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HUMAN VALUES IN HIGHER EDUCATION

A New Human Values Perspective in Higher Education

Imagine a society in which all humans are healthy and have their basic needs met. What if everyone had fair and equitable access to the Earth’s resources, a decent quality of life, and celebrated cultural diversity? Imagine future scientists, engineers, and businessmen designing technology and economic activities that sustain rather than degrade the natural environment. Imagine that all current and future generations are able to pursue meaningful work and have the opportunity to realise their full human potential both personally and socially. Think of what it could be like if globalisation is humanised to support democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity for everyone. The vast majority of people would agree with these ideals. So how do we rapidly accelerate implementation of these ideas and create this future? We need a fundamental, transformative shift in thinking, values, and action by all of society’s leaders and professionals, especially the educationists. To quote Albert Einstein, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we used when we created them.”  The change in mind-set necessary to achieve this vision is a sustained, long-term effort to transform education at all levels.

Indeed, it is the people coming out of the world’s premier colleges and universities that are leading us down the current unhealthy, inequitable, and unsustainable path. The greatest evidence of the need to transform education is the state of the world and the tremendous effort being made by thousands of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and schools in environmental and sustainability education to “fix” the educational system. The kind of education we need begins with the recognition that the crisis is first and foremost a crisis of fundamental human values which makes it a crisis of education, not one in education.

 

Globalisation V/s Humanisation

Worldwide, information is multiplying at a phenomenal rate. Globalisation has increased the social space, leading to borderless boundaries on the financial, economic, social, ecological, political and cultural dimensions of societies. The world is changing with unprecedented speed and this is observed in virtually all sectors including that within the university walls. Following the financial crisis of 2008 and the collapse of institutions and even governments, a depressing phenomenon started in the United States of America in the year 2008; people lost jobs, investments and retirement funds. The deeper meaning in the fall of these institutions is the fact that any system or governing structure is only as good as the people who administer it. The need for morally informed corporate governance, founded on solid ethical principles is quite glaring. After the financial crisis of 2008, business schools worldwide were called upon to revise their educational system to avoid producing managers who have been seen as contributors to the crisis.

The Global Edelman Trust Barometer, published annually since 2001, in its report for 2018 shows the decline of trust in NGOs from 73% to 51%; in business from 74% to 54%; in government from 63% to 33%; and in the media from 64% to 42% when compared to the 2017 report. As of 2014, 11,000 college campuses representing more than 78 million students reported criminal victimisations in the United States. Student loan debt in the United States has been growing rapidly since 2006, rising to $1.6 trillion by 2019 – roughly 7.5% of GDP. One in 15 borrowers has considered suicide due to school loans, according to a survey conducted in May 2019. These clearly indicate the need for a radical change in the concept of higher education and in the way in which it is imparted to students. The integrity and values of leaders, institutions and of the curricula of higher education are crucial in building trust and credible professionals.

Higher education is leadership education. The values practised in universities heavily influence the future leaders. Many institutions of higher education show excellence not only in academic subjects, green campuses, with manifold ethics curricula and community engagement, but also in the value orientation of the Board and teaching staff as well as students. But on the other hand, in many universities around the world, fundamental values and virtues are violated; cheating, plagiarism, unethical research, nepotism in staff recruitment, corruption in exam, simply the lack of human values curricula are prevalent. ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’ proclaims the ancient sage, Socrates. Therefore it is imperative to scrutinise our lives on the basis of fundamental human values which are related to the origin and destiny of human beings.

 

Transformation of Education – the greatest resource of mankind

The questions for humankind in every country revolve often around the contradictions and issues of meaning and meaninglessness, truth and relativity, poverty and wealth, governance and insecurity, economic stability and greed, the crisis of leadership, and terrorism. Open, globalised societies clash with manifold ‘–isms’, such as nationalism, fundamentalism, ethnicism, racism, sexism, terrorism and egoism.  The openness that resulted from economic and technological globalisation happened so fast that political, cultural and ethical globalisation is lagging behind. New technologies can profoundly transform the world within a few years, but to transform values and virtues needs a generation. There are overall threats to value orientation by a new generation of young people, eager to live well and move on, but not knowing how. How can value-orientation, value-driven leadership and global citizenship emerge with the right solutions to the many problems? The answer given by the scholars is that Education of Human Values in Higher Education is the key.  The need of the hour is such education that has foundations on knowledge and character. The normative value of this kind of education is the emergence of responsible leaders driven by values and virtues and knowledgeable enough to transform their environment and serve entire humanity, and not only a few sections of mankind.

Educational institutions should compete not only for academic, but for human values excellence. . Human Values does not mean talking about values and ethics, but to live values and virtues in a credible way. In a world of cutthroat competition, education has almost become a business aimed at ‘making money’; and the more, the better. In order to survive in this highly competitive sector, institutions and individuals play the game of money-spinning. Campus placement opportunity is the criterion of a best college, and character formation is almost a bygone ideal of education. The trend in education seems to be in producing or supplying the demands of the market. Education has become a booming industry, often at the cost of values in education. The need is to induce the values of life into the veins of education in order to avert the impending danger of the extinction of diversity, democracy, and the dignity of community. Higher education should give adequate importance to holistic and integral formation of persons with a sincere commitment to address the manifold issues of our times.

Research and study are compartmentalised and isolated, devoid of life and commitment to the myriad life issues, such as migration, abject poverty, rampant corruption, gender discrimination, human trafficking, wars, killings of the innocent and voiceless, crumbling families, disregard for the aged, communalism, religious fanaticism, growing intolerance to the other, the environmental crisis, etc. In such a state of   deterioration, higher education has the duty to attend to these realities and to explore the ways and means to inculcate a culture of life and a civilisation of love.

 

The Role of Higher Education

Higher education institutions bear a profound, moral responsibility to increase the awareness, knowledge, skills, and values needed to create a just and sustainable future. It prepares most of the professionals who develop, lead, manage, teach, work in, and influence society’s institutions, including the most basic foundation of K–12 education. Besides training future teachers, higher education strongly influences the learning framework of K–12 education, which is largely geared toward subsequent higher education. Higher education also has unique academic freedom and diversity of skills to develop new ideas, to comment on society and its challenges, and to engage in bold experimentation in sustainable living.

The process of higher education should emphasise active, experiential, inquiry-based learning and real-world problem solving on the campus and in the larger community. It is widely known that for long-term retention of knowledge, skills, and values, we retain 80 percent of what we do and only 10 to 20 percent of what we hear or read. The process would also increase group work and learning so graduates will be able to collaborate effectively on complex problems as future managers and leaders.

A mantle of truth, goodness, and beauty is the worthy apparel of a responsible leader. These are the values which a leader should adhere to and to which s/he must be moulded. In thought, word, and deed a responsible leader has to work for the good of all. Truth, goodness, and beauty should guide his every step. The whole purpose of education is to help the pupil see the truth, goodness, and beauty in life and activity. These are the triadic values which should fill the ambience of higher education.

Truth sets people free; goodness helps them live by their true nature; and beauty embraces the inner joy and expresses as outer perfection. Higher education is to support and promote these. It is a lifelong journey or pilgrimage: in encountering truth, being enlightened by goodness, and always adoring beauty. In this journey of truth, goodness, and beauty, education is vital and fundamental to respect, protect, and promote life in its wholeness, fullness, and holiness.

 

Higher Education and its Sustainable Development Goals

The universal recognition of the importance of quality education is further entrenched under Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), enunciated by the UNESCO Sustainable Development post-2015 begins with education.

An important development in the formulation of the SDGs is the express inclusion of higher education as part of the targets. Of the ten targets listed under Goal 4, the following are of particular relevance:

  • By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
  • By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
  • By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
  • By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small-island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries.

These targets speak directly to the complex and inter-related issues of accessibility and affordability, from both a quality and gendered perspective. It is clear that there is a responsibility to work towards the provision of higher education

The right to education is contained in section 29 of the Constitution of India. In terms of section 29(1)(b), everyone has the right to further education, “which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible”. The realisation of the right to further education is expressly circumscribed by the principle of progressive realisation.

The right to higher education is also well-established under international law. Starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), article 26(1) thereof states that “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.”

Clearly, the role of higher education institutions to groom students who will promote the common good, establish the dignity of all, and ensure the fundamental human rights of all, cannot be gainsaid.

 

Global Education Conference 2020

The Global Education Conference 2020 on the theme ‘Human Values in Higher Education’ that will be held at New Delhi from May 21, 2020 to May 23, 2020, takes a resolute step to deliberate on today’s progressive inequality and how the students completing their higher education, need to come out as noble and able personalities to assume roles and responsibilities to build sustainable societies based on transformative action to benefit the most needy in society.

Key Objectives of the Conference:

  1. Intellectuals, Academicians, Educationists, Policy makers, and Teachers to concur that education must be laced with the higher idea of human values for the welfare of humanity
  2. Information gathered through education must translate into transformative action to benefit the most needy in society
  3. Students must develop a deeper understanding of their roles and responsibilities to build sustainable societies that are progressive and equitable

Let us not forget that the inescapable destiny of every living being is the attainment of Fullness and Perfection. Therefore, higher education must be used as a persuasive weapon for individual transformation as well as societal transformation.