As I am wading through the (Draft) National Education Policy 2019 of India, I am struck by the same feeling that most policies evoke today, and that is the hopelessness of the task of predicting the future in turbulent times that we are passing through.
A quick look at the policy suggests to me that it is likely to be outdated even before it can be approved, and that will be so because constantly changing disruptive technologies and market forces have become larger than any state or nation and they will have the global power to derail any local policy that any nation can make.
So, even though the NEP 2019 has taken a lot of pain in redesigning academic structures and control the education market that exists in India today, it is unable to be brave enough to accept the future that is inevitable, i.e. end of the era of educating people through academic institutions.
The future that we all want to ignore is actually here. Knowledge as already started flowing freely over the walls that academies (especially Indian institutions of eminence) have built to keep it exclusive.
The other major force that is hitting education is emergence of Artificial Intelligence that is demanding a change in what humans need to learn and what is best left to machines. As a nation still stuck with MCQ based exams that check data-retrieval ability of brain to define learning-ability of humans, we are just being silly.
But, while these issues are what NEP needs to address, they are hardly of any importance in the bigger context of humanity, and that is where not just Indian education policy but the world’s attitude to education needs to focus on.
Beyond the mundane nettigritty of policy-making is the biggest question that humanity needs to answer and that is, what is the one most crucial thing that all humans must learn today.
That question may have a different answer in each era, but today it has one clear answer.
Each human needs to learn that he is part of a whole.
If there is one learning that education must impart today it is the awareness of our interconnected-ness.
It may seem like a simple idea, but it is actually a paradigm shift that is now required for the very survival of humanity.
Look around the world today and it is clear that the existing education system has turned this into an age of individuality, age of celebration of freedom of choice, age of money, age of ownership and thus age of selfishness.
The net result is complete disruption of the sense of interconnectedness that rules the universe at every level, and our educated ignorance of this interconnectedness is now inching us closer and closer to a catastrophe that is about to strike humanity.
Today, more educated a person is, less likely he is to be able to accept being part of a collective. A modern human feels uncomfortable with every structure that he is part of.
An individual finds body biology that is designed around the interconnectedness a constraint that he wants to escape. He finds traditional family institutions built around the biology to be constraints that he wants to get rid of. A man finds the community and society to be a constraint that he wants to break free from.
We, the educated Indians find old structures like religious identity or even nation as wholes that we don’t feel part of. The entire humanity is no longer able to relate to the idea of being part of the web of life on earth.
So, it is clear that all that our education has taught us is to be self-centric. Education has made us question the usefulness of collective systems by teaching us that we have much more to gain in being an individual.
There is no doubt that this new way of life has driven humanity to achieve a lot and the world has changed more by the idea of celebration of individuality than any other, but where it has taken us today is now making it clear that it was not such a great idea after all.
Today forces of commerce driven by selfishness rule humanity and treat it as a market to exploit. The selfishness of commerce has robbed us of the socially critical concept of empathy and brotherhood of Man. And worse is that our disjointedness with the web of life has brought us perilously close to self-destruction.
As animals who have evolved from a branch of life on earth, it is clear that this interconnectedness-agnosia is not innate but learnt. Our education has just worked on strengthening the innate greed that we have by teaching us that selfishness pays better.
We like it or not, greed and gratification-driven man-ape is surely heading for a self-induced extinction if he is not going to be educated about his existence to be deeply linked with various collectives that he is part of.
The world needs a brand new Global Education Policy to save humanity from self-destruction before existing education make us reach a point of no return that we are not too far from.