Dynamics of Education and Confluence of Civilization
Education is borderless
I am delighted to address and interact with the students and faculty members of the University of Colombo which has a history of over 115 years in empowering the youth of Sri Lanka with quality education. The University has a motto “Buddhi Sarvathra Bhrajate” meaning “Wisdom Enlightens” which provides the direction to be followed by every student and faculty member. I am happy that the University of Colombo has the mission to evolve academic excellence in the fields of Arts, Science, Medicine, Management, Finance, Law, Education, IT, Aesthetic Studies and Molecular Biology. My greetings to all of you.
Topic of discussion
Friends, I was thinking, what I can share with you. Shall I share with you, what I have seen and observed in thousands of schools, colleges, universities in India and abroad? Or shall I share with you the dreams of millions of youth whom I have met during the last decade? Or Shall I share with you, what I have seen in Singapore, how primary school teachers are prepared rigorously, tested and deployed in educating the young? Or Shall I share with you, how teaching of mathematics and physics in Finland high schools has become a great success and the role model for the whole of Europe? Or Shall I share with you my experiences with global youth conference held at Liverpool that focused the youth power as a powerful resource for world peace? So far what I have said, even though they are important, in order to provide an ambience, where multiple civilizations could co-exists with no rigid borders between them the education system that one creates or brought through must have no respect for borders. I was fortunate enough to benefit by this thinking when I was young and also to see it in practice during my several visits. Friends, I will be sharing these experiences with you how from my childhood to now, education, knowledge and value based events have shaped me. This will indeed be of interest to the youth who have assembled here. The topic I have selected here for discussion “Dynamics of Education and confluence of civilization”.
Education is borderless
Friends, what is the main purpose of education? It is to initiate the students to a quest for knowledge and to provide a value base that will enable the evolution of a righteous citizen. Knowledge and value system will enable the youth to stand in good stead throughout their life. Historically, every nation has been growing from regional educational environment to national environment. While the education has to serve individuals to grow, it also enables him or her to serve the family, community, country and the world.
We live in an era of convergence; the future of innovation would be based on at the interface of science and engineering. Due to the convergence of information and communication technology, we saw the birth of a seamless area called ICT, which revolutionized the way by which we computed and communicated. Further the convergence of nano and biology with ICT has now become an important field. It is estimated that in the life of a scientist or an engineer, he or she will come across and work in at least seven new areas which are born out of convergence of multiple science, technologies and humanity. Such convergence has made the border between areas completely porous.
In the last century, most nations understood that science and technology was the best vehicle for economic upliftment. However, the problems that S&T was used to solve are primarily local and customized to their needs. Today, the problems faced by nations are no longer, a concern of them alone. Humanity is devoting more and more attention to climate change, energy, water, disease, economic turbulence and terrorism etc., which are all of concern to the entire world and the solutions for which are beyond any individual nations or group of nations.
If S&T has to provide upliftment of our humanity, if the research and development are in areas with porous borders between them, if the problems of the world know not of geographical borders, the education that becomes the foundation of all our science and technology, research and development of must of necessity to become borderless.
When I was traveling in an Aircraft in the United States, I was told that much of its controls where software driven and most probably developed in India. When I presented my credit card, I was told that it was being processed in the backend server located in Mauritius. When I walked into a software development centre, Bangalore in Southern India, I was fascinated to find that it truly presented a multicultural environment. A software developer from China working under a project leader from Korea working with a software engineer from India and a hardware architect from the US and the communication expert from Germany where all working together to solve the banking problem in Australia. When I see, all of them working together like one family, forgetting about the culture from which they came or the language that they speak, I feel that the only hope for such borderless interaction to continue is to inculcate the spirit of borderless-ness in our education also. I am sure, the education system in University of Colombo caters to such borderlessness in education.
Meaning of Unity of Minds
Friends, since I have come from an integrated society of billion people with multi-culture, multi-language and multi-religion and the environment where many civilizations confluence, I am going to talk to you on my own personal experiences in education which I was fortunate to get. Born in a small village in the southern part of India, my education could have constrained me to the length and breadth of that small island. But then my primary school teacher Shri Sivasubramanya Iyer not only taught me how birds fly, but also triggered a mission for my life towards flight sciences. I would like to recall one incident which commonly occurs in many parts of my country. I have witnessed this event when I was a young boy (10 yrs). In our house, periodically I used to see three different unique personalities meet. Pakshi Lakshmana Shastrigal, who was the head priest of the famous Rameswaram temple and a vedic scholar, Rev Father Bodal, who built the first church in Rameswaram Island and my father who was an Imam in the mosque. They belong to three major religions: Hindu, Christianity and Islam. All three of them used to sit and discuss the islands problems and find solutions. In addition they built several religious connectivities with compassion. These connectivities quietly spread to others in the island like the fragrance from the flowers. This sight always comes to my mind whenever, I discuss with people on Dialogue of religions. India has had this advantage of integration of minds for thousands of years. Throughout the world, the need to have a frank dialogue among cultures, religions and civilizations has been felt now more than ever. I did not realize then, but now I know, how these three people have practically demonstrated to me, the power of unity of minds and education without borders. At such a young age they have introduced me to this great theme effortlessly. Theme was Unity of Minds. This is what I learnt as a young boy equivalent to attending a multi-culture and multi-religious discourse.
Importance of Moral Science class
While I was in St.Joseph’s College at Tiruchirapalli, Tamilnadu, I remember the moral science lectures given by the highest authority of a Jesuit institution Rev Father Rector Kalathil. Every week on Monday, he will take a class for an hour. He used to talk about good human beings present and past and what makes a good human being. In this class, he used to give lectures on personalities such as Buddha, Confucius, St. Augustine, Califa Omar, Mahatma Gandhi, Einstein, Abraham Lincoln and moral stories linked to our civilizational heritage. In the moral science class, Father Kalathil used to highlight the best aspect of, how the great personalities have been evolved as good human beings through parental care, teaching and companionship of great books. Even though these lessons were given to me in 1950’s during my college days, they inspire me even today. It is essential that in the schools and colleges, lectures are given by great teachers of the institution once in a week for one hour on civilizational heritage and derived value system. This may be called as Moral Science Class that will elevate the young minds to love the country, to love the other human beings and elevate them to higher planes.
Can Higher education bridge multi-disciplines?
Friends, later in my career, whether it was building a satellite launch vehicle, building missiles, bringing out a FRO caliper for polio affected patients from technology of carbon-carbon for a reentry missile or evolving the missions for the vision for 2020 for the nation with more than 500 Specialists, one important message come out. Development of human beings requires intersection of disciplines and minds.
Towards a cohesive society
When nations join together to build a cohesive society, it is necessary to ensure that benefits of development encompass all sections of the society. World over, poverty, illiteracy, un-employment and deprivation are driving forward the forces of anger and violence. These forces link themselves to some earlier real or perceived historical enmities, tyrannies injustice, inequities and ethnic issues flowing into an outburst of extremism worldwide. We have to jointly address ourselves to the root causes of such phenomena for finding lasting solutions for promoting peace. What is the role of education in the present world situation?
I visualize the education without borders should lead to multi-disciplinary education, moral science in teaching curriculum and righteousness in the heart as a societal dogma and unity of minds. With these thoughts which I shared so far, I would like to now discuss the importance of good citizenship and the evolution of enlightened society.
Evolution of Enlightened Society
Dear friends, I would like to put forth you a methodology for evolving a happy, prosperous and peaceful society in our planet, which I call as “Evolution of Enlightened society”. I have shared these thoughts with many intellectuals in national and international spheres. How do we create such an enlightened society, which will have three components (a) Education with value system (b) Religion transforming into spirituality and (c) Economic development for societal transformation. Let us discuss.
Education with value system
We have seen that the seeds of peace in the world have their origin in the righteousness in the heart of every individual. Such righteous citizens lead to the evolution of enlightened society. Education with value system has to be so designed that the righteousness in the heart is developed in young minds. That should be the mission of education without borders. The prime learning environment is five to seventeen years of age followed by three to five years of university education. This reminds me of an ancient Greek teacher's saying, "Give me a child for seven years; afterwards, let God or devil take the child. They cannot change the child". This indicates the power of great teachers and what they can inculcate in the young minds. Parents and world teachers must inculcate moral leadership amongst children. It requires the ability to have insights into the uniqueness and universality of human consciousness. True education without border is the acquisition of enlightened feelings and enlightened powers to understand daily events and to understand the permanent truth linking man, to his environment, human and planetary.
Now, let me take up the area that is transforming religion into spiritual force. Many in the world believe, it is a difficult mission. I would like to share an experience that I have witnessed which has convinced me that it is possible.
Religion Transforming into Spirituality: Universal Mind
Religion has two components, theology and spirituality. Even though theology is unique to every religion, the spiritual component spreads the value to be inculcated by human beings for promoting a good human life and welfare of the society, while pursuing the material life. I would like to share an experience how the religion and science came together in a big mission.
It was during early 1960’s, the founder of Indian Space Research Programme Prof. Vikram Sarabhai with his team, had located a place technically most suited for space research after considering many alternatives. The place called Thumba in Kerala, was selected for space research as it was near the magnetic equator, ideally suited for ionospheric and electrojet research in upper atmosphere. I was fortunate to work with Prof Vikram Sarabhai for about eight years.
The major challenge for Prof Vikram Sarabhai was to get the place in a specific area. As was normal, Prof. Vikram Sarabhai approached the Kerala Government administrators first. After seeing the profile of the land and the sea coast, the view expressed was that, thousands of fishing folks lived there, the place had an ancient St Mary Magdalene Church, Bishop's House and a school. Hence it would be very difficult to give this land and they were willing to provide land in an alternative area. Similarly the political system also opined that it would be a difficult situation due to the existence of important institutions and the concern for people who were to be relocated. However there was a suggestion to approach the only person who could advise and help. That was the Bishop “Rev Father Peter Bernard Pereira”. Prof Vikram Sarabhai, approached the Bishop on a Saturday evening, I still remember. The meeting between the two turned out to be historical. Many of us witnessed the event. Rev Father exclaimed, “Oh Vikram, you are asking my children’s abode, my abode and God’s abode. How is it possible?” Both had a unique quality that they could smile even in difficult situations. Rev Father Peter Bernard Pereira asked Prof. Vikram Sarabhai to come to church on Sunday morning at 9.00 AM. Prof. Vikram Sarabhai went to the church again on Sunday with his team. At that time the prayer was progressing with the recitation of Bible by Father Pereira. After the prayer was over, the Bishop invited Prof. Vikram Sarabhai to come to the altar. The Rev Father introduced Prof Vikram Sarabhai to the congregation, “Dear children, here is a scientist, Prof. Vikram Sarabhai. What does science do? All of us experience, including this church, the light from electricity. I am able to talk to you through the mike which is made possible by technology. The treatment to patients by doctors comes from medical sciences. Science through technology enhances the comfort and quality of human life. What do, I do, as a preacher? I pray for you, for your well being, for your peace. In short, what Vikram is doing and what I am doing, are the same - both science and spirituality seek the Almighty’s blessings for human prosperity in body and mind. Dear Children, Prof Vikram says, he would build within a year, near the sea-coast, alternative facilities to what we are having. Now, dear children, can we give our abode, can we give my abode, can we give the God’s abode for a great scientific mission?” There was a total silence, a pin drop silence. Then all of them got up and said ‘Amen’ which made the whole church reverberate.
That was the church where we had our design centre, where we started rocket assembly and the Bishop’s house was our scientists’ working place. Later the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) led to the establishment of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and the space activities transformed into multiple space centers throughout the country. Now this church has become an important centre of learning, where thousands of people learn about the dynamic history of the space programme of India and the great minds of a scientist and spiritual leader. Of course, the Thumba citizens got the well equipped facilities, worshiping place and educational centre in an alternate place at the right time.
When I think of this event, I can see how enlightened spiritual and scientific leaders can converge towards giving reverence to the human life. Of course the birth of TERLS and then VSSC gave India the capability for launch vehicles, spacecraft and space applications that have accelerated social and economic development in India to unprecedented levels.
Today, among us, Prof Vikram Sarabhai is not there, Rev Peter Bernard Pereira is not there, but those who are responsible for creation and making flowers blossom will themselves be a different kind of flower as described in the Bhagwat Gita: "See the flower, how generously it distributes perfume and honey. It gives to all, gives freely of its love. When its work is done, it falls away quietly. Try to be like the flower, unassuming despite all its qualities". What a beautiful message, to the humanity on the purpose of life reflected the spiritual component. Can we bridge the spiritual component of the religions to bring peace to nations and to the world?
Now let us discuss the third important component of enlightened society, which is to achieve economic development for societal transformation. Let me take my country India as an example, it may be true to many parts of the world.
Economic development for societal transformation
We have a mission of spreading the economic growth throughout the country including the rural sector. Nearly 370 million people have to be lifted by upgrading their quality of life in both rural and urban areas. Even though the GDP growth indicates our economic growth, people’s participation is essential for achieving the required targets. It is essential to ensure that the citizens are empowered with good quality of life encompassing nutritious food, good habitat, clean environment, affordable healthcare, quality education and productive employment, integrated with our value system drawn from civilizational heritage leading to the comprehensive development of the nation that will bring smiles in 1.2 billion people. These are indicators for the growth of the National Prosperity Index. To achieve that growth rate, we have identified five areas where India has a core competence for integrated action: (1) Agriculture and food processing (2) Education and Healthcare (3) Information and Communication Technology (4) Infrastructure development such as power, transportation, communication and including Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) and (5) Self reliance in critical technologies. We propose to realize the vision of transforming India into a developed nation before 2020 by energizing and igniting the minds of all the 600 million youth of the nation. This is applicable to many nations in the world. Particularly during the present economic turbulence, nations have to work together and learn from each other to overcome the present situation and move towards a developed economy for the world within a short time. Education without border programme can definitely become a facilitator for such knowledge transfer.
Another instrument which will enable education and research without borders is through the creation of a “world knowledge platform” wherein the knowledge of specialists from different countries across the globe can be pooled for solving a complex societal issue and developing products and services for world market.
Dear friends, ultimately, education in its real sense is the pursuit of truth. It is an endless journey through knowledge and enlightenment. Such a journey opens up new vistas of development of humanism where there is no scope nor room for pettiness, disharmony, jealousy, hatred or enmity. It transforms a human being into a wholesome whole, a noble soul and an asset to the universe. Universal brotherhood in its true sense becomes the sheet anchor for such education. Real education enhances the dignity of a human being and increases his or her self-respect. If only the real sense of education could be realized by each individual, and carried forward in every field of human activity, the world will be so much a better place to live in.
For this to happen, what we need is a carrier of borderless eternal goodness and wholesomeness in human conduct, which is “Righteousness”.
As our sages say:
Righteousness in the heart
Where there is righteousness in the heart
There is beauty in the character.
When there is beauty in the character,
There is harmony in the home.
When there is harmony in the home.
There is an order in the nation.
When there is order in the nation,
There is peace in the world.
Who can give righteousness in the heart? Now the question is: How do we inculcate the righteousness in the heart. In my opinion, there are three sources which can build a youth with righteousness in the heart. One is mother, second is father in a spiritual environment and the third and the most important is the teacher, particularly the primary school teacher.
This is true, for the whole world. When we need peace in the world, we need order in the nation; we need harmony in the home in any part of the world, the origin is righteousness in the heart. How do we evolve righteousness in the hearts of every citizen of the world? The confluence of righteous heart should lead to confluence of civilizations.
My best wishes to all of you for success in your mission of making a positive contribution to societal transformation in Sri Lanka and the world.
May God Bless you.
Oath for the Global Youth
- I will have a goal and work hard to achieve that goal. I realize that small aim is a crime.
- I will always be righteous in the heart which leads to beauty in the character; beauty in the character brings harmony in the home, harmony in the home leads to order in the nation and order in the nation leads to peace in the world.
- I will work with integrity and succeed with integrity.
- I will be a good member of my family, a good member of the society, a good member of the nation and a good member of the world.
- I will always try to save or better someone's life. Wherever I am, a thought will always come to my mind. That is “What can I give?”
- I will always protect and enhance the dignity of every human life.
- I will always remember that “Let not my winged days, be spent in vain”.
- I will always work for Clean Green Energy and Clean Planet Earth.
- As a youth of the Globe, I will work and work with courage to achieve success in all my tasks and enjoy the success of others.