Honouring Life,Light and Learning

Loynpo Thakur S Powdyel
Minister of Education, Bhutan

I had often thought – this was it! The light was retreating. Learning was rapidly becoming an irksome afterthought. I have often wondered why everything else takes the centre-stage but the very source of light should be consigned to the back-stage! It still worries me that almost everything else makes news but the noble sector only becomes relevant when something goes wrong in the society. I have often wondered what might have been the state of our world if Education had received its due.

As a soft pillow beneath my aching head comes the first ever Global Education Summit. It should have happened a thousand years ago! But 'the flag flies still and the city has not fallen'! Here, I have found a ray of hope. We can still redeem the sector noble and launch a new civilization.

I would like to offer my deepest tributes to the enlightened minds that saw the reason for this event whose time has truly come. I commend the initiative taken by the Indira Gandhi National Open University, the Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies, and Elets Techno-media Pvt. Ltd. to host this historic Summit. It is a blessing to the world. Its value and its symbolism speak for themselves.  

Education May not be as news-worthy as the stock market or sports or tsunami. It May be less dramatic than HIV/AIDS or bush-fire or earthquake. But given its due and pursued with honour, the light of learning can redeem the world. I am deeply heartened that the Summit creates a precious space for the meeting of minds and sharing of dreams dedicated to making our world a better place for our children and our children's children and beyond.

Education is at the crossroads of a complex kind today. The attitude to learning and the outlook of the learner often call into question the viability of the whole educational mission. With the rapid 'mercantilization of knowledge' and commercialization of learning, the core function of the noble sector is coming to be governed by the laws of corporations and the employment market. Change of vocabulary says it all: Are your graduates marketable? Are they employable? Are they saleable? How much further away could we be from the call to build faith and character, to learn the skills of usefulness and to cultivate the virtue of gracefulness that should define an educated person? Scholars have become commodities!

The essentially normative architecture of education is being rapidly dislodged by the linear logic of economic efficiency with the result that if a life-affirming discipline is at the same time economically not viable, there are not only fewer takers, but its support and succor May be compromised. However, mundane and mercenary a course May be, if it has a material carrot dangling at the end, it does magic! One May wonder, therefore, what, after all, is the purpose of education? Why do we occupy young people for nine months out of twelve in schools, colleges, and universities if the goal is nothing more than simply getting a job, as important as it is?

If a nation has a dream, it falls primarily upon its education system to  uphold it and to advance it

The Global Education Summit May do well to look back and to look ahead for a more entire view of the human person and of the society of human beings