Achieving inclusive & equitable education

Great philosophers of ancient times such as Aristotle, Plato and Confucius wrote extensively on the purpose and role of education in their respective societies. Modern day educational philosophers such as John Dewey, George S Counts, and Mortimer J Adler have also proposed the purpose of schooling in American society. Dewey’s argument was that the primary purpose of education and schooling is not to prepare students to live a useful life as such, but to teach them how to live pragmatically in their current environment. Counts was a critic of Dewey’s philosophy and his view was that the purpose of education was less about preparing individuals to live independently and more about preparing individuals to live as members of a society.

The 1972 report of UNESCO puts the purpose of education this way — “Education should contribute to every person’s complete development — mind and body, intelligence, sensitivity, aesthetics, appreciation and spirituality.” It is a life-long process by which an individual adapts himself or herself gradually and gracefully to the available physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual environments.

Four key pillars
The four key pillars of education include learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be, which all together shape an individual as a whole. Learning to know (mastering knowledge of oneself) is both a means and an end in life. This further means learning to learn throughout life.

Learning to do is acquiring not only a vocational skill, but also, the ability to deal with numerous situations and to work within a group. Learning to live together is the understanding of others and an appreciation of interdependence — carrying out joint ventures and learning to manage conflicts. Learning to be is concerned with developing one’s personality and be able to act with increasingly greater self-sufficiency, judgement and an individual responsibility. In the 1980s, the famous educator and philosopher Mortimer Adler put forth the Paideia Proposal, suggesting three objectives for education which include development of citizenship, personal growth or self-improvement, and occupational preparation.

UNESCO, together with UNICEF, the World Bank and other UN agencies organised the World Education Forum 2015 (WEF 2015) in Incheon, Republic of Korea. Over 1,600 participants from 160 countries adopted the Incheon Declaration for Education 2030, which sets out a new vision for education for the next 15 years: “The vision is to transform lives through education, recognising the important role of education as a main driver of development and in achieving the other proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs). This new vision is fully captured by the proposed SDG (4) ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.’ It is transformative and universal, attends to the unfinished business of the Education For All (EFA) agenda and the education-related millennium development goals (MDGs) and addresses global and national education challenges. It is inspired by a humanistic vision of education and the development based on human rights and dignity, social justice, inclusion, protection, cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity, shared responsibility and accountability. It reaffirms that education is a public good, a fundamental human right and a basis for guaranteeing the realisation of other rights. It is essential for peace, tolerance, human fulfilment and sustainable development. It recognises education as key to achieving full employment and poverty eradication. It will focus efforts on access, equity and inclusion, quality and learning outcomes, within a lifelong learning approach.”
The WEF 2015’s major objective is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030. One can observe that the focus is now shifted from an individual to everyone. However, the question is, will it make every individual adapt himself or herself gradually and gracefully to the available physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual environments? Obviously, not. Emotional and spiritual developments are vital for the full-fledged development of a student; but these are not considered in the present system of education, with due emphasis. In order to develop emotional and spiritual intelligence in students, the teachers should also possess higher levels of emotional and spiritual intelligence apart from rational intelligence, content mastery, etc. in their subjects.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict. The full picture of human intelligence can be realised only with the concept of spiritual Intelligence. It is the intelligence required to solve problems of meaning and values and to assess one’s life path. Spiritual Intelligence gives us our ability to discriminate between good and bad, right and wrong, etc. Spirituality is the basic belief that there is a universal spirit, a being, a force, whatever we call it, that governs the entire universe and a portion of that spirit is with every person.
So, we are in need of an education system with sessions to develop spiritual and emotional intelligence of the students, leading to the complete development of the individuals.