Education is a chief motor of social transformation. Education is crucial for social progress. We each have within ourselves the ability to guide our own lives in a manner that is both personally satisfying and socially constructive.
In a classic poem of Sri Lanka,
the narrator asks:
The answer is that this treasure is Learning. Learning is all you need for the future.
Learning is acquiring, transmitting and applying knowledge. There are many situations in which we can learn if we are open to experience. There are many people from whom we can gather knowledge, information and skills. At the heart of all learning, there is desire. It is said that by the spark of desire, the torch of knowledge is kindled.
Why do we all desire to learn? Part of the answer is that we learn to please those who are teaching us. We want to please our parents, our grandparents, our older brothers and sisters who are teaching us skills. Later we want to please our teachers and our fellow students in school. We are pleased that our efforts are noticed and appreciated. Thus it is important always to notice when a child or a student has mastered a new skill, when he has progressed on the path of knowledge. Often we are too busy to make an appreciative remark. Such a lack of appreciation can dim the fires of the desire to learn.
But the joy of learning is something more than the desire to please others. The joy of learning comes from a growing confidence in ourselves. Learning is the ability to create order within our own mind. We organize in an orderly way all the events which happen to us, all the things we see. As we learn more, more things fit into place. We understand better the laws of Nature. We understand better why people react as they do.
Because the joy of learning is an inner satisfaction, we are willing to learn even when it displeases those around us. There are students who have to make a real effort to go to school despite their parents' wishes that they work in the fields. Girls in particular have had to strive to get education when many in the society said That is not a woman's role. Little by little, this discrimination against girls has broken down as all saw that girls were as capable and as desirous as boys to learn.
Thus motivation is the driving force for education. There must be the will on the part of the individual to learn. There must be the motivation on the part of the society to teach. For each individual, there must be the will to possess the skills and the information necessary to participate in the life of the family, the community, the State, and the world society.
The lack of a will to learn is a danger both to the individual and to the wider society. This lack of will can cause students to drop out of school and to become marginalized. Yet likewise, there must be motivation on the part of the family, the community, the State and the world society to prepare the individual for intelligent and effective action in life.
The desire and joy of learning begins in the family. We can all remember the ways in which our mother and father, our grandparents, our brothers and sisters showed us the basic elements of life in community. They showed us how to eat - and later how to prepare food; how to speak, and then how to speak to others outside the family.
If learning in joy is begun within the family, it will usually continue through life. If, however, learning in the family is not done with love and patience, it is harder to create the will to learn in school.
If our children possess a strong will to learn, they will have a future blessed with discovery and opportunities. They will benefit the creative evolution of society. This will to learn must be encouraged by the family, which serves as a support system. A family can discuss important issues that are in the news or issues which have a real impact on the life of the family, such as the economic and social conditions of the society. Parents can show the children how to think logically in a step by step way. Parents can show children how to carry out research - from looking at the spelling of a word in the dictionary, to reading a chapter in a book or going to ask someone with specialist knowledge.
This will for knowledge is a way to overcome fear. When we do not know why something happens as it does, we are fearful. When we do not understand the changes which are taking place around us, we are filled with fear and uncertainty. Fear and uncertainty leads us to try to stop changes or if that is not possible, to look for an all-knowing leader who can control change. We may look for hidden enemies who are behind all the changes. Such attitudes are dangerous and can weaken the creative spirit.
Knowledge helps us to see order in life. We see regularity and patterns. We learn the ways in which things are connected one to another. It is this sense of order which gives us confidence in our ability to act wisely. The more we know, the more we see the laws of Nature at work.
The cause of many problems in our societies today is our failure to see the inter-relatedness of events. The condition of the environment is a good example of our actions. Ecosystems are being destroyed because we do not see the relation between one action (such as the overuse of pesticides to protect crops) with other events (such as impure water or the disappearance of birds).
The family supports social progress by the way in which knowledge is acquired in the home. If the answer to a question is always Father knows best, then such attitudes lead to a pattern of blind respect for the answers given by the leader. If, however, the way of discussing in the home is to say Now, let us reason together; let us see how we can find the facts on which to base our decisions then we help to build positive attitudes to learning and to an exchange of ideas. We see that mistakes are a natural and instructive part of learning.
The will to learn, the will to use our energy to research new areas of knowledge, the will to cherish knowledge and skills is the fundamental gift of the family to social progress and to a vital society.