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Values, Education and Human Rights: Challenges and suggestions

Dipankar Biswas

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

—Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Education is a methodical effort towards learning basic facts about humanity. And the core idea behind value education is to cultivate essential values in the students so that the civilization that teaches us to manage complexities can be sustained and further developed. It begins at home and it is continued in schools. Everyone accepts certain things in his/her life through various mediums like society or government. Value education is important to help everyone in improving the value system that he/she holds and put them to use. Once, everyone has understood their values in life they can examine and control the various choices they make in their life. One has to frequently uphold the various types of values in his life such as cultural values, universal values, personal values and social values. Thus, value education is always essential to shape one’s life and to give him an opportunity of performing himself on the global stage. The need for value education among the parents, children, teachers etc, is constantly increasing as we continue to witness increasing violent activities, behavioral disorder, lack of unity in the society etc. The family system in India has a long tradition of imparting value education. But with the progress of modernity and fast changing role of the parents it has not been very easy for the parents to impart relevant values in their wards. Therefore many institutes today conduct various value education programs that are addressed to rising problems of the modern society. These programs concentrate on the development of the children, young adults etc. focusing on areas like happiness, humility, cooperation, honesty, simplicity, love, unity, peace etc.

In the wake of a “knowledge explosion” which has engulfed the present-day education system, the primary goal of education for improving the quality of life has been lost sight of. In the formative years when the people should be experiencing tender care in a tension-free atmosphere, the school presses them hard to master vast content areas.

The violation of freedom and democracy in different parts of the world continues today, if not as comprehensively as in Paine's time. There is a difference, though. New classes of arguments have emerged that deny the universal importance of these freedoms. The most prominent of these contentions is the claim that Asian values do not regard freedom to be important in the way that it is regarded in the West. Given this difference in value systems-the argument runs Asia must be faithful to its own system of philosophical and political priorities.


It is also important, to look at the connection between political and civil rights, on the one hand, and the prevention of major disasters, on the other. Political and civil rights give people the opportunity to draw attention forcefully to general needs and to demand appropriate public action. The governmental response to acute suffering often depends on the pressure that is put on it, and this is where the exercise of political rights (voting, criticizing, protesting, and so on) can make a real difference. Whether we look at famines in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, or other dictatorial regimes, or in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, or in China from 1958 to 1961 (at the failure of the Great Leap Forward, when between 23 and 30 million people died), or currently in North Korea, we do not find exceptions to this rule. (It is true that Ireland was part of democratic Britain during its famine of the 1840s, but the extent of London's political dominance over the Irish was so strong-and the social distance so great and so old, as illustrated by Spenser's severely unfriendly description of the Irish in the sixteenth century-that the English rule over Ireland was, for all practical purposes, a colonial rule.)

Value Based Education Promotes Humanity

The parliamentary standing committee on Human Recourse Development in its Eighty First Report on Value based Education (1999) has highlighted that Truth (Satya), Righteous Conduct (Dharma), Peace (Shanti), Love (Prema), and Non-violence (Ahimsa) as the core universal values, which needed to be identified as the foundation stone on which the value based education programme can be build up. All the religion of the world have also emphasized that non-violence, tolerance and peace are fundamental components of humanity. Great philosophers and social thinkers of East as well as West have seen education as a process leading ultimately to spiritual development. UNESCO in the context of peace refers education not only to general education acquiring cognitive capital but ability to live together.


Harmony and Peace: Values for Tolerance

In the world today, we are living through an age of confusions and tensions, both within and without us. The external challenges persecute us and render our lives unhappy and sorrow ridden. The intelligent philosophy of the Rishis advises man ‘to live in harmony’ with the situations in life and steadily work on to meet them with discretion and constant application. When we live thus, for a period of time, a subjective poise develops, giving us inward peace and tranquility, which, thereafter, remains unaffected by external threats and onslaughts.


Revered Shri Vethatheri, Maharishisays’ has beautifully written that ‘Harmony is a precious treasure of human life’. Real success and satisfaction, happiness are the different facets of harmony. If one is to enjoy the benefits of life to the fullest, it is necessary to develop and maintain harmony; and for this understanding the philosophy of nature is required.


Harmony should be maintained in all spheres of life, and these are:


Between body and Life;

Between wisdom and habits;

Between self and society;

Between the purpose of life and the method of living; and

Between will and nature.

The more one understand life, the more one will achieve harmony; and success will be proportionate to that. No doubt, harmonizing life is a difficult task, but its worth all the striving, for it is the only way to equip oneself to enjoy life to the fullest extent and to reach the goal of life, which is the perfection of consciousness. By the development of knowledge man comes to understand the cause and effect system which is the law of nature.


Education for Peace: Values for Co-operation:


His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his extension lecture at NCERT spoke of the exceptional intellectual abilities and qualities possessed by human beings, which make them superior to all other species. These qualities could be developed and nurtured through education to help man achieve higher levels of development. He referred to the rich legacy of Indian tradition, its ancient system of education, which promoted spirituality and produced great thinkers, philosophers and spiritual leaders. The inclusions of good human qualities like compassion, respect and sense of truthfulness, caring, etc. have been a part of the Indian way of life. But now when India has achieved tremendous progress, there is a decline in human values. The modern system has no place for spirituality whereas human values are essential for leading a happy life. Human values, therefore, have to be brought in the education system but without attaching them to any religion. Friendly relationships with others according to him are essential for peace. Children from young age have to be made aware of the interdependence between human beings.


Challenges


Lack of proper value education in school and society we are facing human rights problem. Some facts related to human rights problem are given bellow,

Violation of human rights is a regular feature by persons in power or persons belonging to the under-world.

Police violation of human rights is a recurring phenomenon.

Judiciary takes a long time in deciding the cases of human rights violation.

Woman and children are abused in every place.

Moral and ethical values exist in name only. No practices of values.

Materialism is causing the violation of human rights.

Enforcement machinery is dilatory and lacks the desired powers.


Now let’s discuss about some problems. Lack of knowledge and implications of Human rights.

Machinery designed to ensure the protection of Human rights is not adequate to tackle large number of personnel and people are unaware of the structure and functions of such machinery.

There is Centralization: Need Decentralization.

Universities, colleges and other institutions not involved in the education of Human rights.

Politicians of whatever political parties they belong do not adhere to Human rights and Duties.


Suggestions:

Human Rights education is a difficult and challenging task. Teachers have to create in students a students a sprit of providing extension education to the people. That is why Kothari Commission (1964-66) has forcefully stated that the destiny of a Nation is shaped in her class rooms.

Rights and duties must be pursued simultaneously.

Need of Genuine leadership to support rights of common men.

Need of sensitizing police personnel through education and training.

Need to inculcate ethical and moral value.

Emphasis on Human rights Education in Universities.

Research and Documentation in Human right.

Introducing human rights topics in school education.

Arranging seminar on different areas of human rights through experts from different discipline by engaging in interdisciplinary Approach.

Discussion with opinion leaders in cities.

Student’s involvement is must.


In 1985, the UGC prepared a blueprint for promotion of Human Rights teaching and research at all levels of education. This blueprint contained proposals for restructuring of existing syllabi, and introduction of new courses and/ or foundation courses in Human Rights. This was for students of all faculties at the under-graduate, graduate and post-graduate levels for both professional and non-professional education. The UGC has been promoting and supporting Human Rights and Duties Education in universities and colleges since the Ninth Plan and the UGC would continue to strengthen this programme in the Tenth Plan, also. The relationship between education, value and human rights has a close relationship. So, values through education can generate consciousness about human rights among student i.e. our future generation.  


Mr. Dipankar Biswas is a faculty member of Faculty of Education in the ICFAI University, Tripura.


October 2008