percent are in higher education. Every year the system prepares three million graduates and about 400,000 engineers. The deficiencies of the system are highlighted by the single fact that only one out of four engineers who graduate is employable.

India ’s present rate of economic growth will perplex anybody who notices the figures released by the third National Family Health Survey of children recently. Of children below three years of age, 45.9 % are underweight, 38.4 % stunted, and 8 % are wasted. In China , only 8 % are under weight. We still have an alarming infant mortality rate of 57 per 1000 births. Government schemes, wherever available, are grossly inadequate, particularly for children below three years of age. Unfortunately, such issues are considered unrelated to the educational process. It is commonly known that malnutrition impairs both mental and physical growth. The majority of population does not have any access to healthcare system and children suffer most because of this. So, for long-term dividends, it is important to focus on children, their healthcare and education.

Education must come through the acquisition of “knowledge, skills and values,” drawing the best of head, hand and heart. … India now suffers from the “marks phobia,” neglecting the education of the hand and heart. This is the major bottleneck that could retard the fulfillment of the dreams being created by India ’s economic upsurge.

The major task before the existing system is that of enhancing the quality, credibility and suitability in institutions of higher learning. At each stage of the education, the criticality of the education of the hand and heart, skills and values has to be realised and the needed components included in the curricula.

Notice that Prof. Rajput talks not only about values in education but also of paying attention to the “hand and the heart”. That sounds familiar, does it not? It should, if we have been paying attention to what Swami has been stressing year after year.

Few realise that what Swami says is profoundly important and yet, most of us seem to be hardly bothered. From the writings of eminent commentators quoted above, two things should be absolutely clear. Firstly, values are of paramount importance in all walks of life and in all aspects of Society. Secondly, values will flourish only if the educational system does its best to promote the practice and observance of values. And to make it abundantly clear that an educational system based on the “hand, head and heart” is workable, Swami has established a University that combines the pursuit of academic excellence with discipline, and mind and sense control. It is also worthy of note that EHV or education in human values is often described by Swami as 3HV, meaning the harmonious function of the hand, the head and the heart.

Lately, there have been disturbing reports of how organised theft of personal information is increasing the world over, particularly in the Western world. Needless to say that much of this being done by people who are very skilled in computer science and technology. Such theft is a prelude to sophisticated extortion and cyber crime. In fact, it is reported that very recently the mafia is actively recruiting computer whiz kids by offering attractive scholarships to study in the best schools; once these whiz kids graduate, they have to work for criminals; no escape because the arm of the criminals is very long. It is also reported that some people are placed in difficult financial and various compromising situations so that they would be forced to sell their souls for criminal work.

In summary, whichever way one looks, one is forced to the conclusion that Swami’s teachings are the only hope. The sooner all of us take that seriously, the better it is not only for us but for humanity as a whole.

Do you agree or disagree? Either way, we would be delighted to hear from you. As always, we can be reached at h2h@radiosai.org. Thanks for the privilege of spending a few minutes with you this weekend. God bless and Jai Sai Ram.

With Love and Regards,

"Heart2Heart" Team.

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