The Vice President of India Shri M. Hamid Ansari has said that it is estimated that over half of our population of 1.2 billion is under the age of 30 years and that by 2020, the average Indian will be only 29 years of age, compared with 37 in China & USA, 45 in Western Europe and 48 in Japan. Addressing at the closing of the “2nd THINKEDU Conclave – 2014” organised by the New Indian Express in Chennai, Tamil Nadu today, he has said that this would mean that India will have one of the youngest populations in the world. Consequently, the provision of high quality, relevant education for all, at primary, secondary and higher levels, including professional, technical and vocational education, would have to be at the centre of our efforts to create an inclusive knowledge society. By the same logic, shortcomings or failure in the effort could transform this potential ‘demographic dividend’ into a possible nightmare, of a ticking demographic time-bomb, with all its economic and social consequences.
He said that a newer factor is the emerging profile of private education providers. Some figures are indicative of the change. The recently published Annual Status of Education Report 2013 indicates that private school enrollment even in rural areas has gone up from around 18% in 2006 to 29% in 2013. Other reports show that around 60% of total enrolments in higher education are now in private institutions. Exceptions apart, the quality deficit is also cutting across the public-private divide.
Referring to Holistic Education, the Vice President said that the origins of the idea can be traced in all cultures. It encompasses a wide range of philosophical orientations and pedagogic practices. Its focus is on wholeness, on interconnectedness of experience and reality. It is important to comprehend it in the context of our times and in our preset-day pre-occupation with identifying education and skills with market forces and employability. As a consequence, human values and all that goes to make us better human beings are neglected. The challenge therefore is to negate it by an alternate approach.
He opined that according to some, education that inculcates values for living in harmony with oneself and one’s natural and social environment, as well as the universal human values, inherent in the human nature, could be defined as holistic. It is essentially an education concerned with both individual freedom and social responsibility. As the philosopher Plato put it, the mark of an educated person is the willingness to use one’s knowledge and skills to solve the problems of society.
The Vice President said that Holistic Education instills students with a proactive social conscience. It equips them to live creatively, responsibly, and harmoniously in a society and become agents of change for a better society. It implies that each academic discipline provides and celebrates a rich perspective on the rich, complex, integrated phenomenon of life. Its relevance also derives from the need to address the newer challenges to human security emanating from a combination of socio-economic and political factors such as globalization, materialism, consumerism, commercialization of education and myriad threats due to climate change, pandemics, environmental degradation, terrorism, to name a few.
He emphasized that helping students learn to appreciate, demonstrate sensitivity and skills in fulfilling their share of responsibility as citizens towards shaping of a better society is an important national objective. Our education system would therefore have to vigorously promote and instill in our youth and students the ideals embedded in our Constitution so that they become better and more responsible citizens of tomorrow.