From A, B, C, D… to ZZZZ

Delhi University (DU) intends to start four-year graduation courses which will educate students about the practical application of their courses. If these courses take off, students graduating in history, for instance, will learn about archaeology and tourism. Students of Hindi will be taught script writing and translation. This will help students find jobs and pursue different careers later. For a long time, many subjects had become unpopular among students because they were not very helpful in providing jobs and building careers. Besides, the knowledge gained by studying some subjects was considered to be of little use in practical life.

Preparing students for jobs and careers is an important purpose of education. But different courses of study also help students by making them improved human beings. Education makes people relate better to the varied aspects of their environment. Different streams of study develop the minds of students in their own special ways to make them more useful to society. While choosing courses, students would do well to have an understanding of not just their job or career potential but also ways in which they will help them grow as human beings.

Physics, for instance, can be not just a mechanical, dry understanding of the physical universe. It can ultimately fill students with a sense of wonder and thrill at the working of the physical universe. Physics can make a person a philosopher, as Albert Einstein sounds when an issue of physics makes him say, ‘God does not play dice with the universe.’ God, play, universe seem to be in the realm of spirituality, but one of the best physicists of all time saw them related in the world of physics. Physics can be one joy ride of endless discoveries, all of them offering a fresh new look at not just the physical universe, but also man’s place in it. What goes for physics goes for all streams of study.

For many students the study of languages appears to be of little worth because it has meagre potential of providing jobs. Yes, proficiency in Hindi can make a person a script writer or a translator and the new DU syllabus will prepare students for these possibilities. But as logical and reasoned thinking are integral to gaining expertise in any language, I think all languages can help students in a profound way by making them logical and reasonable. And languages are not just words.

They convey the thoughts, emotions, insights and realisations of some of the best minds. Sanskrit may be a dead language, but the poetry of Kalidasa, the philosophy of Upanishads, the knowledge of Vedas, the deliverance offered in the Gita can best be understood only in the original Sanskrit. One reason for this is that there are concepts that are captured fully only in Sanskrit words.

Philosophy is another subject considered of little use by many students. But it can be used to make people more humane and better professionals. Take police officers. Their outlook towards crime, criminals, reform of criminals and punishment has a big role in determining the kind of policing they do. Their views about social norms, faiths, creeds and sects, their overall attitude will influence their actions. A person with an unfair opinion about a gender, caste or religion, for instance, cannot be a good police officer. Every person has a philosophy about everything and it can be great if a formal study of philosophy makes the philosophy of a person more balanced, reasonable and human. Great philosopher Rene Descartes’ ‘I think, therefore I am’ can be ‘I make money through any means, therefore I am’. And that can be dangerous for everyone. That can make society take a fresh, keen look at philosophy and all that it can offer.

What about history? Its ability to make money for its student is just one side to it. It’s good if the new DU history course makes more jobs and careers available to students. But history can do a lot for its student even if he studies it and makes no money out of it. It can rid people of a lot of ghosts of the past, clear many cobwebs in the mind and give a much healthier outlook to people not only towards the past, but also the present and future. A person may believe, for instance, that people of a particular faith have always been violent and are responsible for the violence in today’s world too. Study of history can prove this notion wrong and give him the correct perspective. History can impart equanimity to its student as he studies the rise and fall of kings, empires and civilisations. It can make him rise above the tumult and tussles of the past and present and see how time levels everything.

Education for me isn’t just A, B, C, D... or any form of A, B, C, D..., however advanced. The ability of education to provide work and money is important but finally, A, B, C, D... should end with a big ZZZZ ... of peaceful slumber after a day of honest work.

The author is a senior journalist and columnist.
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