Education plays a vital role in human development and the progress and growth of any country depends to a large extent on the quality and number of trained manpower available in different areas. It is an instrument as well as a catalyst of social transformation and is expected to bring qualitative change in man’s perception, attitudes, habits, priority and goals. With the development of society educational system develops and with the development of education society develops. In the sense education and society are inter-dependent. It is a two-way traffic in which while education preserves, transmits and stimulates the wholesome culture, the society also, according to its changed conditions expects the school to review and plan its work as per demands and aspirations of the changing society.
Meaning of education in East and West
The word ‘Education’ currently used in English is, in fact, derived from the Latin word Educare, which is further originated from Educere and in its basic spirit, is the manifestation or expression. In further depth it will become apparent that it reveals the inner capability of man that guides him continuously throughout at various levels in all walks of life. In the context, as to the meaning of education even there is no contradiction between the Western and Indian viewpoints. In the West the two great Greek Philosophers-Socrates and Plato remained identical from the meaning and purpose of education. Socrates has categorically said that education is to draw out what are already within while Plato states that it is the acquisition of virtue by child. In particular, Plato has written extensively on education and his views, despite being relevant in circumstances of his own time have importance more or less, in one way or the other, in current perspective all over the world. His views on education occupied a significant role in his vision of the ideal Republic, wherein the individual could serve the best by being subordinated to a just society. Plato saw the development of an individual in a just society and therefore focussed on his plan of education accordingly. However, after Plato, Aristotle gave new dimension to education in theoretical perspective and stressed that education must not serve any mean or vocational activity as these activities are the functions of slaves. He laid emphasis on obedience and responsibility for those who are designated to rule in times to come. For the purpose he stressed on the curriculum of the Academy to impart the four type of education-basics, related to natural science, physical and humanities. In his view the development of character-building right from the childhood is an important aspects of personality and for the purpose he advised to censor that aspect of education, which could, obstruct the way to character building. Even at the time the dimensions of education could not be confined to Plato and Aristotle and throughout the West thinkers, philosophers, scholars and educationists accorded new horizons from time to time through their ideas, suggestions and works.
Likewise, in the East and India in particular, the education systems existed in the Vedic and later Vedic periods were different to one-another. During the time of Tirthankar Mahavira and Siddhartha Gautama the education system seemed to be receiving a new dimension. Again at the time of Chanakya when in the Mauryan Empire the world renowned universities like Takshila, Vikramshila and Nalanda were flourishing, the basic spirit of education was imported liberally to an extent among women and common people by Jainism and Buddhism. Even at the time Kautilya-the great scholar declared education to be the best friend and says further, ‘An educated person is respected everywhere and education beats beauty and the youth. In modern India several contemporary thinkers-Vivekananda, Rabindra Nath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo have mentioned that education is the manifestation of the perfection already in man. Tagore while describing the scope of education includes the high head, free knowledge, truth coming from the depth, tireless striving stretching arms towards perfection….within it. In line Aurobindo has talked about the integral education which must help flourish the very best in a human being-the unique and exquisite, something, which every individual is born to offer to the world. Further Aurobindo has also pointed out that education is meant to bring out the best in man, to develop his potentialities to the maximum, to integrate him with himself – his surroundings, his society, his country and humanity to make him the complete man – the integrated man.
Role of education in social change
At large, education can be defined both as a process and as a social institution. In the broadest sense the process of education occurs whenever any influence produces change in the physical or mental behaviour of a person. In this sense, the mass media political speeches and labour unions exert educative influences and as a social institutions we may consider education as the sum total of the schools and the people who in some way interact with them. In the context, the impact of education on the society in relation to its development may be seen both as a cause and consequence. High level of education contributes to the growth of individual and society but the development of education depends to a certain extent on wealth. As the family income increases, children demand higher education and parents feel pleasure in fulfilling the demands of the children. Similarly, as national income increases, it becomes possible to earmark larger sums for education. Education contributes its vital input in the growth and prosperity of a nation. In fact it is the backbone of all national endeavours. It has the power to transform human beings into human resources. Education stands for March of the human race towards even higher objectives.
By social change we mean the change in social structure whatever its reasons may be. The theories of society stem not from education directly but from the characteristics of individual. That is why the mode of development of each society differs from others. In the context Stephen Cotgrove observed, ‘Many theories of societies have, in fact, stemmed from certain assumptions about the characteristics of the individuals who compose it. Education helps the society in this task and at the juncture society must provide some concrete organisational means by which it is possible for individuals to enter into a social system and find social and economic rewards in commensurate with their desires. Certain organisations have traditionally been crucial to the upward social movement of individuals. Schools have been the foremost of these, particularly during previous generations when higher degrees were scarce and difficult to earn.
Education played a significant role in social stratification. Society is an organisation of individuals. But men hold different views on a certain issue. And with the development of their personality they seek power, prestige, property and popularity. With the passing of time they all develop different qualities. All this brings about stratification in the society. As Coleman has rightly said, ‘the rulers always expected the educational system to serve as a major channel of rapid social mobility, but in the period after World War II education began to show signs of functioning more and more as an instrument of social stratification. In fact, on the one hand education makes stratification of society and brings about intergroup conflict due to unequal, but development on the other hand it seeks the way to solve such type of problems.
Lifeline of a successful democracy
Especially in democratic society education is all the more valuable. For, it is the first condition for the successful working of democratic government that the electorate should be educated. In a country like India education has become a source of prestige and a symbol of higher social status. The families which achieve higher economic status but do not correspondingly get their children highly educated are not held in high public esteem. In addition, education brings about a tremendous change in the political structure of the society by educating the individual and awakening them about their rights. If we compare the present system of the society with the past we would realise how greatly different the present system is from the past. Earlier people were little conscious of their rights and freedom. They only did their own work and spent their life. They believed in obeying the order of their administrators and elders. But now the situation has been changed because of the impact of education which inspires and encourages people to think independently and to acquire resources for the development of their personality. The mass awakening to a large extent paved the way more or less for people’s participation in one way or the other especially in social and political spheres. Resultantly, situations started changing rapidly.
However, despite the constant refinements and so many dimensions in education process much more has still to be done to achieve the real object, to make education all welfaristic. Education is, to repeat, an endless process. To struggle with problems and come out of obstacles on the way is unavoidable; rather, it is essential part of this process. That is why it continues. Effective and worthy efforts have always been tried to make the system momentous and welfaristic. If education process has not brought fruits as per the expectations, it is definitely due to lack of sincere, effective and appropriate efforts. This equally applies to the present and will be so in future.